I thought for a moment. "Pretty much everything," I told him. "I just can't believe it all. It's like we've stepped back in time 200 years."
This tiny hamlet which was the object of our exploration was founded at the dawn of the 1800's when this part of Texas was still under Spanish rule. People, though, had lived there since long before, both settlers and Native Americans alike.
We'd come, with our two daughters and our son-in-law, in search of a small, historic fortress built by a Senor Uribe to shelter his family and others from vicious attacks by the Comanches and Apaches. We'd found it, integrated into the back streets with the other caramel colored sandstone and mortar homes, just a street width from the Rio Grande, with Mexico so close we could smell her flowers. The historic walls stood, intact and untouched, as they did when they provided a secure haven for refuge seekers. The sundial put into place by Senor Uribe in 1825 pointed its face heavenward, still shadowing the hours.
(You can still see the cut marks where these stones were chiseled for fit.)
(The sundial is at the top, with what resembles an arrow sticking through it.)
Chickens strutted their way through silent streets, poking their beaks into the dust.
"I've never heard a populated place so quiet, so serene, " he remarked as he snapped pictures of the multi-hued sky, colored by the lowering sun. He regaled the three younger ones with a story of how when he was 10, and in town with his family for a reunion, he had been plucked from playing with his cousins in this very town square by a priest in need of an altar boy for a wedding, despite his protestations he didn't know what to do. His grandparents were wedding guests and looked on with first surprise and then barely disguised amusement at the sudden appearance of their grandson in the wedding.
Amid our laughter, he and our son-in-law moved off to read a nearby historical marker while the girls climbed up into the gazebo in the middle of the square and danced a silly waltz together. Cicadas and crickets churred from the nearby river as I wandered off with the camera. I turned a corner and was taken with this structure.
I moved in for these closeups when I heard a tap-tapping behind me.
(If you enlarge this picture, you can see the General Merchandise sign as well as the intricate stone work behind the plaster.)
An ancient, khaki-clad man using a cane, a small herd of cats following closely behind, smiled a greeting. "Lovely evening, isn't it?" he asked. He motioned to my family in the square. " You all are a happy bunch, aren't you?" I grinned and explained to him why we were there.
He tapped the walls of the fort behind us. "My great-great grandfather once fled here when he was a little boy. A neighboring family had been attacked by the Comanche in the night, and his house was next on the trail. They made it here in time, " he chuckled a bit. "Obviously, or I wouldn't be here to tell you about it!"
I asked him if his family lived here with him. He shook head and pointed to the cats. "It's just me and them, " he explained as a tabby wrapped itself around his leg. He steadied himself with the cane. "My only boy was killed in Vietnam and my wife passed away about five years ago. So it's just me and the cats." He bent and rubbed the head of one. "We've got a pretty good life, though, don't we?" he cooed as the cats purred so loudly I could hear them.
Fireflies now gleamed softly and randomly. Fairy lights ringing the gazebo warmly illuminated the girls who were still dancing light-hearted dances together.
With one arm on the fortress wall to steady himself, he gestured at my husband, daughters, and son-in-law across the street in the square. "You have a beautiful family. You know, families are like this fortress. Strong, and they keep everyone safe and sheltered. Weak, and they collapse and let all the attackers in. We've got to keep those walls strong, " he said as he tipped his cap and slowly tapped his way back down the street, the cats keeping careful pace after him.
(And it's taken me two years, but this is finally my 200th post!)