The Ladies Page

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

Again we stretched out on the beach to rest, face down. And when
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.

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