A HOT TIME
IN THE OLD TOWN
By Gael Montana
"Tonsorial Artist and Hill Country Contrarian"
knows the old saw about death and taxes being a certainty…and change.
Always there will be change.
The last quarter century has gone by so quickly that it's a chore
to focus on any one point where change made itself known with one
incredibly sad exception; the heartbreaking loss of Ingenhuett's Fancy
Grocery and General Store early this year. Losing the historic old
landmark to an ill and fiery wind was like losing the heart of our
community, if I may quote my barber partner, Jim. Ingenhuett's was
the oldest operating General Store in town and probably Texas, as
well…up in smoke. Change? You bet.
Photos courtesy Gael Montana
out in front of that wonderful old store visiting with the late Gladys
(Ingenhuett) Krauter is something everyone who knew her will treasure.
It always involved a kind of 'real' discourse that's so hard to find
anymore. Her 'agenda' was her community and the belief that those
who invest in the good of it should have the final word in what happens
there. She did not believe that our local business should be run by
baby shaking hand kissers from away. And if we don't agree, fine,
but WE should work it out between us in a civil and reasonable manner.
A lesson in which we should all take a refresher course. Gladys told
me these things joyfully, the same as she would have told you, and
you'd walk away feeling at home and responsible for your choices.
She had that way about her. Once, when I had occasion to take care
of a tiny little newborn goat, I tried to purchase a bottle nipple
for the kid from Ingenhuett's but Gladys simply gave it to me with
the comment that anyone crazy enough to feed up a kid should be humored.
She had a razor-sharp wit and a heart and smile the size of the sun.
Boy howdy, we sure miss her. No one more than Jimmy, who, after taking
his first job there won her hand in marriage and spent his life at
her side. Jimmy and their son, Gregory, held that store together when
Gladys passed and were champions of the community in every way. From
turning the front of the place over to the Law West of the Guadalupe
every Friday evening to seeing that the legacy of the original Freethinkers
prevailed, unsullied by misunderstanding and bigotry. Both stories
that deserve a telling of their own so I'll let them rest for now.
before the fire
the years I bought heading ropes, jackknives, lantern fixtures and
globes by the case, dozens of boxes of wicks and I don't know what
all. They always had every odd thing anyone might need and if they
didn't, they would have it on order by the end of the week. Door hardware,
rope (stored in the energy elevator on reels), tractor paint, cupboard
paper with little scallops and classic greeting cards from the 1940's.
Hunting and fishing licenses, cammo gear to cover you from head to
toe (plus cammo koozies for your beer), summer straws or winter 'Elmer
Fudd's' (like the one Junior Faltin made famous), and ammunition for
guns no longer in production. It's practically impossible to get our
minds around the fact that the old store is gone. I'm not the only
one who is still startled when those bare bones of charred rock come
into view on the old High Street. It was always the 'welcome home'
place and it feels like someone hijacked our anchor.
When anyone needed to know anything about Comfort's colorful history,
Gregory and Jimmy would cheerfully guide them back in time to 'see'
the places and 'meet' the people who made this place what it has become
today. Believe me, that genetic connection makes all the difference.
Generations of the Ingenhuett/Krauter family have faced backbreaking
work and heartrending tragedy with such grace and kindness that it
boggles the mind how this could befall them. Today they prevail with
stoic strength and the same grace that got them to this place in time.
They are our living proof that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
We, their neighbors, friends, and extended family, wait patiently
for their next move so we can know how best to serve them in the next
chapter of history.
From now on, at Gael's Comfort Barber Shop down the street, we refer
to all happenstances as occurring before or after 'the fire'.
View from Under the Bus'
4, 2007 Column