Thursday, March 6, 2008

In Praise of Oasis People & Places

Dearest Followers of the 'Moffats on the Road',

It's been a long time since we had a cyberspace visit .. too long to do anything but give you a mad cap tour. Fasten your seat belts! We're going way, way back.

It's Saturday, January 22 and we have moved off our 'circumferal' route (if this in not a real word, I have just invented it.) of North America. For we are "Alabama Bound" to find cousins!

First up, Suzanne Galligan with whom I once competed for the title of 'truest tomboy' in the extended Eberhart Clan (she could ride a horse better - I could throw a ball straighter). Her mom (Aunt Bunny) was my father's sister, and along with older sister 'Betty' and younger brother 'Pat' , we spent some memorable summers at the Galligan 'ranch' in a remote place called 'Gallinas Canyon' 13 miles up from Las Vegas, New Mexico (at an elevation of about 7200'). Hiking up Hermit's Peak, swimming in a freezing spring creek, listening to the coyotes howl at night from our sleeping bags in the trailer, and watching the 'Spanish'bronc busters bring wild mustangs under their control .. are just a few of the unforgettables we share.

Susie now lives in Scottsboro, Alabama with her husband, Charles Peet, and his mother, Dr. Ruth Peet. Meet them all, here below:

Charles has brought the family back to his original home, where he is building houses and barns on the old farm. We've just come down from the loft of the barn now in process. Syncrenicities are always fun, and we discovered that a wonderful friend of Ruth, who lives in Athens, Tenn... is also a good friend of Madeline Adsit, Peter's aunt who we introduced to you on this blog months ago.

Three days with the Galligan/Peets provided a rare opportunity to catch up on our lives. "Thank You" to the three of you for such a great time! We love you, "Unclaimed Baggage" and all.

Next up are the Adsits of Huntsville, Alabama .. David being another first cousin of Peter's and the son of Aunt Madeline, who we were just talking about.

Debbie was a super hostess and we were honored to have daughter Carolyn and son Josh arrive in for dinner, just to meet us! The Adsits have been avid campers and understand what we are all about on this trip. We hope to see their camper one of these summers up at Pen Lake!Oh, and Kate, we are sorry we missed you, but thanks for the use of your comfy bed!

This is the next morning. We stopped in at David's company headquarters. Josh is first mate in this homegrown operation. Thanks guys, for the tour!

Back down on the Gulf coast again, just below Mobile, we hooked up with Winkie and Bob! Yes, Bob is another first cousin of Peter. Those Bates-Penneys have been a prolific bunch. To keep in touch with one another, the family instigated a 'round robin' letter some 50 years ago? When it comes (every 6 months) you take out your old letter and add a new one. It's a nice touch in these days of email. Peter and I feel as if we have joined the 'robin' in flight around the country.
Here we are parked in the yard. Below are some of Winkie's affectionate daily chores. Daughter, Christen is coming home to live next door with her husband, Joe, who is still recovering from injuries sustained on duty in Iraq. Together they are new parents of a daughter and have much to enjoy together in the years ahead with the support of their faith.

Winkie is a gardener specializing in camillias! She also cuts hair like cousin Libby. Thank you, both, for keeping me well trimmed! And thank you, Penneys, for your special breed of hospitality. It was such a treat.

Wow! We're skipping on ahead a bit. Mardi Gras came in between, and it is now February 8th. We have just come back up from sampling the camping life at Grand Isle State Park. Take a look at the oasis below.

This is "Oak Alley" plantation at Vacherie, Louisana built in 1839 and reknown internationally for this gorgeous entree back into antebellum life through the shade of 28 live oaks. Seven films have been made here, including "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte", "Interview with a Vampire", and" Primary Colors". Have another look ...

Docents in costume, offering "southern hospitality" ...

Even mint julips on the veranda!

Now meet the reception committee at Galveston...(February 12th)

Besides once being the home of famed 'pirate' Jean Lafitte, Galveston has been a winter playground by the sea for well over a century.

