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[Sticky] Arcane and Not-So-Arcane Facts about Texas: the Master List

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Arcane and Not-So-Arcane Facts About Texas




Fort Worth is, of course, known as Cowtown (although, with the stockyards and meat packing houses gone, that seems less apropos) but in earlier times it was known as Panther City. Here's why:

The Panic of 1873 caused the Texas and Pacific Railroad some severe economic distress, to the point that they decided to halt construction on a line they were building from Dallas to Fort Worth. The lack of a railroad bit Fort Worth hard and by 1875 only 1,000 folks lived in the city.

A Dallas lawyer, Robert Cowart, visited Fort Worth and wrote to the editor of the Dallas Herald that things were so slow there that he'd seen a panther lying down in the middle of the street by the courthouse. Dallas made a huge deal about the story, hooting and hollering that Fort Worth was dying.
But Fort Worth didn't go along with Dallas' mockery. Instead they turned the tables by embracing the nickname "Panther City." Soon, everything from saloons to meathouses were being called panther this and panther that. And when the Texas League began in 1887, the Fort Worth team was called the Panthers. Panther Hall was a legendary musical establishment in Fort Worth for many years. And even today you see "Panther" in the name of various corporations, buildings etc... in Fort Worth.

So take that, Dallas!
Orange, Texas, which overlooks the Sabine River, was called "Green's Bluff" when it was founded in 1830. In 1840 it became Madison, Texas, in honor of President James Madison. By 1852, Madison had become the seat of Orange County, which was named for an orange grove. The postal folks, however, had a hard time differentiating Madison from Madisonville, so the settlement was incorporated and became Orange, Texas in 1858. Incidentally, the pirate Jean Laffite is said to have used the present site of Orange as a repair base.



Alamo hero Jim Bowie was the 9th of 10 children and spoke Spanish and French fluently.



In February 1818, Sam Houston led a delegation of Cherokees to Washington, D.C. to meet with Secretary of War John C. Calhoun and President James Monroe. While there, Sam was reprimanded by Secretary Calhoun for wearing Indian dress.



The population of Thurber, Texas is roughly 50 people today, but in 1920, when bituminous coal was being mined in the area, there were 10,000 souls living there and it was the largest company town in Texas. But, beginning in 1920, the conversion of locomotives from coal to oil reduced the demand for coal, lowering prices, and the the miners and their families drifted away. Today, there are a few physical remnants of what used to be a thriving community. Thurber is in Erath County, very close to the Palo Pinto County State line. If you've ever driven I-20 from Dallas-Fort Worth to El Paso, you've driven through it.



The Odessa meteor crater is a meteorite crater southwest of Odessa and is one of three such impact crater sites found in Texas, the others being the older and much larger Sierra Madera crater, the last being the Marquez crater. The Odessa crater is 550 feet in diameter and the age is estimated to be around 63,500 years old. The crater is exposed to the surface, and was originally about 100 feet (30 meters) deep. Because of subsequent infilling by soil and debris, the crater is currently 15 feet (5 meters) deep at its lowest point, which provides enough relief to be visible from the surrounding plains, but does not offer the dramatic relief found at the more famous Meteor Crater in Arizona. More than 1500 meteorites have been found at the site, including one that weighed 300 .lbs.



Malakoff, Texas, is one of four Texas towns named after places in the former Imperial Russia. The others are Odessa, Moscow, and Sebastopol. Early settlers preferred either "Mitcham" or "Purdon" as a name for what became Malakoff, but U.S. postal authorities told them those names were already taken. They suggested naming it after a Russian fort that had recently been captured by the British during the Crimean War. That was fine with the East Texans, despite having no ties to Crimea or the 1855 Battle of Malakoff.



Here is the population and rank of Texas' 10 largest towns in 1850:


1. Galveston (4,177)
2. San Antonio (3,488)
3. Houston (2,396)
4. New Braunfels (1,723)
5. Marshall (1,180)
6. Gonzales (1,072)
7. Victoria (802)
8. Fredericksburg (754)
9. Austin (629)
10. Corpus Christi (533)

It is interesting to look back and see how history treated some of them and to realize what cities are now in the top-10 (Fort Worth, Dallas, El Paso) that were not on the list then.



Collin Mckinney was not only the oldest signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence (at 70 years of age), but he also lived under at least seven sovereigns during his life. He was born in New Jersey in 1766, a subject of King George, and died in Confederate Texas in 1861, aged 95. During his life he was governed by England, the American Colonies, the United States, Mexico, the Texas provisional government, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States of America. Incidentally, it was McKinney who advocated making counties as nearly 30 miles square as possible, with the courthouse near the geographic center, so that citizens could vote without undue hardship. After he was 75 years old, he made eleven trips guiding Kentuckians and Tennesseans to new homes in North Texas, where he helped establish the Disciples of Christ.



