Death Divided

I love strolling through cemeteries – the older and more overgrown, the better, of course. I’m not particularly ghoulish, though. I just enjoy the underlying history that cemeteries provide. Some of that history is relayed in tomb stones and monuments. Often, however, the history is contained beneath more subtle contexts: the layout of the stones, the level of ruin within the cemetery, the innocuous placing of a fence…

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See that fence in the background? It denotes the racial divide at Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Ladonia, Fannin County, Texas.

… that’s right – the South, which my website Red River Historian documents, still contains the remnants of segregation inside many of its cemeteries. Because even in death, the powers that be insisted that races had to remain separated.

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The cemetery in the ghost town of Cannon (Grayson County, Texas) became segregated after the Civil War. The segregation was denoted through a road that divided the two burial grounds, which is visible in the background. Before the war, enslaved people were sometimes interred with their white masters, but their graves were marked with wooden stakes. After the war, the first African American burials were also marked with wooden markers.

In the pre-Civil War period, segregated burial places were not needed, as blacks – most of whom were enslaved – were either buried without so much as a tomb stone, or were interred amongst their masters. There were some designated “slave cemeteries” in a few select locations – such as near large plantations or in the cities – but most of these burial places are no longer visible, as time, neglect, and outright disrespect have taken their toll on them.

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A wooden marker, most likely for an enlsaved person, at Kentuckytown Cemetery (Grayson County, Texas).

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This enslaved woman was interred with the white family at Vittetoe Cemetery (Grayson County). However, her tomb does not commemorate her name – it simply denotes what she was to those who owned her.

The few free people of color often confined their cemeteries within their church yards, such as St. Augustine Church near Natchitoches, Louisiana.

st augustine church grave

A brick tomb at St. Augustine Church cemetery, which was founded by Creole families in the early 19th century, in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.

In the period after the Civil War, which historians call “reconstruction,” Southern whites were unwilling to see their former slaves as equals. Cities and communities set aside portions of burial grounds for blacks, but these “Negro Cemeteries” (often deemed “Freedman Cemeteries”) were completely separated, usually by fences, or hedges, or pathways. With little money for upkeep and many African American families leaving the South due to racial violence and economic discrimination, their cemeteries became less maintained. Eventually, many of these boneyards were razed by construction projects or were just simply ignored.

Dallas Greenwood Cemetery Sanborn

The “Negro Cemetery” near Central Expressway in the State-Thomas area of Dallas was bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for the expansion of US 75.

History is lost this way. Of course, that may have been the reason behind the neglect and disregard.

Yet, especially in smaller communities, the “Negro Cemeteries” are still extant and active. Black cemeteries are extremely interesting to me, as their very existence lends an aura of defiance against the southern U.S. social structure. Though the tombs may not be as elaborate as those designed for affluent whites, black graves are just as loud – they serve as the final and eternal stamp on the world, indicating that the person buried there mattered as much as any other man or woman.

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While simple, this grave of a black man in Tatums, Carter County, Oklahoma, makes sure to commemorate the person interred within. Tatums is one of Oklahoma’s historical all-black towns.

I plan on visiting and documenting many more black cemeteries. The southern, segregated graveyard is a fascinating aspect of history that tells a lot about not only the people interred there, but about the community in which they’re buried.

Louisiana Respect

Texas is a big state. It’s also my birthplace and the birthplace of my dad, so of course I feel affinity for it… sometimes. It’s also a place with a LOT OF hot air circulating around – or rather, hot airbags. But you know I love you, Texas.

With that being said (and bracing for the pounding I might receive in written form later on), I am going to go on a limb to claim that if you want to visit a whole ‘nother country, it really isn’t Texas – it’s Louisiana.

Ouch! Don’t hit.

Texas may have been the birthplace of Bonnie and Clyde, but they died in Louisiana - near Gibsland, to be exact, where I met this really cool guy and his eclectic collection of antiques that he's not willing to sell.

Texas may have been the birthplace of Bonnie and Clyde, but they died in Louisiana – near Gibsland, to be exact, where I met this really cool guy and his eclectic collection of antiques that he’s not willing to sell.

