Friday, March 19, 2010
Day 94: Is It Fair to All Concerned?
Brenham to Carmine. 20.3 miles/1729.1
Friday, March 19, 2010
Leaving from Penney’s empty parking lot on the east side of Brenham, heading through Brenham to the town of Carmine, a distance of 20.3 miles. I’ve already fallen short of my new benchmark of 21 miles, but when I got to Carmine earlier this morning I knew it was going to be the last place to park the motor home for quite a few miles.
It’s a pleasant morning, partly cloudy. Temperature’s about 60 now, and expected to get up into the 70s.
The Rotary Club welcomes me to Brenham with a stone marker. It says Brenham was established in 1844. And below that it says the Rotary Club challenges me to live by its four-way test. I’ve seen this before, here and there, although I’m not a Rotarian. The test goes like this: “1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build good will and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” That’s a four-way test we should apply to decisions we make as a nation, I'm thinking. Things would be a hell of a lot different if we did. Evidently there are no active Rotarians in Washington. Or in Austin or Jackson or Lansing.
I’m feeling more than a little stiffness this morning, but nothing that some stretching and more walking won’t take care of. Slowly getting back into the groove.
In addition to the ubiquitous English-Irish and Spanish surnames in Texas, there is a pretty strong showing of German ones in this part of the state. The Germans started coming to Texas back in the 1830s and 40s, and then in greater numbers in the decades after the Civil War. Today persons of German ancestry are the third largest group in the state. In Brenham there’s an annual German festival each May, called Maifest. Oom-pah oom-pah.
Crossing over East Tom Green Street, there’s a vacant house on the corner whose front yard is given over to bluebonnets. Very nice. I pick one and put it in my vest as a boutonniere.
Up over the railroad tracks I take a look at the Southern Pacific depot, which was built in 1916. Reading the historical commission plaque, I learn a couple of new architectural terms. One is “string courses,” which are lines of ornamentation going horizontally across a building, sometimes in slight relief above the façade, and “corbelled pendants,” which are, in this case, progressively raised brick, stone, or concrete ornaments that appear to be hanging from the string courses. These, according to the plaque, were influenced by the Prairie School. To me the corbelled pendants evoke the cow skulls so emblematic of the west. I must say that’s the kind of detail I would have missed if it hadn’t been brought to my attention.
I am now approaching downtown Brenham, where the buildings are a mix of boarded up and restored wooden structures dating from a century ago. The area right around the courthouse square is filled with antique and curio shops, none of which seem to be open at the moment.
The Washington County Courthouse itself, built in 1939, has that between-the-wars federal look to it, much influenced by Art Deco, with stylized aluminum eagles perched above the doorways on the north and south sides. It’s a fairly small building, for a fairly small county (30,000 population). And, typical of the south, the violation of the First Amendment goes on quite blatantly outside, where a succession of three-foot-high wooden cut-out Easter eggs adorns the courthouse, elaborately decorated and painted, some fancifully and quite cleverly. I can hear some of you saying, “Jesus, Pete, what’s wrong with a few Easter eggs? That’s generic enough.” Well, no, but three eggs in particular, more than the ones with the bunnies on them, grab my attention--one with a cross, another with a sacred heart, and a third, also with a cross, bearing the words, “He is risen from the dead and he is LORD.” How’s that for innocuous? Unless they’re referring to Dracula, with that egg Washington County draws the line in the sand between Christians, on the one hand, and all other hell-bound heathens, on the other. As the Rotarians would say, "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned?"
Now what bothers me more than the fact that such things are placed in front of government buildings all over this blessed land of ours is that there are young people who are growing up to believe that it’s perfectly okay. You can always chalk it up to local ignorance and blame the yahoos, but when our esteemed President (Democratic no less, and hence among those who should theoretically know better)turns his own inauguration into an unabashed prayerfest of historically unprecedented proportions, well, what’s a girl to think? Many people believe that because things like this happen and no one prevents them from happening, they must be legal. Hmmmmm. Think again. A good example of the difference between de facto and de jure.
Cancel my subscription to the resurrection.
On the way up and out of town, I pass a wonderful little place called Gerson’s Art Work and Tattooing, a multi-colored house with lots of fanciful cut-outs and sculptures standing on the lawn. It says “Open Every Day Except When Closed.”
I’m seeing lots of meat and sausage shops in this part of Texas. Most of the proprietors seem to have German or Polish names. You can’t beat the Poles and Germans when it comes to sausage.
Having crossed out of the Brenham city limits, I now have nothing but road in front of me for the long balance of the walk. Highway 290 is a very busy road with very little on it but cattle.
I get a ride offer from somebody, and when I go to my notebook I discover this is only the second offer I’ve had in Texas. But in defense of Texans, who I think are as nice as anyone else, I should note that I’ve been walking mostly on divided highways, where people are going the opposite way at high speeds. People who are going my way are clear across the highway and the median, and probably don’t even see me. This guy was wondering if I’d broken down somewhere, and was willing to go either way.
I pass by but don’t go through the town of Burton, population 359. I can see its water tower. I do stop at the Burton Sausage Store, though, for some refreshment. Not sausage, however. A Burton policeman, very friendly, stops to see if I’m okay. I decide not to complain to him about Washington County’s Easter egg display.
It’s a very long and achy two or three hours out of Burton, and at 19.6 miles I enter Fayette County, and almost immediately thereafter also enter the town of Carmine, my destination for the day. Carmine is a city of 228, laid out on both sides of Highway 290, which seems to have devoted itself almost entirely to the sale of antiques. Or junk. Or second hand stuff. And to reward Carmine for being the hostess, the alma mater, to my motor home throughout the day, it is my intention to visit several of these places.
There’s one intersection in Carmine, marked by the temporary lowering of the speed limit to 55 miles per hour. Approaching the center of the village I pass Martin Luther Lutheran Church. It occurs to me that I’ve never seen a Lutheran church named specifically for Martin Luther, beyond the denominational name itself. Luther Lutheran. I guess it’s a bit redundant. The presence of Lutherans, of course, means Germans.
They’re having a Cushman motor scooter convention of some kind here in Carmine, with a bunch of old farts scooting around on their fancy restored scooters. I limp past them to the vacant lot.