When we were just tiny toddlers, my older Elive Net brother and I hopped into our parent’s old Nash automobile, so excited about visiting our grandparents in the country. The drive from Corpus Christi to San Antonio brings back some of the most yearned memories of my life, a simpler, less complicated time in life that I can go back to and take refuge.
My dad, always thinking ahead, had prepared child-sized, homemade “facilities” for use on our road trip. Since gas stations were few and far between, he handed me a small red Folger’s coffee can with a lid and my brother a small glass coke bottle. This little accommodation became a family tradition for road trips back in those days.
Mom packed a large brown grocery bag full of sandwiches and cookies wrapped in the waxed paper and a gallon of iced tea in a clear glass milk jug. Ice chests were still a decade away, and so was the technology for plastic baggies. There was no air conditioner in the old Nash, so we traveled with the windows open, heads and hands flailing in the breeze (seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet). Dad filled up at a “full-service gas station” for twenty-two cents a gallon (which is sadly extinct now, along with glass gallon milk jugs.)
- “San-An-Toni, An-Toni-Oh;
- She hopped up on a pony and rode away with Tony;
- If you see her, please let me know,
- And I’ll meet you in San Antonio!”
Mom taught us all the road songs she knew; i.e., “You Are my Sunshine,” “Hush Little Baby,” “America the Beautiful,” “Texas Our Texas,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Home on the Range,” and “San-An-Toni-O,” come directly to my mind. We came from a musical family where everyone sang, played instruments, danced, and played records. No more songs? No problem! We counted wooden telephone poles and read billboard signs until we fell asleep.
After driving about forty-five to fifty miles per hour, on a two-lane road, for what seemed like more hours than telephone poles, dad put his left arm out of the window to signal a turn and then slowly pulled onto a bumpy dirt road named Rockport Road. About five miles away was my grandparent’s small dairy farm-turned-cattle ranch. Dad always referred to his childhood home as “The Ranch.”
Rockport Road (later F.M. 1518) was a busy artery in the early part of the twentieth century, connecting many productive little farming communities in the Oak Island Community area to San Antonio. Today, this road is South Loop 1604 West, and the old ranch house is right off the highway, about five miles from Somerset on the south side of San Antonio. Later in life, I discovered that our family was one of the oldest Texas families to settle here as far back as 1825.
“They’re here!” shouted Grandmother. Coming quickly down the old stone steps, I noticed that her dress was covered with many tiny flowers. There is nothing like the smell of a country grandma, for she smelled like cookies and love. We pulled up to their modest dairy farmhouse on the edge of a hundred and twenty-six acres spread. Dad parked in the sandy soil and red dirt clay since there was no driveway. Their entire front yard was their driveway.
The first thing I noticed was a beautiful, circular rock garden that sparkled in the sunlight. We felt the texture and shapes of the stones in the round structure that glittered with samples of their vacations. (There used to be a time when it was not illegal to take a sample or two of Montana or Yellowstone National Park home with you.)
Several layers of rocks were stacked about three feet high with nothing to hold them together but each other. We discovered petrified wood, ironstone, colored chunks of glass, flat oval stones, really soft, glittery sandstone, open geodes with white crystals, small round pebbles, grey flat slabs, and blue geodes. This collection represented ten years’ worth of “souvenirs” from Texas all the way up to their Montana land.
The tiny purple Verbena and the green and white Chaparral were in full bloom with millions of new flowers. They smelled like musky cologne and lay draped like curtains over the fence in their front yard. Years before, Grandmother had planted an orange tree next to the house to protect it from the cold in winter. Everyone told her that orange trees don’t grow in San Antonio, but that orange tree produced sweet oranges as long as she was alive.
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