Kevin and Steffanie Cooper from neighbouring Texas City, were our delightful hosts in this oasis. Both hail from Kitchener/Waterloo, and I had the delight of preforming their wedding four years ago (right?). Kevin is the son of Wayne and Val.. and grandson of Olive Cooper from Parkminster. Both are medic/nurses who have accomplished so much in thier short married life.
Together we explored the delicacies of "The Strand" (the historic district), with our favorite exploration being a tour of the "Moody House".

This mansion, left by the family to the city, was the only building to withstand the famous storm of 1900 that nearly leveled the island. Come on, take a closer look!

With thanks again to the two Cooper Valentines! Blessings as you make your next move to Michigan - and closer to all the rest of us!

Down Route #35 a bit, we came upon another fascinating house, built by George and Harriet Fulton in the 1870's. George, a Philadelphia Civil Engineer, came to Texas with 60 bolunteers to join the Texas Revolution (The Mexican War) - but it was over! So he stayed and became a local cattle baron instead.
Come on and join me for a southern veranda moment...

Welcome to Kingsville, where we spent the night at Wal*Mart yet again. Towns are becoming distinctly more western looking ... hard to avoid cowboy boots (have always been a favorite of mine aka 'Annie Oakley')
This is the home of the 'King Ranch', begun in 1853 with Mexican Long Horn Cattle and the expertise of generations of Mexican vaqueros (forefathers of our cowboy/rodeo culture). This ranch, recognized by its running 'W' brand, develped the famous Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle and was known for its fine quarterhorses and thoroughbreds. Later oil and citrus became a part of this growing corporate industry. The 800,000+ acreas of this ranch make it larger than Rhode Island!

Check out this silly buck toothed grin ...

Peter was thrilled to find this 1950 custom V8 Buick. It was specially designed and built by General Motors exclusively for Congressman Richard Kleberg, who grew up on the King Ranch in a vaquero family. In honor of this, he named it "El Kineno". It was a hunting vehicle with six riffles in the ffront ender wells, two spare tires in the rear fenders, a full bar, and a mobile phone well ahead of its time. Peter was 6 years old when he saw this car featured on the cover of "Popular Mechanics". He's never forgotten this case of "love at first sight".

Welcome to the last ocean beach until we hit California! Though the weather was overcast and cool, we joined the rest of the RV squatters at the end of the road, 10 miles north of the town to do some serious shell finding
Our neighbours, unable to get a good cell phone connection with their children in Minnesota, were delighted to have a lesson in T9 texting .. two text thumbs in the making.

Next stop (February 17) - Ilano Grande -a RV park in Mercedes, Texas - a stone's throw from Mexico, and the winter home of many Canadian snowbirds.

Here we are, conveniently parked beside ...
Ken and Ina Sommers (couple on right) with Bill and Annis Dipple from Kitchener/Waterloo! Ken and Ina and I have been planning this rendez-vous since last winter. We're all related through friendships in the United Church of Canada. What a great place and what great people!

They helped get us in a 'Mexican Mood' with a trip across the border for Sunday afternoon.
Come on across with us for a peek ..

Peter was quite taken with this spoon painter who worked only with paint and fingers! (Yes, we now have one - a spoon, that is.)

Ken Sommers offered to fill the bed of his truck with anything we wished to unload and send home. Then he and Ina left on a bus tour for 9 days. I hope when we get home in June that we are still friends. Little did he know the extent of Moffat capacity to 'unload'. Thank you to the Sommers and Dipples for stoking up our patriotic identities. You were great!
We were now deeply into border consciousness and the issues involved. It continued in the border town of Laredo. See below a NAFTA type crossing...

And witness an early morning commute from Mexico...workers and those buying wholesale goods from China (somehow not available in Mexico).

