Monday, February 23, 2009

The Name of a Slave

Along a major freeway in Dallas lies the graves of former slaves who were almost forgotten. Workers widening the freeway 140 years after their burial came upon numerous graves and after some research regarding the location, the city found that the field was a 140 year old grave yard of former slaves, too poor to afford grave markers, the purpose of the field was forgotten until the construction project for the freeway.

The City of Dallas and state of Texas stopped the project and archeologists carefully relocated all the graves further into the old field. They city and state also built beautiful marble structures of statues and poems to the former Southern slaves.

The poem below is located next to one of many unmarked graves of a former slave.

We transient men of clay can well attest to
The inherent frailty of the human frame
And do likewise confess that most of our names
Are inevitably reduced to whispering ashes of fond
Scattering before the breath of the night wind
That blows out of the twilight of our day.

However, unlike the freedman, we can draw comfort
From our nostalgic prediction
To leave our moral names engraved in stone upon the
While he could only cling to the clarity of his
That his name has been inscribed in the mind of God.

Though anonymous here the past deeds of this
Seemingly lost life of sorrows
Still impact on our today and our tomorrows
For the complex fabric of our times is thickly
With the sturdy cotton threads he spun upon his
Wheel of life:
Yes, we’ve heard of this “motherless”-child of Africa
Whose matchless paeans still echo here and do persuade
Us even now
That we are, indeed standing in an active valley of
“Them dried bones”
With no need of rows upon rows of labeled stones
For it is certain that “on that great getting’up
Mornin’ “
This unidentified sleeping soul is going to stand up
And tell us his name!”

Ramona Newton

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Cherokee Pass Through Dallas

The soldiers were after them again. The Cherokees had been run and starved down the trail of tears to Oklahoma, then to East Texas and when Sam Houston could do no more for them they run back to Oklahoma to wait for the end of the world. For much of this history their leader was Chief Bowles. A late Summer Day. 100 degrees.

Chief Bowles and his people were on the move again. Up to Dallas they hid in woods where White Rock Lake would be. They got up before the sun and began to move up along White Rock Creek in the brush. Moving North up to just East of the end of the future Lover's Lane. They moved away from the water and down an animal trail there from before memory. They crossed another main artery where animals had moved North and South since anyone could remember. Where the Central Tracks were. Where Central Expressway is. Near here. There was a field nearby that Chief Bowles had been told about where Indian grass and Bluestem made a magic carpet. Whoever laid down on it would become invisible. And all around it grew Mesquite, Oak, Pecan, Cedar and Horse Apple trees, thickened vines and thorns of vines with long black thorns, wove the trees together, hid the field. You had to know about the tunnel that went straight down into the bedrock and could only be seen in the setting sun the day after the last full moon of Summer. Chief Bowles knew the way. He went to a spot beside a man-high stack of stones, where the tunnel entrance was. He crawled and the Cherokees followed. They came up in the secret field and were safe for a while in the white aroma of white Moonflowers they slept in neon red silence for a week.
Robert Trammell

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hells Half Acre

A notorious red light district known as hell's half acre developed in Ft Worth after the arrival of the Texas Pacific railway in 1876 launched a local economic boom. Ft Worth was soon the favorite destination for hundreds of cowboys, buffalo hunters, railroad workers and freighters eager to wash off the trail dust and enjoy themselves. To meet the demand a large number of saloons, dance halls, gambling houses, and bordellos opened between the courthouse square and the railroad depot.

Illegal activities in hell's half acre were tolerated by city officials because of their importance to the town's economy. The district prospered in the 1880s and added to Fort Worth's growing reputation as a rowdy frontier town. Famous gamblers like Luke Short, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp and outlaws Sam Bass, Eugene Bunch, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are known to have spent time in hell's half acre.
A 1906 newspaper headline calling the district Ft Worth's den of sin and refuge of criminals was representative of periodic efforts to clean up the district. These efforts proved unsuccessful until army officials at Camp Bowie, established in Ft Worth during World War I, helped local officials shut the district down. Texas Historical Commission

This is the first of several installments of local history. The next installment will be regarding the Cherokees on the run through Dallas during the "Trail of Tears" event. Even though there were many savage tribes in Texas, the Cherokee should have been given leniency in Texas, but the Texas Governor at that time had seen much devastation by other indians against settlers and declared war on all indians.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Friends of Sarah and Amina Put Together a Tribute

Amina and Sarah


"Who You'd Be Today" by Kenny Chesney

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
I feel you everywhere I go
I see your smile, I see your face
I hear you laughing in the rain
I still can't believe you're gone

It ain't fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
But death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I've been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you'd be today

Would you see the world, would you chase your dreams
Settle down with a family
I wonder what would you name your babies
Some days the sky's so blue
I feel like I can talk to you
I know it might sound crazy

It ain't fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
But death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I've been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you'd be today

Today, today, today
Today, today, today

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
The only thing that gives me hope
Is I know I'll see you again someday

Someday, someday


In the mean time, I am trying to expand my contacts in Egypt to get eyes on the ground there for the apprehension of Yasser Said.

