Agnes C. (Agnes Christina) Laut.

Through our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert online

. (page 16 of 19)
Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 16 of 19)
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throw off white rule these Pueblos but for four
centuries they have withstood white influences as
completely as in the days when they sent the couriers
spurring with the knotted cord to rally the tribes to
open revolt.



CHAPTER XIII

SAN ANTONIO, THE CAIRO OF AMERICA

IF you want to plunge into America's Egypt, there
are as many ways to go as you have moods.
You explain that the ocean voyage is half the
attraction to European travel. There may be a
difference of opinion on that, as I know people who
would like to believe that the Atlantic could be
bridged; but if you are keen on an ocean voyage, you
can reach the Egypt of America by boat to Florida,
then west by rail; or by boat straight to any of the
Texas harbors. By way of Florida, you can take
your fill of the historic and antique and the pictur-
esque in St. Augustine and Pensacola and New Or-
leans; and if there are any yarns of rarer flavor in
all the resorts of Europe than in the old quarters of
these three places, I have never heard of them.
You can drink of the spring of the elixir of life in
St. Augustine, and lose yourself in the trenches of
old Fort Barrancas at Pensacola, and wander at will
in the old French town of New Orleans. Each
place was once a pawn in the gambles of European
statesmen. Each has heard the clang of armed
knights, the sword in one hand, the cross in the
other. Each has seen the pirate fleet with death's
head on the flag at the masthead come tacking up

214



SAN ANTONIO 215

the bays, sometimes to be shattered and sunk by
cannon shot from the fort bastions. Sometimes the
fort itself was scuttled by the buccaneers; once, at
least, at Fort Barrancas, it suffered loot at terrible,
riotous, drunken hands, when a Spanish officer's
daughter who was captured for ransom succeeded in
plunging into the sea within sight of her watching
father.

But whether you enter the Egypt of America by
rail overland, or by sea, San Antonio is the gate-
way city from the south to the land of play and
mystery. It is to the Middle West what Quebec is
to Canada, what Cairo is to Egypt the gateway,
the meeting place of old and new, of Latin and
Saxon, of East and West, of North and South. At-
mosphere? Physically, the atmosphere is cham-
pagne : spiritually, you have not gone ten paces from
the station before you feel a flavor as of old wine.
There are the open Spanish plazas riotous with
bloom flanked by Spanish-Moorish ruins flush on the
pavement, with skyscraper hotels that are the last
word in modernity. Live oaks heavy with Spanish
moss hang over sleepy streams that come from every-
where and meander nowhere. You see a squad of
soldiers from Fort Sam Houston wheeling in meas-
ured tread around a square (only there isn't any-
thing absolutely square in all San Antonio) and they
have hardly gone striding out of sight before you see
a Mexican burro trotting to market with a load of
hay tied on its back. A motor comes bumping over
the roads such roads as only the antique can boast



216 SAN ANTONIO

and if it is fiesta time, or cowboy celebration, you
are apt to see cowboys cutting such figure eights in
the air as a motor cannot execute on antique pave-
ment.

You enter a hotel and imagine you are in the
Plaza, New York, or the Ritz, London; but stay!
The frieze above the marble walls isn't gilt; and it
isn't tapestry. The frieze is a long panel in bronze
alto-relievo. I think it is a testimonial to San An-
tonio's sense of the fitness of things that that frieze
is not of Roman gladiators, or French gardens with
beringed ladies and tame fawns. It is a frieze of
the cowboys taking a stampeding herd up the long
trail drifting and driving but held together by a :
rough fellow in top boots and sombrero ; and the
rotunda has a frieze of cowboys because that three-
million-dollar hotel was built out of " cow " money.
Old and new, past and present, Saxon and Latin,
North and South, East and West that is San An-
tonio. You can never forget it for a minute. It
is such a shifting panorama as you could only get
from traveling thousands of miles elsewhere, or com-
paring a hundred Remington drawings. San An-
tonio is a curious combination of Remington and
Alma Tadema in real life; and I don't know any-
where else in the world you can get it. There are
three such huge hotels in San Antonio besides a score
of lesser ones, to take care of the 30,000 tourists
who come from the Middle West to winter in San
Antonio; but remember that while 30,000 seems a
large number of tourists for one place, that is only



SAN ANTONIO 217

one-tenth the number of Americans who yearly see
Europe.

