Usually I don't favor continued stories, but in this particular instance I feel I left my readers not knowing what happened on our Texas hike 'way up the beach.'
We were up bright and early that morning, breakfasted at a restaurant that stayed open all night, and got to Boca Chica Beach before 7 A.M. It was beautiful out there, quiet and misty, and we were alone in the vast wonder of it. We stripped off our shoes and stockings to cross the first channel cut in by last fall's hurricane. I'm sure we both felt a bit of apprehension at what we were going to do.
It isn't quite the usual thing for two aging Wisconsin farmers to set out on a five mile hike that is five miles one way. Perhaps we were trying to prove we were 'still in the buggy,' as my Kansas pen pal puts it.
The beach birds were racing with the waves, adventuring out a short distance and then running back to what they considered the proper margin of safety. They also measured our approach with the same graceful retreats and returns. Tide was at low ebb right now and we only waded ankle depth as we set out on our adventure. At first it seemed to be fun to remain barefoot but there was broken glass and other signs of men having left their untidiness, so we put on our shoes again.
Novices that we were we brought no container to gather shells, and sand dollars. As we walked into the morning we filled our pockets. This wasn't satisfactory, especially for the fragile sand dollars. Alfred's shirt pocket worked, but not his pants pocket. When his shirt pocket was full he couldn't lean over or he would lose all we had gathered. So he resourcefully devised a sling of his white handkerchief and were we in business again. The shells was another matter. Before long I tied the sleeve ends of my sweater securely shut, slung it over my shoulders and began gathering to my heart's content.
Each mile I became heavier and heavier, and his shirt pocket filled up again. I had to do all the stooping while he looked at me with that amused smile which some husbands save for their wives. Some fisherman passed us with their jeeps while I secretly turned the thought over in my mind that they might ask us to ride back with them. They would have to get out too before high tide. We trudged on and on.
When we finally got to the jetty we began searching for the old fort. We headed back from the beach toward a red flag which we trusted was what we were looking for. We found a hill and millions of big hungry mosquitoes. I began to be a bit cautious. There was underbrush and I wasn't so sure about Texas snakes. But we had come this far so we weren't going home defeated. We hunted some more and finally found what we were looking for, row after row of old, old tent-stakes. The sand had drifted in during the winter months and we could not see the wagon tracks which the cannon carts had left in the baked clay. These had been visible, we were told, when the storm's fury and abated and also other items were picked up by early visitors to the spot.
This fort was covered by an earlier storm and as the story goes some of the men perished here at the time. Zachery Taylor was then a Major General in the army and was carrying on his activities in the Mexican War. They feel this was his fort. He later became the twelfth president of our country. What a feeling of the making of history I had as I stood there overlooking the spot. But we couldn't tarry long as the tide was coming in and we knew a couple had been stranded here not long ago and had to spend the night on the beach until they could wade back to their car again. We had crossed two channels on the way out here and must retrace our steps.
As we labored back toward the beach one fishing party zipped back to safety. They paid us no heed. About then I spied something sticking out of the sand. After digging a little more I unearthed a beautiful conch shell. Twelve inches or more in length. Oh! I had a prize! But also I had more to carry. And this one wouldn't fit in my bulging sweater sleeves either. It took both my hands to carry it. But it gave me new impetus.
Down the beach we marched, keeping rhythm to the old army song 'We're in the army now, We're not behind the plow. You'll never get rich, by digging a ditch We're in the army now.' We kept saying it to ourselves as we virtually swung along, army style. We found one of our fishermen busy at work. He thought he might stay all night. The fishing was good. 'Oh me,' says I. 'Walk, Babers, Walk.'
My Steam Engine Man was getting blisters on his feet....mine, encased in my tennis shoes, were burning like fire. The water's edge was handy so I began playing the game of the beach birds, and found I didn't have to run quite as much as they. I had enough shells and enough woman to have good traction.
Sometime after the crossing of channel number three was behind us, another fishing jeep passed by. By this time I didn't even care. I never looked up from under my red scarf. It was protecting my equally red forehead, and I was walking head-bowed-forward to try and save my nose from horrible blisters. The sun tan lotion, still floating around in one sweater pocket had long been forgotten. I only had two hands. Alfred came limping some distance behind.
Again we stretched out on the beach to rest, face down. And when we got up, THE CAR WAS IN SIGHT - THE CAR WAS IN SIGHT! It was almost one o'clock and we were hungry and thirsty. Digging our Fresco out from under two bed pillows we had a nice cool drink. As so often before our bed pillows had doubled for a refrigerator.
This time we had waded in over our knees and it was still three hours until high tide. We looked back at the distance we had come, that is, part of it, and happily crawled into our car. The next morning we could scarcely crawl out of bed. We realized we probably hadn't been too wise, but we had been adventuresome, and it left a lovely glow around our hearts. It is a memory I think we will keep through eternity. Somehow I felt so close to God on that beach it was unbelievable. And as I trudged with my load I felt a kinship with the one Great and Eternal Burden Bearer. And He did it for you and for me. But we picked up one hundred and six sand dollars and many shells. These we will long treasure.