CHEROKEE COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, west of Alto, received special attention Saturday at a rebuild garden day. The ‘Snake Woman Garden’ is annually cleaned after the first frost, but this year the gathering was as much for the volunteers as it was for the garden.
With the help of around 60 volunteers, The Snake Woman Garden, will be prepared for a long winter after a tumultuous spring.
"The garden survived the tornado”, said Assistant Site Superintendent Rachel Galan. “So, even though right now it looks sort of bleak, it's just a winter garden."
Many of The Friends of Caddo were in the April 13 tornado. It hit the site’s visitor center and museum with them inside, injuring dozens and killing one woman in a parked car.
Survivors know that labor is part of their own healing process.
“To clearing weeds, putting out mulch, rebuilding the compost bins, anything we need to get the garden back in its wonderful shape to be a showpiece again,” listed Galan as she watched all the volunteers doing each chore.
With each bulb found it's returned to the ground for next year's crop.
“It’s like a treasure hunt,” laughed Cherokee County Extension Agent Kimberly Benton. The horticulture specialist uses the garden for workshops with children to master gardeners.
The Snake Woman Garden is based on a Caddo legend.
“It was a cautionary tale for children,” said Galan, as a little boy got directions on how to tend the garden.
Caddo children centuries ago to children of today are learning
“To respect the crops and the land which was so important to the Caddo people,” explained Galan.
The same land that is important to healing volunteers and their new-found friends, including SFA Forestry students, the Texas Forest Service, master gardeners, and Texas A&M archeology students.
“The archaeologist associated with Caddo Mounds got one of his degrees from Texas A&M,” said Texas A&M archeology graduate student Ryan Young when asked why he and other Aggies made the trip to Alto.
The alum they speak of is Victor Galan, Rachel's husband. He continues to recuperate from debilitating injuries in Houston and is looking forward to a homecoming in several months. There's a Caddo Grass House he wants to see rebuilt.
The next project, probably in February, will be the harvest of switchgrass to rebuild the grass house.
Another project Friends of Caddo Mounds will use to show their devotion to the sacred ground at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site.