I mean, just look at Louisianan diversity. They don’t have counties, they have parishes. Their Mardi-Gras is a unique blend of Catholicism, Carnival, Fasching, and Santeria. The mighty Mississippi forms its delta here, for gosh’s sakes.

And check out those who’ve made their homes in LA. The original inhabitants were the Caddos, Natchez, Coushattas, Chickasaws and Choctaws, all of whom built large tiered cities and a sophisticated farming and trading system. Later, the creoles emerged, people of mixed Spanish, French, Native, Caribbean, and African descent who, to this day, populate the Red River. Then there are beautiful places like Natchitoches and the French Quarter, whose buildings mirror Spanish architectural styles in a New World colonial layout (it’s mostly not French construction – after the French Quarter burned down, the Spanish, who controlled New France from 1763 until 1798, rebuilt it using brick and stone). The Cajuns stem from displaced French Canadians (Acadians), who were kicked out of said colony by the British and found their way to southwestern Louisianne, with their unique brand of French and their willingness to adapt their cuisine to native flora and fauna. People of African descent, mostly former slaves, built thriving towns, churches, schools, and businesses under strained circumstances, as it was Plessy v. Ferguson – which established the “separate but equal” doctrine – that began in Louisiana courts. The Germans brought their industry and Christmas customs with them, as did the English with their protestant and free-market ways. The Italians introduced some wonderful foods to Louisiana’s palate – Shreveport once had Italian delis and bakeries all over downtown. Today, large immigrant groups from Mexico, Laos, Burma, Vietnam, and India have made this state into a true melting pot of world cultures.

Louisiana does not just have haunted plantation, but haunted towers, too.

Louisiana does not just have haunted plantations, but haunted towers, too.

And where else can you take a picture of a bridge in downtown Shreveport, right next to gaudy casinos, and realize that it was not an old bicycle seat sticking out from the bayou muck, but an alligator’s head?

I know that Texas compares just as much. After all, SIX flags flew over Texas (although I still don’t buy the French claim to Texas, as La Salle’s colony was pretty much a failed usurpation and New Spain never recognized French claims south of the Red River west of the Great Bend). But Texas doesn’t have Natchitoches meat pies. Or beignets. Or Civil War battle sites.

Vive la Louisianne! Okay, okay, and viva Tejas.

And where else but Louisiana can you find a triangular truss bridge?

And where else but Louisiana can you find a triangular truss bridge?

Three Things I love about Fort Worth

Fort Worth Camp Bowie Landmark Lodge small

A while back, I posited three of Dallas’ greatest places to visit… according to my biased, unasked-for opinion, anyway. Woe is me if I didn’t give Fort Worth its fair share of my enthusiasm. Fort Worth is, by anyone’s account, a city that knows its identity – pure western – and knows its value, as evidenced by the way citizens and benefactors care for it. Fort Worth is full of architectural gems, vibrant city life, and cultural mainstays, and I feel the need to give it its Red River Historian due. Therefore, in no particular order,  my top Fort Worth-y places are:

Camp Bowie Boulevard
I love roads – so much, in fact, that I’ve made it a habit of learning the history of highways. While Fort Worth has long been a crossroads of many different overland pathways, I have a special affinity for Camp Bowie Boulevard. The Camp Bowie Historical District  has fought hard to keep its original, brick-lined integrity intact. Fort Worth’s modern history is centered around this road, with locally-owned restaurants, small florist shops, traffic circles, and old-fashioned motor courts along the west end. At the other end of the boulevard (nearest downtown) sits the famous Kimball Art Museum. A large Picasso statue welcomes visitors (special exhibits require entrance fees, but the permanent collection is free).

Fort Worth Camp Bowie with Lucilles

Surrounding the Kimball are the Museum of Modern Art, with its contemplative exterior and expansive interior, and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Nearby are the Cattle Raisers Museum, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and the Fort Worth Museum of Natural History.

