Retreat to Tecobaca

I just got back from a retreat sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. I knew that every year a men’s retreat is offered by the knights and ever since I joined the Knights I wanted to attend, However, the dates have always coincided with our church activities or something else that I couldn’t control came up that I just could not go.
This year, my spiritually was lacking in such a way that I felt I needed time to reflect and pray. This year my calendar was filled but I had to decide on attending the retreat or go on with the events in my calendar. I decided that I would postponed some of my activities until later.
I had taken a ride out to Camp Tecobaca before to make sure that I knew the route. My wife and I had attended a couple’s retreat years before and we enjoyed the tranquility the place offered. So when she and I arrived at the site, we saw the same road that we had to cross which was right next to the dam with water over running the dam. This time she refused to let me drive to the camp so we turned around and headed back to Kerrville to do some shopping.
So on the day of the retreat I started off but, I had to go to Ft. Sam Houston to pick up some of my prescribed medicine. It should have been a short line but it turned out that there were forty people ahead of me and it took a while. I wanted to be there early so I could meet with the other men. However, when I got there, I looked at the cascading water from the dam actually running harder than I had seen it before and I knew that sometimes fast water running under your tires can float you down river. I went ahead with a little prayer and successfully crossed over.
When I arrived, almost all of the people had been there for a while. I had left home around 2 pm and Got there at 5:30 pm. This is because of the bumper to bumper traffic from 1604 all the way to Boerne, not counting the time at the pharmacy at Ft. Sam Houston.
After checking in which took a few minutes we proceeded to retire the flag. Afterwards I was led to the dormitories with double bunks. I selected the bottom bunk along with everyone else. Later we had a meal of cold cuts and tea. Afterwards we had a director’s comments of the campground. In order to get us together, they had a large bell and it was loud.
Our first meeting or “talks” came around 8:30 pm with a group of musicians coming together to play for us. The songs they were playing reminded me of the time in the military when I had join the choirs and sang the same songs forty years ago. I had forgotten the lyrics but I knew the song. Fortunately, they had printed a book with all the lyrics in English and Spanish.
Our first talk was about “Charity” and how we could define it. One of the Knights was given that theme way beforehand and he excelled at the presentation. Afterwards we would have a group discussions and reflect on what was said and how it would relate to our parish. The other talks were given the next day and they were about the Virgin Mary, Community, and the Rosary. We would follow with discussions, prayer and reflection with every talk.
I didn’t go to bed that first night until way after 11 pm due to spending time during Holy Hour and silently reflecting. I left the chapel and joined the rest of the men gathering at the campfire where we enjoyed the camaradie of men telling tall tales or just sharing their livelihood.
Now, going to bed was a different story. Because I’m in the bottom bunk, I bumped my head several times. There was no air conditioned but there were a couple of fans. The Hill country is known for cool weather at this time of year so we took a jacket with us. Well, I didn’t realize that the window next to my bed was open and I kept getting cold air on my face and that kept me awake until I realized that I could close the window. By that time at two in the morning I had to get up and use the rest room. So, because I forgot to bring pajamas or sweat pants, I had to dress up and go outside to the cold air and go around the building in the dark. Fortunately, I use my iPhone for a flashlight because I forgot to bring a flashlight. I went back to bed and slept until 5:30 am. But didn’t get up until 6:30 am.
By that time coffee was already brewing. So before breakfast, we had to raise the flag and right after that we celebrated Mass. Breakfast was at 8:30 am and consisted of scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, hasbrounds potatoes. Sort of a Shoney buffet breakfast because we serve ourselves at every meal.
We had some free time on Saturday and I elected to shoot some arrows. I had done this while in the Army and I was pretty good at it. That was almost forty years ago. I’ll teach these young whipper snappers, or so I thought. When I let loose of the arrow it went down in front of me. I blamed it on the bow. I picked up another bow and proceeded to do the same. This time it went halfway to the target. Finally, the third time it went way over the target. This time I blame the arrow. The feathers were in the wrong place. I gave up on the archery and proceeded to the skeet range. They were using shotguns. I took my place in line and I thought, I’m a rifleman, I should be able to shoot this gun. So, the instructor showed me how to carry the weapon and strapped a bag with a bunch of shotgun shells in it. When he showed me how to shoot, I went ahead and shot the first clay out of the air. Wow! I still have it! The recoil was not so bad but I still have a little pain on my shoulder. Anyway, I was taking a second shot but the shot gun wasn’t loading right. They gave me another shot gun which I had to load the shells under it and I had to pump it to load. Shooting with this one was a little difficult and I missed the second shot. However, I got used to it and shot my third clay to bits. I thought, ok, that’s it no more showing off.
Previously I learned that in order to go to the shooting range, I had to go down a flight of steps in a thirty-degree angle to the dry creek and then up the same kind of steps. Then walking a half mile to the site along a gravel road. I saw some people walking alongside the road on the grass. It was because the gravel had large pebbles and we could slip and fall. I decided to follow their route. Coming back, I couldn’t find the stairs because there were other trails going down to the creek. After finally finding the stairs, I slowly maneuver myself back to the camp. I high five myself for that accomplishment. I say this because I still suffer a little from vertigo and it was a challenge for me to even try to do the things I could easily do without this ailment.
I have to thank the guys that served our meals. Saturday lunch we had German sausage with potato salad and Saturday night we had prime beef, potato salad, guacamole and green beans followed by apple pie with ice cream. I was so full Saturday night that I decided to go to bed late. Well, we had a big campfire with some of the guys making smores from the campfires. They started to build up the fire so that we could see each other from the flames. It was so hot that we had to back off a little. Later we had the musicians play some music for us.
I made some friends that I had something in common. Tom Finch is a Unit Commissioner who is serving three scout units and we shared our history with the scouts. He too had been a scout for a long time and he updated me with the new scouting program. He also had been at Bear Creek several times such as I. It was wonderful time to talk about the scouting program. I also found out that one of my fourth degree brother was also a scout from a long time back.
My time alone with prayers and reflection helped me relax more in a way that I could listen and pray with other men during the retreat. The whole weekend started with prayer and ended with prayer by praying a living rosary at the end before we left.
What I learned from this gathering of men is how each of us have solutions to the problems that we are having at our churches. We shared on how we can help our community by listening to what others have done at their church. With the “talks” that are presented by other men, we formed a realization about our relationship with Mary, our Blessed Mother. This was a time to grow spiritually.

