27. February 2019 · Comments Off on What They Drive – Part Two · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

Answering the question – what do they all drive in Luna City? The make, model, condition and all usually say something about the character of the owner. So herewith a continuance of the list.

Harry Vaughn: his personal transport – other than the RV which he drove down from Alaska several seasons ago – is a vintage ’66 Lincoln Continental convertible, candy-apple red and in pristine condition. Harry Vaughn is considerable of a chick magnet among the older generation in Luna City. He also has a fifteen-foot aluminum boat with an erratically-functioning outboard motor.

Romeo Gonzales: Romeo, the oil-field worker turned top male model, arrived in Luna City at the wheel of an extended-cab pick-up truck, make and model unspecified, slightly battered but in good condition mechanically. Like many of the Gonzales and Gonzalezes, Romeo is an excellent shade-tree mechanic.

Susanna Wyatt-Gonzales: As a senior executive (now on hiatus from VPI) Susanna, like Doc Wyler, makes enough to indulge in the very best. In her case a late-model, velvet-black Mercedes sedan with custom pink leather interior.

Roman Gonzalez: Another extended-cab pickup truck, of course. Not ostentatiously new, but slightly battered from use, and usually slightly dirty, with a rack carrying several ladders, a big toolbox, and whatever else is required at the job site of the day.

Hernando “Nando” Gonzalez: It’s been almost three decades, but the legend of Nando Gonzalez lives on, in the ritual sounding of the air raid siren every November 1st at 11 AM. Nando drove a an immense,  boat-like late 60’s Cadillac into town every day for lunch at the Café – a car which increasingly suffered glancing collisions with curbs, telephone poles, fire hydrants, trash cans, the oak tree at Oak Street and West Town Square, the ornamental bollards in front of the Café itself, and other automobiles – until the then-police chief began sounding the siren in warning.

Xavier Gunnison Penn: An older RV, not in especially good condition, with Gunnison Penn’s treasure-hunting logo and picture emblazoned on the sides.

Luc Massie: Drummer for the band OPM and assistant chef at the café. Luc operates a small red Vespa motorbike.

The Walcott family has several vehicles: Clovis and Sook usually drive a late-model sport utility vehicle, black and with all kinds of automotive bling. They maintain an old Volvo sedan for the use of their teenage children to drive.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know.

03. February 2019 · Comments Off on What Do They Drive? · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Luna-ites

One of those things that I have practically had to make a chart for, when writing about Luna City – is keeping track of the vehicles which the various characters drive; they are mentioned now and again, and over seven (and this year to be eight books) I have to try and be consistent. Car ownership – make, model, style, color and condition – say something about the personality of the driver/owner. Herewith the run-down; as near to complete a listing of those motor vehicles (not necessarily automobiles or trucks) which I have noted in passing:
Berto Gonzalez: he routinely drives an assortment of luxury town cars and limousines as part of being employed by his Uncle Tony, who owns a car-hire service catering to the up-scale market. Berto also routinely drives a rather down-at-heels pickup truck owned by his father; a vehicle with a cracked vinyl seat patched with duct tape. He does not yet own his own personal vehicle, as he has no real need to do so.
Jess Abernathy-Vaughn: a bare-bones yellow Jeep Wrangler.
Joe Vaughn: ordinarily behind the wheel of the Luna City PD’s one cruiser, or one of the department’s sport-utility vehicles. His personal vehicle is a pickup truck, model unspecified, but of solid quality and well-maintained. Joe is fastidious, that way.
Doc Wyler: a very recent model Ford F-150 King Ranch model pickup, with the cattle-brand designed logo of the Wyler Ranch on the doors, and all the add-on bells and whistles. Doc is a man accustomed to the best and has the means to acquire and maintain such.
Sefton and Judy Grant: The Grants operate – and barely manage to keep it street-legal in the eyes of the motor vehicle licensing authorities – a vehicle pieced together from an old Volkswagon bus, with a pickup-truck bed welded to the back half of the chassis, behind the driver and passenger seats. The sides of the truck bed and the doors to the driver/passenger compartment are spray-painted with flowers, peace signs and vintage hippie mottoes, in between the rust.
Miss Letty McAllister: she does not drive.
Richard Astor-Hall: he does not drive, either.
Chris Mayall: a recent model Mitsubishi hatch-back; bright red in color. Chris, like Joe, is fastidious about vehicle maintenance, and is still annoyed at the bill for bodywork incurred when he collided with a deer – even though the Gonzalez Motor and Auto Body shop gave him the friends-and-family rate. Chris blames the deer for reckless grazing.
(to be continued)

