Legends of the Falls, a theatrical hayride through the history of Cottonwood Shores, proved to be a success with six sold-out performances Oct. 22-23. Local actors portrayed historical figures, or “legends,” at a graveyard, lakeside, and on a front porch, telling their stories as area settlers from the mid- to late 1800s.
“We’re going to be taking you back to the year 1846,” tour guide Debbie Holloway told visitors. “We are going to pay tribute, honor, and show respect to the people who came before us, to these individuals who carved a path for our way of life in the Texas Hill Country, specifically here in Cottonwood Shores.”
The event began with a short speech by Mayor Donald Orr, who, when finished, secured the back of the wagon and climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Round ’em up and head ’em out,” he shouted as the tour guide took over.
Somewhere, a cannon was fired by the Sons of the Republic of Texas.
About 25 people perched on hay bales covered with blankets, clutching cardboard fans that doubled as programs. On one side of the programs were the names of the actors and their roles; on the other side a photo of the Texas Historical Commission‘s historical marker for Fuchs Cemetery, the first stop on the tour.
Holloway began spinning a tale from the past as the trailer bounced along a road lined with workers pouring slabs and framing walls of new homes in a community with a growing future.
The mayor deftly backed up the long hay-and-people-filled trailer to the cemetery fence, parking it under oak trees for shade. Five of the seven legends took their turns on a small wooden platform to tell their stories.
“I am known as the father of public schools in Texas for I opened the first school with the assistance of state funds,” said Adolph Fuchs (played by Preston Kirk). “I must have seemed like an unlikely neighbor to the frontiersmen here in the Hill Country. After all, I had degrees from three German universities and I was an accomplished musician.”
He described how his big family would gather to sing around their piano, the first one west of the Colorado River.
Fuchs was followed by Ino Fuchs Varnhagen, played by Brigid Cooley, and then Anna, the wife of Conrad Fox, played by Francie Dix.
As each legend finished their tale, they walked to their gravesite, or, in the case of Anna Fox, who was buried elsewhere, the gravesite of her children.
The story of the family graveyard ends with the tales of Hermann Fuchs, played by Charles Watkins, and Oscar Fox, played by Todd Fox, who is actually a fourth cousin of the person he portrayed.
At the second stop along the shoreline, a prehistoric American, played by Dane Lackey, told of the discovery of his 2,000-year-old bones, which were uncovered by floodwaters in 1964.
“I had been murdered and buried quickly and deeply to avoid detection,” the young Native American said. “What could have caused such foul play in an ancient society?”
At the final stop, Adolph Hoppe, played by Mike Brittain, told of how he was seized by Confederate sympathizers known as fire eaters, killed, and thrown into Dead Man’s Hole on a ranch south of Marble Falls. As he told his story, one of his descendants shielded her eyes from the sun with her program as she gazed up at the man playing her great-great-great-grandfather.
“How did I do? Did I tell it right?” Hoppe asked her.
With a big smile, Robyn Richter, chairwoman of The Falls on the Colorado Museum in Marble Falls, nodded her approval. After all, she helped with the research for the tales.
A large community of people from across the Highland Lakes came together to make the event a success. At the Cottonwood Shores Community Center, visitors were served free water, hot dogs, snow cones, and cotton candy. Tables were set up for the Fort Croghan Grounds and Museum in Burnet and other local organizations. Several tables contained crafts for kids so they could make their own cornhusk dolls.
Youngsters who had to hang out all day “helping” their adults received a surprise hayride once the event was over. As the sun set, they were given an abridged version of the historical tales while the Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department followed the wagon for safety. They also got a treat no other riders were privy to: actually seeing, as well as hearing, the cannon fire.