People I have met in Gruene...and my thoughts on Border Patrol
Jan 31, 2008
|I've enjoyed my stay in this little town of Gruene, population 20, which is really part of New Braunfels, population in the 1000s. I'm glad I decided to splurge on the B&B and just hang out for a day or two.
Just so I remember who I want to write about - Kris, Robin and Joanne, voice over guy, Cecil, Linda?, Steve, couple celebrating their anniversary (Honduras and Austin), George, potter from Buck Pottery, woman from Lone Star music, Zach Walther and the Cronkites, guy at the front desk, young couple from Ventura Megan and husband.
I first met Kris (Chris?) who works the front desk at the Gruene Mansion Inn. When I walked in I mentioned I thought I had just talked to her on the phone about a room and she suggested I come in to see a few. She asked me what I was looking for, and I said a comfortable but economical room. I knew I'd get a discount on their regular rates because it's January mid-week, and it was about 20% cheaper. She threw a sweater on her shoulders and said "I need to get out of here for a few minutes, let me show you one by the river." I asked if it had been a tough day, she replied yes, but not much more. We walked across the property towards some wooden buildings that had two or three rooms each with entrances on opposite sides. She showed me a delightful two story room that overlooked the Guadalupe River. There was a bride having pictures taken in her gown another building over. Downstairs was a small sitting room with two highback chairs looking out the windows (or at the TV) and the bathroom with clawfoot tub. Up the stairs with a landing and turn half way along was the bedroom with a queen sized fluffy bed. When I came back down she had her back to me leaning against the door jamb staring out across the river. I startled her when I asked about wireless access and she said that would need to be in the main house. That was okay with me so we went back to the main house and upstairs. There are three rooms upstairs, one is the owner Cecil's office, the other is the main bedroom and the second bedroom is called Bertha's bedroom. That's the one I stayed in. You walk through a door that's open way up high and if you keep walking straight you're out on the balcony. My own private wrap-around balcony. To the right was the bedroom and to the left was the bathroom. I thought it looked just right and when I turned around and saw the switch plate of the seahorse I knew it was meant to be. I told her I'd take it.
I talked with Kris again the next morning (Wednesday) after I'd had a huge breakfast cooked by George and was getting ready to go out for a walk. She asked me how the music had been the night before at Gruene Hall and we got to talking. She and her husband and three (or was it four) children live on the back half of her parent's property in a new doublewide trailer they'd bought new not too long ago. When her father was diagnosed with cancer, they decided to move closer so she could help her mother out. I get the feeling they weren't living all that far away to begin with, but maybe it was San Antonio. They were nervous about it at first, they talked about how it would be close living and it wouldn't need to be a permanent move. But now she says she doesn't want to leave. She loves that her kids are all the time running back and forth between the two homes, that her mother is teaching her daughters how to sew and that her son (the high maintenance kid and the reason for her melancholy mood the previous day) has really gotten to spend quality time with his grandfather. Kris says that her son is usually a pretty quiet boy, but when he gets something in his head, he is as stubborn as can be. Yesterday the teacher phoned her to say that her son was refusing to do his work. So he had to stay after school, Kris went to pick him up and when they got home he had to clean up the yard...to which the son replied "But this is Grandpa's job!" Kris told him "well today's it your job and I think it needs to be your job more often." She had parent/teacher conferences the end of this week, and she thought she'd be there for quite some time. It was just a really nice leisurely chat about growing up and families and what we thought was important for kids to have. We remembered the chores we were responsible for, and Kris said she was sure her mother could see through walls. Nothing got by her.
I walked down Gruene Rd to the end of town (maybe an eighth of a mile) and turned right on to New Braunfels Ave passing by some more shops until it met up with Hunter Ave the other road leading out of town. I walked on a sidewalk in a neighborhood subdivision setting until I got to FM 306. I walked along the side of the road where the houses were fewer between until I got to Common St a larger road. I walked along the mowed portion of the road and the short straw kept working it's way into my tennis shoes and scratching my skin. I kept the Gruene Water Tower in sight and cut through an apartment complex of sorts and another neighborhood being built until I found myself back on Gruene Rd and walked into and around town again. I'm guessing it was about 2-3 miles. The wind was whipping around for most of it, and I was somewhat bundled up with a scarf around my neck.
