Monday, February 13, 2012

Blue Springs

Cason and Virginia Callaway “discovered” Blue Springs in 1921, and it was the extraordinary beauty that brought them from LaGrange to live in the Hamilton area. However the spring has an unwritten history extending back centuries and beyond. In the late eighteenth century, a hospital on-site utilized the pure water. Prior to that, Native American people knew of the spring and clearly visited it with some regularity. The spring’s location is peripherally marked with trees, centuries old, that were bent in their youth to point toward the water source. The water ranks among the cleanest in the world, as it has since Franklin Roosevelt first commissioned a study to determine drinking sources around Harris County.

At the front entrance, the wood and stone gates blend seamlessly into the grove of giant magnolias. More impressive still is the rear entrance, loping through pine forests and over a mountain ridge from the log cabin home of my great-grandparents. However you get there, the swimming pool will immediately pull you in.

When my great-grandfather Cason purchased the Blue Springs watershed in 1930, he had already envisioned the swimming pool that he would build seven years later. Drilled out of the native hollis quartz, the pool at Blue Springs stretches just over two acres. The water shares an exquisite blue color with its source, though not the same intensity. At the south end of the pool, the water reaches a depth of twenty feet, at the north it is as shallow as one foot. The majority sits at roughly eight feet deep, with quartz bottom shining through the pristine water. A swim pavilion constructed from hand-hewn oak, salvaged from a barn on the property, has hosted many thousands of guests over the past seventy years. A matching pavilion atop the overlooking ridge seats eighty guests at an arc of long oak picnic tables, surrounding a twenty foot barbecue pit and combination butler’s pantry / kitchen, built from the quartz taken from the pool. The architecture of the structures compliments the extraordinary landscape, cultivated over decades by dedicated horticulture enthusiast Cason and his equally green-thumbed wife, Virginia. Cason and Virginia were well-known for their hospitality, and frequently entertained their friends, including Mr. Roosevelt, at Blue Springs.

The pool and the pavilions make an ideal party spot, but their beauty dulls in comparison with the spring itself. Approximately one-hundred yards north of the pool winds a trail, at first paved with stone then worn dirt tangled with rhododendron roots. Mountain laurel lines the sides of the trail in thick walls, and their bloom in late spring delights the eyes and the nose. Continue down the trail for thirty yards, and quite suddenly, the spring will appear. The deep blue color of the water is shocking, almost as shocking as the temperature of the water. A moment in the spring and skin immediately looks blue through the water. Five minutes in the spring and lips will turn blue from the cold. Moss banks line the wall of the ridge that embraces the spring and provide vantage points for jumping in. The visible bottom begins at a depth of fifty feet and slopes downward into infinity. Divers sent to examine the caves below have reached three hundred feet, at which point the undertow and the narrowness of the caves make continuing all but impossible.

Here, in these waters, on these grounds, my family marks every major milestone. When we marry, the showers, rehearsal dinners, and receptions thrown here bring us back. When we are baptized, it is with the cold, blue spring water. When we die, it is to this sacred spot that we repair, with our family, resting in the beauty and strength of those who came before. It couldn’t be more fitting that the family mausoleum sits atop the mountain ridge overlooking the watershed, emblazoned with the family crest and motto: “St. Callaway, Ora Pro Me.” Made from the same native quartz, it currently houses five beloved greats of the Callaway family, four inside the mausoleum and one, my grandfather, outside in the north center plot of the graveyard, where he will watch over his grandchildren as we, one by one, come home.

- Marshall Callaway

1 comment:

  1. Marshall:

    Jeebus. The image you paint is almost astounding. At points I feel like it goes on a little too long. The ends of the paragraphs could use some trimming.

    And then I don't know how I feel about the ending. I feel like it's nice, but that it goes into you too much, because you're not really there throughout.

    But! But but but! You are amazing at taking me there. I didn't even know this place existed prior to this little bit, and I was so captivated that I couldn't stop myself from reading. And further captivated that I had to leave this little bit at the end.

    You are amazing. *GUSH!*