Relishing the True Nature of the South
The more I sit here and reminisce, the more I realize how much we packed into those few months we spent in Houston. My husband is a good tour guide and very adventuresome so looking at the map, we made several trips in and around Houston/Texas areas as well as a venture over the Texas border.
One of the most surprising visits was to San Antonio, Texas and discovering a whole new world one story beneath the streets of Downtown San Antonio. We discovered that this was the first civilian settlement in Texas founded in 1718. We had a glimpse of the Menger Hotel where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his notorious “Rough Riders.” We strolled along the network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, drank coffee in one of the many sidewalk – river-side cafes, and, of course, indulged in a sumptuous lunch. When I say sumptuous, I probably should say sumptuous and generous or Texas size. Everything in Texas seemed large to us, including the food portions. The evening ended with a seafood dinner in the San Antonio Space Needle Restaurant. At that time, the space needle was the tallest building around and the trip to the top was breathtaking. However, in all honesty, I thought the walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River were more picturesque. San Antonio is rather flat. Coming from the mountains of Oregon, this vista of a flat pancake was somewhat uninspiring.
In San Antonio we visited the Alamao where we were two out of 2.5 million visitors in 1971. The Alamo is an historical monument to the small group of Texans, including the famous frontier men like James Bowie and David Crockett, who lost their lives defending the Alamo, in attempt to establish a free Texas in the revolution. The Alamo fell in April 1836. We were surprised to see how small the Alamo is. I guess like many historical events of this significance, the Alamo was a large structure in my mind.
We ventured a little outside of the Houston area to Huntsville, Texas. We had heard that there would be a prison rodeo in Huntsville which was something we did not want to miss. Indeed, it was quite an experience. A Rodeo has an atmosphere all its own. There was excitement, suspense, anticipation, disappointment and humor at this rodeo. The Huntsville Prison rodeo arena was a lively place with inmates competing as cowboys for much of the 20th Century. It was the one day during the year, where the male and female inmates could wave to each other from their respective areas of the arena and would have to wait another year to see and wave to each other again. The facility was built in 1951 and at its peak up to 20,00 spectators could come to the rodeo in October Unfortunately the rodeo stopped in 1986. I recall one incidence where the prisoner cowboy couldn’t rope his steer. The commentator’s words, “Well, Harry, you have another 99 years to try again,” was met with bursts of laughter and shouting from spectators and prisoners.
Our biggest venture was to New Orleans, Louisiana with the company car, dubbed “the yellow submarine.” I vaguely remember driving forever or so it seemed to reach the Texas border. When we finally arrived in New Orleans, we were met with pelting rain for the entire three days we spent in the city. The weather, however, did not dampen our spirits. We were going to see all we could of this famous city. So, we met Louis Armstrong and his jazz band winding its way from one cafe to the next ignoring the rain pelting them. As enthusiastic tourists, we dance right along with all the other exhilarated jazz enthusiasts. Strippers on swings appeared through open windows from upper performing invitingly. The high point of the entire trip for me, at least, was the champagne breakfast at the famous Brennan’s Restaurant. It was the first time my husband and I indulged in champagne and eggs benedict. Like most experiences in Texas and surrounding areas, the breakfast portion was overwhelming but good. I don’t think we ate for two days following this stupendous breakfast.