Dog as Mrs. Santa

Yes, it is that time of year again – and for a wonder, the weather has finally decided to cooperate. One day we were running the AC because the temperature was in the 80s … and then the next morning, a chilly wind was blowing through the neighborhood – and we turned around on the doorstep to put on coats before we walked the doggies … because we had not expected it to be so suddenly cold!
So we were in the mood for Weihnachtsmarkt at the New Braunfels Civic center, and happy, happy, joy, joyful that it was an indoors venue! I don’t think we could have endured outdoors, as we did two weeks ago in Boerne, where it was cool and rainy, not ice-cold and windy. The author book tables are set up in the tall main hallway of the Civic Center, which runs from the front to the back of the building. There are three entrances from the front foyer and the hall into the rooms fitted out as for the market – and Santa is set up in the rear foyer. I am pretty certain it must be a tradition in New Braunfels to come and see Santa at Weihnachtsmarkt. Anyway, this is the third year they have had the author tables, and it’s just a short skip from home, it’s indoors, and most importantly, it draws people with money and the urge to shop, bit-time. I have lots of readers and fans in that area, too. And did I mention that it was indoors?

My daughter says, though – that if I write any more books, I will have to get another table, or at least a larger one. There’s only room for the seven, hardly any space for the various table-top attention-getting items or the little dish of candy that we like to put out … and it turned out that we had eaten all the dark chocolate and peanut-butter M&Ms anyway. This was supposed to be the official-official roll-out for The Quivera Trail – as I just knew that everyone who had read and loved the Trilogy would want to know what happened next!
All worked out as I had forseen – and we had much better results than at the Boerne Market; we came with three tubs and two boxes packed full of books, and brought home only two tubs. This recovered the table fee and the cost of the books themselves. One amusing sidelight was that on Friday afternoon, I realized that the author at the table next to us had a familiar name – and that I had used one of his books about the early history of Austin in researching Deep in the Heart – and that a good few of the incidents he included in his book I worked into mine. I even gave a credit in the notes at the back of Deep in the Heart. Jeffrey KerrThe Republic of Austin. This is not quite the first time this has happened to me; that was at the West Texas Book and Music Festival in Abilene a couple of years ago, when Scott Zesch was one of the headline guest speakers. I had read The Captured, and was moved to include a story-line in the Trilogy about the tragedy of a white child taken captive by the Comanche and returned – too late – as a young man, never able to re-assimilate to life outside the People again.

The gratifying thing is that the other vendors that my daughter talked to all reported having goodly sales – which is a relief after lackluster sales in Boerne. With this, we have hope that the economy will revive here, at least a little for Christmas. My daughter is already making lists for our own Christmas gift-giving, although some of that will involve going through the ‘gift closet’ to see what there is, and who it would be suitable for. In between the next Christmas Market – at Goliad’s Christmas on the Square, we have Thanksgiving to consider… a roast turkey breast and at least some of the traditional fixings. All good wishes to you – and thanks to everyone who bought books from me, or who will buy them this holiday season!

21. February 2012 · Comments Off on Mr. Cannon-Ball Was Not His Friend · Categories: Old West · Tags: , , , , ,

Thomas William Ward was born in Ireland of English parents in  1807, and at the age of 21 took ship and emigrated to America. He  settled in New Orleans, which by that time had passed from French to  Spanish, back to French and finally landed in American hands thanks to  the Louisiana Purchase. There he took up the study of architecture and  engineering – this being a time when an intelligent and striving young  man could engage in a course of study and hang out a shingle to practice  it professionally shortly thereafter. However, Thomas Ward was diverted from his  studies early in October, 1835 by an excited and well-attended meeting  in a large coffee-room at Banks’ Arcade on Magazine Street. Matters  between the Anglo settlers in Texas and the central Mexican governing  authority – helmed by the so-called Napoleon of the West, General  Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna – had come to a frothy boil. Bad feelings  between the Texian and Tejano settlers of Texas, who were of generally  federalist (semi-autonomous) sympathies had been building against the  centralist (conservative and authoritarian) faction. These developments  were followed with close and passionate attention by political junkies  in the United States.

