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Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories

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Columns | Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories

There’s a Little Known Story at
Haak’s Vineyard and Winery
in Santa Fe

by Bill Cherry
Bill Cherry
It is totally incongruous that you can weave down the back roads of Santa Fe, Texas, passing fields with abandoned cars and tractors perched on this and that and left to rot, see a nice handful of homes among house trailers and repair shops, and almost at the end of the last street, rising like the Phoenix, find a beautiful mission-style building with tightly mowed fields around it.

That fancy building is the cornerstone of the Haak Vineyard and Winery, and that whole idea continues to promote incredulity among those who have never seen it, much less those who have never been there for one of its free late Sunday afternoon jazz concerts and wine tastings.

I’ve known Raymond and Gladys Haak for years. Raymond is the creator. He’s the one who follows his dreams, and Gladys is the one who’s his business manager; the one who makes sure he is able to accomplish his dreams.

This team of two has made Raymond a band guitarist, a degreed electrical engineer, the developer of mini-warehouses all over the area, and the owner of a very profitable convenience store. The vineyard and the winery are the latest Raymond and Gladys Haak adventure, and it’s that total incongruity that convinced me to go see for myself.

Raymond, Gladys and I were sitting on stools at a table. My recorder was going, and I was looking for the story that I would write about them. Superficially I figured it would be some angle about why an electrical engineer and his wife, a former public school district accountant, both in their sixties, decided to roll the dice that a winery would bring them their pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and that it would be down an eclectic road in Santa Fe.

The door to the room was behind me. I felt the spirit of something supernatural rising in the room. I promise I did. And then a small dark-haired young woman with a genuine smile of straight teeth came from behind me and into my vision, and Raymond said, “This is our daughter Bridget.”

I don’t know how old she is, maybe she’s in her thirties, but she looks younger.

Bridget works at the winery. She’s got an impressive education – a master’s degree from Texas A & M in a computer science field. But it turns out she also has a major problem. She has trouble making decisions, decisions of any magnitude. There was even a time when she couldn’t decide whether or not to chew her food or to swallow it, for goodness sakes.

While she was in college, she met and married, and they had a little girl, but the little girl was afflicted with a rare congenital defect that had nothing more than a scientific name. No way to manage it. No way to cure it.

So even with all of the care and the medical treatment, it would eventually take her life. She didn’t even make it to kindergarten.

And all of that put such a strain on Bridget’s marriage that there was no solution but to divorce, and that’s not a decision Roman Catholics make lightly.

Bridget had sung with her sister. She had sung with the various bands of the famous Galveston County entertainers, including the Herb Corbetts. Singing is one of her tools of self-expression. And even though it was around her from time to time, she never took up smoking or drinking or even experimenting with illegal drugs. Bridget was there to sing, not to adopt a wild life.

One time when she was trying to get her life back in order after she had lost her daughter and then her husband, she went to Austin to see some girlfriends and to hear Austin music.

They were all sitting together in one of the nightclubs when Bridget asked where the restroom was. She got up and headed toward the wall where there were three doors. Like the most vicious and graphic scene of a horror movie, she picked the wrong door. It was an abandoned elevator shaft. She stepped in and fell three floors.

And the most tragic of the results of that fall was a great deal of brain damage. And accompanying that was psychological damage. That came from her own wonderment as to why she had made the wrong choice of doors, a wrong choice that followed what she and her family thought had been a wrong choice of husbands. Both tragic.

Months of rehabilitation followed. She had to have someone with her night and day. And she had to have someone with her night and day primarily because, for an example, she couldn’t make the decision to chew her food, she had to be told to. And she’d store it in her cheek until she was told to swallow it.

Fortunately Bridget has responded to the mixture of good therapy plus the passage of time. Now she can make most day to day decisions on her own, but she still has trouble with anything more than that.

So when Bridget Haak comes into the room, a great deal more is added to the gathering’s context than just that of the addition of another person.

Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories

November 3, 2009 column
Copyright William S. Cherry. All rights reserved

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