The Alamo, facade

The Alamo, facade (Photo credit: Kansas Explorer 3128)

Photo of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett from the...

Photo of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett from the television miniseries Davy Crockett. This episode is “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a child, I watched all the western shows on TV. Perhaps my favorite was Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. One Christmas I even scored a coonskin cap. Wow, was I happy. That was when I lived on the windy plains of eastern New Mexico.

Those days, my friends and I would fill up our canteens early in the morning and take off. We didn’t care where we went, but usually we would jump the barb-wire fences and walk through ranches and farms that cradled the town. The ranchers and farmers didn’t care, as long as we didn’t bother anything. Back then, kids got up early, had a little breakfast, said goodbye to Mom and returned to the house before sundown. Come home after sundown and you were guaranteed a spanking. But, between those daylight hours, the buddies were able to make up the best stories.

If we happened to be out in a field and there was loads of dirt, we would play army. Occasionally, new homes were built in the neighborhood, and whenever builders were putting in plumbing, the ditches became our foxholes. Each of us would take a role from the TV show “Combat” and commence the battles of World War II. When we were on these fields and hiking, we were Kit Carson, Zebulon Pike or Lewis & Clark. Every step was an exploration.

Engraving of Zebulon Pike, who led a U.S. expe...

Engraving of Zebulon Pike(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On one of these explores, we grabbed loads and loads of dead tumbling tumbleweeds and built a fort. Well, not really a fort, per se, but the Alamo. It was very easy to push the tumbleweeds together to make a wall. We were amazed at how easy it was.

Once the Alamo was built, we all took roles and fought every marauding uniformed brutal imaginary Mexican that came over our tumbleweed wall. We still fought the battle of the Alamo, even though we all knew by then that Davy and his fellow defenders never made it west of San Antonio.  And, because we can make up anything we want, when we defended the Alamo, we won! We shot our BB guns until there were no BBs left. I had a big Bowie knife back then, so I played Jim Bowie. Every time we did the Alamo thing, Davy was represented by each of us at some point. And, we really didn’t need to have a grownup there to tell us not to aim these BB guns at each other.

Of course, whenever we got home, we were just plain filthy. So much dirt spread all over our clothes, but we were all smiles. We had great times making up stories. If we were near a tank and windmill, we pretended we were the drovers of the Goodnight-Loving cattle drive, which ran not too far from our little town.

And because Billy the Kid met his match near Lincoln County, not too far from where we lived, and his story was very popular back then, I couldn’t count on both hands the number of times, we chose sides and were either Billy the Kid and his gang, or we were Sheriff Pat Garrett and his deputies chasing him.

And, sometimes, we’d pretend we were the main characters of any of the current westerns that were on TV at the time, whether it was “Maverick,” “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “The Big Valley,” or any of the other TV shows that were popular then. So, we had plenty of inspiration to drive our imaginations.

I am writing this to set the stage. Because of the times spent out in the farms and ranches, I absolutely love the West. To me, if I am taking the incline up to Pike’s Peak, then Zebulon Pike must have walked directly next to every cog we take to get to the top. There is a grizzled mountain man waving to me as I ride to the top. And I am very happy to see these imaginary figures.

So, over the next several days, I will share with you some details of the 3-week trip that Patti and I took through the West. Every inch of the trip was majestic. I will share with you the fun aspects of our trip, as well as some of the challenges, or disappointments, we saw along the way. I hope you enjoy these brief vignettes, we sure did.

God bless you all.

English: Antonio López de Santa Anna

Santa Anna Image via Wikipedia

Folks, earlier today between taking care of chores around the house, I watched a recent movie of “The Alamo” — not the John Wayne version, but the version with Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid.

One moment, I’m washing dishes and Travis is rallying the Alamo troops to defeat the onslaught of Mexicans. Next moment, I’m starting a fire in the fireplace and the Mexicans are climbing the walls of the San Antonio mission. I’m cleaning trash off my desk and Davy Crockett, as the sole male survivor of the Alamo, is sitting on his knees encouraging Santa Anna to surrender. Remember, it’s a movie.

Among the final scenes of the movie, Gen. Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) captures Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto near what is now the Houston ship channel.

Now for most of us, our interest and knowledge of Santa Anna pretty much stops there. If you’re like me, you assume that Houston took Santa Anna as prisoner. Put him on trial, maybe. Perhaps hanged him. Maybe. For me, I really stopped thinking about him once he was captured — till today.

Turns out that after he was captured in April 1836, acting Texas president David G. Burnet and Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco: “in his official character as chief of the Mexican nation, Santa Anna acknowledged the full, entire, and perfect Independence of the Republic of Texas.” In exchange, Burnet and the Texas government guaranteed Santa Anna’s life and transport to Veracruz. Back in Mexico City, however, a new government declared that Santa Anna was no longer president and that the treaty with Texas was null and void.

For the next several years, the Mexican general was in and out of the government. Sometimes he was in favor, sometimes not. By 1855, even his allies and friends had had enough of him. A group of liberals overthrew Santa Anna’s government. He fled the country. He was tried for treason in absentia and all his properties were confiscated by the Mexican government.

In exile, Santa Anna lived in Cuba, Columbia, St. Thomas … and, ironically, the United States. In 1869, 74-year-old Santa Anna was living in exile in Staten Island, New York. He was trying to raise money for an army to return and take over Mexico City. During his time in New York City, he is credited with bringing in the first shipments of chicle, the base of chewing gum. He failed to profit from this, since his plan was to use the chicle to replace rubber in carriage tires, which was tried without success. Thomas Adams, the American assigned to help Santa Anna while he was in the United States, bought one ton of the substance from Santa Anna. Adams’ experiments helped to found the chewing gum industry with a product that he called “Chiclets“.

Later, Santa Anna was given a general amnesty, and he returned to Mexico, where he died in Mexico City on June 21, 1876.

So, in the end, the bloodthirsty Mexican general, known as the Napolean of the West and responsible for killing defenders of the Alamo, was known indirectly as the father of chewing gum.