Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Señor Flores's Ghost

Ten or twelve miles west of Georgetown, Texas, at the junction of US 183 and State Highway 29, in rural Williamson County, sits a little burg called Seward Junction. Not much there beyond a stoplight and a gas station/restaurant, which jibes with what the Handbook of Texas Online has to say about the place. Seward Junction though, is getting less and less rural, within the foreseeable future to be absorbed into the greater Georgetown conurbation; with the latter place being ingested into the sprawl of Austin. (Poor Austin ! No matter how much the "Keep Austin Weird" crowd hates it – Austin’s growing -- much to the benefit of re-tread hippies, granola crunchers and computer geeks who like to moan about global warming while partaking in cheap shopping and decent housing).

But I’ve wandered from the subject, which was Seward Junction, the lead-in to my real subject. A bit east of the junction, maybe a mile, a sign on State Highway 29 informs you that you’re passing a “Historical Marker.”

My wife has relatives a little way up the road, so I have been passing that way, for one reason or another, for some years, and I kept meaning to stop and check out the marker. Finally, one long June afternoon several years ago, I did.

It seems that someplace near what’s now Seward Junction, back on 18 May 1839, Lieutenant James O. Rice and some Texas Rangers attacked a party of Indians and Mexicans near the Little River, killing three, and capturing about 600 pounds of gunpowder and lead (for making shot), 114 horses and mules, plus camp equipage. According to Walter Prescott Webb’s The Texas Rangers: “[j]udged by its results, this is probably one of the most important Indian fights that ever took place in Texas.” One of the three men killed was Manuel Flores, a Mexican agent.

Note the date. This little fight was just three years after the fall of the Alamo and Sam Houston’s victory at San Jacinto. Despite the Treaties of Velasco (14 May 1836) extorted by the Texans from a captive President-General Santa Anna (momentarily cut down to size), the Mexicans never, ever really recognized the independence of Texas. Almost before the ink was dry on the Velasco treaties, and right up to the start of the Mexican War in 1846, quite a bitter little war, sometimes cold, sometimes hot, raged on the Texas frontier.

Señor Flores was what we’d call now a “covert operative.” He seems to have been working under cover for the Mexicans on the US/Mexico border for a long time. According to The Handbook of Texas Online, in pre-Texas independence days, Señor Flores, then living in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana -- carried on an illegal trade with the Caddo Indians and did his level best to get them to disaffect from the United States. When the Texas Revolution got underway, Señor Flores unsuccessfully tried to enlist the Caddos on the side of the Mexicans, and got out of town just ahead of the US troops coming to shut him down.

And then, in 1839, here we find Señor Flores, in central (then western) Texas, trying to stir-up the local Indians against what Mexicans saw as despised filibustering Yanquis and their pretend republic. Santa Anna was Mexican President again, after having redeemed himself in the “Pastry War” (when the French took Veracruz to collect some debts in 1838). Santa Anna, losing a leg in that conflict (and satirically referred to sometimes thereafter as “the Immortal Three-Fourths”) wanted to send an army back into Texas, and Señor Flores and friends were doing the preparatory work.

The invasion didn’t actually happen until 1842, when the Mexicans occupied San Antonio, briefly, leaving after the Texas Army beat General Woll at Salado Creek. But expected Indian support for the invasion didn’t materialize. . .

No question, Lieutenant Rice and his Rangers did a good day’s work that May afternoon, sending Señor Flores and some of his friends straight to Hell. According to Webb (cited above), Flores “. . .had on his person papers revealing the plot to unite all the Indians on the frontiers of Texas for a general war which was to be aided by a simultaneous attack by a large army from Mexico.”

But when I pass near Seward Junction, I don’t think of Lieutenant Rice, the supposed Indian plot, the Texas Rangers, General Woll’s abortive invasion, or even the Immortal Three-Fourths – who could never get it quite right. I think instead of old Señor Flores.

He must have been a man, eh ? Operating basically alone, in the middle of nowhere, out on the frontier, first against the US, and then against Texan settlers who would have cheerfully roasted him alive on a spit (and with bloody good cause too !). Dealing with Indians who probably didn’t like him much either, who were constantly weighing, in their own interests, the possibility of a double-cross; and, would have as soon roasted him alive on a spit as take his money and guns. Pressed for results by a more or less incompetent far away government. But there he was, Agent Flores, in there kicking, doing his whole duty for his ungrateful country. Whatever the Mexicans paid him, it can’t have been enough.

Señor Flores was the enemy, and I’m glad he went down that day in May, so long ago. Still, what a stud. I haven’t dropped by and communed with Señor Flores’s ghost in awhile. But I owe him a cerveza.


louielouie said...

it is a wonderful history lesson in the kingdom.
i must admit i thought the tale would lead to a present day comparison of insurgents trained in iran stirring up trouble in iraq. or specops operating in iran.....not that that is happening or anything of the sort.
in the years preceeding this event with senor flowers, during the fredonian wars, texas was not a very hospitable place to be.
if my comment has a point, it would be how the organization know as the texas rangers is viewed. imo EJM I correctly portrays the days work done near this historical marker. which brings to mind a PBS segment i watched a year or so ago in which the rangers organization was thoroughly trashed en masse. how can we get accurate information in this day and age????? i'm pretty sure the rangers were not predeceeors of the boys scouts of america, but look who they were fighting.
it makes one wonder if "one riot one ranger" means anything.....anymore.

on a note of grammatical lapse in judgement i noticed:
My wife has relatives a little way up the road

your wife?
your WIFE?
who the help is that?
you might want to reconsider that title before you find out how comfy the neighbor's couch is.......

El Jefe Maximo said...

Hmmmmm. You're right about the nomenclature issue. I'll have to burn incense in front of SWMBO's picture.

Yeah, I'm sure PBS trashed the Rangers. I mean, consider the source ! That sort probably wouldn't be happy unless the Rangers adopted the white flag as its official symbol.

From what I've read of the Rangers, at that time they were the sort of hard drinking, piss-and-vinegar shoot-first-ask-questions-later light cavalry outfit that makes perfect border troops. Just the sort of apples I'd recruit to protect the borders of my vast nefarious empire, did I have the good fortune to be in that business.

Yeah, one riot, one ranger. Too bad we had to get old and lawyer up.

louielouie said...

completely off topic comment:
i just started my taxes.
turbotax 2006.
it won't take long for me.
i'm sure, given the size of EJM I vast & nefarious empire & holdings, documentation for un-documented workers and so forth, resembles the houston phone directory (white & yellow).
just one question before i delve back in:
should/can i trust turbotax with my SSN???

El Jefe Maximo said...

SSN ? I bet you don't mean nuclear submarine, either.

Seriously, beats me. If there's anything I know squat about it's Turbo Tax. Being married to SWMBO the CPA/JD/MBA...etc., etc., I've managed to avoid learing about such mundane matters, and I generally put my John Hancock where she says.

louielouie said...

i'm going to cut my wrists now.
it's been nice being a member of the kingdom.................

El Jefe Maximo said...

Oh don't do that LL. That sort of thing is bad for the rug and paint job and would vex your respectable neighbors; not to mention deprive the country of a taxpayer.