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Travels with Charley (feat. Joan Baez and Van Morrison) by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck (Feb. 27, 1902 - December 20, 1968) embarks on a journey to discover America in the fall of 1960. He drives a brand new three-quarter ton pickup camper truck and travels with his dog Charley. His purpose is to learn something about the vast United States and write a book about his experiences.


His route takes him through Vermont, where he discusses politics with a farmer, and up to the northernmost part of Maine. There he meets a clan of Canadian migrant workers who help with the potato harvest. He shares a bottle of fine cognac with the workers who appreciate the gift very much due to their French ancestry. After a disturbing encounter with an empty restaurant, Steinbeck attempts to cross the border into Canada. The Canadians warn him about the US requirement for a certificate that Charley has had his rabies vaccination, so Steinbeck turns back only to be detained by the US Customs officer. The officer finally lets the author back into the US even though Steinbeck had never actually crossed over into Canada.


Wisconsin dairy farms and the Wisconsin Dells impress Steinbeck. He tries to see the Twin Cities but becomes lost in the heavy traffic. At the Maple River in North Dakota, the author meets an interesting traveling Shakespearean performer. Steinbeck spends a night in the Bad Lands of South Dakota, where he discovers that the area is much more friendly and beautiful at night than in the daytime. He also discovers that Montana is his favorite state except that it has no seacoast. The development of Seattle gives the author a feeling that the nature of building up a place seems like destruction too. He visits the giant sequoia trees along the coast, sensing that they have a kind of consciousness and communication that humans cannot understand and therefore fear.


In California where Steinbeck had grown up, he learns that a person cannot go home. Home changes, people die and nothing can ever be the same. He leaves California as quickly as he can and spends Thanksgiving in Texas with his wife on a friend's ranch.

Steinbeck thinks that Texans make up a unique kind of American. He then goes to New Orleans and witnesses a nasty demonstration against school desegregation. The impact of this affects him very deeply, but he cannot take sides in the civil rights struggle. He has no understanding of it.


The journey ends for the writer while in the South. He moves through the remaining states back to his home without seeing or sensing much of anything. He then becomes lost in New York City, but a kindly police officer guides the author back to his home on Long Island. What Steinbeck discovers is that every journey is unique to time, place, person and mood.


Can you draw Steinbeck and Charley’s road map?



PART 1

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. […]

In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself. […]

My plan was clear, concise, and reasonable, I think. For many years I have traveled in many parts of the world. In America I live in New York, or dip into Chicago or San Francisco. But New York is no more America than Paris is France or London is England. Thus I discovered that I did not know my own country. I, an American writer, writing about America, was working from memory, and the memory is at best a faulty, warpy reservoir. I had not heard the speech of America, smelled the grass and trees and sewage, seen its hills and water, its color and quality of light. I knew the changes only from books and newspapers. But more than this, I had not felt the country for twenty-five years. In short, I was writing of something I did not know about, and it seems to me that in a so-called writer this is criminal. My memories were distorted by twenty- five intervening years. […]

With all this in mind I wrote to the head office of a great corporation which manufactures trucks. I specified my purpose and my needs. I wanted a three- quarter-ton pick-up truck, capable of going anywhere under possibly rigorous conditions, and on this truck I wanted a little house built like the cabin of a small boat. […]

Although I didn’t want to start before Labor Day, when the nation settles back to normal living, I did want to get used to my turtle shell, to equip it and learn it. It arrived in August, a beautiful thing, powerful and yet lithe. It was almost as easy to handle as a passenger car. And because my planned trip had aroused some satiric remarks among my friends, I named it Rocinante, which you will remember was the name of Don Quixote’s horse. […]

There was some genuine worry about my traveling alone, open to attack, robbery, assault. It is well known that our roads are dangerous. And here I admit I had senseless qualms. It is some years since I have been alone, nameless, friendless, without any of the safety one gets from family, friends, and accomplices. There is no reality in the danger. It’s just a very lonely, helpless feeling at first—a kind of desolate feeling. For this reason I took one companion on my journey—an old French gentleman poodle known as Charley. Actually his name is Charles le Chien. He was born in Bercy on the outskirts of Paris and trained in France, and while he knows a little poodle-English, he responds quickly only to commands in French. Otherwise he has to translate, and that slows him down. He is a very big poodle, of a color called bleu, and he is blue when he is clean. Charley is a born diplomat. He prefers negotiation to fighting, and properly so, since he is very bad at fighting.


