Go along with me, and you'll find this... interesting at least, if not uncanny. Like the Kennedy assasination, everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on "9-11." I've shared this story before, but it bares repeating.
I was working up on scaffolding on the biggest painting I will ever do... 140 feet of murals at Washington on the Brazos. And in the middle of designing a faithful recreation of Texas' Capital City in 1845, when the planes hit the World Trade Center. As far as I know, no one had ever tried to portray the whole town of "Old Washington" before, three dimensionally, and it was a real challenge that took a lot of research and planning. This was a great honor and I will always cherish this project... and the things that came to me during its creation.
I remember getting pretty choked up at times. I thought of another great city, leveled to the ground by its own corruption and its enemies. When Jesus looked down on his beloved Holy City of God, he cried, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I would have gathered you up as a hen gathers her chicks..." But Jerusalem would have nothing of him.
Most interestingly, I was learning of ominous parallels between the city I was studying, and the one being attacked in New York. In fact there were a significant number of New Yorkers in early Texas. A street in Anderson was called "New York Row," because of its similarity in style and demographics to the great Northern City. New York money and people helped to found the new republic, and even before I had ever really been acquainted with the Twin Towers of New York, I knew of the twin "towers" at Washington on the Brazos. [Seen in the far upper right of the mural above]
Yes, towering over the fledgling Capital of Texas, a veritable empire in the making, were two handsome, three story brick buildings, side by side in downtown Washington. Built of inferior brick however, they proved that Washington County probably did not have the natural resources ready at a hand to build a great city, one that would someday rival Galveston or New Orleans, or even New York. The bricks were made of local clay, and could only be graded as useful for poor earthenware, and not suitable for structures. This spelled the end of progress for the tiny would-be metropolis.
Today, the only thing left of this once optimistic Capital of the Lone Star State is a single water cistern, a humble flat-topped dome made out of that same old dark orange brick. I think it served a boarding house off of the main drag, and was designed to catch rain water, something we could stand to learn from today. In less than fifty years, the town of "Old Washington" as it came to be known, was almost a ghost town. In my research, I found a gigantic magnolia tree on the plots where my own ancestor invested in the town. I'd like to think he planted it.
The towers? The two hotels who stood proudly during Texas' finest hour? They were demolished and the bricks salvaged and taken across the river to help build the town who welcomed the railroad and all it brought with it. Recycled bricks from Old Washington can still be found in walls of Victorian buildings in downtown Navasota, where many of the disillusioned Washingtonians moved after Washington County schemes failed.
As I painted these magnificent "towers" long gone and forgotten, and resurrected this forgotten center of Texas commerce, the ironies began to sink in. Surely those Texians of old never dreamed that all that they had done there would end up for naught, in fact in a scrap heap. They never imagined that another culture, one they considered outlaw and almost detested, would someday buy their various parts and repurpose them in Grimes County.
Buildings go up and they go down. Cities rise and fall. Nations rise and fall. Texas only existed as a Nation for 9 years. Cultures rise and fall. And usually, those who live and work in these places never could imagine... destruction or even nonexistence.
As each day the televison replayed the horrors of the World Trade Center being reduced to ashes, and reported unimaginable horrors and fatalities, I could only find comfort in knowing at least that Washington on the Brazos suffered an economic disaster, with no loss of life. But the end was more final. I wondered if this was not just the beginning of a just as unimaginable dismantling of my beloved Country. Would they keep coming at us just like the Mexicans did here, until finally, as in the Mexican War, we took the battle to their soil, and shut them up for good?
But Washington on the Brazos never recovered. Today the graveyard of these intrepid pioneers is overgrown and neglected and speaks of empty visons and the shame of failure. I wondered if this great attack on our American economic center was not a warning. Sure it was a statement of intolerance and hatred from the Saudis who executed the attack, but our God allowed it, He looked the other way as they did the deed. He let Satan's messengers have their say, and He let us ponder our vulnerablity, and our standing with Him.
When Washington on the Brazos was humbled, it was the kind of place where gamblers, whores and con-men ran the town, and preachers were tormented and harrassed until they fled. Texas Rangers, the deadly arms of the law, hung out all night at the pool hall and staggered around drunk in the day. The President was a famous drunkard and hell-raiser. Many of the founding fathers of Texas were men with dubious reputations, and some were known cutthroats and brawlers. They built their town on the sands of lust and greed. They refused to acknowledge real threats to their very existence. Today there is very little there to remind us they were there, were it not for Texas Parks & Wildlife who constructed such nice facilites to celebrate the Godless town that hardly ever was. It had precious few distinctions: It was in Texas, where her Declaration of Independence was signed, and Sam Houston had slept there. In fact it had been the Capital City of a failing government who could not pay its bills, or protect its borders or its people.
You all know (I hope) that I am a proud sixth generation Texan, a descendant of some of those wonderful founding renegades, and yet I have to call a spade a spade. And I keep one of those worthless soft bricks around, just to remind me, of what can happen to an arrogant, corrupt and irreverent people. Hopefully, America is learning her lesson as well. And learning it in time.