a career officer's daughter, 23-year-old Mauree Pickering knew Army life brought
occasional hardships and frequent travel.
Even so, on Sept. 25, 1913 she
married a soldier, Lt. Frank Mahin. After honeymooning in New York, the couple
left on a steamer for New Orleans. Their chance to have much fun taking in the
sights of the Crescent City dampened by heavy rain, the couple left by train for
Mahin's next duty station, the Galveston County town of Texas City.
small town with a big name, Texas City hosted an Army camp. Not that it amounted
to a strategic location - it had not yet become a petrochemical port -- but with
Mexico embroiled in a bloody revolution, the military had moved more troops into
Texas in anticipation of trouble.
When the American Navy occupied the
port of Vera Cruz in 1914, it looked like the United States would fight Mexico
for a second time since 1848. If orders came to invade Mexico, the soldiers stationed
at Texas City would board ships at the port of Galveston.
Enlisted men lived in tents at the large camp two miles from town, but
officers and their families got to stay in one of Texas City's two hotels.
"A more unattractive place than this hotel would have been hard to find," Mauree
later wrote in her memoir, "Life in the American Army from the Frontier Days to
Army Distaff Hall." Even so, she continued, "we just joined the rest of the Army
families living there, and we had a good time in spite of the drabness."
days after arriving in Texas City, Mauree kissed her husband goodbye at 6:30 a.m.
when he left for his daily duties at the camp. Rain beat down on the hotel's roof
and thunder boomed in the distance, but Mauree liked stormy weather and peacefully
drifted back to sleep.
slumber proved short-lived. About 7 a.m. a bolt of lighting struck only 50 yards
from the hotel, practically blasting her out of bed.
"All of us were sure
the hotel had been hit," she wrote, "and we knew the next thing would be fire….Although
no alarm was forthcoming, we quickly dressed and went downstairs to see what and
where the damage was."
Mauree looked out at a scene of chaos.
A regiment had been marching past the hotel en route to a target range in Galveston
when lightning had struck the column.
"The street was just a tangled
mass of men and animals and wagons, all milling around," she continued. "The officers
were shouting orders as best they could in that downpour, but it was hard to make
oneself heard above the rain, thunder and confusion."
In an impressively
short span of time, the column had reformed and resumed its 21-mile trek to Galveston,
minus two wagons.
Soon, Mauree learned what had happened to those two wagons. The lighting, she
related in her book, "had done the impossible…it had struck the lead mules of
one wagon, and the man riding beside them, but it had skipped the wheelers and
driver! Then it skipped the lead mules of the second wagon and…killed the wheelers
and driver of that second wagon!"
Stranger than that, the two men killed
were brothers. And they may have been the only casualties associated with the
military buildup in Texas during the early days of the Mexican Revolution. Despite
ominous newspaper headlines and saber rattling in both Mexico and the U.S., the
Vera Cruz incident played out without further escalation.
Mahins remained in Texas City through December, when orders came for the troops
there to head for Naco, AZ to guard against any Mexican incursions. But Mahin
already had an assignment for overseas duty, and their stay along the border did
not last long.
Mauree gave birth to twin girls on June 2, 1915 in the Philippines. The Army family
moved from post to post as her husband moved up in rank. A major general by World
War II, Mahin died in a plane crash in 1942.
Three years later, wanting
to preserve the details of her interesting life for her daughters, Mauree wrote
a manuscript she finally published in 1967. She died on May 29, 1985 at the age
© Mike Cox
17, 2006 column
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