"I remember ... the Alamo." - Pee Wee Herman ("Pee Wee's Big Adventure)
The first thing my family and I checked out in San Antonio was the Alamo. It was an old, white-stone fort where a few Texas militants, including Daniel Boone, chose nobly to die at the hands of thousands of warring Mexicans rather than surrender. The fort had a romantic, walled-in courtyard. The thick branches of a stout, beautiful cottonwood engulfed the courtyard's space. "Alamo" was Spanish for "cottonwood."
My bubbly, young-looking, brown-haired, 44-year-old mom was smily and full of glee to see me. Her parents were also among the many San Antonio tourists. My nice, 64-year-old Grandma Bott was talkative - mostly about other trips she'd taken in old age. 74-year-old Grandpa Bott's knees hurt him, but he still liked making jokes and kid-like observations. We ate out on the River-Walk, a low channel and sidewalk lit up in reds, with many flowers.
We then all hitchhiked to Texas' Mustang Island. - No, I'm just kidding; my whole family doesn't hitchhike. We drove a rental car. Funny Grandpa Bott commented on everything we passed: the worthless-looking land of shrubs, the lack of oil rigs and cattle, a group of closed-in cattle, a huge cotton tract, cacti, birds with long tails, big electric poles.
My grandpa had rented a condo for us on quiet Mustang Island. Woohoo! I was tired from hitchhiking; my mom was tired from working.
It felt great to just sit on the beach, feeling the sun, hearing the loud waves come in, watch the gulls, and just enjoy the miles of pure nature in front of us. My mom had barely been in salt water her whole life. She'd been missing out. It was awesome swimming through the soft, foaming waves, on vacation with my swimming mom and grandmother. I rolled and twisted and reveled in the blue Gulf of Mexico.
An impressive collection of wildlife, in bird form, had also come to the Gulf. A bright-orange-billed, black-headed, gray-bodied oyster-catcher prowled the beach. An elegant white pelican coasted over top of the water. Little, gray, tornado-personality birds fluttered their feet where the sea died and poked their beaks predatorily in the sand, never satisfied.
We went to a grasslands-enclosed lagoon to ogle wildlife one day. It was a hotspot for animal activity.
White pelicans floated across the shallow lagoon like swans. A black-striped great blue heron, with its old man eyes - small, but sharp - hid calmly amongst the tall weeds. It tucked itself tall, standing upright on long legs.
Coots, black ducks with white, smudged-on beaks, nested in the lagoon's grassy fringe. A roseated spoonbill stood, pink, awkwardly in the weeds, with his ridiculous bulbous bill. There was a tri-colored heron or two: small and lightly-colored purple and orange and white.
The great blue heron came out and cocked its head at a painful-looking angle to put its ear, or perhaps its eye, low to the water's surface and tried snaring a fish between its bill. Dozens of bird species convened on the top of the spanning water. A red-orange-billed, gray-winged cormorant glided across the water, then posed on a post with its wings cocked as if a glamorous statue.
My favorite animal was the red-eared slider, a round turtle with a dreary look to it and some red on it. It pushed itself through a film of pond scum with elephantian legs. It was cute.
Gaining honors as the most disgusting animal was the nutria, a big rat. With coarse, gray hair, he munched on long stalks of grass with a filthy, whiskery mouth.
My mom "ooh!"ed and snapped pictures. She loved taking pictures. The best one she took was of a great blue heron on the beach. It stood before the profile of a human female carrying a fishing pole through the waves. The two different kinds of fisherman each looked savvy and skilled.
We saw few wild marine creatures, but the nearby Texas Aquarium showed us some captive ones. The placid sea-turtles, glaring lemon sharks, and lookdowns - fish that swam on their sides - were the coolest.
I scoured the sea-grass dunes on Mustang Island in the hopes of spotting a rattlesnake, but I never found anything but sand.
My grandpa was a wise man for renting that condo there. When we weren't enjoying the nature, we swam in the pool (its presence seemed rather unnecessary, to me), played cards, and watched the World Series. My grandpa made fun of his wife and everybody, as wine-drinking accompanied the cards.
We happily celebrated my upcoming birthday, with cupcakes. And I must say, my mom and grandparents' rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" was a surprisingly melodic blend of bass and tenor.
There's nothing like R and R with the family - especially after 8000 miles of hitchhiking.
My family caught scheduled flights home. Me? I still had to catch rides.
My mom and grandparents dropped me off on the side of the road in San Antonio and drove away. My mom said it was a very strange feeling, to see me on the side of the road like that.
Yes, but hitchhiking had already brought me thus far. I didn't need no lousy plane.
- Justin "Modern Oddyseus" Breen
Much thanks to Grandpa & Grandma Bott & Mom for the place to stay!
NOTEABLE WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS: white pelican, oyster-catcher, gray tornado-personality birds, great blue heron, coot, tri-colored heron, roseated spoonbill, cormorant, red-eared slider, nutria