And the reason I really wanted a long walk was because of the HUGE breakfast I'd had that morning, compliments of the chef George. The first course included fresh fruit (pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberry and blackberry) and two types of muffins or breakfast pastry that were yummy. That alone was plenty. But then in walked George who I hadn't seen yet with a huge smile on his face. And he started telling jokes and chatting away. "Hey, I was just listening to the radio.. Big story just broke... UPS and FedEx merged.. Yeh, can you believe it? They're calling it FedUp..." Okay, I've heard that joke several times but it still got me. He left and came back with ham quiche, rosemary potatoes, bacon and toast. The quiche was excellent. And then he came back with something to nibble on - a big piece of coffee cake dripping in sugary stuff.
The next morning I slept in a bit later, and when I came down for breakfast there was already another couple starting on their fruit plate. George greeted me with "Hey Trouble, how was your day yesterday? I've got your tea waiting for you at your table by the window." He definitely is a chef that likes to talk with his customers, perfect for a B&B chef. He seemed comfortable talking with all kinds of different people, putting them at ease. I'd guess he was in his twenties. His father was Chinese and his mother Hispanic.
I sat down and said good morning to the good-looking clean cut young couple, but didn't initiate any further conversation. I was guessing they were on their honeymoon or celebrating some other special occasion and didn't want to intrude. However, with George coming in and out and telling more jokes, we did get to talking...
They asked how I'd found Gruene and how long I was in town, and I told them about my trip. He thought it was pretty cool, she was not so impressed. We ended up talking about the Republican debate the night before. I hadn't watched it because I'd been first at The Gristmill and then at Gruene Hall, but they had stayed in, which surprised me a bit. Good restaurants and free music next door? who can turn that down? But then as I say, they were young and if they were on their honeymoon or celebrating something special of course they'd be staying in.
The woman said that McCain did most of the talking, to the point where one of the other candidates said something about there being more than one person in the debate. She thought it was interesting that all of a sudden McCain seemed to have all kinds of support, but she wasn't impressed with either him or Romney. She thought that Huckabee was the winner, and had the best things to say. Surprising to me. I'm summarizing her words, of course, and after about 10 minutes of her talking - which was really quite interesting to me, I didn't mind at all - her husband jumped in, and said "By the way, Megan is a political science major in case you haven't guessed..." So that explains it. I was wondering where or how her point of view, and her thoughts that she explained so clearly, came from. We also talked about illegal immigration, something I brought up as I was trying to explain the odd feeling I had the whole time I was traveling along the border in AZ, NM and TX.
As I'm writing this now, I can finally pinpoint it. I felt like I was under suspicion every time I passed through a border patrol, and of course I was. I could be smuggling in Mexicans or drugs as much as the people in the car in front of or behind me could. And since the inspection checkpoints weren't at the border, they were 25 or 30 or more miles across the border, I never really lost that feeling of always being watched, of big brother being close at hand. We have two problems - drugs being smuggled across the border especially in Texas, and people coming across illegally. I think we need to attack them as two different problems, hopefully we are, because the two aren't always related. I think we need to know who is coming into our country, but I also think it's important that we work with Mexico and the people who are honestly coming in hopes of a better life in the US, rather than have the southern portions of AZ, NM and TX feel like a war zone underneath the covers. Between the border patrol and all the hunting shacks and resort hunting places in southern Texas, at times I really felt like a fish out of water. It wasn't a safety thing, I felt safe enough, it was more about feeling so different and far apart in ideals from some of the people around me.
Megan said living in Ventura which they did, they were definitely impacted by the 360,000 some immigrants that came over the border every year(?). (Does that number sound right? I can't remember if that was the number or time frame she quoted now.) She was frustrated not only with the numbers that got through, but also with the Mexican President who encouraged his people to go to the US, rather than try and fix the problems of his own country.
