After Christmas Sales when the deals are even better for season specific things

Created Wednesday, 29 December 2010 14:38

After Christmas Sales

We do sales, but we don’t do sale-sales . . . that is, our enthusiasm for getting up at the crack of midnight on Black Friday and waiting in the parking lot of a big-box store with a mob of sleepy and cranky other cheapskates to purchase some piece-o-dreck from China is . . . well, let’s just say that urge is well under control. But thrift stores, yard sales, craft shows – we are so there. We are especially there after Christmas, when the deals are even better for season-specific things, like wrapping paper, boxes, and relatively imperishable foods. My daughter, the queen of all bargain-shoppers made her list this year and checked it twice; those things she specifically wanted, those things that she would buy if they were marked down sufficiently, and the list of places we would hit – based upon proximity and opening hours . . . and most of all, her budget.

9:30 and we’re off: First stop, our friendly neighborhood HEB – the seasonal items aisle for LED lights, for next years’ tree. Blondie had her eye on those, ever since she overheard one of the managers talking about how they would be marked down after Christmas. Decided not to buy a couple of strings of the LED icicle lights, as they might not match the icicle lights we have already. Haul: four sets of LED lights.

Stop 2 – World Market, in the same complex where the Alamo Drafthouse is – where Central Park Mall used to be, along the 410 frontage between McCullough and Blanco. Christmas ornaments marked down . . . decided not to, upon mature consideration. Blown glass, and playful cats – not a sustainable situation. Final haul: A glass bead cuff bracelet, in gold and dark blue, and three boxes of crackers; they had a buy one, get two free deal.

Stop 3 – The Container Store, over and across 410; gift wrappings, boxes, containers and stuff – which would have been excellent bargains, but that we already had enough for the next few Christmases. Today, the final haul was mixed; Blondie bought a pair of plastic reels to coil Christmas lights around . . . and I bought a little box to keep a stick of butter in. Glass dishes break, the plastic one we have doesn’t fit . . . so on to Stop 4 –

Half Price Books – my personal fave. Found a copy of J. Frank Dobie’s The Longhorns, and regretfully passed up a book on historic buildings of Fredericksburg. Blondie bought an illustrated atlas of mythical and semi-mythical creatures ancient and modern. Not only are the books half off, but they have an additional 20% off until the end of the year. Final haul: four books, and a vow to return before the end of the year . . .

Stop 5 – hey, time to break for lunch. Among the enterprises which rose up in the rubble of the Central Park Mall is a sandwich place which piqued Blondie’s interest: the Earl of Sandwich. It’s a chain, but a relatively short one, it appears. Inside, very nice and comfortable, and the sandwiches pretty good. Just exactly the right size, Blondie says – not to filling, but just enough.

Stop 6 – Catherines’, off Rector, in back of the North Star Mall: 80% off certain items of lingerie was the draw. Blondie picked up an ornamented tee shirt and a light jacket – from the sale racks, of course. She is coming down to the end of what she had budgeted for today, so it’s just as well there is only one more stop.

Stop 7 – Tuesday Morning, which is one of our perennial favorites for kitchen gadgets, gifts, linens and towels . . . and the reason that we didn’t need to load up on Christmas wrap at stop 3. Actually, nothing really sent us . . . so we called it a day and went home.

Sometimes, a bargain shopper has to know their own limitations . . .


The Great Pig War of 1841

Created Monday, 29 November 2010 02:50

The Great Pig War of 1841

The Pig War was not actually an honest-to-pete real shooting war. But it did involve a pair of international powers; the Republic of Texas, and the constitutional monarchy of France. And thereby hangs the story of a neighborhood squabble between a frontier innkeeper and a gentleman-dandy named Jean Pierre Isidore Dubois de Saligny who called himself the Comte de Saligny. He was the charge d’affaires, the representative of France to the Republic of Texas, arriving from a previous assignment the French Legation in Washington D.C. He had been instrumental in recommending that France extend diplomatic recognition to the Republic of Texas, but one might be forgiven for thinking that some kind of 19th Century Peter Principle was at play . . . for Dubois turned out to be terribly undiplomatic.