“There is no back door to the Alamo. That’s why they were all heroes.”

Alamo Backdoor
by Mike Cox

Three Alamo expressions are almost universally known: “A line in the sand,” “Remember the Alamo,” and “The Alamo had no back door.”

The world will never know whether Col. William B. Travis used his saber to draw a line on the ground and invited all who chose to fight to the death to cross it. But the expression endures as resolutely as our memory of the siege that ended on the morning of March 6, 1836.

The second leg of the triad, “Remember the Alamo,” is well-documented as the last three words hundreds of Mexican soldiers heard before they died at the hands of Sam Houston’s vengeful army during the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

But who first noted that the old Spanish mission in San Antonio had no back door? And what if the Alamo did have a back door, or at least a secret escape route?

On Sept. 15, 1894, the Eagle Pass Guide reprinted a story from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, “The Alamo’s Secret Passage.”

The piece began:
“There has been a tradition among the Mexicans of this city [San Antonio], since the early part of the present century, that the old Alamo and Conception Missions are connected…by means of an underground passage, and a discovery has just been made …which leads to the belief that the tradition is well founded.”

A few days earlier, the story went, workmen digging a well on the farm of one Walter Scott, just south of town, struck a layer of rock.

“After penetrating this barrier they came upon a passage which is about 8 feet in height and 5 feet wide,” the story continued. “The sides are walled with rock slabs, and the bottom seems to be laid with a material resembling cement. The passage runs in a north and south direction, and at the time the discovery was made it was half filled with water, it being just after heavy rains…. The top of the passage is about 12 feet from the surface. It is in direct line between the two missions, and Mr. Scott is thoroughly convinced that he has at last discovered the long-lost passage, and that upon further exploration he will bring some wonderful things to light.”

The story said a brief exploration of the passage had been made, but no one had gone very far because of the water. The unidentified author of the article said secret passages were common in the missions of Mexico and the Southwest and that they were “constantly [being] discovered and explored, even at this late day, and in some of them immense amounts of treasure have been brought to light.”

While that’s possible, the notion of secret tunnels is a definite folk tale sub-category, often connected with the broader treasure story genre. The idea behind the tunnels, of course, is that they were used as escape routes in the event of Indian attack.

The story went on:
“When the Franciscan Fathers came to the new world they found many enemies …with which to contend in their work of advancing [religion] and civilization. They built these missions and fortified them so that in case of attack from the savages or other …enemies they could make resistance. [It]…is a well-known fact that in many places in Mexico they were successfully used in turbulent times, and when the attacking party would enter the religious edifice it would be found deserted.”

The passages were both well-built and well-disguised, the story noted.

“Another thing that lends color to the theory that the Alamo and Conception Missions are connected…,” the story said, “is that in the north wing of the Alamo in one of the cell-like rooms that was formerly occupied by the severe and sober-appearing monks, there is a spot about five feet square in the cement floor which within the past few years has sunk several inches, and when one walks upon the spot there is a hollow sound.…”

Should the existence of a passage running three miles from the Alamo to Mission Conception be proven, the story said, “the discovery will also reveal that the Texas martyrs who lost their lives in the Alamo, had they known of the existence of this outlet, [could] have saved their lives by escaping through it.”

None of the basic Alamo histories mention anything about a tunnel ever having been found, though scholars do believe some of the Alamo defenders tried to escape once they realized they had no hope of survival inside the mission. The underground rock-lined structure found in 1894, assuming the story wasn’t made up, might have been a remnant of the Spanish irrigation system that connected to the San Antonio River.

As for the “back door” line, it is variously attributed to the late Maury Maverick Jr. or some unnamed member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Supposedly, when President John K. Kennedy visited the Alamo in 1960, he asked following his appearance to be escorted out the back door of the old mission.

“There is no back door to the Alamo,” Kennedy learned. “That’s why they were all heroes.”

However, I do have to disagree to some extent. The men who fought and died at the Alamo had a chance to leave. But they choose to stay and fight.