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El Arbol de Sombra de Tejas: The Texas Shadow Tree

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I stretch, and the sun’s rays capture my attention, warming me with thoughts of this day and the thousands of others that I have spent here, near the bend of the river called Nueces. Buffalo grasses grow tall right up to the skirt of my base, but thin at the approach of the westerly shadow.

Today the sky is clear, except for a slight scattering of small puffballs in the Gulf sky to the south. But off in the distant north a thin vale of clouds rests on the horizon. By tomorrow morning, it will be raining. Animal creatures as well as human creatures may take shelter under my massive branches.

For centuries, my roots have probed the depths of the rich Texas soil. No challenger has stepped forth in generations to challenge my taproot for moisture or nutrients. My domain has expanded with only my cousins the grasses and my brother the wind for company. Only when the Spaniards or local natives, the Karankawas, camp near or beneath my canopy do I have company of the human form.

Once the Karankawas had a village just a few miles from the river. They fished and hunted small animals for food. Their bodies were smeared with alligator grease to keep the pesky mosquitoes away. But then the metal-covered men came riding on strange, snorting beasts. They held sharpened objects with blades shining in the sun, which were accompanied by other long objects that smoked and made a noise when pointed. Many of these metal men pointed these smoking sticks at the Karankawas, who died and journeyed home toward the Great Master.

El Arbol de Sombra de Tejas: The Texas Shadow Tree

Photo: pxhere.com

But there were other men who accompanied the metal men. They wore long robes and chanted songs that had the harmony of spring rain. Sometimes these Spaniards camped underneath my sprawling branches. They lit cook fires and ate rabbits and deer in my starlight.

It was here, in my place near the bend in the river, that I observed the march of time. Soon the Karankawas disappeared, along with their brother tribes the Coahuiltecan and Atakapan peoples.

To the north, where the San Antonio River births rapids from the lands of a thousand springs, the robed men build holy places called missions. They make the sign of the ancient places and bow before carvings of wood that are built in the images of their god or saints. The robed men are gentle and treat the people of the land as their children. They call the people to worship with a bell, which is either in front of the mission or mounted above the door in a small upper room that fronts the mission.

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