There are things most people wouldn't want to touch with a ten foot pole: Roadkill, Aunt Lucy's 15 bean jello salad, infections, small town heated river politics. And yet, we should all be thankful for those who take care of such unpleasantries with nary a pole in sight. Turkey Vultures stay busy off the Loop and Highway 46. Uncle Bob eats questionable casseroles because he loves Aunt Lucy. Nurses wipe away nasty stuff with a smile. And say what you will about the 2011 Disposable Container Ban issue, New Braunfels is full of passionate folk who keep things interesting here and love their rivers.
Summer is coming like it does every year. People will be traveling here to enjoy the beauty of our area like they do every year. Current rules and regulations will be posted like they are every year. Some people will ignore them and others will comply like every year. And in the heart of every youth (and youthful person) it is sure to be the best summer yet. Like every year.
Do you remember the first time you stuck your big toe in the Comal? An arctic chill raced through your veins and worries of everyday doldrums evaporated as courage built in icy bones to take the plunge and jump on in. On that first tube trip you got to lay back and watch blue skies and puffy clouds pass through tree framed windows. The voice of your companions, or maybe a duck, breaks the trance. Life is easy in a tube. That is agreed upon by all.
We cannot pretend that political issues regarding the management of the Comal have been easy. But this little two mile river with her beautiful history and promising future is worth a challenging discourse. Discussions today are but a rippling concentric circle as a pebble is tossed her way.
For thousands of years the headwaters of the river at Comal Springs was a favorite camping place for native Indian tribes. Conaqueyadesta is an ancient name meaning "where the river has its source." For ease of communication, and to the benefit of the future Chamber of Commerce, the Spanish name Comal ("flat griddle used for cooking yummy tortillas") has stuck.
Juan Espinoza wrote about his early encounters with the mystical waters in 1716. "Willow trees...(make) a delightful grove for recreation, and the enjoyment of the melodious songs of different birds. Ticks molested us, attaching themselves to our skin." Even an 18th century Spanish Missionary knew a few ticks (or drunks or rules or regulations) were not going to keep people away from the spell-bound banks of the babbling springs.
By the mid 1800's, German settlers put the river to work, garnering energy for gristmills, sawmills, factories, an ice plant and even a brewery. Merchant Joseph Landa purchased nearly 200 acres of land around the springs and in 1898 Landa's Park was established.
In the 1950's and 60's, before waterparks and outfitters, Stinky Falls was the place to be for teenagers and hippies from all over. Stinky Falls was so named because of a defunct 1907 well that produced odiferous sulfur water. Some unscrupulous activities there were also pretty rank. (Weed stinks, too.) Very un-family friendly either way. The city took action to control the rowdy crowds in the heart of town and in 1976 built the now beloved New Braunfels Tube Chute in its place.
As a kid, my first trip to New Braunfels in the 70's for a family reunion had me thinking everyone lived in A-framed houses, cooked outside at every meal, and fished till it got too dark to see. I remember my Uncle John snorkeling and finding snapping turtles and a wedding ring. He made one lady really happy when he found that ring. My earliest memories of the river are of peace and harmony. And grilled sausage. Happy indeed.
"Never in his life had he seen a river before- this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver, glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble." Kenneth Grahame penned these words in 1907 about Mole's favorite river in The Wind in the Willows. Certainly this is the image we want future generations to have when they lay eyes on the Comal or the Guadalupe for the first time.
Summer is coming like it does every year. Whether the can is banned or not, people will be sticking their big toe in the icy water like they do every year. Willows will frame the sky for relaxed tubers like they do every year. The river will shake and shiver and gleam and sparkle, chatter and bubble like it does every year.
Who knows? This just may be the best summer yet!