Believe me, you can spend DAYS here. So when you’re all museumed-out, come on over to my next-favorite place in Fort Worth:

The Texas & Pacific Station
Of all 20th-century design styles, the most decadent and identifiable is art deco, and the Texas & Pacific Station along Lancaster Avenue (the original US 80) sits as a holy grail to this style. While the upstairs portions are now lofts, the lower portion is still accessible. To take the Trinity Railway Express to Dallas, you’ll have to enter the station to get to the platform. From there, you can witness the many freight and Amtrak trains that come in and out of Fort Worth as well as fabled Tower 55, one of the last, fully functioning railway control towers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The T&P Station used to be sit forlorn and empty after Interstate 30 was built on its north side, which separated it from its historic place at the south end of downtown. Luckily, the interstate was reconfigured to the south of the station, and now this wonderful building is, once again, a true Fort Worth icon.

Pictures can't do the T&P Station justice, but I'll try.

Apparently, the love I have for Fort Worth centers around transportation, and my last entry lets you use your own power:

The Trinity Trail passes the Swift ruins.

Trinity River Trail
To get a real feel for what my ex-coworker used to affectionately call “Funky Town,” I take bike rides between the Trinity River levees along the Trinity River Trail network. The trails stretch several miles to the east, south, and west, and they take me to downtown, towards the zoo, and into the Stockyards. I love this ride, as I get to pass under multiple railroad bridges – as someone who really loves trains, it’s always a bonus to get a little closer to them (and even on a quiet Sunday, I counted at least ten freight trains). But I especially like the scenery on the trail. The Trinity River Trail system provides a complete picture of Fort Worth, and I urge anyone who can to bike, walk, ride a horse, or mosey on a scooter to take it and see the city from such a historic and serene vantage point.

So these are my favorite places, but I could point out quite a few more: the Old Southern Pancake House! Miss Molly’s Burgers! Lucille’s! (Huh, all of these are food places, so I must be hungry). Okay, non-eateries: the Davidson and Centennial Yards! The old KATY bridge on East Morningside Drive! What used to be Hell’s Half Acre!

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I just count myself darn lucky that I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess, because I’m in awe of these fascinating cities. And that I consider them a part of the Red River Valley region, of course!

Who’s the Enemy?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Southern Moon, a bestseller that traces the history of the Comanches, particularly Quanah Parker. It’s a great read, with lots of detailed information and well-rounded research (well, except for some glaring geographical mistakes).

Empire of the Summer Moon describes the Comencheria, which consisted of most of northwest and western Texas.

What I admire about Gwynne is that he doesn’t pull any punches. In academia, not many historians are willing to admit to the atrocities and terror perpetrated by the Comanches against white, black, and Mexican settlers; academics tend to portray the attacks as stemming from an aggressor/defender kind of relationship, with the Old World invading the New World. And of course, when one gets down to brass tacks, that’s exactly from where the animosity generated. Still, Gwynne does not shy away from noting the unprovoked brutality of the Comanches (and other Southern Plains tribes), and provides gruesome details of what happened to people taken captive as well as the fates of the hapless soldiers and warriors on the losing side.

Harper’s Weekly examines Geronimo and the Apaches in 1886. Harpers’ editors tended to view Indians as “noble savages” who only needed understanding and helpful guidance to adopt the ways of the whites.

This is where I find the history of Native Americans in the Red River Valley very sketchy. Tribes like the Caddos, Tonkawas, Wichitas, Kiowas, and Comanches all engaged in a very brutal warrior culture that included some severe tortures. European accounts explain how tribes roasted and/ or buried their enemy warriors alive, raped and mutilated women, and, in some instances, cannibalized their conquests. Of course, the Europeans could be just as horrendous – one just has to cite the inquisition and the entire institution of slavery for evidence, and that doesn’t even begin to recount the European inclination for gruesome public executions. Throughout the years, though, historians have tried to minimize the more “uncomfortable” aspects of Native American cultures. Many historians have painted them as “noble” or “innocent,” negating very integral parts of their society. This, of course, does Native American groups a grave disservice, as it treats them as pure victims. Instead, Indians were formidable adversaries of the whites, blacks, and Mexican settlers: pretty much every major American conflict until the Spanish-American War at least partially focused on the hostile interactions between non-Indians and Indians.