And never for a moment can you forget that as
Cairo is the gateway to Eastern travel, so San An-
tonio is on the road to Old Mexico and all the for-
mer Spanish possessions of the South. It was here
that Madero's band of revolutionists lived and laid
the plans that overthrew Diaz. Long ago, before
the days of railway, it was here that the long cara-
vans of mule trains used to come with, silver and
gold from the mines of Old Mexico. It was here
the highwaymen and roughs and toughs and scum of
the earth used to lie in wait for the passing bullion;
and it was here the Texas Rangers came with short,
quick, sharp shrift for rustlers and robbers. There
is one corner in San Antonio where you can see a
Mission dating back to the early seventeen hundreds,
and not a stone's throw away, one of the most fa-
mous gambling joints of the wildest days of the wild
Southwest the site of the old Silver King, where
cowboys and miners from the South used to come in
" to clean out " their earnings of a year, sometimes
to ride horses over faro tables, or pot-shot rows of
champagne. A man had " to smile " when he called
his " pardner " pet names in the Silver King; or
there would be crackle of more than champagne
corks. Men would duck for hiding. A body
would be dragged out, sand spread on the floor, and
the games went on morning, noon and night. The
Missions are crumbling ruins. So is the Silver King.
Frontiersmen will tell you regretfully of the good



218 SAN ANTONIO

old days forever gone, when the night passed but
dully if the cowboys did not shoot up all the saloons
and " hurdle " the gaming tables.

Yesterday, it was cowboy and mines in San An-
tonio. To-day, it is polo and tourist ; and the transi-
tion is a natural growth. One would hate to think
of the risks of the Long Trail, for miners from Old
Mexico to Fort Leavenworth, for cowboys from
Fort Worth to Wyoming and St. Louis, and not see
the risks rewarded in fortunes to these trail makers.
The cowboy and miner of the olden days the
cowboy and miner who survived, that is are the
capitalists taking their pleasure in San Antonio to-
day. It was natural that the cow pony bred to keep-
ing its feet in mid-air, or on earth, should develop
into the finest type of polo pony ever known. For
years, the polo clubs of the North, Lenox, Long
Island, Milbrook, have made a regular business of
scouring Texas for polo ponies. Horses giving
promise of good points would be picked up at $80,
$100, $150. They would then be rounded on a
ranch and trained. San Antonio is situated almost
700 feet up on a high, clear plateau rimmed by blue
ridges in the distance. Recently, a polo ground of
3,200 acres has been laid out; and the polo clubs
of the North are to be invited to San Antonio for
the winter fiestas. As Fort Sam Houston boasts
one of the best polo clubs of the South, competition
is likely to attract the sportsmen from far and
near.



SAN ANTONIO 219

You know how it is in all these new Western cities.
They are feverish with a mania of progress. They
have grown so fast they cannot keep track of their
own hobble-de-hoy, sprawling limbs. They are
drunk with prosperity. In real estate alone, for-
tunes have come, as it were, overnight. All this
San Antonio has not escaped. They will tell you
with pardonable pride how this little cow town,
where land wasn't worth two cents an acre out-
side the Mission walls, has jumped to be a metropoli-
tan city of over 100,000; how it is the center of the
great truck and irrigation farm district. Fort Sam
Houston always has 700 or 800 soldiers in garrison,
and sometimes has as many as 4,000; and when army
maneuvers take place, there is an immense reserva-
tion outside the city where as many as 20,000 men
can practice mimic war. The day of two cents or
even $20 an acre land round San Antonio is forever
past. Land under the ditch is too valuable for the
rating of twenty acres to one steer.

All this and more you will see of modern San
Antonio; but still if at sundown you set out on a
vagrant and solitary tour of the old Missions, I
think you will feel as I felt that it was the dauntless
spirit of the old regime that fired the blood of the
moderns for the new day that is dawning. I don't
know why it is, but anything in life that is worth hav-
ing seems to demand service and sacrifice and, oftener
than not, the martyrdom of heroic and terrible de-
feat. Then, when you think that the flag of the
cause is trampled in a mire of bloodshed, phoenix-



220 SAN ANTONIO

like the cause rises on eagles' wings to new height,
new daring, new victory. It was so in Texas.

When you visit the Missions of San Antonio, go
alone; or go with a kindred spirit. Don't talk!
Let the mysticism and wonder of it sink in your soul !
Soak yourself in the traditions of the Past. Let the
dead hand of the Past reach out and touch you.
You will live over again the heroism of the Alamo,
the heroism that preceded the Alamo that of the
Franciscans who tramped 300 leagues across the des-
ert of Old Mexico to establish these Missions; the
heroism that preceded the Franciscans that of La
Salle traveling thrice 300 leagues to establish the
cross on the Gulf of Mexico, and perishing by as-
sassin's hand as he turned on the backward march.
You will see the iron cross to his memory at Levaca.
It was because La Salle, the Frenchman, found his
way to the Gulf, that Spain stirred up the viceroys
of New Mexico to send sword and cross over the
desert to establish forts in the country of the Tejas
(Texans).