We spent one day exploring museums and galleries. This woman, Beatriz Ezban has a body of politcal work depecting the dehumanizing realities associated with nonresident (naturalized) labour.
We camped in a public park directly beside the Rio Grande River, with the sounds of barking dogs and Meican music floating over the waters. Yes, it was safe. We were supervized all night by the Border Patrols.

It was the eve of Wednesday, February 20th, and the elves were at it, street cleaning and painting. No "manana" work ethic evident this evening.

Early morning crowds were lining up to go through security checks.

The award winning mariachi band from Zapata high school were entertaining the appreciative crowds. There was an exciting atmosphere of 'fiesta'.

The marquis boldly announced a 'welcome' to Laredo.
Then the mayor and the Congressman from Texas introduced Hillary.

She is loved by this crowd for the years of time and presence registering the Hispanic vote. She spoke here 'mother' to 'mother' about educational issues and hopes for the future. I was told by the two jovenes beside me that these people are 'nostalgic' and loved the Clinton years. NAFTA has been good to this community, at least.

It was quite wonderful to experience this heart to heart encounter without 'sound bits' only.
As an active feminist for so many years, it wasn't hard to get caught up in the spirit.

Next oasis, 'San Antonio'! Would you have a look at this incredible river walk system rivaling Venice itself!

We walked miles and hours - into the night time entertainment. This is an inner city project that has taken 40 years to perfect. You won't want to miss it.

St. Anthony welcomes you. In 1691 a Spanish expedition camped here on the banks of the river and celebrated the first mass. It was the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua. Subsequently the city of San Antonio was established in 1718.

Remember the Alamo? 1836 found Texans struggling to organize a provisional goverment in rebellion against Mexican dictator, Santa Anna. After a 13 day seige, on March 6 under Santa Anna's command, Mexican troops numbering 2000, stormed its walls, killing its 200 defenders (including Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Colonel Travis - who drew the famous 'line in the sand' challenging patriots to die fighting surrender). Today the 'Alamo' , a fort in the heart of San Antonio's downtown, is recognized around the world as a shrine to Texas liberty.

This is the church which became part of the flort. It was originally the Mission San Antonio de Valero, built by the Franciscans and functioned as such from 1724 to 1793.

Padre Peter
The next chapter included three nights at Big Bend National Park. We are skipping over some marvelous scenery for a future blog of 'visuals' only. So we arrive in the oasis of 'Terlingua', Texas, a former mining town, now ghost town. It's Tuesday, February 26 and a beautiful day. Here are some of the former residents, children in the school, now vacant.
Here is the resting place of many former residents ...

But the Trading post is still thriving with tourists. And the art and native craft is wondrous.

Cariving from tree burls ...

Oaxacan Wood Carvings from south-central Mexico and a pre-Columbian Zapotc colourful, imaginative, and expensive!

Peter put me in the 'juzgado' for over shopping.

Wonderful sculptures all over the town of Artesia, New Mexico, just to the north of Carlsbad Caverns. They are by reknown local artist, Vic Payne and celebrate local history. This one highlites the contributions of Sallie Chisum, rancher's daughter and wife, who gave much leadership to the community and was known as the First Lady of Artesia.

Anyone over 50 will remember "the Roswell Incident" when wreckage from a UFO accident was recovered along with the alleged bodies of 4 alien humanoids (one that lived for awhile). It made national news until the investigating authorities flown in from the Pentegon, devized a cover-up story about weather ballons. Participants in these events, children grown and military people retired, are now telling their stories .. and Roswell now has a museum full of documentation. Come and see for yourselves. It's also a piece of our history.

Air pilots in the second world war, American, German and Japanese reported bright lights that flew with them. They all had names for the phenomenon. American's called it "foo".

Here's a depiction of what they found ..

And a Canadian Alien to boot, eh?
Turning west from Roswell, we ascended into the Capitan Mountains and the town of Lincoln, made famous by a local war between competing general store families.

These are the events that made this guy famous ...
Though on the losing side, Billy the Kid (teenage serial killer) managed to escape death and later captivity in the courthouse that was serving as a jail.

