Curiosity seekers flocking to water
bubbling from the tree in Lucille Pope's East Side backyard are getting
a warning from her son before they pass through the chain link fence.
San Antonio Water System workers turned off the water to his house at
the street Wednesday morning, and when they did, the flow from the tree
ceased, he tells them.
The tree tapped into an active
water line that runs to a sink in a shed in their backyard, SAWS
spokeswoman Anne Hayden said. The water also tested positive for
"I tell them all how it is, and they
still want it," Lloyd Pope said. "I figure if they are still that
strong in their faith, knowing all that, then go on."
Despite the logical explanation of why the tree started spouting water
three months ago, many visitors still hinge hopes on water they say
touches their soul.
Linda Cortinas, 56, soaked her hands in the streaming water after
hearing the disclaimer, hoping for a miracle. Cortinas is legally
blind, a result of leukemia that damaged her optic nerve.
She hugged Velia Garza, 59, like a long lost sister in the driveway
before her sister Trini Ramon, 55, drove her back to the Northwest Side
of town. It was the first time that the women had met. They prayed side
by side under the sprawling branches of the great red oak.
"I pray it's from God," Garza said. "And nothing will be false here. How can water go up a tree?"
The faith that Garza and other visitors displayed is an essential
component of the human condition, said Oswald John Nira, an instructor
of religious studies at Our Lady of the Lake University.
"Everybody hungers for something to believe in," Nira said. "They're
looking for answers to ultimate questions. This is just one little
aspect of it."
Nira said according to Catholic tradition,
there's a push to stay away from trying to determine miraculous
phenomena, placing more focus on the individual.
midday Wednesday, the stream of people continued, undaunted by the
scientific explanation. They arrived with grandchildren in tow. Some
came on their lunch break and for others it was part of a private
"Do Not Enter" was spray-painted in black on
a piece of plywood and propped against the chain link fence to the
The Popes say the steady stream of
visitors usually starts about 7:30 each morning, when the water flow is
stronger. But first they have to pass Lloyd Pope and Bubba Younger, a
hulking ex-Navy SEAL sitting in folding chairs at a white, plastic
table. Younger, 59 and Pope, 47, read scripture as the faithful make
their way to the back of the property.
Maria Martinez of
San Antonio made her second visit to the tree, hugging it and filling
small perfume vials with its water.
"I could feel it, that it's about ready to bust," Martinez said.
At last count, the names of 100 people coming to see the tree were logged on a yellow legal tablet.
People who did an Internet Google search for "gurgling tree" found
606,000 results ranging from China to New Zealand. Opinions on blogs
have numbered in the thousands.
For the sake of the family's privacy, the San Antonio Express-News is not publishing the address.
But as the story of the weeping tree made the rounds across the
country, in newspapers and online, more and more people are doing what
it takes to find the Popes' home.
Pope doesn't mind the
visitors, so long as they steer clear of the histrionics. He won't
tolerate fainting, shrine building or keeping a vigil.
"It ain't happening," he said. "You give God's credit or honor to no other."
Lucille Pope, 65, said the tree has been credited with healing
everything from heart disease to a bad neck to her own ankle.
"They had put me in an air cast, then in a brace, with a cane," she
said. "Since I've been drinking from the tree I've been fine."
Gone are the cane and therapy sessions — in their place are three daily
glasses of water, straight from the tree.
The phone rings from morning until 9 p.m. when she stops taking calls from nearly every state in the union.
The first person to taste the water was Mary Barbara Todd, a friend of
the family. She told the Popes it was good and cool to the taste.
The Popes have been flooded with out-of-state calls to ship individual
orders to people looking for hope in a bottle.
Lucille Pope said shipping is not an option because of recent anti-terrorism restrictions.
At dusk, Maria Castanon, 46, and her sister Oralia Sanchez, 41, led
their 81-year-old mother down the driveway arm-in arm.
Maria Sanchez said she doesn't venture from her South Side home these
days, bound by her arthritis. That was until her two daughters saw the
mystery tree on television and told her about it. They held her thin
arms as Sanchez tipped her head back to look the oak over.
"You live by faith, not by sight," Castanon said. "If they shut it down
tomorrow, that's fine. But it's faith that moves you."
Staff Writers Amy Dorsett and Jerry Needham contributed to this report.