28. September 2018 · Comments Off on Spring 2018 Luna City Chamber of Commerce Newsletter · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

The land upon which the small town of Luna City was formally established was originally part of a Spanish land grant to Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez (or Gonzales) and his sons Augusto (the eldest and eventual heir) and Tomas. Correct spelling of the family name is a matter of uncertainty. Handwriting on the original records of the grant is difficult to read, and within a generation or two Don Diego Manuel’s descendants were spelling their surname with either an ‘s’ or a ‘z’ interchangeably. The grant, consisting of a league and a labor of land (that is about four and a half thousand acres) was officially recorded in 1769, although there is evidence for the family to have established a residence and begun raising stock in the area from the 1720s on.

The first Don Diego Manuel was a trusted officer in his youth, serving under the command of of Jose de Escandon, the first governor of Nueva Santander, a colony stretching along the Gulf Coast between Tampico, Mexico and into present-day Texas as far as the San Antonio. The Gonzalez/Gonzales family originated in Gijon, Cantabria; and connected to the Escandon family through social and kinship networks. The Gonzalez/Gonzales family name is an alternate spelling of Gonzaga; the Gonzalez/Gonzales of Gijon are thought by historians to be descended from the notorious Cardinal Pedro Gonzaga – a dissolute but able administrator, and ally of the equally notorious Borgia family two centuries previously.

In any case, the grant – known in most records as Rincon de los Robles, or Oak Corner – continued in it’s original incarnation and acreage for a century after being officially recorded. Taking its’ name from a grove of particularly fine oak trees, many of which still stand throughout Luna City, the Gonzalez/Gonzales clan ran cattle, horses, sheep and goats on various tracts, establishing several small herding camps for their employees. One such camp was excavated in the early 1970s just inside the present-day main gate of the Wyler Lazy W Exotic Game Ranch; a two-room adobe structure, half bunk-house and half-stables. Although of interest to social historians, nothing much besides a few coins, pottery shards and bottle fragments was found in the course of the excavation. A historical marker was placed on the site in 1975, as this is the oldest known permanent building of any kind in or near Luna City.

Meanwhile, location of the main residence for the Gonzalez/Gonzales clan is uncertain, although certain outbuildings on the present-day ranch headquarters of Rincon de los Robles hint at a very early date of construction.  The Gonzalez/Gonzales family prospered in a mild way; both Augusto and Tomas are recorded as having fathered eighteen and twenty-three children, respectively, through several marriages or other, less official arrangements. Most of these offspring are known to have lived to adulthood, although due to a rather casual attitude to record-keeping, only the main line of descent from oldest son, to oldest son can be ascertained with precision. An inclination towards very large families, with frequent use of the same names, marriage within the extended clan and informal adoption over three centuries complicates any attempt to make sense of the Gonzalez/Gonzales family tree. The majority of Augusto and Tomas’ descendants still live in and around Luna City.

Proud Tejano patriots during the Texas War for Independence, at least three members of the Gonzalez/Gonzales clan of Rincon de los Robles on the San Antonio River served with Captain Juan Sequin during Sam Houston’s retreat into east Texas in 1836 and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. Alas, having served with valor in the war did not spare local Tejanos from later suspicion and political disenfranchisement on the part of the mainly Anglo establishment. Although having no interest in and taking little part in the Civil War, a mere fifteen years later, the hardships brought about by that war and the collapse of the Confederacy, took a toll on Rincon de los Robles. In 1867, a large portion of the grant remaining were sold for hard cash by Don Anselmo Gonzalez, (in direct line the great-great-great grandson of Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez (or Gonzales) to Captain Herbert Kling Wyler, CSA. During the War, Captain Wyler (a native of Kentucky) had been posted to Texas, where he was involved in moving Confederate cotton to Brownsville and thence over the border to the Mexican port of Baghdad, from where it was shipped to Europe. Captain Wyler, unlike many of his Confederate compatriots, emerged prosperous from the conflict, and turned his considerable energies into building up his own ranch property.