Perhaps it was just the shock of arriving in the new capitol city of Austin, a ramble of hastily built frame shacks and log cabins scattered along a series of muddy streets along the scenic and wooded shores of the upper Colorado River; a city planned with great hopes and nothing but insane optimism to base them on. Dubois arrived with two French servants, including a chef, a very fine collection of wines, elegant furniture and household goods. Here was a man of culture and refinement, perhaps acclimated to America, but ill-unprepared for the raw crudities of the Texas frontier.

Initially, Dubois took rooms at the only hotel in town, a crude inn of roughly-finished logs owned by Richard Bullock, located at the present intersection of 6th and Capitol. In the days before cattle was king, pork was much more favored; Richard Bullock kept a herd of pigs – pigs which were allowed to roam freely, and eat what they could scavenge, along the muddy streets and in back of the frame buildings and log cabins set up to do the business of the Republic. Undaunted, Dubois, rented a small building nearby to use as an office and residence while a fine new legation was being built. He entertained in fine style – was most especially plagued by Bullock’s pigs, which constantly broke through the fence around his garden, and helped themselves to the corn intended for his horses. The pigs even broke into the house, and consumed a quantity of bedclothes and papers.

That was the last straw: Dubois instructed one of his servants to kill any pigs found on the property that he had rented, which was done. Richard Bullock, outraged, demanded payment for his loss, which was indignantly refused on the grounds of diplomatic immunity. The matter escalated when Bullock encountered Dubois’ swine-killing servant one day in the street and thrashed him. An official protest was filed, and a hearing ordered by the Texas Secretary of State – but citing international law, Dubois refused to attend or allow his servant to testify. Richard Bullock was freed on bail – and when Dubois complained bitterly to Republic authorities he was told that he could collect his passport and depart at any time.

He left in a huff, and stayed away for a year – never having had the chance to actually live in the elegant residence which he had commissioned to become the official legation; a white frame house on a hill which is presently the only remaining structure from those early days. Richard Bullock became the toast of the town, and his pigs were celebrities, for of course the story got around. The fracas also put an end to a generous loan from France, and plans to bring 8,000 French settlers to settle on Texas lands – as well as a military alliance that would allow stationing of French garrisons in Texas to protect them.

What would Texas have been like, one wonders – if Richard Bullock hadn’t let his pigs roam and the French Legate had thought to hire someone to build a better fence?


Happy Holidays from Mission Realty in San Antonio Texas

Created Tuesday, 21 December 2010 14:55

Happy Holidays

from Mission Realty
San Antonio, Texas
As 2010 comes to a close, I want to take a minute to thank you for using our San Antonio real estate services and our website services. It’s because of people like you, using our San Antonio Home Search feature, and telling your friends, family and colleagues to use our service — have made our progress possible.

And in this spirit I would like to say, simply, but sincerely

Thank you and best wishes
for the Holiday Season and a Happy New Year in 2011!
For those serving in the Armed Forces overseas I want to say a special thank you to you!

Merry Christmas!


PS: We’d love to hear from you this holiday season and throughout the new year. If you aren’t already following us on Twitter or interacting with us on our San Antonio Blog, stay in touch!

Oh, by the way… I’m never too buy for any of your referrals.


Farm fresh Christmas tree shopping adventure

Created Tuesday, 21 December 2010 14:35

Oh, Christmas Tree!

by Julia Hayden

It takes a gift to find yourself on a soggy-wet mountainside on a Sunday afternoon in December in the rain, slipping and sliding in the mud with a tree saw in one hand, and leading a sniffling and sopping-wet toddler with the other.

