Shell Game

On a recent return trip from Texas, we decided to do some coastal exploring.


Because it was within an hour of where we were staying, we first decided to boondock on Magnolia Beach which is located just below Port Lavaca, TX.  One look at the map convinced me that we first had to drive to Indianola just a few miles farther south.


Indianola was a busy port city in the 1800s and many of my ancestors arrived there from Europe before traveling across the coastal plans via foot and hired Mexican carts.   Unfortunately, a hurricane in 1875 partly destroyed the town and then another in 1886 completed the destruction.  Looking at it today, you can’t help but notice how exposed the town had to be.  I’m sure 150 years of weather has transformed the landscape but I was hard-pressed to imagine a strip of land wide enough to support a community.


From Indianola, we drove the few miles to Magnolia Beach and staked out our spot for the night.  We were actually early enough to take a long nap while enjoying the gulf breeze.  We were parked on compressed shell fragments, or coquina.  We didn’t find the type of shells you would want to collect unless you were under the age of four and everything you picked up was considered a treasure. 

We left there in the morning and tried to find a memory from my childhood near Port Lavaca called Six Mile.  It was a place my father, brothers, uncles, and grandfather often fished.  Back then, it entailed sleeping in the open around a campfire, checking trot lines throughout the night, and battling thick clouds of coastal mosquitoes. On this trip, I wasn’t sure I ever found the exact spot (it had been 50 years since my last visit) but some mosquitoes did recognize me and tried to get reacquainted.


From there, we did a leisurely route through Palacios, Blessing, and Danevang (a small Danish farming community with a Lutheran Church, museum, and a cemetery where almost every tombstone ended with the letters “sen”.  Eventually we ended up with kolaches and sausage from Prasek’s Smokehouse in Hillje.  The day was a success.


The following day was a more ambitious quest—we were going to discover the beaches of Louisiana.

Our boondocking goal was a place called Rutherford Beach near Creole, LA.  Along the way there were stretches where the highway ran beside the Gulf of Mexico and we could pull over on the shoulder and watch the water spray across the road.  At other times, we were sure the road was LOWER than the surf just a few yards away.  This area had been devasted by several hurricanes—almost one per year in the early 2000s. It was a first for us to see hospitals and schools elevated on pillars with parking underneath as well as many homes constructed on earthen knolls.  It was sad to see countless slabs where homes and businesses once stood.  After several losses, it appeared most residents had accepted life in RV campers instead of brick and mortar.


I’m not sure what Rutherford Beach once looked like.  It had four streets but only two houses now.  Where one street met the surf there were wires and cables protruding from the sand.  Despite the desolation, this was a great place to boondock for the night.  First, we backed perpendicular to the waves but the wind was rocking us so much that we moved to be parallel AND to a slightly higher area of sand.  That evening we took the most incredible sunset stroll, collecting whelk shells.  The next morning, after coffee, we took another walk and alternated between collecting shells and collecting trash.  It’s always interesting to see what has washed ashore from a human being careless.  Notably, there were plenty of water bottles and other plastic pieces, hats, gloves, shoe sole insert, unopened bag of Doritos now filled with water, juice box straws, whiskey bottle with barnacles, fishing line, rope, a tennis ball, sand box toys, and even a glass paper weight with, ironically, some type of sea plant encased in the glass.


In exchange for the trash collection, we left with a large grocery bag of seashells.  A couple days later when we reached home, Jenni washed the shells and laid them on the kitchen island on a towel to dry.  She came back in the room later and found a couple on the floor and blamed the curious cat staying with us.  Thirty minutes later I was working on the computer with my back to the island and I heard a shell hit the floor.  But the cat was in FRONT of me!  I turned around to pick up the shell and saw the legs of a hermit crab!  We then found the other shell that had previously fallen and discovered a crab in it as well. 


I doubt they can survive in the fish pond, but we’re giving them a chance 840 miles from home.

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