The infusion of cash into the much-diminished Rincon de los Robles Ranch was not wasted on Don Anselmo, or on his son, Don Antonio, who inherited the diminished Rincon de los Robles in his turn and turned his attention to breeding and raising prize-winning merino sheep and angora goats. It should be noted that Don Anselmo had cannily held on to the lushest pasturage adjoining the river and most of the oak woods which gave the ranch its name.  Don Antonio, who trained originally in law, eventually became one of Texas’ leading authorities on the parasites particular to angora goats. It is Don Antonio who fought the last officially recorded duel on the streets of Luna City. A historical marker on Town Square marks the place.

In 1884-5, Captain Wyler developed an interest in making a third fortune, upon realizing that the best route for a proposed railway connecting San Antonio with Aransas Pass lay across a portion of his vast properties in Karnes County. He proposed forming a corporation to establish a model town at the point where the old road between San Antonio and the coast – to Don Antonio, still the second-largest landowner in the district.  Don Antonio, no fool, and having little reason to trust Captain Wyler (who had a long-established reputation as a man with very few scruples and great determination) agreed – made his contribution to the corporation with a few acres on the northern border of Rincon de los Robles for the town site rather than his bank balance. He made it a condition that as few of the standing oaks be felled as possible. Captain Wyler attracted the interest and investment of other parties, before abruptly withdrawing support for the railway, with half the town plots already sold and construction completed, when his adored younger daughter Bessie suddenly eloped with a handsome train engineer. It is considered likely that out of all the investors in the original Luna City, only Don Antonio escaped more or less financially undamaged from the debacle.

The Rincon de los Robles grant exists to this day, as a ranch under the management of Don Antonio’s son, Don Jaimie. His granddaughter, Mindy Gonzalez-Ramirez, is currently conducting research on the existing ranch headquarters buildings, to determine which, if any of them, pre-date the mid-19th century.

 

20. March 2018 · Comments Off on Luna City Chamber Newsletter · Categories: Luna City Info Dump
22. December 2017 · Comments Off on A Tid-Bit of Characters – Xavier Gunnison Penn · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

Xavier “X” Gunnison Penn

–   Wiki Entry    –

 

Xavier Gunnison Penn (born 4 June 1949), is a Canadian citizen and self-proclaimed expert treasure-hunter, currently resident in Toronto [citation needed] although he is known to travel frequently throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, Great Britain and Europe. He is chiefly known for his frequent appearances on Coast to Coast, his appearances in various courts on charges ranging from trespass, fraud and public brawling, his notorious lack of success in actually finding any such missing treasure troves, and his high-profile lawsuits against author Dan Brown for plagiarism, actor Nicholas Cage and producers of the National Treasure movie franchise for plagiarism, financier Collin Wyler for defamation of character, the PBS corporation, and Entertainment Weekly for the same, as well as the managers of INTERPOL’s database of stolen works of art. He is banned for lifetime from the premises of all Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction locations, from the Smithsonian Institution, and from the British Museum. He is the author of a number of self-published books, including an autobiography, Memoirs of a Treasure-Hunting Man, outlining his various and largely unsuccessful searches for – among other items of note – the Oak Island Money Pit, the Amber Room, the Charley Mills hoard, the so-called Yamashita’s gold, the missing Civil War-era Confederate treasury, the crown jewels of Ireland, the treasury of the Templars, a valuable gold shipment on the RMS Republic, King John’s trove lost near Wisbech, England, and the treasure of Lima.

Penn was born in Manchester, England, the youngest son of Mavis (Gunnison) and William Gordon Penn, who emigrated to Canada in 1956 with their family. He attended various local elementary and secondary schools of no particular note in and around Toronto and Mississauga, and graduated from University of Windsor after eight years of various study  programmes with degrees in History, Geology, and International Law. [citation needed]

Penn’s first and abortive search for buried treasure occurred in the late 1960s, when as a teenager, he participated in the effort by Triton Alliance to excavate the Oak Island Money Pit, on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The Money Pit is theorized to contain everything from pirate loot, through treasuries of several different nations and organizations secreted there for any one of a dozen reasons and over any number of decades. To date, in spite of numerous attempts to excavate it, nothing of much significance has ever been found, leading some to suggest that it was nothing more than a naturally-occurring sink-hole, into which soil and organic materiel such as burned logs from forest fires had washed over centuries.

