Moonlight Reflections at the Alamoby
I first noticed the guy setting up a tripod for his camera, I figured he just
wanted a good shot of the Alamo
at night. |
Sitting on the short rock wall just across from the
old mission, I took a puff from the cigar I’d bought at the Menger
Hotel and absorbed the sights and sounds around me.
| A Bible-waving sidewalk
evangelist stood in front of the one-time fortress loudly offering a sermon on
the wages of sin and the forgiveness of Jesus. A few people actually seemed to
be listening, but most passersby pretended he wasn’t there. |
time, an older man and a young blonde walked up to the front of the
Alamo. The blonde moved a few yards closer to the chapel under the watchful
gaze of one of the Alamo Rangers, a young man in a tan uniform with a white straw
cowboy hat on his head and semi-auto on his hip. He also wore a protective vest
beneath his shirt, something the defenders of the
Alamo sure could have sure used.
The blonde struck a provocative pose
and her companion used his cell phone to snap a picture of her in front of the
world-renown Texas icon. They held hands as they walked away. Clearly she wasn’t
out for a stroll with daddy, unless maybe a Sugar Daddy. Could be they were married
and he was just prematurely gray, but they didn’t act like it. Either way, I imagine
Col. William Barrett Travis, who claimed numerous feminine conquests in his diary,
would have approved.
Travis would have been bewildered, however, at the
steady stream of cell phone photographers (I only saw three traditional-looking
cameras) recording what must be one of the most-captured images in Texas.
At least the firebrand lawyer would have found the clip-clop of the gaily
lighted carriages circling the plaza looking for tourists reassuring. But then
the people on the segue scooters rolled up. Their guide lined his charges up with
the Alamo behind them and took a
group photo, a souvenir of their downtown tour on a two-wheeled machine that did
their walking for them.
A street-smart kid likely up to no good broke
my contemplation of how all this would seem to Travis if he could see the place
of his death all these generations later.
“Hi, sir,” he said, walking
“I don’t need anything,” I said assertively, and he walked
Looking back at the
Alamo, I suddenly realized why the photographer had set up his tripod for
a more-than-casual snapshot. Just in the few seconds I had been distracted by
the teenager, a full moon had partially broken over the old sanctuary. Within
a few moments the moon cleared the wall, rising just to the left of the familiar,
bell-shaped feature added more than a decade after the battle. I have seen some
pretty things, places and people, but the moon rising over the
Alamo that night ranks high on my list of most striking scenes. Earth’s shiny
satellite – about the only thing that hasn’t changed since the time of the
Alamo – now hung over the mission
as bright as a mint condition Mexican cinco peso.
I wondered if the Alamo’s
defenders got to see one last full moon before they died. Indeed, a waxing moon,
88 percent full, rose after 3 a.m. that Sunday, March 6, 1836. A Mexican officer
wrote: “The moon was up, but the density of the clouds that covered it allowed
only an opaque light…seeming thus to contribute to our designs.”
Santa Anna’s design was to end what Mexico
saw as a civil war. The men in the Alamo,
depending on how revisionist you like your history, were a group of land pirates
caught with their defensive pants down or a band of patriots fighting for freedom.
No thinking person can totally buy that the 200 or so men who died on this spot
did so solely in the name of freedom, despite Travis’ passionate rhetoric. When
the end came, they fought for survival.
But neither can that same thoughtful
person deny that the battle site
has become one of America’s enduring symbols of freedom. And after all these years,
we still enjoy that freedom despite some scars, Band-Aids and areas still in need
of treatment. No one had hassled the annoying street preacher, who had every right
to stand there and make his pitch.
I, in turn, was free to enjoy my cigar
(though I no longer have the freedom to smoke in many indoor venues), just as
the posturing, giggling teenagers passing by in groups were free to do their thing,
whatever that might be.
Pondering that, as if on cue, a Middle Eastern
family walked between me and the Alamo.
The woman, pushing a baby carriage, wore the traditional Muslim veil. The couple
and their child received even less attention than the now-departed preacher, but
I saw a strong metaphor in their sudden appearance. Assuming they had valid passports
or were U.S. citizens, they had just has much right to visit the
Alamo as I had.
But they also were a reminder, along with the cell
phone, electric scooters and lighted carriages that the world continues to change.
© Mike Cox
11, 2010 column