By Art Martinez de Vara
VON ORMY-In 1882, a news reporter on his way to San Antonio stopped at the general store located on the Herrera ranch and wrote the following article about the comings and goings he observed. This was four years before the arrival of the railroad, so travelers had to cross the Medina River by Ferry at Garza’s Crossing, near present day Old Somerset Rd and the Medina River. Readers will likely be familiar with several Von Ormy area families mentioned, such as Kinney, Herrera, Ruiz, Wildman, Cass and others.
Though written in a free verse poetic style , it provides glimpses into everyday life in Von Ormy in 1882.
San Antonio Evening Light
Friday, June 30, 1882
The Philosopher Views Life From His Empty Beer Barrel – Roadside News and Sketches
IN THE COUNTRY.
Into the country. Breath comes freely. All that is vicious, tiresome, and inodorous is left behind. The dusty streets with their noise and glare-city competition with its fierce whirl and strategy- the stinking bar rooms, where rot gut is God and fighting law-the other side of San Pedro with its lairs on sin and poverty-the capacious plazas on whose bosom beggars and parasites cringe and crawl-all these are retired from; and after a monotonous stretch of a dozy dozen miles the real country is reached.
GARZA CROSSING, on the Medina, has its peculiarities. It has admires. Severn white ducks give a sycophantic greeting. The flowers, cows, birds, horses, foliage and goats live merrily. There is no crossing under the blue sky where so many melons pass. The country south of the Medina is famed for its dogged, persistent faith in water melons. There is a rich bucolic eccentricity about its passion for them, which superinduces special admiration.
AN EMPTY BEER BARREL outside of the little grocery on the acclivity of the river makes a fair substitute for a seat. In the background, pecans completely hide the stream. The lighter green of acacias forms in the foreground a very placeful, quiet picture.
Then comes the road, offensive and dusty; and then of course, the empty beer barrel. If a man could love his fellow men, he would not have a sickly pulse a-setting on that keg.
A TEAM is running away, a man obfuscated with San Antonio rum-a partial upset-child nearly scared into fits.
Spence, Jay Gould’s right-of-way man in Mexico, gives an account of his scientific railroad labors, and the diabolical mismanagement of his farm on the Atascosa in his absence. Alec. Cass stops and relates stories of desperadoes in the Pecos country, from which he has just returned.
A young Scotchman speaks of the endurance of his Buenos Ayres horses in comparison with Texan stock.
Prof. Russell, who hails from California, demonstrates his theory of the cause of the earthquakes, and presence of latent heat.
Charlie Edwards eulogized the Mexican character as observed when he was justice of the peace, and inquires with avidity of his stolen stock.
Banks hitches up his horses, and swings his northwind arms as he praises his bees, vegetables, cows, his sun-bonneted wife, and mongrel dogs; as he denounces with his thunderous voice all shysters, road-masters, Mexican justices of the peace, horse and cow thieves, and scabby rascals generally.
Uncle John Kinney, the man who prays for his enemies, draws up on his way to town, shaky and nervous about his wicked son.
Payne arrives-the future county commissioner, and knowingly descends on the wirepulling proclivities of the pettifoggers of San Antonio.
Malone treats the listeners with descriptions of Sunday family rides, and his coal mine escapade.
Williams with a new set of teeth, anxious to sell out and raise stock in the moon.
Sutton, the antitype of Mt. Diogenes, boldly ask for an honest mon; tells the congregation around that beer keg how to cultivate their land; discourages on Moses, Joshua, Missouri, and old Virginia.
Norris stops and plainly tells a man that he will not allow his horses to eat his oats.
The blacksmith, Kay, instructs a youth how to propel a wheel-no use.
The colored man, Howard, tells of the wonders of Cincinnati.
Goldbraith sends greeting to the keg a couple of bunches of Swiss chard, a midsummer vegetable unknown to this region.
Bowen, the greatest fruit man in Southwestern Texas, brings bunches of onions, grown on W. Deucess’ place, each one weighing two pounds. Murray, the man who never told a lie in his life, holds the keg in breathless are by his report of margold wurtzels 300 pounds in weight.
McCaleb, the greatest negro delineator in Benton City, asks the keg for news with the avidity of a penny-a-liner. Avant speaks concerning cheese.
Lagrange, Vilas, and Seed are tomato mad; they will insist on San A. consuming all they can grow.
Paddy Kinney spouts Shakespeare-his present selection is from Macbeth, “Hold on, Macduff.”
Wildman is in a hurry-San A. must have food.
McCain gives a description of his visit to the Medina park.
Blas Herrera borrows a billy-goat from the keg.
Griff Jones eulogizes his crop.
Frank Ruiz is on clover, or rather in foder.
Carruthers, the land surveyor, in the role of a stoick, passes nods to the empty beer keg, dreams of mistakes in boundaries, and the enigmatical price of melons in San A.
Josiah Cass have the keg’s wife plums or peace-nobody can tell the difference. If the road from the Medina to the great city were lined with red-haired women, planted like cotton or corn-one row either side-Cass would be a poor man-sings, “How beautiful upon the mountains” every morning at sunrise.
Colling gives his dog Bob to the keg, and the keg nourisheth that dog as a hen her chickens.
Judge Devine’s nephew opened a can of chili-con-carne, he couldn’t go it, he was thanked for it. If he and the young Irishman, who was with him, who have purchased a 10,000 acre ranch at Moore’s Hollow, do what they blow to do, they will many a time, be glad of that famous Mexican dish.
Burdette disclaims against pharisaism and priestcraft, blesses the post-office authorities, and looks cross at the dog.
Yergan solemnly, silently, and solitarily passes-the keg swearing he ought to be an undertaker.
Mills, Slaughter Huckaby, Coon Taylor, McCoy, Simons, Ivison and Tuggles stop and give their quota of news and grumbles.
Dick Gale brings fresh meat from Oak Island, and the sitter on the keg disappeareth, perchance to find real rural life a-squatting near a melon patch with a lilliputuan sun umbrella distended.