TWO SIDES OF THE SAME JOURNEY: Bobby McGee and her "Brown-eyed girl"


BROWN EYED GIRL by Van Morrison (1967)


Hey, where did we go?

Days when the rains came

Down in the hollow

Playin' a new game

Laughin' and a-runnin', hey, hey

Skippin' and a-jumpin'

In the misty morning fog with

Our, our hearts a-thumping and you

My brown-eyed girl

And you, my brown-eyed girl


And whatever happened

To Tuesday and so slow?

Going down the old mine with a

Transistor radio

Standing in the sunlight laughing

Hiding 'hind a rainbow's wall

Slipping and sliding

All along the waterfall with you

My brown-eyed girl

You, my brown-eyed girl


Do you remember when we used to sing?

Sha-la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la tee-da

Just like that

Sha-la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la tee-da, la-tee-da


So hard to find my way

Now that I'm all on my own

I saw you just the other day

My, how you have grown

Cast my memory back there, Lord

Sometimes I'm overcome thinking 'bout it

Making love in the green grass

Behind the stadium with you

My brown-eyed girl

You, my brown-eyed girl


Do you remember when we used to sing?

Sha-la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la tee-da

Sha-la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la tee-da



ME AND BOBBY McGEE - by Joan Baez (written by Kris Kristofferson 1970)


Busted flat in Baton Rouge

Waitin' for the train

Feelin' nearly as faded as my jeans

Bobby thumbed a diesel down

Just before it rained

Told us all the way to New Orleans

I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandanna

I was playing soft

While Bobby sang the blues

Windshield wipers slappin' time

I was holdin' Bobby's hand in mine

We sang every song that driver knew


Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose

Nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free

Feelin' good was easy, Lord,

When Bobby sang the blues

And feelin' good was good enough for me

Good enough for me and Bobby McGee


From the coal mines in Kentucky

To the California sun

Bobby shared the secrets of my soul

Through all kinds of weather

Everything we done

Every night he kept me from the cold

Then somewhere near Salinas, Lord

I let him slip away

Lookin' for the home I hope he'll find it

I'd trade all of my tomorrows

For one single yesterday

Holdin' Bobby's body next to mine


Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose

Nothin' left is all that Bobby left me

Feelin’ good was easy, Lord

When Bobby sang the blues

And buddy, that was good enough for me

Good enough for me and Bobby McGee




BACK TO STEINBECK AND CHARLEY'S JOURNEY


PART FOUR

When I started this narrative, I knew that sooner or later I would have to have a go at Texas, and I dreaded it. I could have bypassed Texas about as easily as a space traveler can avoid the Milky Way. It sticks its big old Panhandle up north and it slops and slouches along the Rio Grande. Once you are in Texas it seems to take forever to get out, and some people never make it.

Let me say in the beginning that even if I wanted to avoid Texas I could not, for I am wived in Texas and mother-in-lawed and uncled and aunted and cousined within an inch of my life. Staying away from Texas geographically is no help whatever, for Texas moves through our house in New York, our fishing cottage at Sag Harbor, and when we had a flat in Paris, Texas was there too. It permeates the world to a ridiculous degree. Once, in Florence, on seeing a lovely little Italian princess, I said to her father, “But she doesn’t look Italian. It may seem strange, but she looks like an American Indian.” To which her father replied, “Why shouldn’t she? Her grandfather married a Cherokee in Texas.”

Writers facing the problem of Texas find themselves floundering in generalities, and I am no exception. Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. And there’s an opening covey of generalities. A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner. My wife refers to herself as the Texan that got away, but that is only partly true. She has virtually no accent until she talks to a Texan, when she instantly reverts. You would not have to scratch deep to find her origin. She says such words as “yes,” “air,” “hair,” “guess,” with two syllables—yayus, ayer, hayer, gayus. And sometimes in a weary moment the word ink becomes ank. Our daughter, after a stretch in Austin, was visiting New York friends. She said, “Do you have a pin?”

“Certainly, dear,” said her host. “Do you want a straight pin or a safety pin?”

“Aont a fountain pin,” she said.

I’ve studied the Texas problem from many angles and for many years. And of course one of my truths is inevitably canceled by another. Outside their state I think Texans are a little frightened and very tender in their feelings, and these qualities cause boasting, arrogance, and noisy complacency—the outlets of shy children. At home Texans are none of these things. The ones I know are gracious, friendly, generous, and quiet. In New York we hear them so often bring up their treasured uniqueness. Texas is the only state that came into the Union by treaty. It retains the right to secede at will. We have heard them threaten to secede so often that I formed an enthusiastic organization— The American Friends for Texas Secession. This stops the subject cold. They want to be able to secede but they don’t wany anyone to want them to.

