San Jose Mission

This pretty vestige of Mexico is located just outside of San Antonio, Texas. Missions of this type are sprinkled across Texas and California. Although these adobe brick buildings tell us of the colonial past of Texas, they are really detached from the modern Lone Star State.

I find Texas to be an amusing but scary place to visit. Signs in country restaurants that read, “Please check your guns at the Door” or “We do not call 911” or “Insurance by Smith and Wesson”, all seem in rhythm with barstools that have saddles for their seats. To be fair, this is a rural Texas approach, not the sort of thing that typifies sophisticated Dallas or Houston.

Some years ago, we travelled to Houston to attend an unusual event that involved horses, cattle, paintings and broad accents. The official title was The Bovine, Equine and Turpentine Sale. The auction sale took place in and around the Shamrock Hilton Hotel, sponsored largely by the former Governor of Texas, John Connally. Apparently the Governor, as he was referred to the entire three days, had a financial interest in several Texas art galleries and that accounts for the spectacular coupling of Running horses with Longhorn cattle and paintings which often had as their subject, Running horses and Longhorn cattle. This was during the time when Texas was riding high and the love of the Lone Star State washed over all the attendees like a tidal wave.

For three days we were fêted, for a price, on the front lawn and in the ballroom of the hotel. The merchandise was paraded and extolled all in that lazy rolling Texas droll. We rolled through a series of events from an Art Auction warm-up (dress—Semi-formal), to a Baby Doll heifer sale (dress—Smart Casual). The finale was an auction in the Grand Ballroom (dress—Black Tie). Horses and cattle were led through the ballroom and shown on a high, fashion-style ramp. The crowd of three hundred clad in diamonds and designer wear vied for the opportunity to take home prize animals and paintings. Through the whole auction, the Governor acted as a side-man for the auctioneer, explaining the virtues of items as their numbers were called.

When the bidding lagged after an enormous meal, Connally suggested to people by name that perhaps they might like to raise the bid on that item. Surprising to me was the affirmative response that he often got. On one occasion, the bidding on a painting stalled around the $20,000 mark. With the presence of an evangelist, Connally’s large, silver-haired head swung closer to the microphone. “Nelly,” he said to his wife, “I believe if you would bid but $21,000 you could buy a nice paintin’.” And she did. For another image of a Mission church, see Cabo San Lucas Church.