In searching for the Charley Mills treasure hoard, supposedly hidden somewhere on the family farm once owned by Charles Everett Mills, near Karnesville, Texas. Gunnison Penn was befriended by Collin Wyler, then a college student, whose family owned extensive property near the Mills Farm site. As a teenager, Wyler had long been fascinated by the possibility that Mills, reputed to have been a member of at least two late- 19th century organized robbery gangs, had concealed his share of the loot somewhere nearby. No such hoard has ever been found on the property, which is now a hospitality/event venue owned by VPI, Inc., although the search continued intermittently through 2015.

Penn’s most famous search for treasure, and the one which resulted in a bitter feud and dueling lawsuits between him and fellow treasure- hunting enthusiast Collin Wyler involved the fabulous Amber Room. Penn propounded the unlikely theory that many if not all of the panels of sumptuously carved amber which had adorned a royal palace near St. Petersburg until removed by the invading Nazis at the end of WWII had been transported in a U-boat to the United States. The U-boat, he insisted – against every evidence and likelihood of such an occurrence – had been sunk in or near the Houston Ship Channel in the spring of 1945, and had lain at the bottom of the Channel ever since. He claimed to have proof of this, in the form of a sliver of carved amber, which he claimed to have found in a preliminary search of the site of the wrecked U-boat, and proposed to use as collateral in seeking a loan from Collin Wyler to fund further explorations. Upon analysis by a third party, that supposed piece of amber proved to be part of a carved Bakelite radio cabinet from the 1920s. In 1992, Collin Wyler sued, claiming fraud.

Gunnison Penn was declared persona non gratia by the government of Costa Rica, for his activities in searching for the treasure of Lima, which was thought to have been concealed somewhere on Cocos Island in the early 19th century. Gunnison Penn was also deported from the Philippine Islands in 1975, while searching for a hoard of gold supposedly hidden by the Japanese authorities during the WWII Occupation of the islands. During that expedition, he was reportedly kidnapped by Huk guerrillas [citation needed] who demanded a substantial ransom for his return. The ransom was paid, against the wishes of the Marcos government, who subsequently also declared him persona non gratia.

Described by many as peppery-tempered, autocratic, and litigious, Penn is also extremely sensitive of criticism. A PBS documentary of his search across Wilkes County, Georgia, for the long-vanished Confederate States treasury – missing since the last days of the Civil War resulted in a series of lawsuits. Penn took violent exception to the voice-over commentary of the final broadcast version, which pointed out that the failure of his many treasure-hunting excursions usually involved serious disputes with his partners or investors, or with the host-nation government involved. He brought suit against the writer/producer of the documentary, as well as the narrator, and the PBS network itself. When Entertainment Weekly covered the controversy in a feature story, they were included in the suit as well.

Although the courts eventually found against Gunnison Penn, establishment broadcast channels and print publications have tended to avoid coverage of his activities since that time. His treasure-hunting expeditions are documented on his own website, and through frequent YouTube video releases.

Xavier Gunnison Penn is not married, and there are no records of any informal partnerships or children resulting from such.

(A Snippet from the Second Chronicle of Luna City – giving background on a minor yet reoccuring character.)

04. April 2017 · Comments Off on Winter-Spring Newsletter from Luna City Chamber of Commerce · Categories: Luna City Info Dump
23. March 2017 · Comments Off on A Map of Luna City & Environs · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Places in Luna

At last, I applied myself to the computer, and all the little things that I had dropped in passing about where things were in Luna City — and came up with a map! Yes – this map will be a part of Luna City IV! Behold!

A Map of Luna City and Environs (Not to scale)

A Map of Luna City and Environs (Not to scale)

19. January 2017 · Comments Off on The Present Home of the Luna City Volunteer Fire Department · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Places in Luna
A View of the LCVFD Building, which will feature in Book 4 of the Luna City Chronicles

A View of the LCVFD Building, which will feature in Book 4 of the Luna City Chronicles

03. September 2016 · Comments Off on The Luna City Volunteer Fire Department · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

(The Luna City Volunteer Fire Department will figure in an upcoming volume of the Chronicles of Luna City … so a little background is in order.)

