In Line with Marcelino

My family has been in the Texas Hill Country for at least five generations. While my Central Texas roots run deep, it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago for college that I began to fully appreciate my homeland. As it turns out, I have a fairly significant reservoir of Texas pride. It wasn’t long after the move that I asked my parents to send me a Texas belt buckle, for example—something I would have made fun of while still living in Austin. The other thing I asked my parents to send was boxes and boxes of sausage from Kreuz Market in Lockhart. 

Since I was a child, and well before I was born, my family has visited Kreuz Market regularly. Before the business relocated to a larger facility, it was near Lockhart’s town square, had walls caked black from a century of smoke and seemed held together by flimsy doors. Heavy, long wooden tables carved deep with initials lined the dining hallway that led from the front door to the pits in the back. The building was a time capsule—something I sensed even as a kid standing in line with my dad for a piece of butcher paper covered with sausage and white bread. 

My great grandfather, Marcelino Ramos, came to Lockhart from Mexico sometime around 1915, 15 years after the original Kreuz Market opened for business. Because of the size of Lockhart at that time and the food options available, chances are very good that Marcelino would have been a customer. Current Kreuz Market pitmaster, Roy Perez, says that in 1915, cooking barbecue would have been a little different and more rustic—health codes regarding meat temperature and preparation were not so strictly enforced, for example. And there were still sharp knives attached to the tables by chains for customers to share and use over and over. This would have been the Kreuz Market that Marcelino knew, but the smells and tradition held within that folded butcher paper clutched in his hands—right alongside the saltines, white bread and pickled jalapeños—would have been, and are, the same as today.  

I have only one picture of Marcelino. In it, he stands facing the camera with the standard stiffness and blank gaze we expect from antique photography. He wears a light suit and has dark hair and a thick mustache. If Caldwell County history and family lore align dependably, we can assume he was probably a cotton picker and tenant farmer. If so, he would have worked very hard in oppressive conditions—his skin growing darker with days, weeks and months of sun exposure. As difficult as it is for me to imagine his life, it would be more difficult for him to imagine mine now. It’s the inevitable progress of change that makes the tangible experiences shared with our ancestors so important. I am pleased to have a photo of Marcelino, but much more significant to me is the knowledge that, at very different times in Central Texas, he and I most likely walked through the same thin wooden doors of Kreuz Market, passed through the same blackened hallway that my family would end up traversing for over a century, opened up butcher paper and fell in love with the same food. Much more is lost with time than can be kept, which makes those things that remain all the more precious—particularly when those things, such as a beloved food, are among the real pleasures in life. It’s a proud connection I can claim with those like Marcelino who came before me, a rich legacy based in memory and the elegant simplicity of tradition.

By Sam Anderson-Ramos