Like most passionate nations Texas has its own private history based on, but not limited by, facts. The tradition of the tough and versatile frontiersman is true but not exclusive. It is for the few to know that in the great old days of Virginia there were three punishments for high crimes—death, exile to Texas, and imprisonment, in that order. And some of the deportees must have descendants.

Again—the glorious defense to the death of the Alamo against the hordes of Santa Anna is a fact. The brave bands of Texans did indeed wrest their liberty from Mexico, and “freedom,” “liberty,” are holy words. One must go to contemporary observers in Europe for a non-Texan opinion as to the nature of the tyranny that raised need for revolt. Outside observers say the pressure was twofold. The Texans, they say, didn’t want to pay taxes and, second, Mexico had abolished slavery in 1829, and Texas, being part of Mexico, was required to free its slaves. Of course there were other causes of revolt, but these two are spectacular to a European, and rarely mentioned here.

I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery and paradox. Any observations of mine can be quickly canceled by opinion or counter-observation. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans. Some years ago, Edna Ferber wrote a book about a very tiny group of very rich Texans. Her description was accurate, so far as my knowledge extends, but the emphasis was one of disparagement. And instantly the book was attacked by Texans of all groups, classes, and possessions. To attack one Texan is to draw fire from all Texans. The Texas joke, on the other hand, is a revered institution, beloved and in many cases originating in Texas.

The tradition of the frontier cattleman is as tenderly nurtured in Texas as is the hint of Norman blood in England. And while it is true that many families are descended from contract colonists not unlike the present-day braceros, all hold to the dream of the longhorn steer and the unfenced horizon. When a man makes his fortune in oil or government contracts, in chemicals or wholesale groceries, his first act is to buy a ranch, the largest he can afford, and to run some cattle. A candidate for public office who does not own a ranch is said to have little chance of election. The tradition of the land is deep fixed in the Texas psyche. Businessmen wear heeled boots that never feel a stirrup, and men of great wealth who have houses in Paris and regularly shoot grouse in Scotland refer to themselves as little old country boys. It would be easy to make sport of their attitude if one did not know that in this way they try to keep their association with the strength and simplicity of the land. Instinctively they feel that this is the source not only of wealth but of energy. And the energy of Texans is boundless and explosive. The successful man with his traditional ranch, at least in my experience, is no absentee owner. He works at it, oversees his herd and adds to it. The energy, in a climate so hot as to be staggering, is also staggering. And the tradition of hard work is maintained whatever the fortune or lack of it.

The power of an attitude is amazing. Among other tendencies to be noted, Texas is a military nation. The armed forces of the United States are loaded with Texans and often dominated by Texans. Even the dearly loved spectacular sports are run almost like military operations. Nowhere are there larger bands or more marching organizations, with corps of costumed girls whirling glittering batons. Sectional football games have the glory and the despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners.

If I keep coming back to the energy of Texas, it is because I am so aware of it. It seems to me like that thrust of dynamism which caused and permitted whole peoples to migrate and to conquer in earlier ages. The land mass of Texas is rich in recoverable spoil. If this had not been so, I think I believe the relentless energy of Texans would have moved out and conquered new lands. This conviction is somewhat borne out in the restless movement of Texas capital. But now, so far, the conquest has been by purchase rather than by warfare. The oil deserts of the Near East, the opening lands of South America have felt the thrust. Then there are new islands of capital conquest: factories in the Middle West, food-processing plants, tool and die works, lumber and pulp. Even publishing houses have been added to the legitimate twentieth-century Texas spoil. There is no moral in these convictions, nor any warning. Energy must have an outlet and will seek one.

In all ages, rich, energetic, and successful nations, when they have carved their place in the world, have felt hunger for art, for culture, even for learning and beauty. The Texas cities shoot upward and outward. The colleges are heavy with gifts and endowments. Theaters and symphony orchestras sprout overnight. In any huge and boisterous surge of energy and enthusiasm there must be errors and miscalculations, even breach of judgment and taste. And there is always the non-productive brotherhood of critics to disparage and to satirize, to view with horror and contempt. My own interest is attracted to the fact that these things are done at all. There will doubtless be thousands of ribald failures, but in the world’s history artists have always been drawn where they are welcome and well treated.

