Peacocks in the Fort

There is a historic (and still active) military base that dates from 1845 in San Antonio called Fort Sam Houston. Until recently, I only ever had a glimpse of it through iron gates but last week, on a rainy Saturday morning, I decided to pay the base a visit. Only those with US-issued IDs are allowed in and it took me about 15 minutes to obtain my pass at a small visitor’s hut. I then drove through the main gates and about a mile to the Quadrangle, an 8-acre area that consists of numerous stone structures, including a former quartermaster supply depot. The courtyard is filled with ancient oaks and in the centre stands a tall tower which was originally a water tower and is now a clock. One of the Quadrangle buildings is used as a museum, which details the history of the US army.

But what first caught my attention in the Quadrangle were the peacocks, about 30 of them, and 20 or so peahens, mostly brown, a few white. As I walked past the fowl, they made noises which reminded me of someone playing on the lower notes of a piano. Then, from the tips of the tallest oaks came the cries of red-tailed hawks. I looked up as one swooped down from one tree to another. There were six whitetail deer grazing on the grass. Various waterfowl in a small pond completed the tableau. As for humans, apart from me there were only five others walking around, avoiding the puddles.

Back in 1886, tents in this courtyard held Apache Chief Geronimo prisoner with about 30 other Apache men, women and children whilst their fate was being decided. They eventually ended up at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

The sun had come out and back near the car park I had a clear view of Downtown San Antonio in the distance. I also noticed a large manicured stretch of grass, like a small park, about half a mile long sloping southwards and bordered all round with very tall palm trees. Two caracaras perched in a lordly manner in the middle of the grass. It was very peaceful as I now strolled around the perimeter, past handsome old houses built in the southern style. Outside each was a sign with the name of the current officer occupant – I imagine they were all in the medical field given that Fort Sam Houston contains the premier military hospital in the US and is also the main Army medical training centre. As I left this ‘park’ I found myself walking along narrow, traffic-free roads still within the historic mile of the Quadrangle. I passed by galleried, two-storey buildings that had once housed officers including John J Pershing, and an old Infantry Post where Dwight Eisenhower once lived. The old Post Hospital was being painted and a sign indicated that now it was a lodging place for visiting VIPs. A chapel not far away was dedicated by President Taft in 1909.

My pass allowed access to a medical museum as well but by then I was feeling quite tired and I knew I wanted to come again for another lovely walk – I wonder whether anyone else in San Antonio visits Fort Sam Houston for this reason?

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