Yep – I had promised Mom that I would bring the Christmas tree that year; she hadn’t bought one as they all looked dry and half-dead already. I was stationed at Mather AFB in Sacramento and heading home on leave the next day. The plan – leave the next morning, with the tree lashed to the roof-rack of the VW squareback that I drove at the time. The Sacramento Bee had a story about a local tree farm that very day. The map with the article made the tree farm look as if it were just a couple of blocks away.

We set out bravely enough; the map opened on the passenger seat, where I could refer to it. Out of the back gate, and presently we were tooling along a pleasant country road in the mild sunshine. On the map it looked as if I would stay on this road until it intersected with another road, one with a couple of wiggles in it… into hills, perhaps? Good – the tree farm was out in the country and easy to find. Soon, empty fields and meadows opened up around us… certainly a Christmas tree farm would be in the country. I’d come to the turn-off, the road with a couple of wiggles in it very soon.

Fifteen minutes… twenty … half an hour and no intersection. Forty-five minutes; already clear the map was deceptive about the distances. I had gassed up for a long drive the next day – but if I hadn’t promised I would bring a fresh-cut Christmas tree, I would have given up. An hour went by, and the road began to climb. We were nearly to the foothills, where the clouds piled up against the Sierra Nevada.

At last- an intersection! I slowed down to verify. Yes, the right road. Pretty soon, it climbed farther and higher into the hills, into the cloud layer. I ran the wipers, hoping that the distance along this new road was not as deceptively mapped. I had not counted on two hours there and back. This had better be worth it.

At last – a sign for the farm and a dirt road leading up into the trees, just as it began to drizzle. I pulled into a parking lot; a couple of cars haphazardly stopped in a mown field around a plain red-painted shed. The door was open, there were people – but not as many as there were cars.

“Here, “said a teenaged girl at the cashbox. She handed me a tree saw, and a mimeographed sheet with sketches of the various trees with attention to their needles, and a list of prices- so many dollars per foot per kind of tree. “Cut down the one you want, bring it back here and we’ll figure the price.” I took the saw, stuffed the sheet in my shoulder bag. “Where are the trees?” She pointed out the door, where the dirt road continued up to the top of the hill. “Up there. They’re all over. Just find one you like.”

My daughter began to lag, halfway up the hill. I looped the tree saw over my arm, and picked her up. The ground was very wet, sloppy mud and slippery grass. We had coats, but my tennis shoes were soon saturated. Coming down the slope on the far side, I skidded and sat down heavily. Great – now we were both and muddy to the waist. The trees were scattered among taller trees and thickets of grass. It began to rain. I put my daughter down to walk, but she was not happy and quietly began sobbing.

We would have to find a tree, soon… close enough that I could drag it… and the saw… and my poor daughter back to the shed. Unfortunately, they were either too large, or the expensive kind. Finally – a cheaper tree, with long graceful bunches of needles. It sat on a slope, just a little taller than me. I sat my daughter down, and put my purse in her lap- “Here, watch this, for Mummy.” I picked a place on the tree’s trunk, about four inches above the ground, put the saw to it and went to work. Mercifully, it only took a few minutes. Then I slung my purse and the saw over my arms, picked up the tree and my daughter, and began the long, unhappy, sodden forced-march up over the top of the hill and down towards the sales hut. Some experience – wet, pissed-off, on a soggy mountainside with a lopsided Christmas tree, a wet and wailing toddler, an hour-plus drive, and a longer one in the morning… oh, Christmas tree!

When we got home, I set the trunk of bucket of water; the next day lashing it to the luggage rack for the drive south, though that may not have made much difference.

“It’s so fresh!” Mom said, rapturously. “It smells marvelous! Never mind about the flat place, we’ll put that against the wall, and no one will ever know… really, I wonder how long it’s been since the ones in the lot have been cut! I really wonder about that, now.” “You probably don’t really want to know, “I said. “Merry Christmas… and you owe me $10.” “Is that all?” Mom said.

“Oh, yeah, “I replied. “That’s all. Merry Christmas.”