Laredo Street Past

When I lived with my mother, we lived at 910 S. Laredo Street (rear) in one of the barrios that sprung up during the depression. There were several advantages to the area called “Lareditos”
Laredo street ran north and south from downtown and divided at the Durango street intersection forming Santa Rosa street on west side with Laredo street going down south till it turned west toward the Cassiano homes. We lived at the intersection of Guadalupe street and S. Laredo street. Our alley now has the root Candle company. We had two entrances to our barrio. The one with gravel road and the other with no gravel. Come rain, no cars would dare go down that way due to the mud. Even walking was difficult. Our shoes would get stuck in the mud.
We knew that the street ran all the way past downtown but we didn’t venture further than Commerce street. One of the reasons is that we had everything we needed close by. There were vendors throughout the street from Durango (Now Cesar Chavez) all the way to Vera Cruz street. We really didn’t call them vendors but rather stores. We had our own mom and pop stores which catered to the neighborhood. All the reason because they lived there too. Everybody knew each other and credit was given when the money was not coming in. The people were honest and hard working. Most belong to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic church parish though there were other denominations present.
There was a Chinese store that we could buy items that a mom and pop store didn’t have. Most of the time they stayed to themselves. We never knew where they lived. We also had a grocery store named “La Gloria” where just about everybody went. If you were hungry, you could buy gorditas from “La Guera” who always was there with her big pan. It was like a Chinese wok with an indentation in the middle to keep the oil hot. There were several mini stores that sold jewelry and other items along the way. There was a shoe repair shop close by that had a lot of business. Now if you wanted fresh meat, you’d go to Nuevo Leon Meat Market where you could buy meat for the day because most people didn’t have a refrigerator rather an ice box. So you could buy 3 wieners or have fresh ground beef grinded up. Fresh chicken was a little hard because they had live chickens in the back and when you ordered one, you could hear the squawking and a loud thump when they cut their head off. Then they submerge them in hot water to remove their feathers and viola, fresh chicken.
Of course, if you had your own chicken, then you need chicken feed from the feed store which was just next to the local barbershop where I used to get my flat top hair style.
So in essence we had a mall that we could walk through for services. A couple of gas stations at either end of the street, Guerra’s drug store for prescriptions and a doctor inside to take care of illness and injuries. There was also Berchelsmann’s medical clinic for severe ailments. We also had a furniture store on the corner of El Paso street and Laredo. There were also two bakeries for pan dulce. If we couldn’t wait for the ice man to come, we would get out little carts and get the ice down the street. If we needed things printed, we would get Gonzales Printing company and if we needed family or individual photos, we would get Gonzales Photography company. (no relations between them). All of them on Laredo street.
We also had our entertainment, a billiard hall right next to “El Goyito” who sold all kinds of vegetables at the corner of San Fernando and Laredo street. We also had family bars who invited the community to watch wrestling on Wednesday night. We would be in the back watching the television while the juke box would be blaring in front. Dancing was allowed. One of the bars my dad frequent had a juke box which played Glen Miller or Tommy Dorsey and I got interested in that kind of music when I had to go bring my father home. He would buy me a hippo size soda and set me on a stool while I listened to the music. My mom would be waiting for us with supper on the table. We were late.
There were many services offered to the population living in the barrio. If you couldn’t go to them, they would come to you. The ice man would come to your door, the panadero would bring his sweet bread, the knife sharpener would come to sharpen your scissors or kitchen knives, if you had a leaky tub, the solderer would come by to fix it. Vegetable would come in a truck for us to pick and choose. Our own mall. How I miss it!