His Eye is On The Sparrow

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 9 of 31: Journeys (my theme for March)

I’d seen that the weather was supposed to take a drastic turn to cold from the 88 degree highs we’d had Monday and Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas, but I wasn’t prepared for 39 degrees with whipping winds on Wednesday morning (areas just north of me, I later learned, were getting snow). Two days before, I’d had to purchase a t-shirt in the Alamo gift shop to shed my sleeves, and now no amount of layering was warm enough even with every single one of the layers I’d packed.  I rolled up tiny bits of Kleenex to stuff in my ears to keep the cold wind out as I waited on the Hop On, Hop Off Bus in what felt like an arctic wind tunnel.

Chili at the Buckhorn Saloon

I set out to have a bowl of hot chili and a longneck (in the name of tradition) at the Buckhorn Saloon, said to be the oldest saloon in Texas, established in 1881 by 17-year-old Albert Freidrich.  Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders here, and it is also rumored to be the place where Pancho Villa planned the Mexican Revolution.  As the chili began thawing me out, I caught a glimpse of movement down by my feet in my peripheral vision. My first thought: Oh no, this place is infested with rats! I took a closer look and discovered there were little birds hopping around on the tiled floor, seeking refuge from the cold, looking for crumbs of food. I threw down some crushed crackers for them, silently humming His Eye is on the Sparrow….and I know He watches me….

Little sparrows seeking refuge from the wind and cold

The bar in the Buckhorn Saloon

When you enter the Buckhorn saloon, you see taxidermied animal heads and antlers hanging all over the walls and ceiling.  Since most travelers of that day didn’t have much money, the young founder started giving beer or whiskey in exchange for antlers or horns or jars of rattlesnake rattles.  You can even see that some of the art is designed from rattlesnake rattles if you visit the Buckhorn Saloon museum upstairs.  Also, the Texas Ranger Museum is connected, and Texas Bob himself, decked out in full Davy Crockett attire complete with a coonskin cap, will assist you in your ticket purchases at the door. 

It’s a sobering experience to stand inches away from museum guns with little placards that tell the history of who owned it and who they killed with that particular firearm – and why, and who killed them in turn shortly thereafter – and why.  The west was wild, and the rangers appointed themselves the protectors of the borders back before there was any established law enforcement.  

Today, I give thanks for warmth of heat and safety of travel. And the good Lord knows I’m thankful that I didn’t have to kill a bunch of rattlesnakes to sip hops at the Buckhorn.

Antlers hang from the ceiling of the Buckhorn Saloon.
Zoom in on the deer – it is created from rattlesnake tails.
The Buckhorn Saloon Bar

Matthew 10:29-31 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

8 Replies to “His Eye is On The Sparrow”

  1. I truly feel like I’ve just stepped back in time to the wild, wild West – a fearsome place with far less appeal than the old Hollywood versions. Imagine being at the mercy of self-appointed law enforcement when there were yet no rules…every man “doing right in his own eyes” has horrific consequences. Drastic changes in the Texas temperature have me thinking of metaphors for survival and life itself. Those precious (and intelligent!) little sparrows! They warm my heart…and oh, the reference to the hymn and this perfect-fit Bible verse reminder, assurance of God’s great love and provision, no matter what wildness we’re facing, or how caught we are in mighty winds beyond our control… thank you for all of this, for your words and faith, as well as the amazing photos!

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    1. Thank you, Fran. I can only imagine the fear of those times – not just for women, but for men and for the parents of the children growing up in wild west times. I think certainly of safety first – rattlesnakes, bullies and fighters, wild animals and injury – – but I also think of health and disease, nutrition, and lack of education. You brought up a great point – – everyone was a survivalist, and not necessarily a lover of life. We are blessed to be living in the times we are living in, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who paved the way and made sacrifices for us.

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  2. Kim, I love Fran’s comment. She says much of what I’m thinking. But I’m also thinking about how we construct history in this country. I’m particularly interested in your comments about the Texas Rangers. I’ve learned some history about them that contrasts w/ the saloon and museum narrative from reading The End of Policing. I hope to visit this establishment and enjoy a longneck and the decor! I’m not sure I can handle the Texas Ranger fiction, however. And your photos are fabulous.

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    1. Thank you, Glenda. I’m glad you mentioned that contrasting information – I was wondering if any other people had made some of those same observations and scratched their heads. I have read some conflicting information as well – not only about the Rangers, but also about the landmarks and which is the oldest and what exactly happened where. I was wondering why this might be – perhaps the lack of written documentation at that time in this particular place and so much word of mouth? I don’t know. Also, the most historically accurate movie, according to what I’ve read, is the 2004 version with Billy Bob Thornton (it says that one song was not around yet) – but yet the story of Susannah Dickinson is not at all like what I have read in other sources. Sometimes I think information can a bit misleading, too – – one may say the oldest saloon in Texas, and another may say the oldest continuously running saloon in Texas – – and so I find myself wondering about the true history as well. As Helene Hanff would say of fiction, “I don’t like reading about things that never happened to people who never lived,” and I have to agree fully – – I prefer nonfiction, but I especially like my nonfiction to be nonfiction.

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  3. I feel as if I have traveled with you! What an insightful (if somewhat chilling) visit…I would have felt very uncomfortable and out of place, with these antlers and guns – and even these little sparrows at my feet. But you have whet my appetite…to go and see for myself. What a slice of history/perspective!

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    1. Thank you, Maureen! I did feel a bit out of place while I was in there with all of the wild west history, but in a strange sort of way, I was glad that it was bothersome because I stepped away appreciating today’s present time in a way I didn’t appreciate it the day before. I am so glad that the women of history paved the way for us to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient – to vote, to have jobs, to make choices and have the respect that we have today that women in those days certainly did not have. I appreciate those who made sacrifices and fought for the rights that we enjoy because of them. We have a long way to go, but boy – – we have come a long way. There are times I wish we could turn back some years, but I sure wouldn’t dial back to wild west history for sure!

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