Merry Christmas to all from Mission Realty


Christmas traditions and events as practiced overseas around the world

Created Monday, 20 December 2010 16:24

Three Kings and Twelve Days of Christmas

Now and again while living overseas, we had a chance to participate in Christmas events as practiced locally: in Greece, Christmas was not much at all, in comparison to Easter – which in the Greek Orthodox tradition is huge: a week of observances, services, a day of feasting, new clothes . . . Compared to that, Christmas in Greece was relatively mind.

Christmas in Spain was a little closer to American tradition – not much, but still a larger part of religious and civic observances: the major department store in downtown Zaragoza, the Corte Ingles had decorated suitably, with Christmas trees and ornaments . . . but Santa did not come on Christmas Eve, bearing presents. Oh, no – In Spain the presents for good boys and girls arrive on Epiphany, the twelfth day of the storied Twelve Days of Christmas. Christmas is actually the first day of Christmas – and in days of yore, the Christmas holidays and feastings went on for the whole twelve days. So, it spreads out the celebrations, rather than cramming it all into one day. And Santa Claus does not deliver the presents: they are brought by the magi, the three wise men or kings; Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior, arrayed in splendid robes, and golden crowns and all the pomp and circumstance than can created by an organization, enterprise or civic municipality.

One of the years when we were stationed at Zaragoza Air Base, there were a number of tickets distributed among the parents of children for a visit by the Three Kings to the Spanish side of the base. At that time, the base was actually divided into two parts with an immensely long runway between: the USAF part, which served to support an air gunnery range, for squadrons stationed in Northern Europe to come down and practice in the better weather, and the Spanish Air Force part, which supported their equivalent of Air Transport/Military Airlift Command, or MATRA. Well, the officers and NCOs at MATRA were going to host a visit by the Three Kings for the dependent children – and American children were invited.

Traditionally, it seems that the Three Kings are to arrive on camels – but the Spanish Air Force went one better: all the children and their parents were lined up on the ramp behind a thin safety barrier, watching for a certain transport aircraft to arrive, engines roaring at a deafening pitch as it rolled up a little way from us. The ramp at the back of the aircraft went down, and out rolled an open jeep, with the Three Kings and their sacks of presents loaded awkwardly in the back. Whenever military Santa arrives – it’s on or in the largest and noisiest bit of mechanized inventory available, and MATRA was no exception. The crowd of children and their parents followed the slowly moving jeep towards one of the mess halls on the Spanish side – although the Kings refrained from throwing wrapped candies until the flightline had been left well behind. The potential for foreign object damage, you know: small items getting sucked into jet engines does not make for a nice day.

After that, it was very much the same kind of drill: the children all lined up to get a small present from one of the Kings. My daughter got a jump-rope with wooden handles. And afterwards, there was another treat provided, of churros and chocolate for everyone – fried sweet fritters to dip into chocolate that was really more of a thin chocolate pudding. And it was wonderful – totally rich and indigestible, but wonderful. Just another Christmas tradition.


Gingerbread House culinary adventure from Time-Life series Foods of the World

Created Saturday, 18 December 2010 16:38

Gingerbread Houses

My mother was fairly adventurous about food and recipes, back in the day. One of her culinary adventure involved a subscription to the Time-Life series “Foods of the World.” While we never really got into experimenting with Moroccan cuisine, the more accessible and familiar varieties got a good work-over.

One of the wild successes from this series was a recipe and patterns for making gingerbread houses, which was came from the volume on the cooking of Germany. We did gingerbread houses for some years thereafter: most as gifts, and very elaborate. It is possible to make the house entirely of gingerbread, and held together with icing only – but the directions must be followed exactly.

Gingerbread for House: Must do three batches, or triple this recipe, if you have a set of ginormous saucepans and batter bowls, and three jellyroll pans. Each single batch will fill one 11 x 17 inch rimmed jellyroll pan. Butter each jellyroll pan with 1 TBsp soft butter and sprinkled with ¼ cup flour, being careful to butter and flour every square inch. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine in a large bowl: 6 cups all-purpose flour, 6 TBsp baking powder, 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp each ground nutmeg and cardamom and 1/8 tsp salt.