That’s what I really like about Empire of the Summer Moon: Gwynne treats the Southern Plains tribes as real adversaries, not simple roadblocks to progress. His ability to be frank and non-flinching is a refreshing way to view the American West.

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 3:46 am  Comments (1)  
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History in Ghost Towns

I think I mentioned this before, but if I haven’t, well… I hunt ghost towns. I’d like to do that for a living, but there’s not much money to be made in just driving around and collecting images from abandoned places. If I could make tracking ghost towns a job, I would.

Odell, Texas

But what is a ghost town, exactly? Is it a settlement that’s been completely abandoned? Or is it a place that used to be bigger than it is now? Should towns that have lost their post offices be considered ghost towns, or does the loss of a school signify a dying town as well? Are ghost towns only legitimate if they have remains, or can an old cemetery be considered a town’s remnant?

I’ve learned that the definition of “ghost town” reflects the person who’s documenting them. Some people are very precise in their criteria, while others, like me, just rely on the idea that we know one when we see one.

Goodlett, Texas

While I have always prided myself on my fortune to live in a state littered with failed cities, I’ve learned through the years that ghost towns are EVERYWHERE. You can find them in Japan, in India, in Germany, in Massachusetts, in the Dakotas, in Brazil, and in Australia. Heck, even the Antarctic has an abandoned station. I guess that’s just the nature of the human beast, to pick up the stakes and wander to the next place where one supposes the grass may be greener.

Banty, Oklahoma

What’s neat about our “new world” ghost towns is that, well, they’re relatively new. That means we know much more of their history, and can even track why the towns were founded and how they met their demise. The towns I’ve encountered are almost like living history books. They tell of opportunities met and lost, like Thurber, Texas, a coal mining town that was shuttered by the Texas & Pacific Railroad when they started using oil in their locomotives. You can “read” about neglect, like what happened in Picher, Oklahoma, where the prairie winds let lead-laden chat piles blow dust blow into children’s lungs. And you can trace changing economies, like Doan’s Crossing, Texas, which faded away when the cattle drives stopped coming through town.

I’m going back on the road this weekend to find some more ghost towns. Every time I discover something a new site, I feel like a secret has just been revealed to me. To me, ghost towns really make the past come alive.

Bonita, Texas

Other Stuff That’s Good About Dallas

The new issue of D Magazine posits 119 reasons why it loves Dallas. Some of the reasons were a little on lopsided – for example, the article gives 6 points to Jimmy’s Food Store, an Italian grocery market. Then, it counts 39 reasons in the form of celebrities who used to live here. And for some reason, D Magazine claims that Dallas is the “Hollywood of Reality TV.” Is that really a reason to love Dallas, or to snicker at its wanna-bes?

All in all, though, it was a good list. I give it a lot of points for mentioning Jack Kilby (the inventor of the microchip), and for paying tribute to the Longhorn Ballroom. There is one GLARING omission, however – it said nothing of Dallas’ history, architecture, events, etc. So, I thought I’d write a little something on reasons I love Dallas, with photos, of course.

#1 – The Old Pioneer’s Cemetery in Downtown Dallas.

A wire-wrapped crib for the deceased Annie at the Pioneer Cemetery in downtown Dallas.

A wire-wrapped crib for the deceased Annie at the Pioneer Cemetery in downtown Dallas.

You can get an eerie feeling upon seeing this neglected cemetery. Sitting in the middle of some of Dallas’ most prominent structures, the cemetery seems to call out from a more peaceful, simpler time. But with planes droning overhead and trucks thundering across the freeway in the distance, “restful” doesn’t readily come readily to mind here. But I’m not sure the current residents of the cemetery would mind the noise much. After all, they constitute Dallas’ early civic leaders, business people, and benefactors, such as  Sarah Cockrell, James Latimer, and many members of the Stemmons family, for whom Interstate 35 E is named after. Because the Convention Center, City Hall, and other businesses threatened to encroach on the cemetery – the Santa Fe railroad had cleared several graves in the early 20th century to make way for railroad tracks – Frances James of the Dallas Historical Society worked very hard to make this cemetery a city landmark. Mrs. James is the reason for the next entry, actually.

