Corpus Christi (Body of Christ!) down in the south on the gulf,
then just imagine a burg about 40 miles southwest, and flatter than a
griddlecake, peppered with mesquite trees.
We are here to celebrate Paul Sr.'s 80th birthday.
(Paul Sr. is here because 41 years ago he accepted a job as head
librarian at Texas A & M. ) I noticed upon entering town this morning
that the Terrorist Risk in Kingsville today is Yellow. (Just thought
I'd let you know.) The big claim to fame here is the King Ranch, which
encompasses more square miles than the state of Rhode Island.
Once known as the Wild Horse Desert, Kingsville, founded in 1904,
lies in the middle of land once part of the Rincon De Santa Gertrudis
Spanish Land Grant. Captain Richard King was a steamboat captain
who became enamored of this landscape when traveling by horseback
from Brownsville to Corpus Christi. He set up camp on the Santa
Gertrudis Creek, therefore establishing a base for one of the most
celebrated legacies in international ranching. We must not forget
his wife Henrietta, who donated land for the town site,
and who was instrumental in luring the St. Louis and
Brownsville Railroads, connecting Kingsville to the larger universe.
Miss Henrietta also decreed that Kingsville be dry, owing to
Richard's excessive guzzling of fine likker.
This law persisted into the 1970's.
Besides the university, Kingsville is home to a Naval Air Station.
That aside, Paul assures me that there is not one fine-dining
establishment between here and Corpus Christi. We lunched
at Young's Pizza, home of P.'s first job. They serve some kick-ass
sandwiches -- mine was coppacola, provolone, pepperoncini
with a light horseradish mayo, served hot. A perfect combination
of flavors. Iced tea in pint glasses, graffiti over EVERYTHING inside
save the table tops, which the management requests be left clean.
The local grocery store is the H.E.B. and not a soul pronounces it "heb."
I've been referring to it as Heb-Mart, to P.'s dismay. Speaking of marts,
when odious Wal-Mart moved in some years back, it essentially
shuttered the old downtown. There are a few holdouts, including
a drugstore which houses a 1950's-era lunch counter in the back.
And of course, a visit to Kingsville wouldn't be complete
without a visit to the King Ranch Store, which sells dinner napkins,
handbags, silver bracelets, boots, porcelain, scarves, belt buckles, skirts,
placemats, saddles, sofas, a sedan chair(!), carved-horn business
card holders, and chaps: all emblazoned with the Running W brand.
As far as I'm concerned this store contains just about every
Texas cliche imaginable, plus some really cool stuff
one would most likely not find anywhere else on the planet.