24. May 2019 · Comments Off on Fall Newsletter For Luna City · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

(There are some clues embedded in this for future developments. No, I won’t say what they are, I’m cruel, that way!)

Fall 2018 Newsletter-1 Fall 2018 Newsletter-2

09. May 2019 · Comments Off on Another Brief Luna City Background Piece · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

(This eventually will have a bearing on the search for the Gonzaga Reliquary, now thought by international treasure hunter, Xavier Gunnison-Penn to have been brought to the original Spanish land grant, of which the remaining portion is the Rancho Rincon de los Robles, and which is currently unaccounted for.)

The Three Woman Artists of Rancho Rincon de los Robles

By Dr. Miranda Ramirez-Gonzalez

Submitted to various local and Texas-specific publications and rejected by all of them

The Rancho Rincon de los Robles is situated in Karnes County, on the banks of the San Antonio River some ten miles north-east of Karnesville. It has been home for more than two hundred years to the Gonzales/Gonzalez family who originally were granted a league and a labor by His Majesty King Charles III of Spain, to his loyal servant and subject, Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez (or Gonzales)  whose two sons, Augusto and Tomas eventually took up management of a property which in those days, was situated far beyond those bounds of civilization as it was accepted at the time. The family prospered there, until the last quarter of the 19th century, when the eventual heir, Don Anselmo Gonzalez was forced by circumstance to sell three-quarters of the grant to Herbert K. Wyler, who was then established as the largest landholder in the vicinity. However, Don Anselmo was able to hold on to the best-irrigated, and most scenically pleasing acres on the banks of the river, including the venerable home-site, and a grove of noble oak trees at a spot on the river where Luna City would be established at a later date. His son, Don Antonio continued ranching on the diminished acres of the grant, specializing in pure-bred Merino sheep. He married a distant cousin, Agathe Ruiz-Gonzales, and raised a family in the historic ranch-house; a son, Don Jaimie (who eventually inherited in turn) and three artistically inclined daughters. The three daughters never married, but daringly continued exploring their various chosen arts far beyond the limitations imposed by the expectations of their class and era. Carmen (1899-1933, Aïda (1903-1954, and Leonora (1914-1969) were all named for operatic heroines, as their father was an aficionado of grand opera.

Carmen, the oldest, suffered all of her relatively short life from severe asthma and so did not venture far from home. Schooled in the traditional arts at the Ursuline Academy in San Antonio, she was trained there in needlework and embroidery by the nuns, achieving a mild degree of local fame for her intricate and original designs in all aspects of embroidery, tapestry, and fine lace. Many examples of her fabric artwork adorned the family’s historic home on the banks of the San Antonio River, just south of Luna City, most notably in a set of needle-point chair seats in the formal salon. She also designed and oversaw the production of an elaborate series of altar vestments for the parish church of Saints Margaret and Joseph Catholic Church in Luna City, which are still in use for the most elevated church services.

Her younger sister, Aïda was also schooled at the Ursuline Academy, and dabbled in the fine arts, including china-painting, before developing an interest in decorative pottery of the Arts and Crafts movement. Upon matriculation from the Ursuline Academy, Aïda prevailed upon her father to be allowed to attend H. Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans, which offered an extensive program in the arts to women, including participating in production of art pottery. Aïda continued her art studies through to the post-graduate level and was listed as one of the schools’ Art Craftsmen. In 1929, with the failure of the stock market and the start of the Depression, she had to return home to Luna City, where she taught art and design in the Luna City public schools  and continued producing art pottery in her own distinctive style, albeit on a smaller scale than that produced by the Newcomb Pottery.

The youngest sister, Leonora, explored a slightly different and more eccentric artistic path than her sisters, beginning with sculpture, and jewelry-making, in a style which can be described as a kind of found-object Fabergé, incorporating polished stones or beads of ordinary or semi-precious varieties, with simple wire-work settings, or fused-glass jewels or stones set into finely-finished polished hardwoods. Her designs were for items as small as a pair of earrings or a pendant, to belt-clasps and table-top sculptures as much as twenty inches tall. During the Second World War, Leonora took a course offered in welding by the National Youth Administration. Upon successfully completing the course, she worked at the Brown Ship Building Co., in Houston until the war ended. When she returned to the family home in 1945, she continued with larger-scale metal projects, creating ornamental elements such as railings, grilles, gates and fountains. Several of her projects adorn the grounds of Sts. Margaret and Joseph, including a series of Stations of the Cross in the garden between the sanctuary and the parish hall. A wrought-iron fountain by Leonora is situated in the south-east corner of Town Square, opposite the War Memorial.

