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Cattle and sheep herders protected their interests when they were absent. In addition to inheriting her share of this property, Manuela acquired the shares of other heirs, and in this manner she and Francisco put together the Rancho San Juan, some 6, acres in Zapata County. Following Texas's independence from Mexico, it was the Republic of Texas first, and later the State of Texas, that made grants, as well as sales of land, to individuals.

Not content with merely inheriting land or buying the interests of fellow heirs, he had also begun purchasing land in Webb County made available by and through the State of Texas. Since the s he had acquired sizable tracts northeast of Laredo and had continued to do so during the first decade of the twentieth century.


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With all this land, the father and the son faced the problem of the distances that separated the ranches in the two counties, as well as the distance from their home in Guerrero to the various ranches. However, the situation in Webb County must not have been satisfactory to Don Francisco, even with the help of his brother and nephews, because in he leased La Volanta to A. Landrum of Laredo. In July of the following year, though, Manuel received the disturbing information that someone else, not Landrum, was in possession as tenant of La Volanta, and he made this fact known to his father.

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The discovery had upset Don Francisco to the extent that he made preparations to travel to Laredo to consult an attorney and to meet with his son there. For Don Francisco, preparing to leave Guerrero was not a simple matter. Before doing so, he was required to obtain official leave to absent himself from the municipality, since he served on the Guerrero city council or ayuntamiento as alcalde primero, a title that subsequently caused the newspapers much confusion. Traveling from Guerrero to Laredo was no easy feat.

There was no railroad that ran downriver from Laredo. The trip from Guerrero to Laredo presented two options, neither comfortable nor secure. Of the two possibilities, the latter was probably the preferable, since the ferry crossing was always chancy, and this risky venture still had to be followed by a long and uncomfortable ride, perhaps on horseback or, at best, by cart. As an illustration of the condition of the road from Laredo to the south, we read that, as late as , the mail bound for Zapata and Laredo from downriver--and vice-versa--was carried on horseback because that was the fastest means to use on the existing road.

Virgil N. Every day, except Sunday, the canvas bags with newspapers and other small parcels and the leather pouches with letters and first- class mail arrived at Zapata late in the afternoon from down river. Here the men rested at night, but six o'clock the next morning, rain or shine, cold or hot, the mail left Zapata for San Ygnacio, where another rider, his mount saddled and ready, after receiving the mail for up-river points was off at a bound.

Here the Zapata man exchanged his tired mount for a fresh horse, received the down-river mail and was back in Zapata by four in the afternoon. The up-river rider was met at Becerro Arroyo, twelve miles distant from Laredo, where he was relieved of his mail by a rider from La Posta; both men returned to their respective stations. Despite the lack of roads in the downriver communities, the Laredo business elite preferred to concentrate its efforts on road improvements to the north of the city.

The Laredo Daily Times of August 16, , carried an editorial, "For Good Roads," that urged the proposal to link Laredo with San Antonio by highway, although a rail connection already existed between the two cities. The editorial read in part: "A project is now on foot to link Laredo with San Antonio by a highway which shall. It is to be hoped that the citizens of Laredo will take definite action [toward] the early completion of the Laredo-San Antonio highway.

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To the south, travel by automobile between Laredo and Zapata was probably possible in , but just barely so. An old-time Zapata resident, Beatriz C. Izaguirre, reminisced about an automobile trip between the two locations, circa One day my sister, brother and I went with my father and my mother to Laredo on business.


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This was when there were no paved roads in Zapata County and the roads were only trails in the countryside. We had to stop the car when we saw another car coming in the opposite direction, as the roads were so narrow. The roads were also very bumpy and we had to travel very slowly. We would shake all the way even though the maximum speed was 15 to 20 miles per hour. It was not only hard to drive because the roads were rough, but besides that, there were several arroyos we had to go through in order to get to Laredo.

If it happened to rain that day, you could not come back the same day. The arroyos were full of water and one had to wait for the water level to subside. Izaguirre Francisco and Manuela would have traveled to Nuevo Laredo, most likely by mule-drawn wagon, since automobiles were then a rarity in Guerrero and even in Laredo horse- and mule-drawn wagons still outnumbered autos.