#2 – Dallas Historical Society Tours

Mrs. James conducts the cemetery tours for the Dallas Historical Society. When I went on the tour, we visited the Freedman’s Cemetery in the State Thomas Neighborhood, and we also found the graves of the Millermoore family and their slaves in a backyard in South Dallas. John Neal Phillips, author of Running with Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults, conducts the Bonnie and Clyde Tour every May. Ken Holmes offers tours on fun Dallas history and the Kennedy Assassination.  The incomparable Rosemary Rumbly weds hilarity and history in her tours of Oak Cliff. The tours are very cheap – roughly $45 per person, and includes transportation and a meal – you can’t beat that! By the way, the Millermoore plantation house, built in the Greek revival style and supposedly haunted, now sits at the wonderful Dallas Heritage Village, which is reason #3 why I love Dallas.

#3 – Dallas Heritage Village, especially “Candle Light” in December

The Millermoore mansion at Dallas Heritage Village.

The Millermoore mansion at Dallas Heritage Village.

An outdoor museum built on the site of Dallas’ first city park, entering the Dallas Heritage Village is like taking a step back in time. The buildings show not only a time line of Dallas’ historical occupation, but also demonstrate the diversity of the city. The most lovely event of the year, however, is reserved for December. The park is lit up with candles, carolers make their rounds, hot Dr. Pepper and popcorn are served. Each house is open to demonstrate different traditions – a pioneer Christmas in the 1850’s dog-trot farm; Chanuka preperations in the colorful Queen Anne house; and cooking tamales and sweets inside the Mexican-occupied railroad house. For five years now, I start out my Christmas season with a trip to Candle Light at Dallas Heritage Village.

Though there are plenty more reasons to love Dallas, these three are on the top of my list. But I could go on – Keller’s Hamburgers on Harry Hines Boulevard, served on poppy seed buns! El Centro College, with its campus in the middle of downtown! The 7th Floor of the Dallas Public Library! The HUGE aligator snapping turtle that swims in the lagoon at Fair Park and likes to eat donuts!

You can watch a lot of fun things from the parking lot at Keller's Drive In, including hookers and "exotic" dancers getting off work.

You can watch a lot of fun things from the parking lot at Keller's Drive In, including hookers and "exotic" dancers getting off work.

Hmm… contemplating these entries was so much fun, I think I’m going to give a “top 3” for Fort Worth, next!

Published in: on June 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm  Comments (2)  
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Cool Schools

I have to admit that I absolutely HATED school, back when I was forced to go. I honestly believed that the worst invention in history had to have been high school. My bias changed once I went to college. Although I never set foot on any ivy-covered campus, the experiences and eye-opening views I discovered in junior colleges and a small, public, regional university helped me to really appreciate the benefits of an education. I liked the college experience so much, in fact, that I now teach at a community college.

That’s why I decided that I’d give a presentation on the history of schools for an adult extension class. I’ve been driving all around the area – particularly through Oklahoma – to catch some old schools with my camera. So many of the schools sit as ruined hulks on the side of the road, or stand abandoned in the middle of towns… which tells a lot about how shabbily we treat history.

The remains of a school on an Oklahoma prairie.

The remains of a school on an Oklahoma prairie.

Unlike the Old World, where cathedrals and mosques sit prominently in the hearts of their cities and villages, schools were the centers of communities in the United States.  Contrary to popular opinion today, the U.S. has always valued education, and towns had real stakes in the achievements of their young. One might be Baptist, or Methodist, or Jewish, an atheist or a Quaker, but most people had a child or a niece or a nephew or a favorite neighborhood kid that they wanted to see succeed, and so schools became the great equalizers.