The Luna City Volunteer Fire Department is Luna City’s oldest and most venerable civic establishment, established in 1878, beating out the Masonic Lodge by a matter of eight months, and the Catholic parish of Saints Margaret and Anthony by a full year. Arthur Wells McAllister designed a building intended to serve as a fire house at the south-east corner of Town Square. The building, now a retail space for several antique and crafters, was the firehouse for thirty years. The distinctive twin double-door entrances meant to facilitate a pair of horse-drawn hose and pumper wagons are still evident in the façade.

Arthur Wells McAllister, being a forward-thinking city planner, naturally made accommodation for every civic service and improvement required by the last quarter of the 19th century. In the days when cooking, heating, and lighting a home depended on wood or coal fires, oil lamps or candles, domestic fires were an all-too-frequent occurrence, and an organized fire-fighting company of some kind was a civic necessity secondary only to a law-enforcement function. A busy man himself, Arthur Wells McAllister presented the task of organizing a fire company to another founding member of Luna City, Madison R. Bodie. Bodie, who had originally been a ranch foreman at Captain Herbert Kling Wyler’s Lazy W, had saved his wages and investment share into a business providing patent cattle feed, grain and hay to his former employer and other local ranchers. A native of San Antonio, Madison Bodie had been an active member of Milam Steam Fire Company #1, and thus had the ideal experience to take on organizing a new civic volunteer firefighting company.

Madison Bodie soon had recruited thirty fit and enthusiastic male volunteers, and attracted the generous support of town merchants. A pair of horse-drawn steam-powered pumps was purchased from the Waterous Engine Works Company, of St. Paul, Minnesota. For many years, community celebrations featured a race between Engine #1 and Engine #2 around the perimeter of Town Square. The two engines faced their first serious fire-fighting challenge in extinguishing a fire at the mansion of Morgan Sheffield – like Arthur McAllister and Madison Bodie, a man who had expected more of Luna City’s prospects than were eventually delivered. Morgan Sheffield, who settled on a small tract of land along the river, slightly to the south of Luna City, had found a natural sulphur hot-spring in the course of building his home. He had entertained hopes of a hotel and curative spa on the site. Work had just barely begun on a bathhouse and hotel, when a lightning strike on the roof of his house during a summer thunderstorm set fire to the roof.

The volunteers, alerted by one of the workmen, raced to the scene, and were successful in extinguishing the fire. In gratitude and as a token of his esteem, Morgan Sheffield had a silver speaking trumpet engraved with the date, the emblem of the company, and presented to Fire Company Chief Bodie. The silver engraved speaking trumpet was a prized symbol of authority, and after it ceased to be a practical tool for directing firefighters, it was displayed in a special glass case in the firehouse.

Eventually, the original firehouse building proved too small and ill-placed to accommodate Luna City’s first fully-motorized ladder and pumper fire trucks, which were purchased in 1920 and 1922. The fire department moved to its present location on West Elm Street, although the present-day fire house is the third building on that site. The first building on the site had to be extensively expanded with the acquisition of larger vehicles in subsequent decades. Embarrassingly, the second firehouse burned to the ground on the 4th of July, 1939, while all vehicles and volunteers were attending to a massive fire in a hay-barn on the Wyler Ranch. Many relics dating from the early years of the LCVFD were lost in that fire, including the silver speaking trumpet, and other artifacts and memorabilia.

The present Luna City VFD building accommodates a multi-purpose fire engine, a tender and a ladder truck, a brush truck for fighting grass and brushfires, a command truck and the ambulance, living quarters for full-time fire fighters, medics. and volunteers on regular shift, a classroom, storage area and wash-rack. There are six full-time paid professional firefighters; the remainder of the eighty-strong force are volunteers; either reserve, in training status or junior members. Junior members must be of high school age, and participate in regular training sessions. They assist with fundraising and educational outreach to the local community, and are considered full-fledged members of the LCVFD after their 18th birthday. Training sessions are held weekly; Wednesday evenings from 6-9 PM.