In a large saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat: ¾ cup honey, 1 ¾ cup sugar, ¼ cup butter, until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Remove from heat and mix in 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 1 TBsp grated lemon peel. Allow to cool, and add 1 egg, and one egg yolk, and two cups of the flour & spice mixture. When combined, add remainder of the flour mixture, flouring your hands and kneading it, until the dough is smooth, pliable and still slightly sticky. Place lump of dough into the prepared jellyroll pan, and roll it out level, being careful to fill every corner of the pan. Bake for 35 minutes, until cake is firm, and the top is brown.

While the cake(s) are baking, prepare templates for the pieces to be cut, from heavy cardboard, according to the diagrams. The sides of the house are 6 inches long by 4 tall. The end walls are ten inches long at the peak, and 6 inches wide at the base; the sides are cut from a single pan of gingerbread. Two chimney sections are also cut from that pan. The roof pieces are 8 by 10 inches, and there are four corner support posts, each about an inch wide and 4 inches tall, all cut from another single pan. The base for the house is 9 x 11, cut from the last pan, with a large square left over for other uses. As soon as each pan is cool enough to be firm, lay the template pieces down on the cake and cut with a sharp knife. The gingerbread hardens as it cools, so this cutting must be done at once. You may also cut out doors and windows – we used to experiment with “glass windows” made from colored melted sugar poured onto a piece of tinfoil, and attached to the inside of window openings.

For the icing, beat together in a large bowl: 2 egg whites until frothy and slightly thickened. Sift into the egg whites, 2 ½ confectioners sugar, one half-cup at a time, beating thoroughly until combined. This will make a very stiff icing.

The house is assembled as soon as the pieces are hardened. The sides of the house fit inside the end walls, braced by the four support posts. The icing, once applied, will harden enough to be quite strong. The only potential difficulty is the roof, which may have to be braced into place, until the icing hardens enough to hold fast – the pitch being so steep that the roof pieces are apt to slide off.

This produces a gingerbread house as solid as a concrete brick. Go to town, ornamenting with sugar candy, gingersnaps, candy canes, gumdrops and whatever. Enjoy looking at it – because it actually isn’t very good-tasting.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Mission Realty


Exterior decorating for the Christmas holidays

Created Monday, 13 December 2010 02:29

Going the Full Griswold

A year or so ago I had to explain the whole concept of ‘the full Griswold’ to a friend of advanced years and whose taste in movies tends more toward Turner Classics than National Lampoon; but once introduced to the concept, she agreed how very apt a description it is – and how what once was considered a teensy-weensy over the top Christmas decorations-wise is now almost the standard operating procedure. And what is really, really way over the top now is . . . well, something that usually winds up looking a bit like a busy Christmas-themed carnival and zoo parked on a small suburban front lawn: the inflatable snow-globes and wire-formed reindeer, the lights and garlands, the painted cut-outs, banners and wreaths, sparkly trains and a crèche or two. Oh, what a challenge we have set in suburbia, especially when neighbors have gotten into competitive serial holiday outdoor decorating through-out the year; the Christmas holiday season just brings this impulse to ultimate glorious flower.

Myself, I am occasionally nostalgic for the days when the standard was a couple strings of multicolored lights along the eaves and a wreath with a red ribbon on the door. If you really want to put on the dog, maybe some more wreaths in the front windows, or making them yourself out of pine or holly and adorned a la Colonial Williamsburg with fruits and nuts and things.

No, really – that was all that was required, back in the day; modest, tasteful and not all that much of a hassle for my father and brothers. An hour or so on the Sunday after Thanksgiving with a 12-foot ladder and an extension cord would do it, especially since our house was a single-story bungalow, and much of it couldn’t be seen from the street anyway.

