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31 July 2010 @ 10:59 am
Springtime Azaleas  

Bouncing along in the cool early morning on the rocky ranch road on the side of a mountain in the jeep, my cousin, Robert Coleman, said “I need to check on the water gap on Blanco Creek, do you mind if we go over there and see if it is still up? Blanco Creek runs through the western side of the ranch and I have a lot of problems over there keeping the water gap up.” Robert had invited me back in April to come see his ranch which was covered with spring wildflowers. His ranch is located in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country about sixty miles west of San Antonio and north of and between the two little towns of Knippa and Sabinal, Texas. From US Highway 90, between those two little towns, the highest peak you see in the hills to the north is on his ranch.

For those of you not familiar with Texas ranch lingo, a “water gap” is a temporary fence across a creek or river bed that will often get washed out every time it rains enough to cause a flood to come down the creek bed. It is a constant problem to the ranchers to keep the water gaps repaired after a rain so that their livestock do not wander onto the adjoining ranch.

The jeep bounces around a bend and there is Blanco Creek. Today it is dry with no running water in it. The creek bed, covered with white limestone round rocks, is about a hundred yards wide and ten to twenty feet deep. I suppose the creek gets its name from the white rocks since blanco is the Spanish word for white. While Robert was checking the water gap, he commented that Blanco Creek was a kind of backdoor trail for the Indians to use to sneak down into the settlements to raid and steal horses back when the country was first being settled.

After repairing the water gap, Robert and I get back into the jeep and follow the road up Blanco Creek further into the mountains. We get to a deer hunter’s blind and Robert stops and tells me the story about what happened to a hunter there last deer hunting season. The deer hunter one day was sitting in the blind and thought he could hear a truck engine idling nearby. Knowing there couldn’t be a truck close to the blind, he got out of the blind to investigate and left his gun in the blind. The sound was coming from near the deer feeder about fifty yards away. As he approached from where the sound was coming from, a big mountain lion walked out from behind a cedar bush a few yards from him. The mountain lion, evidently very happy, was loudly purring. The frighten hunter, hunting safety, climbed the deer feeder. The mountain lion continued to purr loudly as he watched the hunter perched up on the deer feeder. Finally the mountain lion wandered off still purring.

When I returned to our home north of Houston, the azalea bushes were in full bloom in our yard and neighborhood. I got some good photographs of them. I based this painting on those pictures.

While doing this painting of some azaleas, Blanco Creek has come back into my life. I am reading the book, Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821 – 1900, The Texas Rangers, by Mike Cox. On page 196, is an account of an event that happened on Blanco Creek about one hundred and forty years ago.

At the time of that event, there was a company of Texas Rangers stationed at the old abandoned Fort Inge army post a few miles down the Leona River from Uvalde, Texas. Their captain was German-born immigrant Henry Joseph Richarz.

In December of 1870, he reported to their Austin headquarters that a large band of Indians had come through by their fort on a raid into the settlements, probably Kickapoo Indians from Mexico. He reported that they had attacked and killed two of his rangers that were scouting on Blanco Creek, sixteen miles east of the fort. In his report, he also states the names of those two young rangers that were killed as “Walter Richarz (my son) and Joseph Riff”.

I will never again cross the bridge over Blanco Creek on US Highway 90 without thinking of Captain Richarz having to write that report.
judasqil on October 31st, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
Great post! I want to see a follow up to this topic