All posts by christensene

Leaving Texas

Group picture outside a yellow hotel with one finger raised on one hand and two fingers raised on the other hand

Two men standing behind the counter at a shop with various pastries in the clear glass cover of the counter
Dos Gatos

Our last morning we decided to take it slow and see a little more of San Marcos. We were happy to leave the Red Roof Inn and head out to explore more of this part of Texas.  For breakfast Ryan took us to Dos Gatos for some amazing kolaches.  We each got two (a savory and a sweet), plus we got a half dozen for the group to snack on later.   Then we went to Mochas & Javas for coffee.  We spent the morning retelling stories and reliving memories we had made during our trip.  We also spent part of our time at the coffee shop doing our last team debriefing for the trip.  Our debriefings were simple: 1) What did we do well yesterday, 2) How can we improve our methods, 3) Questions and 4) Plans for tomorrow.  Since we weren’t in the field the previous day our discussions focused more on future plans: how we will maintain the blog as we move from the field to the lab phase of the mission, how we will process and analyze the unidentified individuals from Sacred Heart that will come to Indianapolis, how we can support our colleagues at Texas State University that are doing a large amount of processing, how we can support our colleague at California State University at Chico who is doing the isotope analysis, and how we can continue to raise funds for our return trip next year and the costs of analysis, while bringing awareness to the issue.

Group picture all standing in the river with no shoes on
The River

Before heading to the airport we needed to make one more San Marcos staple stop, the river.  Ryan led us to one of the more secluded spots on the river where we were all able to take off our shoes and soak our tired feet. Standing in the river as the water rushed over our feet was a great way to decompress after our two weeks in Brooks County.  Ryan and Justin taught us how to skip stones, we did some bird watching and mostly we just took the time to relax because we’ll be jumping right back into full schedules once we get back home.  Some of us will be taking classes, teaching, working, preparing to travel for data collection and diving into the forensic caseload that accumulated while we were gone.

Team picture all in their seats on the plane
Homeward bound

Unfortunately we did not have a ton of time to spare and had to soon head back to San Antonio to catch our flight home.  Just like last summer, I learned so much from this experience.  I was honored to meet the many people that would visit our site to show their support and gratitude and the many people that are also working on this human rights crisis in differing fashions. The community has been so welcoming and kind to us it is like leaving a second home, so much so that I already find myself missing Falfurrias.


To the Constable’s House for Dinner

The constable vehicle in the background with large speakers and a microphone set up in front

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, one of my favorite moments from last year was dinner at the constable’s home.  Constable Arturo Garcia once again invited us into his home for an authentic Mexican home-cooked meal as a thank you for all of UIndy and Baylor’s hard work.  It is such an honor for him to invite all of us (30+ people) into his home and go out of his way to make so much amazing food! We became part of the family for an evening and enjoyed sitting together and having a group dinner with Arturo’s friends and family.  This year we were very happy to be able to talk with Arturo’s wife.  Last summer she was at the cemetery tending to a grave and was bit by a brown recluse spider and had to spend the evening with her foot propped up.  We are so appreciative that they would have us over and make us part of the family.

We arrived at the constable’s home to see several tables and chairs placed around the yard along with a PA system that he used to play music all evening. This quickly led to some dancing and karaoke later…

Arturos Dinner on a white styrofoam plate with different sections, rice, sausage, bread, and more meat

We were very excited for a home-cooked meal and we were definitely looking forward to some more cowboy bread this season.  This year the Garcias prepared for us some amazing brisket, beans, rice, sausage, and cowboy bread (our favorite!).

After dinner Arturo started playing music and opened up the dance floor.  Arturo and his wife shared a dance. This was soon followed by Dr. Lori Baker with Ryan, Jim “Sarge” Huggins with Jessica, and Dr. Krista Latham with Arturo, two-stepping to George Strait.

Pairs of people dancing in front of the big speakers

As I mentioned, the PA system quickly became a karaoke system.  Arturo was singing some and then the Baylor students hooked up an iPhone to the system and started giving some awesome performances.  Xavier, a Baylor University student, started us off with an acappella version of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.  Then Helen, another Baylor University student, joined Arturo in singing texano music.

Arturo with a big smile and the microphone with Helen

Arturo and Helen, Baylor University
Xavier dancing in front of the speakers

Xavier, Baylor University

The constable and his family are always so inviting and kind to us.  We were so happy to be able to spend time with them again this field season and are very thankful for his hospitality and a night of relaxing fun.


Thanks to the Baylor Bears

Baylor and UIndy group photo with some sitting, squatting, and standing in 3 rows

The UIndy & Baylor teams

This field season we were very fortunate to be able to have specialized positions that allow us to interact with the Baylor students in a very different way.  The Baylor students are divided into 5 different teams and each team was assigned to their own quadrant (a 4 meter by 4 meter area of the cemetery).  We have had more of an instructor role this season and have been responsible for explaining and showing how to use certain archeological techniques to best utilize the equipment and document what each team is uncovering. I have been amazed by how well the teams are doing,  these students are incredibly inquisitive and enthusiastic and continue to work hard in this hot Texas sun.  Just a few days into this season and it is evident how much the students have learned and still want to learn.  It has been great to see the teams work together to brainstorm strategy and support each other and the other teams. The teams quickly learned that the quadrant distinctions are being blurred as the burials cross the set grid lines.  However the teams were able to quickly adapt and are doing an excellent job working together to coordinate people, equipment, and documentation.

Going into this field season we knew that this section was going to be more challenging and it has already proven to be different from last year’s section as far as soil density, burial depths, and burial types.  We would not be able to complete this excavation alone, this is a large site that we would not be able to tackle without all of the help from Baylor University.  They provide so much support in the field and they truly make this project possible.

The more we become invested in this human rights issue, the more we are seeing the many different organizations, universities, and individuals that need to work together to solve this daunting issue.  I am honored to work with Baylor University and I look forward to seeing the students further progression throughout the next week in the field.