But in the last decade or two, exterior decorating for the Christmas holidays has gotten to a point of electrical complexity, an infinite variety of design elements, and increasing expectations that are all well beyond the capabilities of mortal man or woman. It seems that a lot of homeowners and businesses too – taken the option of throwing in the DIY towel and hiring professionals, just to keep level with the expectations of neighbors or competitors – and to minimize the risk of falling from a very tall ladder, or from the roof of a tall house with a very pitched roofline.

After a certain point – and at a certain age, if the pocket-book allows – this has tremendous appeal. Pay someone else to do the work; someone with the required safety gear and a very much taller ladder. Then one may confidently expect a polished and effortlessly superior Martha-Steward level of professional appearance – and no ugly things such as exploding Santas or a bushel-basket-sized ball of tangled strings of lights to blight the holiday . . . and someone will come and tidy it all away after New Years.

Then again, we can always go back to the single strand of lights and ornamented wreath on the front door days. Personally, I kind of like the examples at Colonial Williamsburg, or natural wreaths and garlands. If I were made of money, I’d spend some of it on that kind of decorating for the holidays. Is there anyone game for downsizing Christmas decorating expectations all the way around?

Thought not. Carry on, y’all. But be safe about it, ok?

Merry Christmas everyone, especially those overseas unable to spend time with their families! We support our Troops!

Photos by Randy Watson

Not all holiday meals have to include a turkey and all the side dishes

Created Sunday, 12 December 2010 14:51

Alternate Holiday Meals

The trouble that I have always had with the traditional turkey and all the side dishes – the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread stuffing of any ilk, the gravy and the cranberry relish, and the eternal pearl onions in cheese sauce peculiar to my own family table at Thanksgiving and Christmas – is that all of them are, to put it plainly, very heavy. Very starchy; a veritable carbohydrate orgy. That my mother also leavened our traditional meal with green peas and carrots, and that others add that version of green beans melded with a can of cream-o-mushroom soup, sprinkle with crunchy fried onions out of another can . . . well it just doesn’t help much. Especially the green-bean casserole doesn’t help much; by the time you are done with it, it’s as carb-laden as anything else.

Second trouble: making it all in abundance means a certain quantity of leftovers. Even baking the smallest turkey possible and being careful about calculating how many servings that the side dishes will yield – still means at least three or four nights of leftovers, if you have shared the bounty of the season and your table with just a few other people. Quite honestly, I’m pretty tired of it all by the weekend after Thanksgiving anyway. The traditional Thanksgiving dishes do not warm over very well – there I said it. Heretical, I know, but it’s the plain truth. By the third pass through the microwave, even my own rye-bread stuffing has lost considerable appeal. In some years I was so tired of eternal turkey that for Christmas dinner we had practically anything else; roast duck or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. I’ve even flirted with trying out roast goose. Now, that’s the proper, Dickensian holiday roast bird for you – and at least, it would be a different flavor of leftover.

Some years, when I have celebrated the holiday alone, (I just didn’t want to go to someone elses’ house, ‘kay?) I have made Thanksgiving dinner into a solitary feast. In San Antonio, I’d go to the Sun Harvest Grocery, HEB Central Market, or to Whole Foods in the Quarry, and splurge on buying something exotic, just enough for one or two servings; fingering potatoes from France, a single Rock Cornish game hen, a quarter of a pound of baby squashes, every one the size of a quarter, a tiny pecan or pumpkin tart from the bakery counter; always something tempting that I had never tasted before, something expensive and special. That and a bottle of nice exotic white wine that I had never tasted before . . . a blissful solitary Thanksgiving dinner of your own beats the heck out of an uncomfortable time at the house of someone you hardly know. Trust me – been there, done both. Solitary is better.