Do you realize what that means? When I cross
the arid hills of the Rio Grande, I travel in a car
cooled by electric fans, with two or three iced drinks
between meals. These men marched most of
them on foot, the cowled priests in sandals, the
knights in armor plate from head to heel over
cactus sands. Do you wonder that they died on the
way? Do you wonder that the marchers coming
into the well-watered plains of the San Antonio with
festooned live oaks overhanging the green waters,



SAN ANTONIO 221

paused here and built ^their string of Missions of
which the chief was the one now known as " The
Alamo" the Mission of the cottonwood trees?

Six different flags have flown over the land of
the Tejas: the French, the Spanish, the Mexican,
the Republic of Texas, the Confederate, the Union.
In such a struggle for ascendancy, needless to tell,
much blood was shed righteously and unrighteously;
but of the battle fought at the Alamo, no justifica-
tion need be given. It is part of American history,
but it is the kind of history that in other nations
goes to make battle hymns. Details are in every
school book. Santa Ana, the newly risen Mexican
dictator, had ordered the 30,000 Americans who
lived in Texas, to disarm. Sam Houston, Crockett,
Bowie, Travis, had sprung to arms with a call that
rings down to history yet:

" Fellow citizens and compatriots," wrote Travis
from the doomed Alamo Mission, to Houston and
the other leaders outside, " I am besieged by a thou-
sand or more Mexicans under Santa Ana. I have
sustained a continued bombardment for twenty-four
hours and have not lost a man. . . . The garrison
is to be put to the sword if the place is taken. I
have answered the summons with a cannon shot and
our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall
never surrender, nor retreat. I call on you in the
name of liberty, and of everything dear to the Ameri-
can character, to come to our aid with all despatch.
The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily, and



SAN ANTONIO

will no doubt increase to 3,000 or 4,000 in four or
five days. Though this call may be neglected, I am
determined to sustain myself as long as possible and
die like a soldier who forgets not what is due to his
own honor and that of his country Victory or
Death 1

W. Barrett Travis

Lieut-Col. Commanding."

In the fort with Travis were 180 men under Bowie
and Crockett. The siege began on Feb. 23, 1836,
and ended on March 6th. Besides the frontiersmen
in the fort were two women, two children and
two slaves. The Mission was arranged in a great
quadrangle fifty- four by 154 yards with acequias or
irrigation ditches both to front and rear. The gar-
rison had succeeded in getting inside the walls about
thirty bushels of corn and eighty beef cattle ; so there
was no danger of famine. The big courtyard was
in the rear. The convent projected out in front of
the courtyard. To the left angle of the convent was
the chapel or Mission of the Alamo. Santa Ana
had come across the desert with 5,000 men. To the
demand for surrender, Travis answered with a can-
non shot. The Mexican leader then hung the re'd
flag above his camp and ordered the band to play
" no quarter." For eight days, shells came hurtling
inside the walls incessantly, dawn to dark, dark to
dawn. Just at sunset on March 3rd, there was a
bell. Travis collected his men and gave them their
choice of surrendering and being shot, or cutting



SAN ANTONIO 223

their way out through the besieging line. The be-
siegers at this time consisted of 2,500 infantrymen
bunched close to the walls of the Alamo too close
to be shot from above, and 2,500 cavalry and in-
fantry back on the Plaza and encircling the Mission
to cut off all avenue of escape.

Travis drew a line on the ground with his sword.

" Every man who will die with me, come across
that line! Who will be first? March I"

Every man leaped over the line but Bowie, who
was ill on a cot bed.

" Boys, move my cot over the line," he said.

