I went on a road trip to Fredericksburg on Thursday afternoon. It’s about an hour and a bit, driving north on IH-10 as far as Comfort, and then another jaunt down a side road up and downhill to Fredericksburg. A lot of Main Street is pretty much tourist attraction – and local residents laughingly confess that they try and avoid Main Street on weekends – and in fact, all the shops that they personally shop at are anywhere else than Main Street, or at least, that stretch of it for about four blocks either side of the Marketplatz. I have noticed that the only mercantile establishment stocking items that ordinary, non-tourist shoppers might have a need for is the old 5 & 10. Which didn’t have AA batteries – but that’s a minor point. My daughter’s camera did have enough juice for Thursday afternoon and evening, when I had a signing at the Pioneer Museum. This would be the second event that Richard Bristol, the director, has set up for me – the first being in January, when I had just launched the Adelsverein Trilogy. Although two of his ancestors (one on the paternal, and another on the maternal side) are mentioned in the Trilogy – he still hasn’t had the time to read it. He is taking his own copies of the Trilogy on his vacation, a cruise to Alaska, and plans to read all three books then. When he has time. A museum director’s job is never done. Blondie tried to talk him into adopting Rossi, one of our resident rescued cats, who- from the way he makes nice to male visitors – was a man’s cat. No luck – but we’re kind of fond of Rossi, anyway.
The museum volunteers’ dinner was in the old Methodist Church parish hall: the Historical Society offices are in the facility – and the sanctuary is now available for weddings. Otherwise, it’s all part of the Pioneer Museum grounds. I’ve done a talk there before – and it’s a church parish hall, which is the sort of place which is comfortable and familiar to me. There were about fifty people there; much the largest crowd I’ve given a book talk to. Dinner was terrifically good – catered by a local small firm: Blondie wishes she had the chutney recipe for the grilled pork skewers. I asked one of the ladies to take me around and introduce me to everyone: one of the awkward things about this ‘guest author/stranger’ things is that people are hesitant to come up and talk to you: so best ask someone else to take you around and break the ice. It turns out that about half the people present had read the Trilogy – which was wonderful for me, since most of them liked it very much. Kenn Knopp, who is a local historian and member of the Historical Society – and had read the Trilogy in manuscript – did an introduction. I had been referred to him by David and Jenny at Berkman Books, yea these many months ago, as the local history expert. I was nervous about the Civil War portion of the Trilogy, and wanted to have someone who was pretty much immersed in local history, have a read-through. He confessed at first that he was pretty unenthused about the whole prospect of reading a MS by a relatively unknown author – and moreover, one that ran to about the same word-count as Lord of the Rings – but he was won over within a very short time. After my father, Kenn is about my biggest fan; he is sure that I was inspired and guided by something divine – I insist that if anything, I was guided by the San Antonio Public Library, which provided me on loan with about every book I needed for research purposes.
And we spent that night at a wonderful local bed and breakfast, thanks to the hospitality of the owners. It’s out in the country a little away from Fredericksburg – and that evening we looked out at a little scrub-wood covered valley while sitting on the porch, enjoying a tasty adult beverage. The B & B was actually a little self-contained cottage, with a bedroom, and well-stocked little kitchen and full bath.
And then we were off for a full day of sightseeing. We checked out a parish rummage sale, where my daughter rejoiced that she was finally able to afford to buy antiques in Fredericksburg. (She spent a whole $2.00 at the rummage sale in the parish hall of St. Mary’s Catholic Church) and I regretted that I couldn’t afford to go much higher than $30 on a silent auction for an antique low-post bed. But we did talk up it’s many fine details to another woman – hand-made, the footboard and headboard were elaborately curved and out of a single wide plank, and it really wouldn’t cost all that much for slats to rest a mattress on, and to have a futon-mattress made in 3/4 size. I think we talked her into it, for it was a very nice bed, and she would give it a good home.
Then we went off for a tour of a local cemetery, and the old and new St. Mary’s church buildings. The old St. Mary’s was finished during the Civil War – a sort of agreeable, unadorned neo-Gothic building. No one can put a name to the architect, or even if there was one. Apparently, the parishioners just picked up their tools and built it. The new St.Mary’s is right next door. The newer building is still 100 years old, and beautifully painted – IIRC the inscription over center arch, with Christ enthroned, means “I am the bread of life”. The windows are all stained glass, and very ornate. Strictly speaking, the windows are not really stained glass, with every separate color cut out of a pice of colored glass and pieced together with lead canes – this is glass which is painted in small panels and then assembled together. My mother informs me that this is nearly as difficult as true stained glass. This is the kind of church glass that I knew from growing up. Very nice to look at, during very long and dull sermons.
We were treated to lunch at the Peach Tree… and by late afternoon, the dreaded author’s table for the book event at Berkman Books was calling. But the signing worked out very well, for there were other authors there to talk to, and a constant stream of shoppers in and out of Berkman Books. (They’re having a sale, BTW.) One of my nicest conversations was with a nice gentleman who read the Trilogy on loan from the Harper Library, on the recommendation of the librarian – and he liked it so much, he wanted his own copies. Yes!
And, as expected, my daughter made friends with Emily the Berkman Books cat… all in all, a nice experience. About the only thing they didn’t do for me was a key to the city!