These three woman artists defied the traditional expectations of their time – and by pursuing their various artistic impulses against the odds, they adorned a larger community in a way which has continued long after their own relatively brief lifetimes.



02. May 2019 · Comments Off on A Luna City Short: The Wages of Crime · Categories: Luna City Short Stories

(The inspiration for this short story came to me last weekend in Granite Shoals, where a member of the local Volunteer Fire Department told me about two of his memorable calls.)

The Wages of Crime

It was Friday at the VFW – guest night, when those in Luna City who had never served in anything resembling a military – were welcome. The VFW, a reconditioned old temporary classroom moved from the grounds of the High School some years ago, to a tree-shaded glade on the banks of the river directly behind the Tip Top Ice House Gas & Grocery. The tall windows across the back of the old classroom looked out onto a weathered concrete patio set about with heavy wooden picnic tables and benches. This was the venue for many a local celebration, as well as being a long-established male refuge, just as the various church ladies’ associations and committees were the female equivalent.
Richard was drawn to sit at one of the tables outside with his closest associates in Luna City – Joe Vaughn, Chris Mayall, and Berto Gonzalez with his cousin Sylvester, dapper as always in a vintage Hawaiian shirt and chino trousers with turn-up cuffs. Chris and Sylvester had been Richards’ partner – if not in crime – then in a completely underhanded scheme to sabotage a movie which came to film on location in Luna City some years previous. Since then, Richard had felt considerable camaraderie with them. They had a history together of a daring and slightly underhanded deed done for the best of causes, under the nose of authority, such as the security team at Mills Farm. And of course, Chris had given him refuge several times, not the least when Sammi Colquhoun, famous for being famous, a lifestyle guru, sometime actress, one-time Page 3 girl, former girlfriend of Richard, appeared in Luna City to be married in a glittering celebration at the old Cattleman Hotel … to the fabulously wealthy son of Richard’s modestly wealthy primary employer. Richard had skated through that social minefield with the assistance of his loyal Café staff; pretending to be Chef Ricardo from Jalisco, who did not understand English.
The late summer breeze – barely mitigated by the shade of a stand of mighty sycamore trees – rustled the leaves overhead. Some distance along the riverbank, it appeared that work for the day was done on a new riverside landing. A series of Brobdingnagian squared blocks of limestone were apparently being stacked from the riverbank in stair-step fashion, reaching out into shallow water.
“’Lo, Ricardo,” Sylvester raised his own beer in greeting, as Richard sat down with a very nice, not-to-over-hopped locally-sourced India Pale Ale. “Admiring the new waterside feature, I see.”
“It looks like a staircase for giants,” Richard commented, distributing a collegial nod to all, as he sat down with his barely-tasted IPA. “What is it supposed to be, in reality?”
“A launching-ramp for the Mills Farm water-sporting concession,” Sylvester replied. “For tubers and kayakers. They start from here, and float down the river, enjoying all the scenic wonders of our little patch of paradise…”
“Might even include the spectacle of the Old Communards, skinny-sipping in the old swimming hole by the Age of Aquarius,” Richard pointed out, whereupon Sylvester made gagging sounds.
“Yeah, they’re building one on the river-front at Mills Farm, and a third one a bit farther downriver. Just before the bridge on Route 80 that goes towards Helena. Mills Farm is gonna run a regular excursion bus to collect them all.”
“It might be nice to float the river,” Richard mused. “Without the hazard of running into a stray house or two …”
“You should try it, now and again, Ricardo,” Joe Vaughn hoisted his own beer bottle in salute. “Yeah, I agree that your last venture on it in Uncle Harry’s boat in a dire emergency might have left ya with some skewed memories of the experience…”
“God – all I recall is the impression that he had a whip in hand, and that if I rowed well, I would live,” Richard sank about a third of his own beer. “And then the sobbing women and screaming children.”