In Brazoria, Texas, there is a park called the "Masonic Oak Park." It is named after a live oak tree that stands in the park. The tree is called the Masonic Oak because it was under that tree that Stephen F. Austin, Anson Jones (later President of the Republic of Texas), John A. Wharton (for whom Wharton is named), J.F. Caldwell (for whom Caldwell is named), A.E Phelps, Alexander Russell, and Asa Brigham met in March, 1835. to establish the first Masonic Lodge in Texas. Jones wrote, "The place of the meeting was back of the town of Brazoria near the place known as General John Austin's, in a little grove of wild peach or laurel, and which had been selected as a family burying ground for that distinguished soldier and citizen." They met underneath what was then a very prominent, 200 year-old live oak tree. The lodge was called the Holland Lodge, named for J.H. Holland who, at that time, was the Masonic Grand Master of Louisiana. The tree still stands and it is now estimated to be close to 400 years old. You can actually visit it. It's right here:,-95.569938,3a,75y,183.48h,97.44t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s0WZv0PWYd0tOFKiG151oig!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

If you look you can see both a historical marker and a granite marker erected by the Masons to mark the spot. HOW COOL IS THAT?. To think that this tree bore witness to that meeting and to every second of Texas history since then is pretty mind-blowing.



Y'all realize, of course, that it took a Texan to kill Dracula, right? In Bram Stoker's classic 1897 novel it was Texan Quincey Morris who ultimately kills the supernatural vampire. Stoker describes Morris as a rich young American from Texas, and one of the three men who proposes to Lucy Westenra. Quincey is friends with her other two admirers, Arthur Holmwood and Dr. John Seward, even after Lucy has chosen between them, as well as Jonathan Harker. He carries a rhino head Bowie knife at all times, and at one point he admits that he is a teller of tall tales and 'a rough fellow, who hasn't "perhaps lived as a man should." Anyway, it's Quincey who drives his Bowie knife through Dracula's heart at the end. Unfortunately, just prior to that, he had been attacked by gypsies and his wounds end up killing him. Mina and John Harker, two of the novel's main characters, memorialize him by naming their son "Quincey."

I was curious about all of this and wondered why Soker ---- an Irishman living in England ----- had made Quincey Morris a Texan. It turned out that Stoker was just as taken by the aura/mystique of Texas cowboys as anybody, for it was when he was writing "Dracula" that the first great wave of Texas "cowboy mythos" was washing over Europe.

So, yeah. Quincey Morris, vampire slayer ---- and Texan.



On October 21, 1970, at the age of 95, Abraham Lincoln Neiman died in a Masonic Home in Arlington. In September, 1907, with his wife Carrie and his borther-in-law Herbert Marcus, Neiman established the Neiman Marcus store in Dallas, and it immediately established a reputation for high quality at a high price. But in 1928, after frequent clashes with Herbert as well as with Herbert's son Stanley, he sold his share of the business to Marcus for $250,000. About the same time, he and Carrie were divorced. Neiman started several other business over the years, none very successful. At the time of his death he was utterly destitute, his only possessions being a pair of cuff links he kept in a cigar box. So, in a twist of fate, one of the founders of the world's foremost luxury store died a pauper.



Folks around the world have a Texan named Daniel Haynes to thank for a good night's sleep. In the 1880s, the Austin County settler invented the process and the machinery for manufacturing the cotton mattress. This was the forerunner of today's modern bedding. Haynes named his company for the town where he developed the machinery ----- Sealy, Texas. Thus began the Sealy Mattress Company.



The first movie to win an Academy Award for "Best Film" was shot in Texas. 1927's "Wings," a silent film starring Clara Bow and Buddy Rogers, was filmed in and around San Antonio and made its world premier in the Alamo City.



In 1887, Comanche Chief Yellow Bear and his nephew, Chief Quanah Parker, went to Ft. Worth, Texas to discuss overdue money from leased tribal reservation lands. The two of them checked into the most modern hotel in the city, the Hotel Pickwick. Yellow Bear decided to retire early, but Quanah went with a friend for a social visit. Two hours later, Quanah returned to the hotel room, and retired for the evening. In turning off the gaslight, it is speculated that either he blew the light out, not realizing the consequences, or he did not turn the valve completely off. Whatever the reason, he awoke sometime later, roused Yellow Bear, and both struggled across the floor, Quanah falling near a window. Both lost consciousness. Almost 13 hours later, the scene was discovered. Yellow Bear was dead but Quanah survived.