Home town local author, Elizabeth Fackler, has written of these events and penned several other southwestern novels. Her she is in her shop. I have just purchased a signed copy of "Texas Lily". Thank you, Elizabeth!

You are now well into the land of the Apache. This dancer represents one of the mountain gods to the Mescalero Tribe. All dances and cultural traditions were forbidden for many years by the US government. But the Spirits have prevailed. The traditional customs and traditionsof these cultures are being reclaimed and there is a renewed concern that the children learn about their heritage.
Here is a woman who cares deeply about these issues. She is a writer and teacher about southwestern history and culture, and currently involved in the forced march of the Apaches.
Her name is Betty Galligan and she, too, is my first cousin of mine and sister to Suzanne, who you met back in Scotsborro, Alabama. We have been living with her for nearly a week now, and it's going to be hard to pack up and bid farewell tomorrow.

Here we are last Sunday relaxing with St. Bernatdette, appreciating her invitation to enter the church. Tradition teaches that Bernadette, a simple Portugese peasant was visited by 'Our Lady' numerous times at Lourdes. Many people have been healed through her inspiration and their faith.

She was a good person to be with when the returns from the the Ohio and Texas primaries came in ...

Peter has enjoyed Betty, too. Together they have visited the local petroglyphs and all the memorabilia around the famous Rt. 66.

Pausing for a malt at a Route 66 diner ..

Every species has its characters ...

So, too, the human species.

What a blast to meet Jeanne Magill after so many years. We believe ourselves famous for the school fight we staged on the school yard in Grade 4 .. that shut down recess. But better yet was the time Jeanne scared teacher 'Miss O'Leary' half to death when 'Perry', Jeanne's pet squirrel popped its head out of her blouse where she had stashed him temporarily. Miss O'Leary was a very big woman, and her escape across the tarmak that day could be likened to the first stages of a thundering earthquake. Jeanne... let's share more of our mutual retirements!

And another BP (best pal) from the past is Kathi Schrom. She is by far my longest time buddy, our friendship going back to the crib. Here we are seated on her hearth. I must have ridden my bicycle to her house across town a million times back in Wilmette, Illinois days. We haven't seen one another since the last time the Moffats popped in here at Albuquerque some 25 years ago .. and we nearly lost our 4 boys in a freak accident. A sudden drop of temperatures and a flash flood turned their 1/2 hour adventure walk in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains into a nightmare of seperation. It's taken me that long to get up the courage to visit Kathi and her family again. And they were so wonderful! How great it is to live long enough to re-open these marvelous friendships.
Here is Kathi's husband, Hal. He is an avid collector like Peter, but with geological interests. Here he shows us a vintage miner's lantern. But his beautiful mineral specimens were my favorite.

Kathi and Hal's son, Andrew, has lived (thankfully!) to become an accomplished musician on the rare celtic bagpipes, called an "irish uilleann". He also plays a mean penny whistle. "Thank you, Andrew for playing for us. We are enjoying your CD, too!"

Last night we had a final supper with my Albuequerque cousins in the home of Mia and Merrett. Mia is the 45 year old daughter of Suzanne Galligan back in Scotsborro, and Merrett is her 11 year old daugher (Betty's niece and grand neice). Together they prepared a delicious banquet (they killed the fatted calf, can't you tell?)
And here is Merrett with trusted pal, Spencer. Isn't he lucky? "Merrett, I promised to have this blog finished by the time you were out of school today. You sure as heck better be in bed by now! So sorry, my dear. Thanks for all the fun last night."

So now, I had better seek the forgiveness of "La Conquistadora" for the suffering you have all endured in order to reach the end of this chapter. She resides in this cathedral and was brought here to Santa Fe by Spanish missionaries.

Adios, mi amigos. In two days we pick up Andrew, Sarah, Tim, Dick and Marion Moffat at the Tucson airport for March Break. Yippee!! May you all have a blessed break and may spring come soon!
With love, Elizabeth and Peter