Nowhere did interest run as high as it did in those cities along the  Mississippi River basin. On the evening of October 13, 1835, Adolphus  Sterne – the alcade (mayor) of Nacogdoches – offered weapons for the  first fifty volunteers who would fight for Texas. A hundred and twenty  volunteers signed up before the evening was over, and Thomas Ward was  among them. They formed into two companies, and were apparently  equipped and outfitted from various sources: the armory of the local  militia organization, donations from the public, and ransacking local  haberdashers for sufficient uniform-appearing clothing. They wore grey  jackets and pants, with a smooth leather forage cap; the color grey  being chosen for utility on the prairies. The two companies traveled  separately from New Orleans, but eventually met up at San Antonio de  Bexar, where they became part of the Army of Texas.

They took part in  the Texian siege of Bexar and those Mexican troops garrisoned there  under General Cos – who had come into Texas earlier in the year to  reinforce Mexican control of a wayward province. Thomas W. Ward was  serving as an artillery officer by then; a military specialty which men  with a bent for the mathematical and mechanical seemed to gravitate  towards. The Texians and volunteers fought their way into San Antonio by  December, led by an old settler and soldier of fortune named Ben Milam.  Milam was killed at the height of the fighting to take the town by a Mexican sharp-shooter,  and Thomas Ward was severely injured; one leg was taken off by an errant  cannon-ball. The enduring legend is that Milam was buried with Ward’s  amputated leg together in the same grave. Was this a misfortune – or a  bit of good luck for Thomas Ward?

Not very much discouraged or sidelined, Thomas Ward returned to New  Orleans to recuperate – and to be fitted with a wooden prosthesis. He  would be known as “Pegleg” Ward for the remainder of his life. He came  back to Texas in the spring of 1836, escaping  the fate of many of his  fellow ‘Greys’ – many of who were among the defenders of the Alamo,  their company standard being one of those trophies captured there by  Santa Anna. Others of the ‘Greys’ were participants in the ill-fated  Matamoros expedition, or became part of Colonel James Fannin’s garrison  at the presidio La Bahia, and executed by order of Santa Anna after the  defeat at Coleto Creek.

Thomas Ward was commissioned as a colonel and served during the  remainder of the war for independence. Upon the return of peace – or a  condition closely resembling it – he settled in the new-established city  of Houston, and returned to the trade of architect and building  contractor. He was hired to build a capitol building in Houston – one of  several, for  over the life of the Republic of Texas, the actual  seat of government became rather peripatetic. When the second  President of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar, moved the capitol to  Waterloo-on-the-Colorado – soon to be called Austin – in 1839, Thomas  Ward relocated there, serving variously as chief clerk for the House of  Representatives, as mayor of Austin and as commissioner of the General  Land Office. As fortune would have it, during an observance of the victory  at San Jacinto in April of 1841, Thomas Ward had another bit of bad  luck. In setting off a celebratory shot, the cannon misfired, and the  explosion took off his right arm. (I swear – I am not making this up!)  To add to cannon-related indignities heaped upon him, in the following  year, he was involved in the Archives War. Local inn-keeper, Angelina  Eberly fired off yet another cannon in to alert the citizens of Austin that  President Sam Houston’s men were trying to remove the official national  archives from the Land Office building. (Either it was not loaded with anything but black powder, or she missed hitting anything substantial.)

Fortunately, Thomas Ward emerged unscathed from this imbroglio. I  think it would have been plain to everyone by this time that Mr.  Cannon-ball was most definitely not his friend. He married, fought  against Texas secession in the bitter year of 1860, served another term  as Mayor of Austin, as U.S. Counsel to Panama, and lived to 1872 – a very  good age, considering all that he had been through.

(Thomas Ward appears  briefly as a character, along with Angelina Eberly and some other characters from early Austin, in Deep in the Heart.)