This year, I hit on another interesting culinary option for Thanksgiving dinner, which split the difference – so to speak, by drawing on our favorite recipe for roast chicken, which involves making a butterfied chicken baked on a bed of sautéed onions layered on top of slices of sturdy sourdough bread. I did a half-batch of my rye-bread stuffing – which came out to about three cups of finished stuffing – and mounded it in the middle of the roasting pan. Then I butterflied two Rock Cornish game hens. Snip out the backbones with heavy kitchen shears, open the bird and press it more or less flat with the palm of your hand, and use the reserved backbones to make the gravy stock. Rub the top and bottom of the flattened game hen with olive oil, salt and pepper, and drape them skin-side up over the mound of stuffing. Pour about two tablespoons of lemon juice over the birds and bake at 350° for about an hour and twenty minutes. The juices from the baking hens will trickle down and moisten the stuffing, and any extra juice standing in the pan can be poured off into the gravy. It was magnificent – and the leftovers from this only lasted a day or so.

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Comanche Lookout Hill Park in San Antonio Northeast Area at Julia Semmes Library

Created Saturday, 04 December 2010 04:16

Comanche Lookout Park – San Antonio

My daughter and I noticed the tower which crowned a wooded hill off of the Nacogdoches Road, almost as soon as we moved into a San Antonio neighborhood – mostly because to our eyes it seemed quite normal, natural . . . expected, even. We had lived for almost twelve years in Europe, where any particularly tall and defensible height had been fortified – in some places for thousands of years.

Of course there would be a tower, or some crumbling stone ruins on a ridgeline, the crumbling arches of an aqueduct or an ancient bridge, or maybe even a range of stone wall. After a decade and more, ones’ eyes become accustomed to this. It’s becomes so much a part of the normal landscape that fades into the background, and one only notices it in the acute absence.

Which may have been what happened to a retired Army officer, Colonel Edward Coppock, in the early 1920s; he had been stationed in Europe for quite some time – and being a history nut and no doubt liking the looks of a castellated height, bought a tract of land which included Comanche Lookout Hill, and set to work building his own. It seems to have been more of a hobby and labor of love; assisted by his sons and a local stone-worker, Colonel Coppock built – or caused to be built – the four-story gothic-style tower which still stands, possibly another which either disintegrated or was later torn down, a range of stone and concrete garage and storage buildings, and a set of foundations and cellars for his fantasy castle.

Alas, the good Colonel took his time, instead of going balls to the wall in an all-out effort to finish his project – which would have had an incredible view, and been a scenic wonderment in all of Bexar County. Alas, the Depression 30’s caught up with him, then the wartime 40’s, and both he and his stone-mason died. None of his heirs had the interest, or the funds to finish the castle, and so it stood empty and appropriately ruinous for another four decades. It was a popular hang-out at night for teenagers to steal away and stage illicit parties, to build bonfires in the incomplete cellars and do what teenagers have always done out from under parental observation. At the same time, stories developed that the tower was the last remains of a frontier fort, and was haunted by the ghosts of soldiers who died there.

Of course, the name Comanche Lookout Hill should be a dead giveaway to it’s proper place in frontier Texas history; it stood right by the Nacogdoches Road – the long royal highway across Spanish Texas to Nacogdoches. And of course, Apache and Comanche, as well as other hunting and war parties – would have found it an excellent vantage-point to scout out traffic on the Camino Real, and elsewhere, as far as the eye can see. San Antonio then would have been a huddle of red-tile roofs and the stump of San Fernando Cathedral, almost on the horizon. Traffic along the road would have been clearly visible, first as a cloud of dust kicked up by wagon wheels and the passage of team animals. Views from the top of Comanche Lookout are still incomparable; and what would it have been like, if Colonel Coppock had finished his castle; with terraces, towers and gardens – one can only wonder.

Today it is a city park, with several circuits of paved and gravel hiking trails winding their way through meadow and thickets of cedar, hackberry, mesquite and huisache, all the way to the top. It is popular for people walking dogs; and a good brisk walk for anyone looking for exercise – even the sound of traffic on Nacogdoches Road is never very far away. There is a parking lot and entrance to the trail system on Nacogdoches road, and another in back of the Semmes Branch Library; a nice little pocket wilderness, practically in our back yard.