Not only did Gail Borden lay out the first plan for streets in both Galveston and Houston and publish Houston's first newspaper, but he later went on to invent condensed milk, which found a huge market during the Civil War. The company that he founded, the Condensed Milk Company, became Borden's Milk. Borden himself, after a lifetime of struggling financially, died a very wealthy man in Borden, Texas. He was buried in his home state of New York and has a very nice marker, indeed.



Some 100 species of cactus are found in Texas, the most found in any state. They range from the common prickly pear cactus to a rare variety found only in El Paso. They come in radically different sizes, from the button cactus, which is no bigger than a dime, to the barrel cactus, also known as the fishhook cactus, which can weigh in at half a ton. Texas cacti have an interesting array of names as well, from pleasant to amusing to painful sounding. These include hunger, starvation, flapjack, dumpling, strawberry, blind pear, cow's tongue, night blooming cactus, devil's head, horse-killer, rainbow, pin cushion, porcupine, lady-finger, and "Glory of Texas."



Burkburnett, Texas, fourteen miles north of Wichita Falls in Wichita County, was originally called "Nesterville," as it was established by "nesters" on land that was part of Samuel Burk Burnett's vast Four Sixes ranch. It was later changed to "Gilbert." But then, in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt was Burk Burnett's guest for a wolf hunt at the ranch. Teddy had such a great time that he ordered the U.S. Postal Service to change the name of Gilbert to "Burkburnett" in honor of his host. The town thus became the only community in Texas to be named by a sitting U.S. President. Some sources say that Teddy didn't "order" the name change so much as "request" it and then pull some strings to make sure it happened. Other sources say that the change occurred by Presidential decree. No matter: it is still a neat story.



Comfort, Texas (in Kendall County) was the sight of an amusing event in 1856. At that time the town had a cannon that was to be fired only in the event of an emergency, like a fire or an Indian attack. But on at least one occasion it was used for something quite different.

It seems that back in 1856 the little town of Comfort was preparing for its Fourth of July celebration and had ordered a wagon load of beer from the Menger Brewery in San Antonio. The wagon, unfortunately, arrived on July 2, two days early. At that time there was no cold storage in Comfort and the unpasteurized beer was basically a living organism just WAITING to spoil. Well, a wagon full of beer in such danger was judged by at least some of the Germans thereabouts to be a calamity of the first magnitude, so somebody fired the cannon and everybody came running to the cannon, where they learned the true nature of the emergency.

Some of the citizens were miffed because, by strict definition, the firing of the cannon was a false alarm. But those voices were drowned out by (intoxicated?) voices of reason, who decided right there on the spot to celebrate the 4th of July on July 2nd. You've got to love that pragmatic way of thinking!

I was told this story several years ago by a man from Comfort. He was presented to me as somewhat of a local historian and told me this tale at a picnic. He was inebriated, though, and I never knew whether it was true. But I just received "A Treasury of Texas Trivia" by Bill Cannon, and this story is included. So apparently it IS true. And, if it isn't, it should be! The book comes highly recommended, by the way. Lots of interesting tidbits.



Arcane Facts about the mini-series Lonesome Dove:


1) Originally, Tommy Lee Jones was to play Gus, and Robert Duvall was to play Captain Call. After Duvall read the book, he wanted to play Gus, and the roles were switched.

2) The set was built just outside Del Rio, Texas.

3) Originally written by Larry McMurtry in 1971, as a movie script. He intended John Wayne to play Woodrow Call, James Stewart to play Gus McCrae, and Henry Fonda to play Jake Spoon, with Peter Bogdanovich directing. Wayne turned it down, and the project was shelved. Ten years later, McMurtry bought the script back, and wrote the book (on which this miniseries was based).

4) Principal photography lasted for 16 weeks at six days a week, and encompassed 89 speaking parts, 1,000 extras, 30 wranglers, 100 horses, 90 crew, and 1,400 cattle. Some scenes were so complex they were shot from six different cameras at once.

5) For authenticity, the producers decided to use real ranch horses. When the bullets hit below Gus's horse, the response was genuine, and Robert Duvall was bucked off. The cameras continued rolling, and the shot was kept in the final cut.

6) In 1985, Suzanne De Passe bought the rights to Larry McMurtry's unpublished novel for $50,000, with the idea of doing a miniseries in conjunction with the release of the book. Every major network in America turned her down. After the novel was published, became a massive success, and won the Pulitzer Prize, every network that had turned her down contacted her to try to persuade her to make the miniseries with them.

