An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Fifty-Four

october 1913 flood

Above, spectators stand on the Navarro Street Bridge with the floodwaters lapping just below. Photograph from UTSA Libraries Special Collections

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Fifty-Three

Emma Bentzen Koehler, October 1913

“Sophie,” asks Bettie Stevens, “however did you manage to return your house to normal in time for this beautiful wedding? We still don’t have the mud cleared out of the first floor.”

“Many hired hands. The Colonel posted a notice at the brewery offering double pay to any worker willing to shovel, scrub and paint by lamplight after their shifts ended. I cried myself to sleep every night thinking that, after all the planning, we would have to ask Otto and Emma to host the celebration at their house.”

“And, of course,” says Emma, “you know we would have been more than happy to have Jennie wed there. But I understand the sentimental reasons for holding the wedding in your own home.”

John shakes his head. “Eight inches of rain. It was the most frightening night of my life. One day people were whining about not enough water in the river. The next night our whole household is huddled in the attic, hoping not to get washed away.”

Continue reading “An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Fifty-Four”

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Twenty-Eight

san antonio river in brackenridge park
an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Twenty-Seven

Andrew Stevens, July 1912

“A piece of good news emerged from Mayor Callaghan’s funeral,” announces Mr. K. “The Kalteyers finally can breathe easier. Doctor Herff says he expects their nine-year-old, little William, to recover from his concussion.”

“Speeding driver right there on Blum Street,” gripes the Colonel. “Hurled the boy off the wheel he was peddling and then sped out of Alamo Plaza, leaving Willie behind, a little heap in the street. Lucky the lad’s not dead. The only way to control these speed demons racing through downtown is to hire motorcycle policemen to chase them.” 

John has been running his hands through his hair over and over, and it now sticks out at all angles. Andy pats his own head to try to signal John to smooth it back down, but John is still too deep in mournful thoughts to pick up on it. “Otto, I know I shouldn’t compare the loss of Bryan Callaghan to your loss of your twin brother. After all, Bryan Callaghan was more stubborn than any mule….”

Continue reading “An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Twenty-Eight”

Chin’s enormous prickly pear umbrella offers shelter along the Mission Reach

WHEREAS, A native of the American Southwest and the Sonoran Desert region of Mexico, the prickly pear cactus provided nourishment to the earliest inhabitants of those regions, and both the sweet, fleshy fruit and the broad, flat stems were incorporated into tasty dishes; and

WHEREAS, Tunas, the prickly pear fruit, and nopales, which are made from the stem, have since become staples of the Mexican diet, and their growing popularity in Lone Star cuisine can be attributed to Texans’ appreciation for unusual and distinctive foods; and….

WHEREAS, This adaptable plant can survive under many different environmental conditions, and thus can be found from the hill country of Central Texas to the windswept plateaus and arid mountains of West Texas; because it thrives in a harsh climate that few plants can bear, the prickly pear cactus is often grown as forage for cattle and has had a tremendous positive impact on the vital Texas cattle industry; and

WHEREAS, Rugged, versatile, and uniquely beautiful, the prickly pear cactus has made numerous contributions to the landscape, cuisine, and character of the Lone Star State, and thus it is singularly qualified to represent the indomitable and proud Texas spirit as an official state symbol; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 74th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby designate the prickly pear cactus as the official state plant of Texas.

1995 Texas House Concurrent Resolution

Viewed from the east side of the San Antonio River, the graceful arch indeed appears a portal to pathways on the other side. But Mel Chin‘s “CoCobijos” changes appearance as you approach and circle it.

Commissioned by the San Antonio River Foundation to link the Mission Reach of the river to nearby Mission San Jose, the massive steel sculpture represents the pads of two arching prickly pears joined together.

The prickly pear theme arose from two of Houston-born Chin’s first impressions of the area. Interviewed by Jack Morgan for “Texas Standard” on Texas Public Radio, Chin explained:

One: “I was looking at the roofs of the mission and I found that there was a whole planting of them, a bunch of them that have been growing there since the 1930s.”

Two: “After visiting the site… I noticed how hot I was.”

And since: “There’s nothing stronger than the state plant of Texas, I believe.”

Now: “There’s two of them coming together to create a shelter from the sun and a habitat for live cactus growing above.”

According to the San Antonio River Foundation website, Chin reflected about the resiliency of prickly pear and how the plant historically has nurtured people and animals. The lacey steel picado patterns echo the internal structure of nopal pads.

About the same time “CoCobijos” was unveiled in this semi-rural setting, according to Glasstire, Chin was taking over Times Square and several other spots in New York City with multimedia works portraying frightening potential results if global warming is allowed to continue into the future uncontrolled.

The New York installations are gone, but you need only head south from downtown along the San Antonio River to view Chin’s masterful piece of public art now a permanent part of San Antonio’s landscape.