Saturday, April 10, 2010
A Texas Tribute: A Damn Yankee Comes Home (but not to roost)
On our Excellent Adventure, Keith and I have traveled through much of the vast state of Texas, saving beautiful Big Bend country for another time. We have actually taken a shine to Texas and to Texans, but have yet to find a place here that feels like it could be home. However, now that Keith and I are officially legal residents of the Lone Star State, I feel it is a ripe time to claim my Texas heritage, especially since just yesterday in El Paso I paid homage to my ancestral roots by visiting the grave of my great grandfather, Will T. Rives. (Please note the world famous Chico's Tacos across the street from the cemetery, a restaurant that smelled so good as I paid my respects that we had to go and sample their goods soon after.)
Here I am offering some prayers of thanks to the spirit of this man I never met---my great grandfather---and for the three generations of William Thomas Rives that followed him: my grandfather ("Big Bill"), my Dad ("Little Bill", who would be Colonel to you, Sir), and my big brother Tom, who died of cancer during his senior year of high school when I was sixteen.
Will T. Rives saved a girl from a most certain and tragic death had he not rescued her from a speeding horse. His heroic act caused him a serious injury that pained him for the rest of his life. Apparently, he contracted tuberculosis and died in a TB ward from a gunshot wound that was most likely a suicide. His gravestone, lovingly engraved by my father and his cousin, reads: "Warm, Loving, Brave".
The widow of Will T, my great grandmother Kate Marmion Rives, was no shrinking violet. Being fluent in Canary Island Spanish, she pulled herself up by her Texan bootstraps, ran a roadside Mexican restaurant in the 1920s, supervised hotel chambermaids, and worked for the El Paso Chamber of Commerce. She must have been a force to be reckoned with, and was apparently a character to boot.
I learned from my father, a stellar family genealogist, that I am 11th generation Texan and that some of my people came to "Tejas" from The Canary Islands of Spain (when Texas was still a part of Mexico called Tejas).
I remember turning ten years old in the Texas Panhandle in a small town called Canyon where my family of six lived for a year before we had to move on, as was the Army way. Nearby is Palo Duro Canyon, which Texans fondly refer to as "The Grand Canyon of Texas". Keith and I visited both Palo Duro Canyon and the town of Canyon on this trip and I got to visit our old family home and take a jolly walk through memory lane. Here I am in a lively video clip sharing some happy childhood memories in front of the old house, nearby which is the park and swimming pool where we played and swam as kids, all of which are still thriving and remain just as I remember them!
When we were kids and moving just about every year, we almost always stopped in Denton, Texas to visit my grandparents. My Dad and his only sibling---my Uncle Tim Rives---share the same birthday, September 22---but 17 years apart! Tim was closer to us kids in age than he was to my Dad, and my brothers and I really looked up to him, cool superstar high school football player that he was. Here we are together on his Denton, Texas ranch from a visit in 2009. Keith and I are glad we visited the Denton Rives again on this trip, getting to know each other more and sharing in depth about each other's lives, reflecting back on some hard family times and what got us through. We also watched the Super Bowl in its entirety!
Paying homage to Texas would not be complete without including my parents. (Please note that my mother is not a Texan but a New Orleanian, so her saucy side of the family is a story for another time). We are grateful for our relatively frequent visits to see my folks, especially on this trip when our rig needed time-consuming, expensive repairs during which they put us up and put up with us! My parents have lived in an active retirement community called Sun City outside of Austin for more than a decade where they are thriving in many ways. They model intentional community for us and we are grateful that they are so happy and well connected to a really nice network of kindred spirits. One day, we will be too!