Enter George with another joke - "So Chelsea Clinton was overseas visiting troops in Iraq on a morale boosting mission. She thanked the troops for being there, for doing what they were doing. And then she asked them what three things worried them the most, what kept them up at night? Their answer? Osama, Obama and YoMama." We groaned and laughed at the same time, and George left to bring us another plate of food.
Shortly after that, the husband said "Honey, we should get going now. Let's let her finish her breakfast in peace and quiet." And she replied, "We're only five minutes away, it's right down the road." And while something told me not to ask, it was none of my business, I asked "where are you two off to?" They both hesitated, and I immediately said, "Oh, I don't need to know, forget I asked. So sorry..." But then he said oh we can tell her. And then he said "Go ahead, you tell her" to his wife. She said they had a doctor's appointment, which I thought meant fertility doctor. As it turns out, they were in town so that he could have a reverse vasectomy. They wanted to add to their family of four (two kids and themselves). Doctors in SoCal didn't want to do it, they wanted her to try in vitro instead. She thought because it paid them more, so they started looking around and found a doctor known for this surgery with a good track record, and here they were. I wished them luck and congratulations on their baby-to-be. He smiled, and said "that's the right attitude. Thanks." I didn't blame him for wanting to be early to the doctor's office. He was the one having the minor surgery, I'd be nervous, too.
But I digress, I was trying to describe George properly. As I said, he had the gift of gab, to the point where the guy working the front desk the second morning came into the dining room when we were talking and asked if George was talking too much. George looked embarrassed, but I said no, not at all, I'm enjoying our conversation and we talked about my iPhone and technology a bit. George retreated to his kitchen and I worked on my trip journal. After a bit, George came in to tell me the winds were picking up, and were supposed to be pretty bad in the afternoon, which was only 30 minutes away. Austin was only 35 miles away, so I had no plans to leave early, but when George told me they were going to be 30-45 mph, I packed up quickly. When I came back downstairs, he asked if I was going to stay another night. He said I'd better, it would be dangerous to be on the roads. I promised I'd be careful, and just get off the road if it got too bad. I think the Inn is lucky to have such a nice young man who happens to also be an excellent chef working for them.
I must've walked into almost every single shop in downtown Gruene. Everyone was friendly, but I really enjoyed the woman about my age, maybe a little older, a little rough around the edges, with long gray hair at Lone Star Music who is also a John Hiatt fan and therefore approved of my CD selection, along with James McMurtry and Dale Watson. When she wasn't sure about another CD I'd asked her about, she pointed me in the direction of their listening station in the other room so I could hear for myself whether it was good or not. She had the music cranking in the shop, just a little bit too loud for comfort, but whoever was singing was pretty good, so it was okay. While I was there, a couple of younger women who had just been hired came downstairs from what I'd guess was the office. She welcomed them to the shop, said it was a fun place to work, and she'd see them real soon.
Another favorite was the potter at Buck Pottery. He let people look around without any "high pressure sales pitch" as he called it. If you need me, come find me, he'd say. I was interested in some cups that I thought would go well with my Mary Law pottery and asked him about a set price if I bought six or seven. He said they didn't do any special pricing, they sold everything well enough, they'd been in business for 25+ years, etc. etc. Okay. So I picked out my seven small tumblers and took them to the counter. Before I knew it, I had received special pricing anyway. I had them shipped directly home to save me from doing it from Indian Rocks Beach. I'll have a nice present waiting for myself when I get home.
Gruene makes its living on tourism, so I know people are bound to be friendly but I really did enjoy their hospitality. It felt true. Once I arrived safely in Austin after a very windy drive - thank you truck drivers for giving me a break from the high winds every now and again - I sent an email to the Inn to let them know. Within 10 minutes I had an email back from Cecil, the owner:
Wow...I bet that was scary...maybe worse than wild hogs rooting at your door in the middle of the night. The wind can turn you over...the hogs just slobber on your tires.
Keep us posted on your travels...we admire you. Keep it out of the ditches...Cecil