Of course, that’s a rosy view (pun intended, which you’ll understand here in a minute). African Americans, particularly in the South, didn’t enjoy the equalizing effects that education was supposed to provide. At one point, Texas even had a segregated taxing system for schools! Black children were helped through efforts of local citizens as well as by progressive reformers like the Julius Rosenwald Foundation (get the pun?), which distributed funds to help black communities build better school houses and hire qualified teachers.

What used to be a Rosenwald school in Tatums, Carter County, Oklahoma, a freeman's town established after the Civil War.

What used to be a Rosenwald school in Tatums, Carter County, Oklahoma, a freedman's town established after the Civil War.

Education was important for Native Americans as well. While Plains Indians were forced into boarding schools (sometimes far removed from their homes), other tribes, like the Choctaws and Chickasaws, decided on pre-emptive strikes and opened up their own schools, or academies. By the late 1840s, several of these academies served both boys and girls – and even adults, during Saturday classes – all around southeastern Oklahoma.

Wheelock Academy, the first school established by the Choctaws after their removal to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), is now a National Historic Landmark. The old administration building, built in the 1880s, still stands.

Wheelock Academy, the first school established by the Choctaws after their removal to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), is now a National Historic Landmark. The old administration building, built in the 1880s, still stands.

Until the 1940s, many students attended schools inside one room school houses. During bad weather – or after the harvest or planting periods – teachers could have up to 50 students in their classrooms, all squeezed together in a drafty, clap-board covered room. Teachers would have to arrive at least an hour before their students in order to get the stove going,  and would leave only after the school house was clean (naughty kids would help with that chore if need be). Especially for women, teaching could be hard going. Prior to the Second World War, female teachers were expected to be unmarried, and they made about a third of what a male teacher earned.  The efforts of the teacher’s unions helped to bring pay equity throughout the country.

The progressive era (turn of the 20th century) helped to foster the idea of high schools. Until that time, high school diplomas were quite rare – most schooling stopped at the 8th grade. However, reform movements, the push towards standardization of education, the proliferation of colleges and universities, and child labor laws created demand for further education. By the 1940s, attending high school had become the norm, which in turn made them true community centers. An entire youth culture developed around them… homecoming dances, proms, yearbooks, football games, “cruising,” and teen movies and novels created memories and lasting impressions.

The beautiful Denison high school, which anchored the western end of Main Street, was razed in 2007. And now a CVS Pharmacy will occupy the spot! Yea, progress!

The beautiful Denison high school, which anchored the western end of Main Street, was razed in 2007. And now a CVS Pharmacy will occupy the spot! Yea, progress!

Today, our high schools tend to be built outside of the city center. I may not be a sociologist, but I have to wonder…

**** soap box alert ****

… if the reason kids aren’t doing too well in school, including having discipline problems, high pregnancy rates, and lacking in higher learning, may have to do with the removal of schools from the middle of town. New schools tend to be built on cheap land away from business and neighborhoods. Most lack windows, and instead of students seeing their communities when they leave the building, they see the vast gray of parking lots. Some schools – like my high school in Paris, Texas – look almost like warehouses. When kids feel marginalized, might they tend to act out?

Then again, the high school in Lewisville (where I live) sits smack-dab in the center of town, even though it was initially built away from town in the 1960s. Suburban growth will do that to a building. The school is a part of life in this city now, and it’s quite nice, seeing students walk to the drug store, Burger King, library, the grocery store, Sonic – it’s as if my town is anchored to the school. In the Fall, I can hear the football games from my bedroom window, and that’s kid of neat (although I have never watched an entire football game in my life).

While I never did care much for compulsory education, I sure do like its history.

Would a Rock by Any Other Name… Still be a Rock?

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One of the archeologists at the Gault Site explains carvings found in the sandstone.

This past weekend I attended a three day class sponsored by the Texas Archeology Society (TAS) (http://www.txarch.org/). I wanted to learn more about archeology and maybe even get a few pointers on how to identify sites, and what to do with them once I did identify them. The academy was held in Belton, TX, a pretty little town with a river running just west of the Main Street.