There is no record that Manuela accompanied her husband on this trip, but this too can be safely assumed because, barring an illness or some personal calamity, this would have been the most natural course of action. Francisco and Manuela's two children and all their grandchildren now lived in Laredo. If Francisco went through the trouble of making the problematic trip to attend to business in Laredo, then Manuela would have gone with him to visit their family. Francisco and Manuela had had six children, but of this number only two had survived to adulthood: Manuel, the oldest, and Adela, the youngest.

That summer of Manuel, Francisca, and their seven children were at their San Juan Ranch, not in Laredo, so Manuela and Francisco would have stayed with their daughter. However, even if that had not been the case, Manuela would probably still have stayed with Adela when she came to Laredo. It would have been more natural for Manuela to feel more comfortable at her daughter's house than at her daughter-in-law's.

But her situation was more complicated than the traditional one with tension between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, for the two women were also first cousins, although Manuela was twenty-one years older than Francisca. Although marriage between cousins was often permitted--indeed, it would have been difficult to avoid in those small communities--it was not always well received, and there appears to have been some friction between Manuela and Francisca due to this cause, according to one of Francisca's granddaughters. The personalities of the two women may also have had something to do with any tension that existed between them.

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Photographs of Manuela and Francisca hint at the strong will that animated each of them. One photograph taken around , of Francisco and Manuela in middle age, shows a prosperous-looking couple. As was the custom at the time, he is sitting while she stands by him, an unfurled fan in her hand. He is a broad-chested man, with a confident air in his posture and strong hands that reveal a lifetime of physical work.

A steel rod seems to run down Manuela's back, the result perhaps of the corset that also produced the wasp-waist--a slender woman with a proud carriage. Her face is delicately molded, with deep-set blue eyes, but her hands, like her husband's, reveal a lifetime of work.

The wedding portrait of Francisca, taken in when she was twenty-two, shows a dark-haired "proud beauty" in a white lace mantilla. Her flashing eyes, which appear dark in the photograph, were actually blue, like Manuela's. With such an attractive cousin, it was understandable that Manuel had not looked elsewhere for a wife. That summer of Manuel and Francisca and their seven children were in Zapata County, at the San Juan Ranch, which his parents had put together out of Manuela's share of the inheritance of the Charco Redondo Grant and what they had bought from other heirs.

The Charco Redondo had comprised at the time it was granted in more than 22, acres, but with the large families that were prevalent then and the passage of several generations, individual heirs often received at most a few hundred acres Guide no. The San Juan Ranch encompassed more than a quarter of the original grant and required, as well as deserved, the frequent presence and direct attention of the owners.

But there were only two men to oversee the approximately 17, acres in Webb and Zapata Counties. With Francisca and Manuel in Texas, the care of Sabino Verde would have fallen either to her father-in-law or to Lorenzo de la Garza, Esther's husband, since both men were in Guerrero. Manuel and Francisca and their children were at the San Juan Ranch for both personal and business reasons.

Even in those days when most people lived in rural areas or in small towns, it was considered healthy, particularly for children, to go to the country during the summer vacation from school. At the San Juan Ranch, Manuel and Francisca's brood, which ranged in age from fifteen to one, could run free at play and at work, al aire libre, breathing in the fresh country air that was supposed to undo the ravages of the stuffy air in town.

They could drink foaming warm milk, almost directly from the cow, and eat freshly picked fruits and vegetables. Of course, it was not all play for the children; they were expected to help their parents, according to their age and sex.

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The oldest was a girl, Virginia, named after her maternal grandmother. In the early days of August , Virginia was already anticipating the arrival of her sixteenth birthday on August Soon after that she would be returning to the Ursuline Convent School in Laredo, where she was to begin her senior year.

Virginia had been a boarding student at the Ursuline Convent while her parents were living in Guerrero, but now she could enjoy her school days while enjoying the warmth of living with her family as well. It is quite probable that it was Manuela who paid for Virginia's schooling with the Ursulines. But although surrounded by affection, Virginia would not have led a pampered existence, particularly at the ranch. She and her thirteen-year-old sister, Adelina, would have been expected to help their mother with the domestic chores, at the very least caring for the younger children.

For fourteen-year-old Francisco, the oldest boy, summertime would have been devoted to helping his father and the ranch hands with their work. For the men, summer was the time to carry out improvements on the land, when fences and corrals were built or mended, dams reinforced, and wells dug. Daniel D. They Can't Kill Us All.


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