The City of Saint James
The City of Saint James
It is hard for me to hold myself to the routine of this great university of the plains, for the mountains have been my playground, and the sea. Only the stars are the same, and they call me home to my city of Saint James, whence came the Spanish seamen in their caravels three hundred years ago, seeking their El Dorado.
Out on those sun-blanched sands, with the Southwest streaming through my hair, I have enacted with my playmates many a scene of bloody battle between those doughy Spaniards and the Indians. Again and again, dreaming in the tropic shadows of the eucalyptus groves, I have seen the trade-winds bringing those caravels up the Channel to the Point. I have seen those padres of old dropping anchor, blessing that romping-ground of mine, and planting there the flag of Spain.
You who have not known the sea cannot understand its call. I have loved to get up with the sun and plunge into the chill surf to defy the treacherous demon who grips my young body and tries to drag it to his lair below. I have perched like a bird on the gunwales of a cat-boat, dipping to the wind, the flying spume chopping at my face. What picture can be lovelier than a sailboat skipping in the sun from crest to crest, the boom dodging like a dancing sprite? What can be more fun than to prance over the waves on a surfboard in the wake of a speeding boat, or to swim defiantly against the tide that swirls around the bay? The sea is no place for weaklings. It is a companion only for those who are strong of body and courageous of soul.
Through the hours of night I have sat on the beach in melancholy mood, listening to the dull roar of the breakers. It is a sad message that they bring, and sometimes I have felt that their monotonous booming would drive me mad. At other times their voice has seemed to me the voice of God, bringing me into communion with an invisible force that binds my heart to the heart of man.
At this distance that blessed City of Saint James seems to be a part of a past to which I shall never return; yet, when June comes round, I’ll be going home again to my playground in the West, to the hills where I shall walk alone and be instructed by wiser teachers than any in this university of the plains; for I shall take counsel with Mother Nature in the mountain fastness, and I shall sit in the lap of the Old Man of the Sea.
Edwin Houser, The Freshman Scrapbook, May 1926