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Friday, January 7, 2011

Farewell to an Old Friend, Carrots to the New

It has been a tough holiday season for me, needless to say, having to put down my beloved Morgan horse, Indiana Mojave, two days after Christmas after more than 23 years of riding the trails together. That, plus the continuing worries about the health challenges of my family member has robbed me of any inspiration for writing a blog post. Traveling from Costa Rica to California, where I loaded up my suitcases with “stuff” we need in Atenas, then flying on to Texas to be with my mother has also tested my endurance as a traveler. The new airline rules on luggage fees, weight limits, change fees and such are really Draconian. Oddly enough, I found the easiest way around one of those issues is simply to cart your second bag to the gate and let them check it there. Although it would have cost an additional $35 had I checked my bag at the check-in counter, at the gate it was checked onboard at no charge. How silly is that?!

Another trick I used took advantage of the fact that Continental does not charge for the first bag. So, on the trip from Costa Rica on Continental, I put my one packed bag inside a bigger bag, the larger bag intended for the more heavily loaded return trip. (We have tons of stuff we would like to bring to Costa Rica, so every trip we load up).

The flight to California was a sentimental journey. On final approach into San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the big jet crossed over the Bay and circled downtown Oakland, giving me a nostalgic view of both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Lots of fun times there and people I love. However, even though I miss much about the San Francisco area, I wouldn’t trade its cool foggy weather, traffic congestion and high prices for my tranquilo life in Costa Rica.

Although I arrived on Christmas Eve, the expected holiday crowds at airports or on public transportation never really materialized, I’m happy to say. Riding on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) on Christmas Day as I commuted from my San Francisco airport hotel across the entire metropolitan area to Antioch, it was only me and a few other lone travelers for most of the ride. In San Francisco proper there were crowds between some stops but for the most part, it was a quiet trip.

The same cannot be said for my journey to Texas on the day before New Year’s Eve. Loaded down with two bags, the larger one now filled to its 50-pound limit, an overnight bag carrying two laptop computers, my purse and a coat, I was lucky to board the BART train at its initial station in Pittsburg/Bay Point or I might not have had a seat at all. Lugging those heavy suitcases around SFO and Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) taxed me physically, especially when the shuttle driver at DFW (which is a city-size monstrosity!) dropped me off at the wrong entrance for check-in, necessitating an exhausting trek through baggage claim areas to the American counter then back the same direction to my gate -- the farthest one, naturally! I was very glad to finally arrive here in San Angelo, Texas.

Officers' Row at Old Fort Concho
My mother’s home is located only a few blocks from historic Fort Concho, an old Army post from the late 1800s, and on my first morning walk I bundled up and headed toward the fort grounds to get some exercise in spite of the icy cold air. Located on the plateau where the North and Middle Concho Rivers join, Fort Concho is the best preserved of the Indian-era forts, with its original officers’ quarters running along one side of the huge parade grounds and the enlisted men’s barracks along the other, both built mostly of native limestone. Covering some forty acres and now designated as the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, the old fort was home to Company “A” of the Tenth Cavalry, one of two all-black Army regiments known as “Buffalo Soldiers,” which helped patrol the frontier in the late 1800’s.
Well-preserved Officers' Quarters Three
The ruins of thick limestone walls 
Headquarters Building, across the Parade Grounds
The Post Hospital
Fort Concho Schoolhouse

Margie, the "Schoolmarm"
For many years my mother has served as a docent at the fort, leading tours of Officers’ Quarters Three and the Post Hospital in particular, and is extremely knowledgeable about Fort Concho history, the culture and practices of frontier life and the museum artifacts housed there. One of the colorful events held at the fort each year is “Christmas at Old Fort Concho,” a three-day living history panorama featuring period entertainment, artillery demonstrations, children’s workshops, military drills on horseback, shopping at numerous vendors booths and the Winter Rendezvous, where hundreds of costumed re-enactors at campsites across the parade grounds illustrate life in the Wild West of the 1800s. For her part, my mother dresses in a gorgeous teal green dress, modeling the clothing of an officer’s wife or at other times, in a modest long skirt and white blouse to serve as schoolmarm for “Frontier School,” an educational program for local fourth-graders. If you are ever in the West Texas area near San Angelo, a visit to the fort should be on your itinerary as it is a very special piece of American history.

On that first chilly hike, I wandered around the fort buildings and soon made my way toward the stables, where I knew I might find horses or mules housed. During public events, the animals are hitched to wagons or saddled for riding and used as part of the living history demonstrations. If I was lucky, I thought, I might find some equine residents at home. And indeed I did. Two very large jack mules, Mack and Joe, were standing by the fence as I approached that first day. Cautiously, I scratched and petted one and then the other through the fence, trying to make friends as they looked me over carefully. The next day I took carrots and the following day apples. As you can imagine, by now they look forward to my visits and welcome my attentions. As I look in their beautiful dark eyes, I am reminded of my sweet Mojave and know that I was lucky to have had him in my life. I hope he is galloping joyfully in green fields forever. Pura Vida, Mojave! 


  1. I do so enjoy your tales of Costa Rica. And I love to see the pictures. You are very fortunate to live in Costa Rica.

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