7) Two scenes are based on actual incidents that occurred during a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Some cowboys ask "how far is it to Up-North?", believing it's a place, not a direction. During one river crossing, the cowboys strip off their clothes and ride their horses naked. Both episodes are in "We Pointed Them North", a memoir by Teddy "Blue" Abbott, a 19th century Texas cowboy who participated in a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Abbott remained in Montana, married the daughter of cattle baron Granville Stuart, and become a relatively prosperous rancher.

8) The Ogalalla, Nebraska set was originally built for Silverado (1985), which also featured Danny Glover.

9) Woodrow Call's final line, "A hell of a vision", was taken from the book "Cow People" by J. Frank Dobie. He attributed it to Charles Goodnight, a real-life Texas cattle baron who was the model for Call.

10) Gus's 1847 Walker Colt is as iconic as the Texas Rangers. It was designed by Samuel Colt at the behest of Texas Ranger and militia Captain Samuel Walker. The pistol is 16 inches long, with a nine-inch barrel, and weighs almost five pounds loaded. It's intended as a heavy cavalry pistol, to be carried in a saddle-mounted holster. At short range, it can stop a man or horse with one shot. The long cylinder holds a .44 caliber bullet on top of 60 grains of black powder, making it the most powerful black-powder revolver ever made. In modern tests, the Walker is at least as powerful as a metal-cartridge .357 Magnum. However, the cylinders issued with the Walker were not initially strong enough to handle such a large powder charge, and improper loading gave the guns a reputation for cylinders exploding during firing. The later Colt Dragoon pistol was slightly smaller, with thicker-walled cylinders. Only about 1,100 Walkers were produced; 1,000 for Captain Walker's order, and 100 added by Sam Colt for a special gift and promotions.

11) After the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, John Milius and John Huston attempted to adapt it into a feature film before Suzanne De Passe and Larry McMurtry decided to do it as a miniseries.

12) Charles Bronson was originally offered the role of Woodrow Call, but turned it down. Robert Duvall was next cast, but the producers decided to give him the part of Augustus instead. James Garner was chosen next, but bowed out for health reasons. After Garner, Jon Voight turned down the role, and ultimately Tommy Lee Jones was cast. However, Garner and Voight portrayed Woodrow Call in sequels.

13) The following famous "Old West" firearms are used in the film: Gus McCrae - Colt Walker (in the novel, Gus carries a Colt Dragoon, an improvement on the Walker design, and it is Deets who carries the Walker); Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call - 1860 Henry rifle; Jake Spoon - 1875 Remington with a pearl grip; July Johnson, Blue Duck, and various Hat Creek hands - 1873 Colt Single Action Army, a.k.a. "Peacemaker"; Blue Duck - 1859 Sharps cavalry carbine; Dan Suggs - 1875 Remington revolver carbine; Roscoe Brown - 1851 Colt Navy with 1872 cartridge conversion; Dog Face (Blue Duck's sharpshooter) - 1859 Sharps buffalo rifle; Jim (the smaller of the two robbers who attack Roscoe) - "Buntline Special", a version of the Peacemaker, with a twelve inch barrel; Various - 1873 Winchester rifle.

14) The first episode got a 26.8 rating and a 38 share when it first aired on CBS in 1989. According to Executive Producer Suzanne De Passe, CBS was optimistically hoping for a 23 share.

15) many of the costumes and props (including Gus' outfit and Colt Walker 1847) are on public display, free of charge, as part of the Wittliff Collection in the library at Texas State University San Marcos, in San Marcos, TX; about 30 minutes SW of Austin.



The so-called Winchester Quarantine was an extralegal device instigated in the early 1880s by Panhandle ranchers to stop the northward movement of cattle that might be infested with disease-carrying cattle ticks. At that time many Panhandle herds were being decimated by Texas fever carried by these ticks, which were spread by cattle driven up from South Texas. When the Panhandle Stock Association was organized at Mobeetie in July 1880 the cattlemen designated certain routes as "lines of drive" to contain herds being trailed across the Panhandle to New Mexico and Colorado. Water tanks were built on these routes, and affected herds were allowed 1½ miles of range on either side of the trail. The Rath Trail was set aside for the "middle or distributing drive." Outfits trailing cattle via Fort Griffin to Kansas were strongly urged to stay on the Western Trail, which ran by Doan's Store on the Red River and through the Indian Territory, thus avoiding the Panhandle altogether. In 1882 the association met with trail drivers in Dallas to try to achieve that end.

