aMULEts #2: Ghosts
“Nacogdoches has a soul, a spirit, an atmosphere. She is no raw product of today or yesterday. There are ghosts on her streets. Perhaps you have never seen them; but they are there. And what a wonderfully picturesque, varied pageant they make!”
Poet and Nacogdoches resident Karle Wilson Baker wrote in 1906 that the streets of Nacogdoches were full of ghosts. I concur. In fact, that’s exactly what I tried to get across to Lorraine and Sharion of the Texas Ghost Society when I received a call from them at The Runaway Mule recently. The Texas Ghost Society had expressed interest in coming to the Oldest Town In Texas and scoping things out. The Chamber of Commerce, knowing I have an active interest in the town’s history— specifically, that of the downtown and its buildings— had given Lorraine my number.
“Do you think there is supernatural activity there in downtown Nacogdoches?” I was asked. I thought of Ms. Baker and replied.
“I don’t think you can throw a rock down here without hitting a building with ghosts in it.”
Now, I will tell you upfront: I, like Karle Wilson Baker, am a writer and a bit of a poet, and my writing is teeming with ghosts, sometimes figurative and often literal. My new book Keachi: A Faery Tale is as much a ghost story as a fairy tale. So I’m, at least, completely comfortable with the idea of ghosts. In my way of thinking, ghosts are our history. And if a place is rich and deep with history, then it stands to reason that its streets would be full of activity. A real ghost town.
One thing I’m not going to do is tell you everything that happened while the Texas Ghost Society (and I!) investigated The Runaway Mule on May 5, the night of the Super Full Moon. It’s not the time, and it’s not my story to tell. I will only say this: if Harper or Hooper or whoever he is wants to call our store his home, I’m happy as a gopher in soft dirt. I think the guy likes me— he said as much just the other night, if I heard right— and I think he’s just fine right where he is.
When you think about it, ghosts just make good sense. We’re all dumped here on this planet, and we have to negotiate our way through time and space to get where we’re going. Time and space. To me, one’s no bigger or smaller than the other. They’re both just there, and they have to be dealt with. Whether I’m occupying Wall Street, Bourbon Street or Church Street, I’m sharing this moment in time with everyone else alive and doing their thing right now. I might often feel like I’m in a completely different world from people like Rupert Murdoch and Kim Kardashian, but, unfortunately, I’m not.
However, when you just look at space, things get interesting. Time not being a factor, I share my space at The Runaway Mule with every soul who’s stumbled upon that bit of ground and called it home, or at least a resting spot. Indians, Spanish missionaries, early Anglo-American settlers, Hooper the ghost. The only thing that separates us is the veil of time. In other words, I have more in common with the ghosts of downtown Nacogdoches than I do with in-the-flesh T. Boone Pickens or even Kinky Friedman.
Someday, I hear tell, we might see through the veil. I think a whole lot of folks are going to be real surprised at what they find. I hope I am. But if we really are finally able to see time stand still, it sounds to me like we might be seeing a whole lot of the ghosts around us. Chief Bowles. Gil Y’Barbo. Father Antonio Margil de Jesus. Adolphus Sterne. Haden Edwards. William Goyens. Thomas Jefferson Rusk. Diedrich Rulfs. Karle Wilson Baker has surely become one of the ones that she wrote about, as has the man who used to work the printing press next door to us. That man’s children. The barbers who’ve populated Church Street down through decade after decade after decade. These were their streets. They’re kind enough to share them with us, just as we will step aside to share them with our progeny.
Downtown Nacogdoches is a ghost town. Well, yes. Downtown Nacogdoches is crowded with people. Yes, that too. Come down and walk the brick streets, check out these old buildings, poke around in the nooks and crannies. Find your history, your neighbors, and you’ll surely discover yourself.
P.S. It’s been suggested that we need a Hooper shirt at our store. “The Runaway Mule: Hooper Hangs Out Here” or maybe “Hooper Is My Homie.” Come by and say hello and give us your best idea. One small warning: he seems to be quite the flirt, has a thing for the ladies. No wonder I like him.