“But it all came out OK,” Joe reassured him, and Richard – thinking it all over, at the distance of time involved – concluded that yes, it did. His prep-school experience rowing and sailing had all come to good use, several decades after their acquisition. Now Joe was waxing reminiscent. “Ya handled it all better than I did, with the guy that I was given to ride with, when I first got taken on to the Luna City PD.” Joe sighed, deeply. “God help me – I was supposed to be the experienced one. I had this prospective hire to take on my shift, all up and down 123, in the wee hours. New guy – just came out from California. Decided to bail from a tech company in Austin, wanted to get in touch with his inner hippie, come settle in Luna City and tell all the rest of us how we are supposed to be living … anyway. I take the probie on for the midnight shift – and as soon as we haul out, I get a call – loose livestock on the highway, from the Wyler place. Some a-hole damaged the perimeter fence, we got ….”
“Cattle on the road?” Sylvester ventured, and Joe sighed again.
“Nope. We got a couple of Doc Wyler’s emu birds wandering around loose. Ever seen an emu? Like an ostrich for size but got an attitude like you wouldn’t believe. Aggressive? Those bastards could give lessons to mules and longhorns. Anyway, so I got this probie – a potential new hire along for a ride on shift, see if he has got any game or skills at law enforcement. We got the call and located Doc Wyler’s wandering emus pretty briskly. Came up on them just by the cut-off to the Aquarius. I did say something about that the Wyler Ranch ought to get that stretch of fence repaired … and then I said – just as the emus showed up clear in the spot light ‘Oh, Jesus – do you see the size of those chickens?’”
“And what did he say to that?” Richard inquired, once the roar of laughter from around the table had died down. Joe grinned, reminiscently.
“Nothing much, but he was as white as a ghost, and his eyes went as big as billiard balls, looking at those birds, wandering in the headlights. I said – ‘Ya know what they say; everything is bigger in Texas.’ To which he said nothing at all.” Joe gave a regretful shrug. “We got back to the station at the end of our shift, he said ‘thanks-very-much-I’ll-be-in-touch’ and that was the last, the very last we ever heard of him. Guess he decided to say in Austin, after all.”
“Don’t beat yourself up, man,” Sylvester consoled him. “The last thing the PD needs around here is an officer who can’t tell the difference between an emu and a chicken.”
“Shoot, man – that wasn’t anywhere near the funniest call we ever drew,” Chris chuckled and popped the cap off another beer. “That has to be the time that those two idiots stole Clem Bodie’s bass boat.”
“Oh, yeah,” Joe also chuckled. “’Nacio Gomez and Reuben Sifuentes; Luna City’s very own dynamic duo. You remember them, Ricardo? Those two dirtbags who helped Mizz Mason heist twenty million in antique light fixtures.”
“Vividly,” Richard nodded; the attempted theft of eighteen original, antique Lalique light fixtures from the Cattleman Hotel during the course of extensive renovation work had only been thwarted as a result of casual conversation between himself and Roman Gonzalez.
“You would have thought that the incident to which I refer would have given them both a solid reason to reflect on their career choices, and make an amendment to their lives, but this is ‘Nacio and Reuben,” Joe looked across the table with a sigh. “You want to tell the story, Chris? You were the first on-scene.”
“You tell it better,” Chris grinned. “You set up the situation, and I’ll fill in the vivid details.”
“All right, then. This happened early in the winter – ten years ago, more or less. Now, you know that Clem Bodie is mad for bass fishing, and he had this gorgeous boat – a near to brand-new 18-foot Triton, which was wicked fast. It would be, with a 150 HP outboard engine. Well, that boat sat out on a trailer, round in back of the feed mill, during the week when Clem wasn’t pestering the snot out of the bass in some lake paradise or other. And so it was on a mid-week evening that ‘Nacio and Reuben were tempted mightily, having looked upon the wine when it was red … the beer when it was flowing, and god knows, whatever else they were pounding down. Or smoking. At about two in the morning ‘Nacio drove his old pickup truck around to Bodies…”
“It is a well-established fact that nothing good happens at two in the morning,” Richard commented.
“Affirmative, Ricardo,” Joe sighed. “So, ‘Nacio backed up his truck to Clem’s shiny-new bass boat and trailer, and Reuben eased the trailer hitch down over the ball … and they took off, going like a bat out of hell, once they got onto CR 81. They were heading east; god only knows what those two numbskulls had in mind for that boat…”