Not everyone was willing to cooperate with these measures. Accordingly, Charles Goodnight of the JA Ranch and Orville H. Nelson of the Shoe Bar Ranch posted guards along the forty-five-mile stretch between their ranches, so that nesters and cattle outfits from South Texas moving north were required either to go around the line or to turn their cattle over to the watchmen until after the first frost. These watchmen, who were paid seventy-five dollars a month for the job, were armed with Winchester rifles; hence the name Winchester Quarantine. The guards were instructed to use moral suasion, then bluff, but if both of these measures failed, they were to send for help from the nearest ranches to hold the recalcitrant drovers in check until an injunction could be obtained and served on the trail boss. Though this last resort took several days, it was always effective. Although lobbying efforts by J. F. (Spade) Evansqv and other cattlemen to secure a legal quarantine law for the Panhandle were unsuccessful, the Winchester Quarantine line was maintained for a few years in cooperation with the Spur and Matador ranches. By 1886, however, wide-scale fencing of Panhandle ranges served to lesson the problem of tick-infested herds.

Source: Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "Winchester Quarantine"



Before he went to whip up on Hitler, Mussolini and the Axis in World War II, Col. George S. Patton commanded the 5th Cavalry at Fort Clark, in Brackettville, Texas. That was in July, 1938. He was commander there for six months before being transferred. Patton loved his time at Fort Clark. The quarters in which Patton lived are still there and can be toured.



Arbuckle's coffee was the coffee of choice for cowboys along the various cattle trails that lead north out of Texas, but why? Well, the cook's coffee kept the cowboys going day and night. "Arbuckle Brothers," originated the idea of shipping coffee beans already roasted. Most of the coffee at that time was green and had to be roasted in the cook's skillet. Some of the descriptions of that coffee are downright unprintable in a PG forum like this one. When Arubckle's came on the scene, the brightly colored manila bag of that brand soon became a familiar sight on chuck wagons. The word "Arbuckle's," printed in bold letters across the front, had a picture of a flying angel in a long flowing skirt with a streaming red scarf around her neck. As a bonus, a stick of striped peppermint candy was in every one pound sack. When the cook hollered out, asking who wanted the candy that night, it was a comical sight to see those tough, rugged cowhands scuffle for the privilege of grinding the coffee beans in order to get the candy stick. If a cowboy had a cold or a cough, the cook could dissolve some of the peppermint in whiskey to make a remedy.



Many Texans don't realize that Willie Shoemaker ---- perhaps the greatest jockey of all time, is also a Texan. Willie was born in Fabens, Texas—a border town near El Paso—August 19, 1931. Weighing one pound, sixteen ounces, he was not expected to live through the night. Maude Harris, Shoemaker’s grandmother, put him on a pillow in a shoebox and set it on the open door of an oven to keep him warm. Although he survived, Shoemaker was always small. He rode his first horse at seven and, after his parents divorced, moved to El Monte, California with his father. Shoemaker attended El Monte High School, where he boxed and was undefeated as an 80 pound wrestler before quitting school at 15 to work at a thoroughbred horse ranch. He mucked out stalls, working with yearlings, gained a great understanding of horses and the rest, as they say, is history. He ended up winning the Kentucky Derby four times, the Belmont Stakes five times, and the Preakness twice. His record of 8,833 career wins stood for 30 years. You know, now that I think about it, it sort of makes sense that a Texan would be such a great horseman, seein's how ubiquitous horses are hereabouts.



Put this on your brain this morning as you eat your Cheerios: tools more than 16,000 years old (pre-Clovis) have been discovered north of Austin. It's kind of crazy to think what might be just a few feet down under your feet right now!



At the Witte Museum in San Antonio you will find a bench that used to be on The Riverwalk in that fair city and upon which Johnny Cash once etched "Johnny luvs Vivian" with his pocket knife. That was in 1951 and the "Vivian" was Johnny's first wife. Here is a close-up of the inscription. Because of decades of weathering and additional carving, only a few letters are now visible, including the "J" in "Johnny" and part of Vivian's name. After becoming aware of the bench’s historical significance, city officials removed it from the River Walk, eventually giving it to the Witte Museum, where it is on permanent display.



Behind the speaker's desk in the House of Representatives chamber at the state capitol in Austin hangs the oldest artifact in the capitol, a battle flag that was carried by Texian forces at the battle of San Jacinto in 1836. The flag, also known as the Newport Rifles Company Flag, is the only existing flag carried by the Texian army at the Battle of San Jacinto to remain in Texas. The charging Lady Liberty with sword drawn and “Liberty or Death” emblazoned on her sash originally had a blue background. The Newport Rifles of Kentucky, a 52-man company of volunteers carried the flag into battle. Before their departure for Texas, the unit received the flag from the ladies of Newport, Kentucky who had the painting of Liberty done by the 22 year old artist, James Henry Beard.

