Cordova Chronicles: A Texan in Paradise

His name is Huckleberry Cole, and if that isn’t clue enough, yes, he hails from Texas.

Austin to be specific. The Texas capital is known to be the heart of liberal thinking in the Union’s second largest state. After all, its motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” Great food, great music, great people. My wife and I enjoy every visit to see our daughter Heidi, her husband Scott, our two grandkids Huck and Liesl, and the rest of the Moorhead clan.

Texans are a proud lot. Their state capital building is second in size to only the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. And they begin teaching their kin about Texas heritage and pride very early. Perhaps something other states, including Alaska, should do. Of course, the way our State Legislators have been performing lately, perhaps it is just as well.

Nonetheless, I was a bit startled to see Huck and his 1 –

Heidi Shellhorn Moorhead and son Huck saddle up in 100 degree weather after crossing the Rio Grande.
Heidi Shellhorn Moorhead and son Huck saddle up in 100 degree weather after crossing the Rio Grande.

and-a-half-year-old sister, Liesl Pecos, standing at the gates to the Alamo during a recent family week-long family vacation in Texas. Good grief, there are some Bowie knives on display inside that are bigger than either one of them.

Heidi’s husband Scott, a great and gracious guy, is a born and bred Austonian and a University of Texas graduate. He’s already has some practice with bigger Texas weaponry, being part of a crew of college buckaroos firing off a cannon on the sidelines of Texas Stadium every time the Longhorns scored. I once witnessed this display in person, and dived for the deck, assuming perhaps Santa Anna’s relatives were invading from the south.

I must say the blast did wake up Bevo, a huge but heavily sedated mascot. The bonafide longhorn even took a couple swings at nearby handlers, so now I know where the UT Motto, “Hook ’em Horns,” comes from.

But I digress. Huck, who is 3-and-a-half, has already been to Cordova three times. Our daughter wants to make sure he knows where the biggest state in the Union is, and her hometown in particular.

The highlight of both trips has been — of all things — water. Texas has a distinct shortage of this commodit
y, although it received some relief with heavy rainfall this past spring. Summer temperatures hit the 100s, and wasting water on things such as lawns or cooling down little cowpokes running through sprinklers is frowned upon. Usage is metered, a concept difficult to comprehend in Cordova.

The highlight of Huck’s visit last year was attending the Cordova Fire Department Car Wash. I figured he would be excited to see all the fire trucks, but no, he spent over an hour running back and forth in the water pouring toward the drains.  In fact, more than one passing car slowed down to look at this crazy little kid racing about and getting soaking wet.

Mud puddles proved to be a major hot spot both last year and this. I bought him a pair of kid’s bright orange Helly Hanson’s to go with his Xtra-Tuffs, which by the way draw the envy of every Texas cowboy-booted mini-wrangler who sees them. This June his sister Liesl joined the fun, wearing Huck’s leaky hand-me-down boots, and proceeded to do a face plant in a choice puddle up by Bill Lindow’s driveway. She cried all the way home, not because she was wet, but because bloody lip and all, she wanted to get back out and into action again. Ride ’em, cowgirl.

CT-8-19-Texan-in-Paradise-2Like most little boys, Huck is enamored of construction equipm
ent, and we stumbled upon a treasure-trove at the site of the paving project to the harbor. One day we sat for two hours on the sidewalk watching Don Sjostedt and his Eagle Contracting crew use a variety of equipment to smooth and pack the subsurface. I should have brought a folding camp chair. Huck became a bit alarmed when a rolling compactor started vibrating the sidewalk, but a few fresh salmon berries from a nearby bush did the trick. Don even stopped to offer him a ride in the grader, but he’s still a bit shy, not a common Texan characteristic.

Of all the different pieces of equipment, can you guess his favorite? The water truck, which drove slowly back and forth wetting the gravel to help pack it down.

Huckleberry Cole Moorhead discovers one of Cordova’s many mud puddles. Dick Shellhorn / For The Cordova Times
Huckleberry Cole Moorhead discovers one of Cordova’s many mud puddles. Dick Shellhorn / For The Cordova Times

Huck is back in the Lone Star State now, and his Texas summer vacation is also over. Not before his dad herded them out West to get a taste of the real deal. In a scene straight out of Lonesome Dove, the Moorhead gang suited up on burros to see if they could round up some strays across the Rio Grande in a little Mexican town called Boquillas. Gus McCrae, the lead character in Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winner, would have been proud.

And so am I. After all, isn’t that what grandparenting is all about?

Dick Shellhorn, author, reporter, ref and grandpa, can be reached at shorn@gci.net.

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Dick Shellhorn, author, reporter, ref and grandpa, can be reached at shorn@gci.net. Shellhorn was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska, and has lived there his entire life. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 40 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016.