“You’d think, if you were embarked on a life of crime, you’d be doing your damndest not to stand out by going 95 miles an hour with a stolen bass boat on a trailer,” Sylvester agreed; it seemed that this epic was new to him. “But no one ever said that ‘Nacio an’ Reuben were the sharpest knives in the drawer.”
“That is probably why they have never had any material success with the criminal lifestyle,” Joe agreed with great solemnity. “It requires forethought, planning, and conscientious attention to detail. Fortunately for us in the law-enforcement profession, most criminally-inclined dirtbags are dumber than a box of hammers, possess no impulse control and have no grasp of the concept of delayed gratification. It’s why we manage to catch so many of them. One of those little details for which Reuben didn’t pay any mind – was the reality that the ball-hitch on the back of ‘Nacio’s beater of a pickup was too damn small for the trailer hitch. They went roaring down 81 towards Helena, and just as they came up to where the road crosses Cibolo Creek, the trailer bounces once, twice … and comes off the ball-hitch. For a few critical moments, however – the trailer continues at roughly the same original speed and trajectory as ‘Nacio’s pickup.”
“We figured out what had happened once the sun came up,” Chris picked up the scattered threads of the tale. “I have never seen a more telling demonstration of the concept of stuff in motion continuing to move at speed.”
“Newton’s first law,” Richard contributed sagely, quoting. “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Don’t look at me that way, chaps – I had an old-style prep-school education lavished upon me, for which my parents wasted thousands of pounds.”
“In this case, the unbalanced force was the concrete barriers on either side of the roadway over Cibolo Creek,” Chris nodded. “We found the marks on the concrete where the trailer crossed over into the other lane, bashed into it … and the boat itself came loose from the trailer, and continued traveling. Continuing at the same speed and in the same direction…”
“At ninety-five miles an hour,” Joe inserted. He seemed to be in a rather pedantic mode. “Possibly more. Although it appeared from the skid-marks on the road that ‘Nacio hit the brakes when the trailer shook loose from the hitch. His pickup, going at a speed slightly slower than that of the recently-detached trailer, and the bass boat on it … was torpedoed by the bass boat. It was a beautiful thing. The boat arrowed straight under the ass-end of ‘Nacio’s truck. Smashed into it like a bunker-buster. The boat was a loss and ‘Nacio’s truck was totaled. When we got called out to the scene … the rear wheels were off the deck entirely, and the front bumper was kissing the road. Clem was … irate,” Joe added, parenthetically. “He had to write off the boat and the fight with his insurance company over the claim was epic … You wanna pick up the thread now, Chris?”
“Gladly,” Chris replied. “The VFD ambulance got called out by the Karnes County sheriff dispatcher. Local good citizen heard a terrific bang and crunch out on the road and called it in; said there had been a massive accident with casualties on the 81 at the Cibolo Creek bridge, could we render medical assistance as the nearest to the incident. So – I was on duty with the bus. And there we went. It was the most interesting and awesome spectacle. Yeah – a spectacle. The empty trailer was there, sitting in the other lane, a good few yards along. And there was the bass boat, wedged under the pickup. ‘Nacio and Reuben were in shock. They were sitting there in the front seats of ‘Nacio’s wrecked pickup.” Chris sighed, apparently deeply relishing the memory of that call-out. “It was an awesome sight; I shit you not. They were sitting there, in the wrecked pick-up, looking out through the windshield, as if they couldn’t figure out why this had happened. Eyes as white and big as cue-balls. At least –” Chris added. “They did have their seat-belts fastened. You know – they did have that going for them, at least.”
“Karma in all it’s full, glorious splendor,” Joe added. “Getting nailed by the very boat they stole.”
“So, what happened to ‘Nacio and Reuben, once y’all stopped pointing and laughing? Sylvester asked.
“Time served in the Karnesville Correctional Center, and a good few stints of dressing in orange jumpsuits and picking up trash from the side of the roads,” Joe answered. “Until this last go-round with the light fixtures, I thought they had learned that crime doesn’t pay.”
“Some people just never learn,” Berto announced, demonstrating yet again his sure command of the transparently obvious.
“And thus is my continued career in law-enforcement guaranteed,” Joe stood and stretched. “As well as that of the Luna City Police department in general. Another round, guys? My treat.”