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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Palacio, Indianola, Port Lavaca

From the NWR I continued west on the gravel county road until I came back to FM2811, then north on FM467 to FM521. This stretch of little-known roads seemed so out of character with the rest of the coastal area: rundown, trashy and neglected. Yet I did more stopping here to photograph the unique things along the road than in the early part of the day: wildflowers, skinny bulls, leaning fences, Texas flags, stray dogs and brush fires set by ranchers to clear their kindling. Apparently the storms from yesterday lifted the burn ban for a while and all the ranchers were eager to burn their dead brush. The air today smelled of burning grass and wood and gave the horizon a brown haze in parts that traveled over the ocean. The brown smoke reminded me of the smoke over Baghdad, but instead of smelling like trash, it smelled of brush. I much prefer the smell of burning brush.

Palacio was another forgotten town that I liked for no reason other than its simplicity. It was not a tourist town, nor did it have any big restaurants (and by now I was hungry at 2pm.)

It was the first town where I saw pigeons on this trip. I was along the city pier watching sea gulls and more pelicans and here came the pigeons vying for attention. A group of brown long-billed birds pecked at the grass. A Mexican couple feed seagulls. Two fishermen in a small boat docked and got off.
“You out photographing the birds?” asked one fisherman while the other tied the boat to the pier.
“Yep, the pelicans!”
“That’s about all we got around here” he said and walked off.

I drove around the Baptist encampment established in 1906, with an outdoor theatre along the water. A lone man fished off the pier and waved at me. Older men painted the cottages in bright colors.

Palacio was the first city in which I noticed the beginning of the sub-tropical flora. Palms grew with oaks, crepe mertles, agaves. Plants that normally grow in small pots further north were outside in people’s yards. Kingfishers flew over the water. Most of the homes were small to modest, but it was the flora in the yards that impressed me.

I made it to Port Lavaca just before 4pm. My first impression of the town was that of yet another industrial town, and I soon regretted making this my stop for the day. I wasn't ready to settle down for the day and made Indianola my next stop, taking a FM road south for 20 miles, a country road with small homes and cattle ranches and farms along the way. I saw more burning brush in the distance. A school bus in front of me dropped kids off along the route.
Indianola was a town I wanted to explore because of the German connection, and because in Texas history many things have happened here. LaSalle allegedly landed with his men in the area. Spanish pirates would pirate or sink French ships off the shore. Other boats were shipwrecked and washed ashore here. Karankawa Indians masacared settlers here in the beginning. And then in the 1840s came German pioneers who wanted to settle along the shore, but the town sufferd two major hurricanes within 40 years and the settlement was abandoned. I knew that some of those settlers were burried in the town cemetery.
Indianola does not sell its history. A sign five miles north of town even states "Road for Local Traffic only." I ignored that sign and drove on, determined to find that cemetery. What were people going to tell me? I wasn't on private land.
I found the cemetery. It was fenced in but a door let me through. There was much space in this cemetery for a few dozen more tombstones. One lone oak shaded a small section of the lot. Some of the tombstones were in German. Most of the burried had died in the late 19th century and had German last names. Some had French last names.
I had thirty minutes of daylight left. The sun was out and I got to witness my first good sunset all week as I made it to the eastern side of town where the LaSalle statue stood. A stray cat ran across the road, briefly stopped to look at me, and scurried off. I could see the lights of Port Lavaca ahead. Fishermen were driving back to their small shorelot homes. There isn't much in town to see for socializing, so I drove back to Port Lavaca.
My one meal today was at La Parilla in town, a very tasty Mexican restaurant. My server was a soft-spoken young local man, Casimoro, who was very attentive. He had just finished waiting on a table of three Mexicans when I walked into his section. "They won't leave me a tip" he muttered in disgust to me.
"I see some money on the table" I reassured him.
"That's just some change from their bill."
I made sure I tipped him well. There wasn't much else to do in town after my meal.

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