Led by Captain Sidney Sherman, the volunteer soldiers’ journey to Texas was not easy. They left Kentucky aboard the steamer Augusta on December 31, 1835 in the middle of a snowstorm. They traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, then up the Red River to Natchitoches, Louisiana. The unit reached Texas later in January and proceeded to San Felipe, Texas. There, the Newport soldiers became part of the First Texas Regiment. As the number of volunteers grew, Sherman quickly rose to the rank of Colonel and received command of the Second Regiment of Texas Volunteers. It was Sherman who began the attack at San Jacinto, and who is credited with shouting the battle cry, "Remember the Alamo!"

After the battle, the Newport volunteers returned this flag to Sherman and his family. His three daughters gave the tattered silk to the State of Texas on August 8, 1896. It has been restored and now hangs in its position of honor.



In November, 1915, the Liberty Bell arrived in El Paso. It was on tour after being exhibited at a World's Fair. This is what the El Paso Times had to say about the event:

"El Paso saw the Liberty Bell yesterday afternoon. Twenty-five thousand people, including thousands of children, felt the thrill of patriotism as they passed in dense columns before the bell which proclaimed to the world the independence of the United States.

No other celebration in the Southwest ever called forth so many thousands of spectators — no other local event has been marked by such a unanimous display of patriotic reverence. Children and grown-ups, civilians and military, officials and private citizens alike turned out to welcome the venerable relic; and those who have traveled across the continent with the bell said during the reception that no other city on the route had surpassed El Paso in the enthusiasm of its greeting.

Although scheduled to arrive here at 2:30 p.m., it was not until 3:30 p.m. that the historic emblem of the revolution rolled slowly to the place of exhibition in front of the Stanton Street station of the Southern Pacific. Since noon the crowds had been gathering, and when the signal was given to let them pass before the bell there was a shuffling of thousands of feet along the railway right-of-way where the bell rested."



On Aug. 14, 1952, the Gulf Freeway ----- Texas' first freeway ----- was opened, and folks could drive on it from Houston to Galveston.



The city of Kemah, Texas derives its name from a Karankawa Indian word that means "facing the winds." This is due, of course, to its position on Galveston Bay.



The world's first rodeo was held in Pecos on July 4, 1883.



Highland Park, an incorporated city with Dallas, and Beverly Hills, California, were both planned by the same man, landscape architect Wilbur David Cook. Incidentally, Highland park is 2.2 square miles and recently celebrated its 100th birthday, having been incorporated in 1913.



The first American to walk in space, Ed White, was a Texan, having been born in San Antonio in 1930. White performed his spacewalk on June 3, 1965. Tragically, he died in a fire in the space capsule of Apollo 1 on January 27, 1967.



During the period of July 24-26, 1979, the Tropical Storm Claudette brought 45 inches of rain to an area near Alvin, Texas, contributing to more than $600 million in damages. Claudette produced the United States 24 hour rainfall record of 43 inches.



The oldest European settlement in the area that is present-day Texas is the community of Ysleta, which is now part of El Paso. It was first established in 1680.



Although six flags have flown over Texas, there have been eight changes of government: Spanish 1519-1685, French 1685-1690, Spanish 1690-1821, Mexican 1821-1836, Republic of Texas 1836-1845, United States 1845-1861, Confederate States 1861-1865, United States 1865-present.



José Gregorio Esparza, also known as Gregorio Esparza, was the last Texan defender to enter the Alamo before the Mexican siege began and his was the only Texian body that was not burned in the pyres in the aftermath of the Mexican victory. After the battle, one of the Mexican soldiers, Francisco Esparza, began searching for the body of his brother, Jose Gregorio, who had fought on the side of the Texians. When he found his brother's body, Francisco and his widowed sister-in-law went to Santa Anna and begged permission to give Jose Gregorio a proper Christian burial. Permission was granted, and Jose Gregorio was buried in the Campo Santo cemetery in San Antonio. Incidentally, Jose Gregorio brought his family along with him when he entered the Alamo compound. They were able to survive the battle and were not executed by the conquering army.



Brewster County is the largest county in Texas, more than three times the size of the state of Delaware, and more than 500 square miles bigger than Connecticut. It is one of the nine counties that comprise the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas, and borders Mexico. Alpine, Texas, is the county seat. The county is named for Colonel Henry Percy Brewster, a Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas.



Founder Harmon Dobson recorded that Whataburger #1 in Corpus Christi on August 8, 1950. Dobson opened and sold his first Whataburger through the window of a little portable building. The location of the first Whataburger was 2609 Ayers Street, across from Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. He charged a pricey 25 cents since the burgers were better quality than the competitors’ burgers. The burgers sold back then are the same as the original Whataburger that many Texans still love today. It is made of a grilled quarter-pound beef patty, fresh lettuce, four dill pickles, three slices of tomatoes, chopped onions, mustard and ketchup. The meat and vegetables were always fresh, never frozen. The burgers were always cooked exactly how the customer wanted them to be. This attention to detail likely led to Whataburger receiving $50 in purchases on their first day.



