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CHINA CREEK SUSPENSION BRIDGE: I didn't know it at the time, but when I took this photo I was just a few miles from the final resting place of my great-grandfather, John Green Kelley.  (See last months issue for the story.).

Actually, it's the only road to China but without a little help
from locals in San Saba you might miss it altogether. 
Story & Photos by IRA KENNEDY

San Saba is the hub of the communities we were hunting down.   Unfortunately
they weren't there anymore, except in the memories of a few old-timers and,
for some unknown reason, on state highway maps.

B.jpg (7557 bytes)ack on the road we followed Kenneth's directions, turning left on Fentress Street.  From there we followed every turn in the road indicated on the map.
       The morning had started out with a clear sky, pale in the morning light.  I had been hoping for a few clouds, for photography's sake.
       "Clouds on command," Ms. Intrepid said.
       I looked up from the map, and sure enough, cumulus clouds were building up in the west.  Behind us the caliche road billowed a powdery mass as we approached a dense cluster of pecan trees.  What else should we have expected near San Saba -- The Pecan Capital of the World"?
       Hidden in the heavily leafed branches was the structure of the old suspension bridge over China Creek.  The bridge was in fine shape.  We crossed and parked immediately to the left where many a vehicle had parked before.  The usual "No Dumping" sign hung on the roadside fence.   (Don't they know the folks that do that sorta thing can't read?)  After stopping for a horizontal and a vertical picture of the bridge I turned back to the car and noticed, on the ground, the scattered feathers of a dove.  I bent down, picked up its blue-grey right wing and returned to the car.
      "That," Ms. Intrepid said with a smile and serious eyes, "is staying out there."
       "Look," I replied, not even trying to plead my lost cause.  "I'll put it in the glove compartment and take it out as soon as we get back."
       I knew she'd never believe that, so without waiting for a reply I returned it to the earth, a little closer to the underbrush. Back in the car, I noticed on the map that a cemetery lay just up the road, so we targeted it for our next stop.
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       Not far ahead we came upon a building rapidly giving itself over to weather and ruin.  Like a cadaver opened up to the study of anatomy, the old frame place peeled away, through time, leaving tin in places on the roof.   Exposed were the deeper layers of shingles, beams, and walls.  The windows had become wide open wind holes.  Scattered around its base were fallen pieces of house where boards warped toward the sun like old bone ribs.
       I know, I could have passed by this description because there is a picture of the place in this article.  And I've been told a picture is worth a thousand words.  But if pictures were all that mattered we'd be photographers to the person and we'd toss pictures around instead of words.  And there'd be no call for poets.  Anyway, the experience put me in just the right mood for the cemetery just ahead.
  My reaction to cemeteries may seem strange to some but, despite the common morbid reaction to such places, I find them more like books you can walk through. Or sculpture gardens. Both actually. Also, as a historian, they help fix in my mind names and places, and provide a spatial relationship between communities that are otherwise only dots on a map. In this particular case, the cemetery is the last vestige of a place in Texas called China.
      I don't know what it is, but most folks visiting a cemetery where they have no relations, usually look for the oldest marker in the place.  I do.   I'm not certain which one it was, but B. F. Smith, born in 1823 and died in 1870, must have been pretty close.
       As we drove on we found, at Algerita, another cemetery to mark the community and another structure gradually sinking back into the earth.  Great dead trees lined up alongside the place like buzzards, waiting.  I imagined a time when the trees were full and green, the house alive with the laughter of children playing, and other sounds common to ranch life.  Who were the last to live here?  When did they leave, and why?  And why does it stand empty today?
       Leaving Algerita, or where Algerita used to be, we headed for Richland Springs, carefully following every turn of the map.
       "There's a paved road just ahead," I told Ms. Intrepid just as we made our next turn.  Sure enough, there it was.  A paved road, in
TurnA.jpg (4971 bytes)every way worse than the dirt roads we had been traveling.  Here the chug-holes had hard, sharp edges and we longed for the rub-board roads we had just left.


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Ira Kennedy, Publisher, Editor, Writer, Photographer and Web Designer

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