Saturday, April 21, 2012

San Benito

Outside the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, I looked one more time at the Southeast windows, adorned with translucent images of various and sundry cultural icons: a spectral version of a Dorothea Lange photo from the Great Depression, ghostly portraits of D. H. Lawrence and Marianne Moore, the time lapse Horse in Motion series dating to the 1880s -- stuff like that. Then I wheeled around to locate coffee and took a few steps to the nearest street vendor, or food truck, actually right on campus in a semi-permanent setting. Over other buildings and trees looms the "Charles Whitman Tower," a constant reminder of the 1966 massacre. Suddenly getting a slight dose of the heebie jeebies, I retrieved my car from a parking garage and took off from the area, 21st and Guadalupe.

Getting out of Austin entirely took some effort and patience. I-35 all the way down to Loop 410 in San Antonio was crammed with freighted 18-wheelers, big pick-up trucks and madcap road warriors. The relatively short but intense drive was made all the more harrowing by heavy thunderstorms and two major accidents. But, I soldiered through, and after a brief regrouping, set off for the Lower Rio Grande Valley, now conveyed by a trusty friend in his black Jaguar that soared along.

We briefly stopped in Kingsville to muse over the vast King Ranch, then barreled on down US Route 77, a road that "drops" all the way from Sioux City, Iowa to the border with Mexico at Brownsville, Texas. 

With Brownsville only about twenty or so miles away, we couldn't help but notice how the sky was turning yellowish, black and white, how odd clouds churned ahead and also above, one big one looking like a gargantuan whitish-gray kielbasa being slowly turned over a massive grill. Only twelve miles to go! Lightning, signs of heavy rain preceded us . . . On we drove through Harlingen and San Benito, still on 77, all the way into the oldest part of Brownsville.

Evidently, it was not "our time." Afterwards I was mighty interested to read the following in the The Brownsville Herald:

Funnel clouds were reported over Harlingen, San Benito and parts of Willacy County Friday evening . . . producing drenching rain and golf ball- to baseball-sized hail. A funnel cloud was spotted four miles east of Valley International Airport, a National Weather Service spokesman in Brownsville said. The funnel cloud was believed to have touched down somewhere in the southwest part of San Benito, near U.S. Expressway 77/83, NWS meteorologist Barry Goldsmith said. . . (Allan Essex and Mark Reagan, "Thunderstorm produces marble-sized hail," April 20, 2012, 10:06 pm).

When we later drove up Route 77 again, we couldn't determine where cyclones had crossed the highway, or if they had. But there's a water tower in San Benito that reads SAN BENITO HOMETOWN OF FREDDIE FENDER, and it remained intact.

I had to look it up, but sure enough San Benito is indeed the hometown of Freddie Fender (1937-2006). If we come through again, a good place to check out will be the San Benito Historical Museum complex, alongside the Conjunto Music Museum and Freddy Fender Museum. Conjunto music is, I discovered, an interesting cultural blend of Mexican and German (and also Cuban) instruments and styles embracing a twelve-string bass called the bajo sexto and the button (as opposed to keyboard) accordion, among other things. Learn something new every day. Always glad to live for another day, too.

Today's Rune: Signals.   

1 comment:

the walking man said...

Yep that living through thing does have its own benefits.