At four o'clock next morning, the siege was re-
sumed. The bugle blew a single blast. With picks,
crowbars and ladders, the Mexicans closed in. The
besieged waited breathlessly. The Mexicans placed
the ladders and began scaling. The sharpshooters
inside the walls waited till the heads appeared above
the walls then fired. As the top man fell back,
the one beneath on the ladder stepped in the dead
man's place. Then the Americans clubbed their
guns and fought hand to hand. By that, the Mexi-
cans knew that ammunition was exhausted and the
defenders few. The walls were scaled and battered
down first in a far corner of the convent yard. Be-
hind the chapel door, piles of sand had been stacked.
From the yard, the Texans were driven to the con-
vent, from the convent to the chapel. Travis fell
shot at the breach in the yard wall. Bowie was
bayoneted on the cot where he lay. Crockett was
clubbed to death just outside the chapel door to the



224 SAN ANTONIO

left. By nine o'clock, no answering shot came from
the Alamo. The doors were rammed and rushed.
Not a Texan survived. Two women, two children
and a couple of slaves were pulled out of hiding
from chancel and stalls. These were sent across to
the main camp. The bodies of the 182 heroes were
piled in a pyramid with fagots; and fired. So
ended the Battle of the Alamo, one of the most
terrible defeats and heroic defenses in American his-
tory. It is unnecessary to relate that Sam Houston
exacted from the Mexicans on the battlefield of San
Jacinto a terrible punishment for this defeat. Cap-
tured and killed, his toll of defeated Mexicans down
at Houston came to almost 1,700.

Such is the story of one of San Antonio's Mis-
sions. One other has a tale equally tragic; but all
but two are falling to utter ruin. I don't know
whether it would be greater desecration to lay hand
on them and save them, or let them fall to dust. It
was nightfall when I went to the three on the out-
skirts of the city. Two have little left but the walls
and the towers. A third is still used as place of
worship by a little settlement of Mexicans. The
slant light of sunset came through the darkened,
vacant windows, the tiers of weathered stalls, the
empty, twin-towered belfries. You could see where
the well stood, the bake house, the school. Shrub-
bery planted by the monks has grown wild in the
courtyards; but you can still call up the picture of
the cowled priests chanting prayers. The Missions



SAN ANTONIO 225

are ruins; but the hope that animated them, the fire,
the heroism, the dauntless faith, still burn in Texas
blood as the sunset flame shines through the dis-
mantled windows.



CHAPTER XIV

CASA GRANDE AND THE GILA

IF someone should tell you of a second Grand
Canon gashed through wine-colored rocks in the
purple light peculiar to the uplands of very
high mountains a second Grand Canon, where
lived a race of little men not three feet tall, where
wild turkeys were domesticated as household birds
and every man's door was in the roof and his door-
step a ladder that he carried up after him you
would think it pure imagination, wouldn't you?
The Lilliputians away out in " Gulliver's Travels,"
or something like that? And if your narrator went
on about magicians who danced with live rattlesnakes
hanging from their teeth and belted about their
waists, and played with live fire without being
burned, and walked up the faces of precipices as a
fly walks up a wall you would think him rehears-
ing some Robinson Crusoe tale about two genera-
tions too late to be believed.

Yet there is a second Grand Canon not a stone's
throw from everyday tourist travel, wilder in game
life and rock formation if not so large, with prehis-
toric caves on its precipice walls where sleeps a race
of little mummied men behind doors and windows
barely large enough to admit a half-grown white

226



CASA GRANDE AND THE GILA 227

child. Who were they? No one knows. When
did they live? So long ago that they were cave
men, stone age men; so long ago that neither his-
tory nor tradition has the faintest echo of their
existence. Where did they live? No, it was not
Europe, Asia, Africa or Australia. If it were, we
would know about them. As it happens, this second
Grand Canon is only in plain, nearby, home-staying
America ; so when boys of the Forest Service pulled
Little Zeke out of his gypsum and pumice stone dust
and measured him up and found him only twenty-
three inches long, though the hair sticking to the
skull was gray and the teeth were those of an adult
as it happened in only matter-of-fact, common-
place America, poor Little Zeke couldn't get shelter.
They trounced his little dry bones round Silver City,
New Mexico, for a few months. Then they boxed
him up and shipped him away to be stored out of
sight in the cellars of the Smithsonian, at Washing-
ton. As Zeke has been asleep since the Ice Age,
or about ten to eight thousand years B. C., it doesn't
make very much difference to him; but one wonders
what in the world New Mexico was doing allowing
one of the most wonderful specimens of a prehistoric
dwarf race ever found to be shipped out of the
country.