By its nature and its size Texas invites generalities, and the generalities usually end up as paradox—the “little ol’ country boy” at a symphony, the booted and blue-jeaned ranchman in Neiman-Marcus, buying Chinese jades.

Politically Texas continues its paradox. Traditionally and nostalgically it is Old South Democrat, but this does not prevent its voting conservative Republican in national elections while electing liberals to city and county posts. My opening statement still holds— everything in Texas is likely to be canceled by something else.

Most areas in the world may be placed in latitude and longitude, described chemically in their earth, sky and water, rooted and fuzzed over with identified flora and people with known fauna, and there’s an end to it. Then there are others where fable, myth, preconception, love, longing, or prejudice step in and so distort a cool, clear appraisal that a kind of high-colored magical confusion takes permanent hold. Greece is such an area, and those parts of England where King Arthur walked. One quality of such places as I am trying to define is that a very large part of them is personal and subjective. And surely Texas is such a place.

I have moved over a great part of Texas and I know that within its borders I have seen just about as many kinds of country, contour, climate, and conformation as there are in the world saving only the Arctic, and a good north wind can even bring the icy breath down. The stern horizon-fenced plains of the Panhandle are foreign to the little wooded hills and sweet streams in the Davis Mountains. The rich citrus orchards of the Rio Grande valley do not relate to the sagebrush grazing of South Texas. The hot and humid air of the Gulf Coast has no likeness in the cool crystal in the northwest of the Panhandle. And Austin on its hills among the bordered lakes might be across the world from Dallas.

What I am trying to say is that there is no physical or geographical unity in Texas. Its unity lies in the mind. And this is not only in Texans. The word “Texas” becomes a symbol to everyone in the world. There’s no question that this Texas-of-the-mind fable is often synthetic, sometimes untruthful, and frequently romantic, but that in no way diminishes its strength as a symbol.

The foregoing investigation into the nature of the idea of Texas is put down as a prelude to my journeying across Texas with Charley in Rocinante. It soon became apparent that this stretch had to be different from the rest of the trip. In the first place I knew the countryside, and in the second I had friends and relatives by marriage, and such a situation makes objectivity practically impossible, for I know no place where hospitality is practiced so fervently as in Texas.

But before that most pleasant and sometimes exhausting human trait took hold, I had three days of namelessness in a beautiful motor hotel in the middle of Amarillo. A passing car on a gravel road had thrown up pebbles and broken out the large front window of Rocinante and it had to be replaced. But, more important, Charley had been taken with his old ailment again, and this time he was in bad trouble and great pain. […]



BOOK ANALYSIS

The book consists of four parts with unnumbered and untitled chapters separated by page breaks. Parts One and Four represent the beginning and end of the journey. The journey itself is bisected through a time in Chicago that the author shares with his wife. What they do during this time is not important to the story but does interrupt the flow, and thus the separation of the journey into two parts. Each chapter tells a story as if Steinbeck were relating his journey to friends afterwards. Some stories are longer than others, as is to be expected, and occasionally an expansion of the theme follows a story. Time stays generally to the chronological flow of the journey, but Steinbeck does jump ahead or backward where the jumps fit into the storytelling.


The overall sense of the journey moves from dread that it might not happen to actually hitting the road and becoming comfortable with the nomadic lifestyle. At the end of the journey, Steinbeck loses all sense of place. His primary goal is to return to his comfortable and familiar home after experiencing what he has while on the road. The journey is a roughly circular path rather than a one-way situation such as emigrating from the Old World to the New World. The book structure follows this circular path, tying the beginning to the end with a single idea--all journeys are unique and take on lives of their own. People might have similar experiences if they take the same general route over the same amount of time, but the possibilities are still limitless.


Topics for Discussion


  • Why do people want to go on a journey like Steinbeck's?

  • Of what importance can Charley be during the trip?

  • What does Steinbeck find unique about Texans?

  • Compare and contrast the America that Steinbeck experiences in 1960 to what America is today, and to Kerouac’s America of the 40s

Texans


Texans are unique among Americans, Steinbeck observes. Although the landscape of Texas varies significantly, all Texans consider themselves of the same overall clan. An insult to one Texan is an insult to all. Politically at this time, Texas tends to be conservative on the national level and locally liberal. Steinbeck notices that his wife, a native Texan, drops the accent unless talking to another Texan, at which time it comes back immediately. Steinbeck admires the energy of Texans but has reservations about the displays of wealth. He notes that Texas is the only state in the Union that has joined as a sovereign nation. Texas could legally secede at any time, and although this is sometimes threatened, Texans would not like the rest of the Union to ask for the state to secede.


HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT TEXAS?

  1. What is the capital of Texas?

  2. What states borders Texas?

  3. What body of water borders Texas to the southeast?

  4. What are the colors of the Texan flag?




THE ALAMO: HEROES AND GHOSTS

In the early 1800’s, Americans began to move west into the rich, sparsely populated territory of Texas, which was then a portion of Mexico. At first these immigrants were well-received, but conflicts soon arose. Mexico had abolished slavery, but most of the American settlers were from the South and had brought their slaves with them. The settlers were also upset that Mexico had yet to install any public education system in Texas and Mexico’s government did not allow for the right to bear arms and trial by jury. When Mexico’s President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna centralized power in 1836, American settlers signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and declared themselves the Republic of Texas.

In the United States there was great enthusiasm for the struggling Texans, and many bold backwoodsmen and Indian- fighters swarmed to their help. The most famous was Davy Crockett. He was born soon after the Revolutionary War and fought under Jackson in the campaigns against the Creeks and gone to Congress as a Whig; but he had quarreled with Jackson, and been beaten for Congress, and in his disgust he left the Tennessee, famously saying, “You can all go to hell. I’m going to Texas!”


Crockett journeyed south to where the Mexican army was marching toward San Antonio. Near the town was an old Spanish fort, the Alamo, in which 150 American defenders had gathered.


Santa Anna had 4,000 troops with him. The Alamo was a mere shell, utterly unable to withstand either a bombardment or a regular assault. It was evident, therefore, that those within it would be in the utmost jeopardy if the place was assaulted, but old Crockett never wavered. He was fearless and resolute and managed to slip through the Mexican lines and join the defenders within the walls. The bravest, hardiest, and most reckless men of the border were there; among them were Colonel Travis, the commander of the fort, and Jim Bowie, the inventor of the famous bowie-knife. They were a wild and ill-disciplined band, little used to restraint or control, but were men of iron courage and great bodily powers, skilled in the use of their weapons, and ready to meet whatever doom fate might have in store for them.


Soon Santa Anna approached with his army, took possession of the town, and besieged the fort. The defenders knew there was scarcely a chance of rescue, and that it was hopeless to expect that 150 men, behind defenses so weak, could beat off 4,000 trained soldiers, well armed and provided with heavy artillery; but they had no idea of flinching, and made a desperate defense. The days went by, and no help came, while Santa Anna got ready his lines, and began a furious cannonade. The American riflemen however crept forward under cover, and picked off the artillerymen. The walls of the Alamo eventually were battered and riddled; and when they had been breached so as to afford no obstacle to the rush of his soldiers, Santa Anna commanded that they be stormed.


The storm took place on March 6, 1836. The Mexican troops broke through the outer defenses at every point, for the lines were too long to be manned by the few Americans. The frontiersmen then retreated to the inner building, and a desperate hand-to-hand conflict followed, the Mexicans thronging in, shooting the Americans with their muskets, and thrusting at them with lance and bayonet, while the Americans, after firing their long rifles, clubbed them, and fought desperately, one against many; and they also used their bowie-knives and revolvers with deadly effect. The fight reeled to and fro between the shattered walls, each American the center of a group of foes; but, for all their strength and their wild fighting courage, the defenders were too few, and the struggle could have but one end.


One by one the riflemen succumbed, after repeated thrusts with bayonet until but three or four were left. Colonel Travis, the commander, was among them; and so was Bowie, who was sick and weak from disease, but who rallied all his strength to die fighting, and who, in the final struggle, slew several Mexicans with his revolver, and with his knife of the kind to which he had given his name. Then these fell too, and the last man stood at bay. It was old Davy Crockett.


Wounded in a dozen places, he faced his foes with his back to the wall, ringed around by the bodies of the men he had slain. So desperate was the fight he waged, that the Mexicans who thronged round about him were beaten back for the moment, and no one dared to run in upon him. Accordingly, while the lancers held him where he was, for, weakened by wounds and loss of blood, he could not break through, the musketeers loaded and shot him down. Not a single American was left alive. Afterwards, Santa Anna ordered their bodies burned and thrown in a mass grave. Yet they died well avenged, for four times their number fell at their hands in the battle.