The Brazos river is the largest river between the Red River and the Rio Grande. It is 840 miles long and rises from three forks: the Salt, Clear, and Double Mountain Forks. According to legend, the Brazos saved Coronado's expedition of 1540-1542 from dying of thirst, so the men thankfully named it "Los Brazos de Dios" ( The Arms of God). So if you ever wondered how it got its name, well there you go.



Nearly 40 years before the Wright brothers flew their plane at Kittyhawk in 1903, a Texan flew a fixed-wing powered airplane near Fredericksburg in 1865. Newspaper accounts reveal that Jacob Brodbeck successfully flew an airplane that he had built which was powered with coil springs. Some accounts say that the plane reached an altitude of 12 feet, others say that it reached "tree top" height. It crashed into a hen house, killing numerous chickens and scaring many children. Brodbeck, a teacher and inventor, came to Texas from Germany in 1846 and lived in Luckenbach.

"Ore Diggers” and “Muckers” were names considered for the University of Texas at El Paso before they became they settled on “Miners.” I'm glad, too. "El Paso Ore Diggers" just doesn't have the same ring.



There are many interesting tales that revolve around the San Bernard River, which rises from a spring near New Ulm and flows for 120 miles before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. One of the most fascinating such tales is the mysterious wailing violin sound that has caused the San Bernard to be nicknamed "The Singing River." It has been reported for more than 120 years. Some believe the violin sound comes from the ghost of a violinist from Jean Lafite's band who was killed while playing the violin along the riverbanks. Another story is that it is the cries from a boatload of slaves who drowned at the mouth of the San Bernard. Yet another is that the sound comes from the spirit of a young musician whose bride-to-be died just hours before the wedding, so he consoled himself by playing his violin nightly. Scientists, however, believe that the sound may be that of swamp gasses escaping. Spooky stuff. I'm scared! 😉



McLean, Texas, the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40, was once known as "Uplift City" for the large brassiere factory, Marie's Foundations, which used to employ a good percentage of the area residents. The factory is long gone now, but the building was renovated and now houses the Devil's Rope Museum.



The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden is the world's largest rose garden. It contains 38,000 rose bushes representing 500 varieties of roses set in a 22-acre garden.



Alexander Franklin James --- the brother of notorious outlaw Jesse James and participant in at least four robberies that resulted in the deaths of bank employees or citizens ----- later worked innocuously as a shoe salesman at Sanger Brothers in Dallas. It's true. What happened is this:

Five months after the killing of his brother Jesse in 1882, Frank James boarded a train to Jefferson City, Missouri, where he had an appointment with the governor in the state capitol. Placing his holster in Governor Crittenden's hands, he explained,

"I have been hunted for twenty-one years, have literally lived in the saddle, have never known a day of perfect peace. It was one long, anxious, inexorable, eternal vigil.' He then ended his statement by saying, 'Governor, I haven't let another man touch my gun since 1861."

Accounts say that James surrendered with the understanding that he would not be extradited to Northfield, Minnesota.

He was tried for only two of the robberies/murders – one in Gallatin, Missouri for the July 15, 1881 robbery of the Rock Island Line train at Winston, Missouri, in which the train engineer and a passenger were killed, and the other in Huntsville, Alabama for the March 11, 1881 robbery of a United States Army Corps of Engineers payroll at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Among others, former Confederate General Joseph Orville Shelby testified on James' behalf in the Missouri trial. He was acquitted in both Missouri and Alabama. Missouri accepted legal jurisdiction over him for other charges, but they never came to trial. He was never extradited to Minnesota for his connection with the Northfield Raid.

His New York Times obituary summarized his arrest and acquittal:

In 1882 ... Frank James surrendered in Jefferson City, Mo.

After his surrender James was taken to Independence, Mo., where he was held in jail three weeks, and later to Gallatin, where he remained in jail a year awaiting trial. Finally James was acquitted and went to Oklahoma to live with his mother. He never was in the penitentiary and never was convicted of any of the charges against him.

Set free, Frank James drifted to Dallas, where he worked for Sanger Brothers in the later 1880s. A manuscript written by a co-worker described him as "friendly and generous." He passed away on Feb. 18, 1915.



