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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Christine, TX: Howdy Mr. Parker...

My late father-in-law, Scobey as his friends called him, worked for over 30 years out at Lackland, mostly in the transportation department. He actually drove the bus I took from the SA airport to Basic Training, and I remembered him years later when I met and married his daughter.

During his years working at Lackland, he had quite a few friends and co-workers, but one man who stood out was named Jim Parker. When Mr. Parker retired and got to be up in years, it was not uncommon for Scobey to help him with work around his house or taking him to doctor appointments and such. Other than a sister in California, it turns out that Mr. Parker had no other family to speak of. But he had always relied on his pal Scobey to help him out.

When Mr. Parker's health was failing and it was apparent the end was near, he asked Scobey to take him back to the town where he was born and raised, Christine, TX. This is not hardly the dramatic task as Augustus McCrae asking his friend Woodrow Call to haul his body all the way from Montana to Texas in a cart; Christine is only about an hour south, and in the case of Mr. Parker, he would be cremated, thereby lightening the load considerably.

In a handsome wooden box that was big enough to hold the urn containing Mr. Parker's ashes with the letter from his high school letterman's jacket, it was a pretty day in a very small town cemetery, when my in-laws, the sister from California and a preacher returned Mr. Parker to Christine. Not a whole lot of fanfare I suppose, but he was home.
I had never been further down Highway 16 than the Poteet Flea Market, not even to the Strawberry Festival. But I wanted to see Christine, and say howdy to Mr. Parker and perhaps get a feel for what the area was like. When my wife and I take drives out of San Antonio, she is constantly on the hunt for that piece of property that we will surely purchase if we win the Lottery, in spite of the fact that we never play. Texas has so much wide open and inviting land that it feels like a crime to sit here in 78250 with the traffic and the shopping centers and the houses popping up like mushrooms, but then I remember that I'm not a rancher or a farmer, and there was a reason Mr. Parker left Christine in the first place. Work.

But we can dream.
We drove down Highway 16 south of San Antonio and I finally got to see Poteet. The drive is quite nice once you get past the trashy frontage just south of Loop 1604. They never seem to show these parts when you see San Antonio featured on national television for Spurs games or the Alamo Bowl. But looking south, you can understand why some people stay out there and not succumb to the comfort of a job in the city.And so you know you are in Poteet when you see the big strawberry.Further south on Highway 16 is the town of Jourdanton where there seemed to be a bit more to look at.Though the water tower did not have a paint scheme resembling fruit of any description, an older castle looking building caught my eye warranting a quick investigation. Turns out this was the old jail house. My guess is, not a lot of folks busted out.This huge building is built with a round-about type road around it making the traffic smoother, I suppose. And of course, Jourdanton has a post office if you need to mail anything. When we got to Christine, my wife told me to slow down. It wasn't for fear that I might get a speeding ticket, but she didn't want me to miss it. That population of 436 must be pretty spread out because we only encountered maybe a dozen people during our visit.In spite of the few visible residents, Christine does have both a fire department and a post office.They also have a City Hall and a museum, though I confess, neither seemed readily identifiable to me. What we did see was a shocking amount (shocking to us anyway) of just busted up and abandoned dwellings. Was there a tornado I missed? The few unpaved roads we traveled down contained churches or seemingly abandoned homes. I can only guess we didn't find ourselves in the Alamo Heights section of Christine. And it seems a shame to see a place like this. Because after all, we had come to see Mr. Parker and I suddenly wondered how long it had been since he had visited his hometown, if there was anybody for him to visit. Would he have recognized the place and still desire to rest there?

I feel bad saying it, because I'm sure if anyone from Christine were to read this, they'd wonder why I would be so down on their small place in Texas. I can only confess that I was disturbed by the sights. I probably wouldn't do well on a trip to some impoverished third world nation, though I suspect the people of Christine have a much greater opportunity to change their situations.
Thankfully, the Christine Cemetery seemed to be, dare I say, one of the brighter spots of town. We drove up and after my wife got her bearings (she's made the trip to visit Mr. Parker a few times before), we stopped and paid our respects to the man. The cemetery is fairly small but full of names from the handful of families that once made the town what it was. Interestingly enough, I stumbled upon what seems to be quite the controversy brewing within the tows people. This marker posted above the grave of Christine Andrews Paul explains how the town derived the name, Christine. (Click on the picture to enlarge it, and you can read the story yourself.) Well, this seemed like a pretty official looking monument to me. But as I was looking to find more information on the town, there is a different Christine wanting a little credit. Apparently, a land developer named CF Simmons had two daughters, one named Imogene, and another named Christine. It is said that Mr. Simmons developed the town of Christine and named it after one daughter, then named another nearby town Imogene, though that town never really made it.

So, decide for yourself. I suspect Mr. Parker doesn't care either way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My Great Grandparents went Atascosa Co. a little after the turn of the century to where Christine is now for land that was being sold off from a large ranch.A great aunt kept a diary,and it says all the local women got together and decided on the name Christine.It seems the land was advertised as very fertile with plentiful water,but they only lasted a couple years before droughts caused them to leave.They traveled from Marysville Texas,on the Red River,north of Muenster,to Atascosa Co.in a wagon.My Grandfather and sons went back to Marysville with the wagon,but the women and girls went by train.That trip is still talked about in my family as a great land swindle,but my aunts little book makes it sound like a fantastic adventure.I have papers hand written almost 100 years ago by a young girl that says Christine was named by locale women.Jerry Doughty

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I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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