Santa Anna had but a short while in which to exult over his bloody and hard-won victory. A rider from the Texas plains, going north through the Indian Territory, had told Sam Houston that the Texans were up fighting for their liberty. Houston was a former governor of Tennessee but in a fit of moody longing for the life of the wilderness, he gave up his governorship and crossed the Mississippi, to join the Cherokees in Arkansas. Here he dressed, lived, fought, hunted, and drank precisely like any Indian, becoming one of the chiefs.


At once in Houston's mind there kindled a longing to return to men in their time of their need. Mounting his horse, he rode south by night and day, and was hailed by the Texans as a heaven-sent leader. He took command of their forces, 1100 riflemen, and at the Battle of San Jacinto, he and his men charged the Mexican hosts with the cry of “Remember the

Alamo!” Almost immediately, the Mexicans were overthrown with terrible slaughter; Santa Anna himself was captured, and the freedom of Texas was won at a blow.

The first reported sighting of ghostly activity happened only weeks after the Battle. After the Battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna sent troops to destroy Alamo. When the Mexican troops neared the church with flaming torches, six fully formed flaming spirits suddenly appeared before the front doors of the mission, their bodies on fire and yelling, “Do not touch the Alamo, do not touch these walls!” The Mexicans fled in fear and would not be persuaded to return.


Today, there are countless ghost sightings at the Alamo. Often spotted in the gardens next to the mission appears the fully formed spirit of cowboy, complete with black duster and cowboy hat. Dripping wet, he is described as looking like he has ridden through a severe thunder storm. Many Texas historians theorize that the spirit may have been one of 22 dispatch riders that William Travis sent seeking assistance.


A second entity that makes his presence known is that of an Alamo defender who is often reported to stick his head and shoulders out of the large rectangular window over the double doors at the front of the church. After leaning out and scoping the area, he then leans back and disappears.


One of the most often sighted ghosts is that of a small blonde-haired boy that is most often seen in the left upstairs window which houses the gift shop today. Appearing almost always during the first few weeks of February, the forlorn looking boy has also been seen wandering the grounds of the complex. Some believe that the boy was evacuated during the siege and returns annually to search for his long lost father, who died in the battle.


A woman is also reported to have been seen next to the water well on the other side of the church. Appearing only at night, reports allege that she materializes only as a

vaporous torso-like spirit. No one knows who this restless apparition might have been.

In an area of the mission, which is today utilized for storage and meetings, staff have often encountered a tall Indian who silently creeps up behind them. After having felt a presence, they turn to see the broad-chested Native American who suddenly disappears or walks back through a solid wall that once held a tunnel doorway to the Menger Hotel across the street. Due to these many sightings, staff often report being afraid to enter

the basement.


1. Which adjective best describes Davy Crockett?

  1. Gutless

  2. Stubborn

  3. Considerate

  4. Inept

2. All were conflicts between settlers and the Mexican government, except:

  1. Slavery

  2. The right to bear arms

  3. Right to a trial by jury

  4. Religion

3. Why did Davy Crockett most likely join the Alamo defenders?

  1. He wanted to win reelection in Tennessee.

  2. He supported Mexico’s control of Texas.

  3. He was always in search of personal fame and fortune.

  4. He supported the Texans cause.

4. Santa Anna’s army defeated the Texan defenders because of:

  1. Their heart and desire.

  2. Their superior numbers and weaponry.

  3. The Texans surrendered.

  4. Santa Anna’s personal leadership.

5. When the American settlers signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, Texas became:

  1. Independent

  2. Part of America

  3. Part of Mexico

  4. A member of Central America

6. What is the best possible explanation for why the first ghosts seen were “flaming spirits” with their bodies on fire?

  1. Because of their burning passion for liberty.

  2. Because of the Alamo’s original use.

  3. Because of what Santa Anna did to their bodies.

  4. Because of what the ghosts did to the Alamo.

7.Which of the ghosts is probably one of the defenders of the fort?

  1. The blonde-haired boy.

  2. The one looking out the window over the double doors.

  3. The broad-chested Native American.

  4. The vaporous torso-like spirit.

8. What might be a good explanation as to why there are so many ghost stories about the Alamo?

  1. It used to be a church.

  2. San Antonio is a famous ghost town.

  3. Santa Anna is buried there.

  4. A large number of people died there.

9. Select one of the following adjectives and explain how it could be used to describe one of the Alamo’s defenders. Use details and information from the passage to support your answer--

Daring Brave Reckless Courageous



Lesson plan by Riccardo Zambon, March 2022













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