by Linda Gorski
"I was in the Big Bend doing research for my upcoming river
on the Great Unknown of the Rio Grande. In the course of the
my co-author and I were taking photos at the Hot Springs when we struck
up a conversation with a man with a strangely familiar long white
sparkling eyes, a red nose and a pretty jolly tummy. When I asked
what he did he said that he is a full time RV-er and a Winter Texan who
spends the Christmas season playing Santa in Harlingen. He looked
just like those cards you see of Santa on vacation in the sun."
Phil Flory and his wife Ina Ruth hail from Hillside, Colorado. Flory says that he has been playing Santa for years in Harlingen. "Once the children pull my beard and push my tummy, they're convinced I'm the real thing." Ina Ruth made matching Santa and Mrs. Santa costumes for the couple and they frequently participate in Christmas parades in south Texas as the stars of the show.
This was the Flory's first visit to the Hot Springs. "We'd heard about these healing springs for years and thought we would come here on our way to Harlingen." Aulbach says he's just disappointed his three children Rachel, Stephen and Matthew weren't with him on this trip.. "I'm sure they would have gotten a big kick out of meeting Santa in such an unexpected place. But they were pretty impressed with the photos!"
Meeting Santa wasn't Aulbach's only surprise during this visit to the Hot Springs. "I've been here several times and when we've paddled this section of the Rio Grande we always look forward to a stop at the Hot Springs, especially in the winter. The water temperature is around 105 degrees and historical records tell us that the springs have therapeutic qualities, which is why they were built up as a tourist attraction in the early part of the last century."
"The water was particularly low this time, below the level of the concrete walls inside the bath. For the first time I noticed that J. O. Langford, who built the baths at the Hot Springs, had carved his initials in the concrete when it was poured along with the date - 1912. I had never seen that before. It was an exciting addition to the research we've already done on the Boquillas Canyon area and the Hot Springs in particular for our next book."
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Copyright by Louis F. Aulbach, 2001