with the GargoyleBehind
beats the heart of a young boy
paint is hardly dry on the exterior of the Fayette County courthouse. In fact,
the interior doesn't even have wet paint. The fishscale slate shingles have only
been up a few weeks and the four clock faces have yet to be simonized - or should
that be syncronized? Anyway, whatever they do to make the clocks all read the
same hasn't been done. The weathervane arrow is as shiny as a Wal-Mart gardening
trowel and townfolk are betting that the Fayette County meridian marker will be
hauled off to a landfill by workers who mistake it for construction debris.
Fayette County Courthouse weather vane|
TE Photo 10-04
finials have all been finalized, the fascia have been facialed and the stringcourses
have all been strung. The gargoyles have been sandblasted - although they still
appear frightened of heights. Not one worker has been reported missing or entombed
in wet cement throughout the entire restoration process; so if the gargoyles are
supposed to ward off evil spirits - it might be prove they're working. But as
for insects - the 'goyles aren't doing a thing. On the day of our visit a swarm
of bees was moving in. The clock-simonizers might want to take precautions. If
the 'goyles say their job description doesn't include insects - they might be
Fayette County Meridian Marker |
TE Photo 10-04
Kasper, Klaus, Otto, Helmut and Hipolito (not their real names) are the courthouse
gargoyles. They've been perched here for 113 years, watching generations of Fayette
countians pass beneath them. Like James Taylor, they've seen fires and they've
seen rain. They've also seen hailstones, floods, weddings, enlistments, parades,
the filming of movies and a few things that we won't be discussing here.
The novelty of having courthouse gargoyles has largely been forgotten by most
residents. If people look up - it's usually to get the time - and they seldom
notice the six grotesques that are well below the clock.
are the days when these bearded bug-eyed creatures were fed ceremonial Kolaches
on Walpurgis Night. No longer are the problem children from the La Grange grade
school hung by their suspenders from the necks of the four corner creatures. But
before I get ahead of myself, I should probably start with how I came to meet
During a photo shoot for Texas Geographic Magazine, I was climbing
a scaffold alongside the building when a gentle Autumn zephyr blew a small cloud
of bat guano up my nose. As I raised by head from a huge sneeze - I heard a baritone
voice quite near me say "Gesundheit!" I looked up through watery eyes into the
stony stare of a pair of deep-set eyes. Since space is restricted I'll spare you
my initial disbelief at meeting a talking gargoyle and start with my first question...about
a local legend.
after his recent exfoliation|
Photo by John Troesser, 10-04
Klaus: "It wasn't Ralph Nader."
"So I'm talking to a gargoyle?"
Klaus: "Ja, call me Klaus. But, to
correct you, we are called more correctly "grotesques." Gargoyles are decorative
vaterspouts that carry vater away from the building - but don't vorry about it
- everybody calls us gargoyles - ve're used to it."
"Is it true that schoolchildren were once hung by their suspenders from your necks?"
Klaus: "Ja, it's true. Vy do you tink they called them suspenders? That's
a joke. Ven der kinder stopped vearing suspenders, it stopped too the fun ve vas
JS: "I can't help but notice a German accent. Are
you from Germany?"
Klaus: "Germany? "No, ve are all of us
from San Antonio." Ve vere carved in das stoneyard of Frank Teich - where we learned
German from the stonecarvers. Except for Hipolito, that iss. I think he vas carved
by Mexican apprentices.
JS: "Well, your accent seems a little..."
"Inconsistant?" (laughter) "Hell, I guess I can speak better English than you.
I was just messin' with your mind. It isn't everyday we get to talk with someone.
Wanna hear my James Mason impersonation?"
JS: "So you're bilingual?"
Klaus: "Bilingual? Schmilingual. I'm a polyglot. About all I get to do
all day is study languages. Boy, did I have a time with those Czech verbs! Sometimes
when it's real dark I'll fly down to river for a drink - or over to the cemetery
and visit with some of the statues."
JS: "You can talk with
Klaus: "Duh!" "You're talkin' to me, aren't you?"
JS: "You seem to have a sense of humor."
Klaus: "I like to have
a little fun if that's what you mean. Look over at the other corner - see that
grotesque over there - the good-looking one? - that's me."
do you mean?"
Klaus: "I mean - I'm a ventriloquist - and that's me
over there. I bet you didn't even see my lips move." "I say, that's a joke, son."
JS: "You're right - I didn't."
Klaus: "Don't stare - just look
like you're talking to yourself - somebody might be looking up and I don't want
you to blow my cover after 113 years."
JS: "Uh, Okay. Can I meet
Klaus: "You can do whatever you want - but I'm the only
one here that will answer you." (more laughter)
JS: "The others...
Klaus: "...are stone. I made up their names - I'm really the only one up
here that can answer you."
JS: "I'm lost."
listen up - I'll talk real slow. I was human once and was cursed. My spirit is
now imprisoned in this stone - get it?
JS: "For what!? What did
Klaus: "I was in the back of a buckboard making faces at my
sister and my mother told me if I didn't stop - I'd stay that way."
"You're not serious!"
Klaus: "As serious as a train wreck. It's true.
Little boys who make faces at their sisters - are changed into gargoyles. But
only if their mothers warn them that their faces will stay that way. I didn't
listen, so here I am."
JS: "But there aren't enough gargoyles..."
Klaus: "I guess you've never been to Europe. It was just my luck to get
stuck in Texas."
JS: "But why are you the only one here?"
"Yeah, I was wondering about that myself. I could sure use some company. I guess
the gargoyle fairy or whoever put me here forgot about me. I hope they remember
me when it's time for me to get out."
JS: "So you'll get out..."
Klaus: "Yes, it's not forever. Sheesh, I was just making faces - it's
not like I took the Lindbergh baby. I've only got two years left. It all has to
do with how many times you were warned - and how many faces you made."
"And you made..."
Klaus: "Evidently, it was one hundred and fifteen
JS: "Well, this seems pretty severe."
Klaus: "Yes, it's tough, but there are worse things. With more serious
infractions you keep a human form but you have a job where you are scorned by
your fellow human beings."
JS: "Can you give me an example?"
"Bureaucrats, car salespeople, realtors, receptionists, army recruiters, customs
inspectors...occupations like that."
JS: "And for the really big
Klaus: "I think you can figure it out."
"You mean lawyers and politicians?"
Klaus: "...and certain presidential