Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"There was no estimating the number of animals in it..."

I am reading the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. They are a classic of the genre, and remain today the standard for presidential memoirs. Grant writes trenchantly, with keen and honest powers of observation. A dry, self-effacing wit pervades, as well as a generosity of spirit: He seems to have recalled every kindness done for him.

Several chapters early on cover his time spent in South Texas in preparation for the invasion of Mexico in 1846. I grew up in South Texas, a place on the cultural and geographic extremity of the United States. While a long-time paradise for birders, who arrive in droves over the winter to witness the great avian migration south into Latin America, it is little written of by outsiders. Grant himself wrote of the emptiness -- save for the vast herds of deer and antelope -- and absence of population centers. But he also wrote this:
A few days out from Corpus Christi, the immense herd of wild horses that ranged at that time between the Nueces and the Rio Grande was seen directly in advance of the head of the column and but a few miles off...The column was halted for a rest, and a number of officers, myself among them, rode out two or three miles to the right to see the extent of the herd. The country was a rolling prairie, and, from the higher ground, the vision was obstructed only by the earth's curvature. As far as the eye could reach out to the right, the herd extended. To the left, it extended equally. There was no estimating the number of animals in it; I have no idea they could have all been corralled in the state of Rhode Island, or Delaware, at one time. If they had been, they would have been so thick that the pasturage would have given out the first day. People who saw the Southern herd of buffalo...can appreciate the size of the Texas band of wild horses in 1846.
The wild horses are long gone from the coastal plains of South Texas. There's little doubt, though, that Grant did not exaggerate the extent of the herd. The four sections of the King Ranch occupy much, but by no means all, of the eastern portion of the coastal bend south of Corpus Christi. The King Ranch is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island...

Citizen K. is the guest blogger tomorrow on Time Goes By...

The Derek Trucks Band releases its new CD (Already Free) today. Woo hoo!...

New Orlean's historic Saenger Theatre to reopen in 2011. I saw Miles Davis at the Saenger in 1986. He led a 10-piece band of mostly young musicians who hung on his every move. It was also one of Miles' few performances with guitarist Robben Ford. As I recall, Miles even rasped a few words. Stanley Clarke opened with a one-man primer on how to play jazz electric bass...

Maureen Dowd eviscerates George, Dick, Rummie, and the rest of the gang here: "[Cheney is] going back to Casper, Wyo., and said he’s giving 'serious thought' to writing a book, so he can continue his extremist makeover. The only thing he can do now is shoot a big lie across the bow and see if it lands..."

3 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Great post! really interesting about Grant and Texas! Loved Dowd's column. Look forward to reading your column on Time Goes By tomorrow!

John Hayes said...

Very good-- the wild horse passage is remarkable. Eberle & I once had a very exciting experience of seeing two wild horses in the distance on a very obscure & unfenced Nevada road crossing over toward Bishop, CA. They are remarkable animals.

Cheney=one of the most evil s.o.b.s ever in US politics.

Will look for your guest appearance tomorrow.

Steve Buser said...

I am now going to have to read Grant's Memoirs. You have pique my interest.