Several archeologists taught a class of about 60 how to probe, map, and survey a site. I was highly amused by the many men at the academy (at least those in my group) who almost had heart attacks when mapping – they were so set on having everything measured precisely to the exact millimeter that we never did get much accomplished. I am not the most detailed person in the world, and when I said that it probably isn’t going to hurt to be a little off, after all it’s just holes we’ll be digging- I think I probably set their hair on fire.

On Sunday, we got to put our newly found skills to the test at the Gault Site where all sorts of items from the Clovis culture who inhabited central Texas about 12,000 years ago have been excavated. We’re talking arrow heads and inscribed rock and spear points and the like. At least I think that’s what we were talking about, although I never saw any fully formed artifact. Instead, as these were stone age sites we were probing and surveying, and this was very rocky terrain, everything started to look the same to me! So I ended up mapping random pebbles. Sometimes (and I’m ashamed to admit this), I just kind of ignored a few rocks. I don’t think I was the only one to do that, either, although I must have looked like I knew what I was doing when a woman took me aside and in a hushed voice asked me, “Can you tell the difference between a rock and an artifact?” I really, really, really wanted to say “Of course!” and receive the admiration that is due a serious student of the Archaic period, but I just ended up shrugging and shaking my head.

On the plus side, the weather was excellent. There was also a lot of food. The TAS catered breakfast and lunch, with free drinks all day. I realize that if there’s one thing archeologists don’t do, is starve.

I also got to spend Friday and Saturday night at a good friend’s house, which saved me hotel money. On Saturday night, because we’re so wild and crazy, we watched “Volver” with Penelope Cruz and directed by Pedro Almodovar. Excellent movie, by the way.

I haven’t really made up my mind yet if I want to attend any more academies. On the one hand, it’s very informative. On the other hand, it’s rock. I think I’d be a lot more fascinated by historical artifacts. There’s only so much enthusiasm one can catch for burnt rock middens with crushed mussels littering the pits, and unfortunately I didn’t catch much.

Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 3:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Hidden Dallas

dallas-floor.jpg

The tiled floor peaks out from underneath the asphalt of a parking lot in downtown Dallas reminds me of what has been lost.

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Passenger service to St Louis from Dallas via the Texas and Pacific – now, the Amtrak takes the intrepid traveler to that destination.
I know there are many, many people out there who have a low opinion of Dallas (I’m not naming names, but you know who you are). Fortunately, I’m not one of them. I think Dallas is pretty nifty. Yes, some parts are ugly, there are WAY too many ‘iffy’ neighborhoods, and the differences between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ are palatable. And, besides the always insightful and slightly neurotic Dallas Observer, the city only has one newspaper

However… Dallas is a real card. This city tries to be fancy and cosmopolitan, but its shady little past always keeps popping up in the most unexpected places.

I took a drive through Dallas the other day to visit a bunch of sights -the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, Old City Hall, Old Red Museum, JFK Memorial (you know, the usual Kennedy tour) and while moseying around, I spotted some very interesting hints of what Dallas used to be like.

On Elm Street, just south of the US 75 bridge, one can see an old Texas and Pacific advertisement painted on the side of a commercial building – a tribute to Deep Ellum’s railroad past, where the T&P would lumber on Pacific Avenue, the next street over. In a parking lot just a few blocks up from Deep Ellum are the remains of what once was a magnificently tiled floor of some poor, demolished building.

I’ve promised myself that very soon I’ll be taking a visit to the DeGoyler Library at SMU to hunt down some more vintage Dallas photos, just so I can see what Pacific Avenue used to look like with the trains slicing through its middle. I also like to picture the way Dallas was before that bohemoth, Interstate 30, was built and cut off the southern part of downtown (on occasion, I’ve had people gripe that Fair Park was so far away, when it’s really just a mile from Union Station!)

Oh, how I wish Dallas looked like it used to…

Published in: on February 5, 2008 at 3:19 am  Leave a Comment