cuero turkey trot 1912

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Thirty-Nine

Above, 1912 Cuero Turkey Trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, UTSA Libraries Special Collections, The Top Shelf

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Thirty-Eight

Andrew Stevens, November 1912

“‘Personal antagonism,’” sputters John. “Bryan Callaghan must be rolling over in his grave. His reasons for renaming the park Waterworks were not petty.”

“Alderman Mauermann stuck to his ground, though,” adds the Colonel. “George Brackenridge’s gift to the city had more strings attached to it than a spider’s web. What good is a park with no way to access it?”

Mr. K’s grumpiness that this topic resurfaced at City Hall is obvious. “As big a proponent of parks as Alderman Lambert is, he sees the gift for what it was—a scheme to line George Brackenridge’s pockets. The city was hamstrung. Forced to buy property on River Avenue from him for an entrance to the parkland.”

John waves a hand dismissively. “A technicality. That’s a mere technicality according to Alderman Boynton. Says it’s poor grace to censure a benevolent donor simply because the city failed to notice the hitch at the time the gift of land was accepted.”

“At least the motion failed, John,” says the Colonel. “Waterworks Park remains its name.”

“How many things must be named Brackenridge anyway?” gripes Mr. K. “The cumbersome surname already is on three schools. The only recent accomplishment of the man is he reached eighty years of age. The whole town seems senile, completely forgetting all his double-dealing during the Civil War.”

John shakes his head. “Students shouldn’t have to attend a school named Eleanor Brackenridge. Why, the old windbag has a tongue that could clip a hedge.”

“A doorful of a woman,” smirks the Colonel. “As for her brother, everyone knows he is a ghaselig.”

Observing Andy’s puzzled expression, Mr. K offers a translation. “A lavender aunt.”

John sighs. “For the love of Pete, Andy. George Brackenridge has an eye for the laddies instead of the ladies.”

“Speaking of gifts with strings attached, Colonel,” says Mr. K, “your governor fails to learn not to tangle with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Clara Driscoll, now Missus Sevier, makes a more formidable opponent than Judge Ramsey. She takes great offense at his suggestion she stands to benefit financially from improvements to the Alamo grounds. Claims she owns no real estate nearby.”   

“He stands stubborn,” agrees the Colonel. “The Fourth Court of Appeals ruled the ladies have custody of the Alamo, so he wants to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.”

As portions of Grenet’s Store were removed in 1912, more of the two-story Alamo convent was revealed. Sons of DeWitt Colony website credits image to San Antonio Museum Association, presumably held by the Witte Museum.

John’s lips widen into an apologetic smile. “Falling under the influence of Bettie, I am on their side. What good is rebuilding a monastery on the grounds? Instead, Missus Sevier is offering to pay for a handsome wall built from stones lying around that possibly were part of the fortress at the time of the battle. She’ll even underwrite the beautification of the interior.”

The Colonel mutters, “The governor talked about nothing but the Alamo on the train ride back and forth to Cuero. As though the Turkey Trot wasn’t already dull enough. We toured the dam across the Guadalupe, inspected the packing plant, rode in the parade. The Governor made six nearly identical speeches.”

“Think how often you’ll get to hear him,” says Mr. K, “when the legislature reconvenes.”  

The Colonel unbuttons the lower buttons on his vest as though only just realizing its tightness across his midsection. “The ladies at the turkey barbeque stuffed us fuller than any holiday bird has ever been filled. And we still had two dances to attend.”

“So,” John teases, “how many times did you suffer through the chorus of ‘Turkey in the Straw?’”

The Colonel waves him off. “Ten times too many. I can’t get it out of my head. Then I arrived home just as Sophie and girls pulled a plump turkey out of the oven for me to carve.”

Mr. K spreads his arms to form a big circle. “Old Boehler brought an enormous one to me. Said his shop was full of victims of the annual Thanksgiving massacre. Whatever happened to the noble tradition of Texas men out hunting for wild ones?”

John opens his eyes wide in mock horror. “The one-day demand is more than the woods can provide. Can you imagine if every single city-slicker in San Antonio was out shooting up the countryside on the same day? There’d probably be almost as many wounded men as dead birds.”

The Colonel leans forward to contribute his tidbit. “Billy Keilman bagged another mother lode of hunting trophies. Owns more than 1,000 horns now and claims his collection is worth more than $25,000.”

“$25,000?” Mr. K arches a now-unknitted eyebrow. “I barely feel confident extending credit to that saloon man for one day’s worth of beer.”

John counters. “Yes, but that 80-point antler shot in Mason County is a mighty impressive specimen.”

The Colonel nods. “Well, Billy says he feels like Old Mother Hubbard. Can’t squeeze one more set of antlers into the Beauty Saloon. So he’s packing some of his trophies to ship to New York City. Plans to open a wild west bar. Says cowboys are the rage in New York.”

“If Billy tries to unload,” scoffs Mr. K, “any of his patent plugs for pifflicated people on the streets of New York, the scallywag might find himself wearing a suit of tar and feathers.”

“Maybe he’ll show back up in town,” laughs John, “wearing a fine suit instead. After all, New Yorkers lined up to see Buffalo Bill for show after show at Madison Square Garden.”

“We went to the Opera House last night,” says the Colonel. “Al Wilson had us in stitches as Metz von Klatz. The comedy’s in German, John and Andy, so you wouldn’t enjoy it. But, Otto, you and Emma should go see ‘It Happened in Potsdam’ this weekend.”

“Potsdam, the summer home of Kaiser Wilhelm,” grumbles Mr. K. “Why can’t the Kaiser simply fill his vacation time with leisurely pursuits? All he did was float more boats, making the British so fearful they’ve abandoned their policy of splendid isolation to align themselves with France and Russia.”

The Colonel shakes his head. “The Kaiser’s cousin, King George, despises him and takes any opportunity to snub him.”

“Your German king,” says John, “did nothing to endear himself when he told a reporter the English are ‘mad, mad, mad as March hares.’”

Mr. K’s face appears troubled. “The whole time we were in Germany this year, we sensed unease. Angst over the likelihood of war. Kaiser Wilhelm keeps barking bellicose words toward the Triple Entente, ignoring the power of the Balkan League in his own backyard. Bulgarian and Serbian strength mushrooms. No one expected the Balkan League to dare attack Constantinople, but they forced the supposedly invincible Turkish army to sit down at the negotiating table. A year from now, my homeland might not be a place fit to visit.”


This City Council skirmish, one of several, over the name of the park donated by George Brackenridge occurred in October. The men’s unflattering conversation about George and his sister Eleanor represents the Author’s guess as to their opinions. The politically incorrect terms ghaselig and lavender aunt were gleaned from Graham Robb’s 2004 Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century. During that time period, it often was assumed single men were gay. Whatever George Brackenridge’s sexual preference was is of no concern to the Author. One woman with whom Brackenridge sometimes kept company was his neighbor, Helen Madarasz. Sadly though, Helen was murdered in her home in 1899. Robbery was the presumed motive, but the crime never was solved.  

The Alamo battles heated up during November and December, and the Colonel’s trip with the governor to the Cuero Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving eve was as described. On August 24, the San Antonio Light described William Keilman’s planned venture in New York City, but the Author located no mention of whether he succeeded in opening a wild west bar there in addition to his ongoing activities in San Antonio.

Perhaps the two Ottos held more respectful views of Kaiser Wilhelm II, but it seems unlikely they would yearn for their homeland to become embroiled in a war against the Triple Entente of Britain, France and Russia.

Continue on to Chapter Forty

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