Sunday, March 4, 2012

What Should I Write About?

First off, an apology to those who follow this blog and expect me to post interesting stuff.

It ain't as easy as it looks. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to do all the things I need to get done.

So, what's it gonna be?

I think one of the things I can do is post some excerpts from my Father Serra's Legacy. It seems for every five or six thousand words I write, I end up spending at least an hour doing research. Or scanning through all the reference material I have saved on my hard drive to ensure I've got the right information. As much as I enjoy the writing, I enjoy even more learning about the brave and pious friars who gave their all to carry out what they saw as their sacred duty. And, dispelling some of the lies and accusations I heard while growing up in Southern California.

Here's a small tidbit from the second novel in the series, "The King's Highway."

Mission San Luis Obispo was quite successful from the start. Part of it was due to the excellent and mild weather. But, most of all it came from the intelligent and diligent Chumash Indians who lived in the area. When the Spanish first arrived in the area, they encountered a multitude a huge and ferocious creatures - Grizzly Bears. They feared nothing. The poor Indians only had crude spears and weak bows. The bears were at the top of the food chain and had no enemies. The second most dangerous animal was the Mountain Lion or Puma. But, it would only attack an unattended bear cub or an adult male that was disabled or very ill.

And the bears decided to attack the Spanish, strange creatures riding on the back of even stranger deer or antelopes. Much to their surprise, the strange creatures had very sharp fangs. Long, steel-tipped lances, razor sharp swords and, even more powerful, muskets.

The bears didn't go down easy and several soldados de cuera fell before slashing claws and ferocious fangs. But, in the end, the Spaniards carried the day and the bears learned to find other prey.

This was an astonishing blessing to the Chumash who showed their appreciation by coming to the mission, listening to the friars, and lending a hand in making the strange structures so unlike their own wattle and dried mud huts.

In fact, when foodstuffs ran low among the first three mission, the governor led a detachments of these soldiers back to the Valley of Bears to slaughter dozens. They shared some of the meat with the Chumash and took lots of bear hides and carcasses back to Mission San Antonio and Monte Rey.

 A side note: Not all the Chumash were that pleased with the arrival of the Spanish in their area. Most unhappy were the tribal elders and "shamans" or medicine men. [In my research, I learned Shaman is not really the correct word for those leading tribal religious rites. The proper one seems to be Healer.]

They roused their people and groups from the south and east of The Valley of the Bears came and attacked the mission, using fire arrows to set the thatch and tule reed roofs afire. Padre José Cavalier, who founded the mission with Father Serra, remembered the tile roofs in his home of Majorca. He remembered out how to make clay and an oven/kiln to harden it. He then formed strong beams and covered the chapel roof with the tiles we have become so used to calling Spanish Tiles. Bit by bit, he made enough to roof, not only the chapel but the warehouses and living quarters for the soldiers and acolytes. Seeing how well they worked, it soon became a matter of common practice to use similar roofs in all the missions.

Oh yeah, to begin with, most mission structures were not very substantial, made of willow rods with smaller twigs and brush interlaces, all covered in dried mud. It was only a few years later when the hard work of making adobe bricks, that more substantial structures were erected.

And yes, the Chumash worked at the side of the friar's to do all this - without enslavement! They did so in return for better food, not having to face starvation or suffering from drought, and freedom from the predation of the bears.


[Hope you enjoyed this.]

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