My Kitchen Table in Houston – October 6, 2017
I signed up for a freelance writing website where they will supposedly pay me for articles. They have not yet said how much for what or how often that will be. I expect that dozens will submit competing articles and only the winner will profit. There was a screening process where I answered 40 grammar and usage questions, all straightforward. Then they gave me two hours to write a 500 word essay about landmarks.
Never being one to waste text, I’ll include it here since they won’t pay me for it. I have further edited this copy since I now have the time to be careful instead of being in a blind rush to meet a deadline. I have added the pictures from the Battleground website and a copy of that marvelous painting in the State Capitol.
The word “landmark” gives you the primary reason for such places. These were commonly known guide points for travelers. The word has – of course – come to mean much more. Landmarks are also cultural, historic, academic or spiritual centers that draw both local residents and visitors from afar who would like to learn more of those aspects of the place they are visiting.
An example from my home city of Houston is the San Jacinto Monument. While its structure is a simple spire resembling the Washington Monument in DC,, it represents a history that is common to residents of Texas but not at all well-known to others. Locals come to be reminded of that history and tourists come to learn.
The San Jacinto Monument
Texas was born when settlers from many European countries and the United States were invited to join Spanish land holders in a hot, often stormy climate where hostile renegade Indians looted from and killed the settlers. When Mexico split off from Spain in their own revolution, the Texans became Mexican Citizens in good standing.
Then along came President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna who soon proved to be a dictator. He demanded that Mexican States all dissolve their legislatures and submit to his autocratic rule, Some Mexican States rebelled. Texas was among them and was the only State to succeed in their rebellion.
General Sam Houston, a Mexican Citizen of Texas, led a rag-tag , outnumbered army that he knew had just one battle in it. His forces in San Antonio, under the leadership of William Travis and Jim Bowie had disobeyed orders to retreat and held off the murderous army of Santa Anna for 13 days. Both commanders were also Mexican Citizens and Bowie had in fact been the President’s friend, until said President became a dictator. Bowie parlayed with Santa Anna, but came to no agreement. The dictator warned Bowie that “no quarter would be given” (i.e., the dictator would kill all concerned, whether or not they surrendered).
The Texans fought to the death and their sacrifice at the Alamo gave Houston time to build forces, but still he retreated eastward in the face of overwhelming numbers on the Mexican side. His tactics divided Santa Anna’s forces, but still left his army to face a much stronger and well-trained force. It was the low-lying swampy place known as San Jacinto that at last became the scene of the final conflict of the Texas Revolution.
There, Houston’s army surprised the Mexicans and killed them by the hundreds while suffering less than ten deaths on the field. That battle established Texas’ freedom from a murderous dictator that made any King of England look like a Saint.
This Painting in the Texas State Capitol.
In the aftermath of the battle, a defeated Santa Anna stands (hat in hand) before a wounded General Sam Houston. The dictator had hidden in a Private’s uniform among the prisoners who kept addressing him as “Presidente”. That was a bad idea. Besides the obvious cognate, all the officers in this Texas Army understood Spanish, of course. 😉 That fellow with his hand to his ear is Deaf (rhymes with beef) Smith, the “spy” who tracked Santa Anna’s army.
The victory is celebrated by the Monument and the story of the battle is engraved of the four sides of the tower. Inside are many fascinating museum exhibits and if you are patient, you can make the line to go up the elevator to the apex of the star-topped tower for an unparalleled view of the area.
The Star at the Top The Observation Deck
Don’t forget to stop off at the Battleship Texas nearby. The Texas fought in both World Wars and was retired to scrap. Schoolchildren across Texas helped raise funds to buy the old ship and renovate it for posterity. More fascinating History is on display there.
The Battleship Texas
These are two landmarks, a simple tower and an old ship. But their deeper meanings are the source of so very much more. Things like Pride, Glory, History and Freedom.