It was in the Gila Canon that the Forestry Serv-
ice boys found him. By some chance, they at once
dubbed the little mummy " Zeke." The Gila is a
typical box-canon, walled as a tunnel, colored in
fire tints like the Grand Canon, literally terraced



228 CASA GRANDE AND THE GILA

and honeycombed with the cave dwellings of a pre-
historic race. It lies some fifty miles as the crow
flies from Silver City; but the way the crow flies and
the way man travels are an altogether different story
in the wild lands of the Gila Mountains. You'll
have to make the most of the way on horseback with
tents for hotels, or better still the stars for a roof.
Besides, what does it matter when or how the little
scrub of a twenty-three-inch man lived anyway?
We moderns of evolutionary smattering have our
own ideas of how cave men dwelt; and we don't
want those ideas disturbed. The cave men ask
Jack London if you don't believe it were hairy
monsters, not quite tailless, just cotton-tail-rabbity in
their caudal appendage hairy monsters, who
munched raw beef and dragged women by the hair
of the head to pitch-black, dark as night, smoke-be-
grimed caves. That is the way they got their
wives. (Perhaps, if Little Zeke could speak, he
would think he ought to sue moderns for libel. He
might think that our " blond-beast " theories are a
reflex of our own civilization. He might smile
through his grinning jaws.)

Anyway, there lies Little Zeke, a long time asleep,
wrapped in cerements of fine woven cloth with
fluffy-ruffles and fol-de-rols of woven blue jay and
bluebird and hummingbird feathers round his neck.
Zeke's people understood weaving. Also Zeke
wears on his feet sandals of yucca fiber and matting.
I don't know what our ancestors wore according
to evolutionists, it may have been hair and monkey



CASA GRANDE AND THE GILA 229

pads. So if you understood as much about Zeke's
history as you do about the Pyramids, you'd settle
some of the biggest disputes in theology and ethnol-
ogy and anthropology and a lot of other " ologies,"
which have something more or less to do with the
salvation and damnation of the soul.

How is it known that Zeke is a type of a race,
and not a freak specimen of a dwarf? Because
other like specimens have been found in the same
area in the last ten years; and because the windows
and the doors of the cave dwellings of the Gila
would not admit anything but a* dwarf race. They
may not all have been twenty-four and thirty-six and
forty inches; but no specimens the size of the mum-
mies in other prehistoric dwellings have been found
in the Gila. For instance, down at Casa Grande,
they found skeletons buried in the gypsum dust of
back chambers; but these skeletons were six-footers,
and the roofs of the Casa Grande chambers were
for tall men. Up in the Frijoles cave dwellings,
they have dug out of the tufa dust of ten centuries
bodies swathed in woven cloth; but these bodies are
of a modern race five or six feet tall. You have
only to look at Zeke to know that he is not, as we
understand the word, an Indian. Was he an an-
cestor of the Aztecs or the Toltecs?

Though you cannot go out to the Gila by motor
to a luxurious hotel, there are compensations. You
will see a type of life unique and picturesque as in
the Old World countless flocks of sheep herded
by soft-voiced peons. It is the only section yet left



230 CASA GRANDE AND THE GILA

in the West where freighters with double teams and
riders with bull whips wind in and out of the narrow
canons with their long lines of tented wagons. It
is still a land where game is plentiful as in the old
days, trout and turkey and grouse and deer and
bear and mountain lion, and even bighorn, though
the last named are under protection of closed sea-
son just now. I'm always afraid to tell an Easterner
or town dweller of the hunt of these old trappers
of the box canons; but as many as thirteen bear
have been killed on the Gila in three weeks. The
altitude of the trail from Silver City to the Gila
runs from 6,000 to 9,150 feet. When you have
told that to a Westerner, you don't need to tell any-
thing else. It means burros for pack animals. In
the Southwest it means forests of huge yellow pines,
open upland like a park, warm, clear days, cool
nights, and though in the desert, none of the heat
nor the dust of the desert.

It is the ideal land for tuberculosis, though all
invalids should be examined as to heart action before
attempting any altitude over 4,000 feet. And the
Southwest has worked out an ideal system of treat-
ment for tuberculosis patients. They are no longer
housed in stuffy hotels and air tight, super-heated
sanitariums. Each sanitarium is now a tent city
portable houses or tents floored and boarded half-
way up, with the upper half of the wall a curtain
window, and a little stove in each tent. Each pa-
tient has, if he wants it, a little hospital all to him-
self. There is a central dining-room. There is




^^^^"^^"^^^^iM^^^MMI^^MMBBi^B^^B

The Enchanted Mesa of Acoma, as high as three Niagaras,
and its top as flat as a billiard table



CASA GRANDE AND THE GILA 231

also a dispensary. In some cases, there are church
and amusement hall. Where means permit it, a
family may have a little tent city all to itself; and


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19

Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 16 of 19)