T. A. (Theodore Augustus) Barry.

Men and memories of San Francisco, in the spring of '50 online

. (page 15 of 15)
Online LibraryT. A. (Theodore Augustus) BarryMen and memories of San Francisco, in the spring of '50 → online text (page 15 of 15)
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weather is calm and warm, and the lazy, glassy
ocean slowly heaves, like the breathing of some
gigantic, sentient being, the Murre basks quietly
in the semi-tropical sun, sleepily enjoying the
renewed vitality that the sun sends through
every living thing; slowly blinking and raising
their feathers in the fervid rays, with a half-
uttered note of lazy comfort, recuperating for
the bristling activity of the coming winds and
dashing, foam-crested breakers. Then the Murre
is in his element. When the long-sailing,
weather-beaten ships look anxiously for the


brave little pilot; when every craft — even the
Italian fisherman — seeks . the haven, then the
Murre revels in undisturbed possession, and
wildly screams his exultation as he dashes into
the seething foam of the thundering breakers,
wresting his finny prey from where no boat
could live ; disappearing in the roaring waters,
and remaining so long submerged that the spec-
tator, who watches his fearless dive, has long
given him up for lost, when suddenly he rises
above the commotion of water, poises an instant
to shake the brine from his oily overcoat, then
soars away with his food and the meal for his
expectant fledglings, awaiting in some nook,
crevice, fissure, niche, or projecting inequality,
where a nest can hold two of those callow, auk

We gaze, and wonder if Drake and his men
stood, in 1579, where we now stand, watching
the whilom projectors of this busy colony; if
the Farallones were here in the days of Queen
Bess' favorite admiral, which we greatly doubt;
as Sir Francis' log says: "We hunted along
the coast (on land) from our winter quarters
(Drake's Bay), and found the coast to be," etc.,
etc., describing it; and, as Drake's Bay is only
thirty miles north of the entrance of San Fran-
cisco harbor, and he found no harbor, nor yet


the Farallones, it is very reasonable to believe
that the convulsion of Nature which rent those
dry, perpendicular, broken cliffs, on which we
look as we ride along the southern head, came
subsequent to Drake' s visit, or even that of La
Perouse; and in that fearful hour the home of
our feathered tribe rose, all dark and dripping,
from the astonished Neptune's long embrace.
Certainly this abrupt, little, solitary island
could not have been overlooked by an explor-
ing party passing an entire winter, only thirty
miles away, where it is visible every clear day.
No! on the whole, we think the birds' nests
were not here in Sir Francis' s time.

How curious are the many natural formations
of rock: the little arches, the port-holes, bas-
tions, niches, battlements, towers, walled sentry
boxes ; that natural bridge, with its sharply de-
fined crossway and high-sprung arch. See the
crowd of birds on its railed edge. They stand
so close and regular that, in the distance, they
seem like some grass or vegetation growing
there. What a singular effect is produced, as
the snow-white breakers rush, roaring up the
deep chasm, spanned by this firm bit of Nature's
masonry; the leaping, seething foam hides the
blue ocean, clear away to the horizon, giving to
our vision only the sky above the flying, fleecy


froth, chafing forever at the bridge' s immovable
foundations — forever falling back, baffled and
defeated, and still again returning, as Hope
fights Fate, in useless, but in undying courage.
It is good for the intermural dweller, whose
life, actions and thoughts have been year after
year bounded by the Pueblo limits, to come
here, and with long, grateful inhalations of old
Ocean' s salty breath, expand the thoracic
muscles, win fresh vitality and new ammuni-
tion for the wasting tissues of his body, and,
perchance, a healthful, introspective hour for
the mental faculties, too often warped and dis-
torted by long lingering "in the busy marts
of men.' '



Many of the buildings of '49 and '50 are
still standing in their original positions. We
find most of them in the northern part of the
city. Some of them show little, if any change,
outwardly. Their time-worn, old fashion ap-
pearance adds to their interest. Some of them
are high up above the street-grade of to-day,
perched upon cliffs, made by mortal hands — by
political chicanery — to reward, by means of
street contracts, the firm and faithful. Away up
the long-reaching, repeated flights of stairs,
where the old dwellings now stand, we used to
walk along the natural grade. City surveys have
not improved it, nor forced these faithful old
homes to leave their premises. We cannot but
rejoice in their tenacity — their firm adherence to
the old spot, in spite of every scheme to oust and
render them worthless. Sometimes we come
upon one of the old, familiar dwellings, upon
some street whose grade has not been changed —
some old homestead, standing so unassumingly


amid its pretentious, obtrusive neighbors, in tbeir
uniform of stucco-work ornamentation, and
flashing plate glass, like files of nicely-decked
soldiers on dress parade, and so completely
changing all the old, once familiar ground, that,
when we suddenly recognize our time-honored,
old acquaintance, for the moment we are greatly
puzzled to decide whether the mountain has
come to Mohammed, or vice versa. Occasionally,
in our peregrinations, we are startled by con-
fronting, upon some newly-opened way in the
sands beyond Market street, the well-known
features of some once grand edifice, grown ven-
erable in years of service on an old, central
thoroughfare. A sense of the ludicrous close
jostles our surprise, as if, led by impecuniosity
to our uncle! s office, we came upon Ralston or
Hayward, furtively concealing something, and
trying to seem calmly indifferent. There is
something touching in the sight of an old
dwelling-house in San Francisco — old for this
city, where the strange vicissitudes of many
years of ordinary life are rolled in one. Their
time-worn fronts seem like the pleasant faces
of old friends. We love to look upon their
vine-clad porches, so full of interesting remi-
niscences — the sheltering, glazed verandas,
along whose sounding floors in by-gone years


pattered so many little feet — some treading now
in the firm step of manhood, and others carried
out, so still and white, through the old gate, long
years ago, to rest forever. Those little window-
panes have many times reflected the conflagra-
tion' s lurid flames, and revealed the happier
picture of the young wife's welcoming face, and
smiles of curly-pate children. The green-gray
roof, the low-ceiled rooms — each sanctifled by
its own history of joy or sorrow, of birth and
death, and parting words and farewell kiss.

We cling to everything of good belonging to
the spring of '50. If we admit that change is
progress, and that progress is improvement,
' tis with a sigh that we confess it. With kind-
ness in our hearts toward every one, we still
remember those old words, "Old books to read,
old wine to drink, old wood to burn, and old
friends to talk with;" and we may be forgiven
for clinging to the old associations and the men
belonging to San Francisco in the Spring of '50.

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Online LibraryT. A. (Theodore Augustus) BarryMen and memories of San Francisco, in the spring of '50 → online text (page 15 of 15)