Folks who like spicy food can thank their lucky Texas for much of their eating pleasure, as the first commercially available packaged chili-powder came from Texas. William Gebhardt, German-born New Braunfels restaurant owner, sold the first commercial chili powder in 1894. Before that, chili, which is the state dish, was served only when fresh chilis were available. By 1896 there was enough demand for the spice that Gebhardt established a factory in San Antonio. Later, Gebhardt added the nations first canned chili con carne and canned tamales to his product line. You can still buy Gebhardt's chili powder and I've had people swear that it's the only one worth buying.



Stephen F. Austin had a dog while he lived in what would become Texas, and that dog's was named "Cano."



There are 11,247 named Texas streams identified in the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System. Their combined length is about 80,000 miles, and they drain 263,513 square miles within Texas. Also, there are 14 major rivers in the Lone Star State. Without looking it up, how many can you name?



Lajitas, Texas, which lies on the border with Mexico in the Big Bend region, is named after the flat rocks, the "lajitas," that lie beneath the shallow water at the ford that has made it a natural crossing place in the Rio Grande for centuries. War parties from both the Comanches and the Apaches frequently raided south into Mexico, fording the Rio Grande at this same spot.



It was on June 26, 1832 at the Battle of Velasco that blood was first drawn during the Texas Revolution. This event marked the first incidence of Texian resistance to Mexican law. What happened is that John Austin and Henry Smith, in charge of a group of Texans who had gone to Brazoria to secure a cannon to use against Mexican forces at Anahuac, engaged forces under the command of Domingo de Ugartechia, commander of the Mexican fort at nearby Velcaso, who was determined to prevent passage of the vessel carrying the cannon. About 150 Texians engaged a similar number of Mexican soldiers. Ugartechea and his soldiers were forced to surrender when their ammunition was exhausted. 10 Texans were killed and 11 wounded; five Mexican solders were killed and 16 wounded. But, yeah, the shots that ultimately ended up in San Jacinto were fired almost four years later.



Everybody knows that the Bluebonnet is THE Texas state flower. But did you realize that Texas actually has five state flowers? It's true, given that there are five varieties of Bluebonnets

The five state flowers of Texas are:

1) Lupinus subcarnosus, the original champion and still co-holder of the title, grows naturally in deep sandy loams from Leon County southwest to LaSalle County and down to the northern part of Hidalgo County in the Valley. It is often referred to as the sandy land bluebonnet. The plant's leaflets are blunt, sometimes notched with silky undersides. This species, which reaches peak bloom in late March, is not easy to maintain in clay soils.

2) Lupinus texensis, the favorite of tourists and artists, provides the blue spring carpet of Central Texas. It is widely known as THE Texas bluebonnet. It has pointed leaflets, the flowering stalk is tipped with white (like a bunny's tail) and hits its peak bloom in late March and early April. It is the easiest of all the species to grow.

3) Lupinus Havardii, also known as the Big Bend or Chisos Bluebonnet, is the most majestic of the Texas bluebonnet tribe with flowering SPIKES UP TO THREE FEET. It is found on the flats of the Big Bend country in early spring, usually has seven leaflets and is difficult to cultivate outside its natural habitat.

4) Lupinus concinnus is an inconspicuous little lupine, from 2 to 7 inches, with flowers which combine elements of white, rosy purple and lavender. Commonly known as the annual lupine, it is found sparingly in the Trans-Pecos region, blooming in early spring.

5)Lupinus plattensis sneaks down from the north into the Texas Panhandle's sandy dunes. It is the only perennial species in the state and grows to about two feet tall. It normally blooms in mid to late spring and is also known as the dune bluebonnet, the plains bluebonnet and the Nebraska Lupine.

Source: The Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Service



Here is a partial list of Kansas ladies who "greeted" Texas cowboys at the end of a trail drive:

Poker Alice
Alabama Jane
Cayuse Laura
Cowboy Anna
Poker Nell
The Crying Squaw
Snowplow Bowers
Wild Horse Kate
Madame Bulldog
Dutch Jake
Yellowstone Nell Chinook



The Karankawa Indians were relative latecomers to the coast of Texas. Native Americans had lived along the coast for at least 4,500 years, but the Karankawas arrived in (about) 1400 AD, less than a century before Europeans discovered the new world. Many archaeologists believe the tribe originated in the Caribbean. The language, impressive physical size, and the cultural traits (particularly the antisocial behavior) of the Karankawas are strikingly similar to those of the Carib Indians, a tribe of cannibal warriors who traveled in sturdy dugout canoes and regularly raided and conquered neighboring lands.

By the way, "Karankawa" is not the name this tribe gave itself. Like most other North American Indians, they called themselves men, people, bodies etc.... Other South Texas tribes assigned various names to these newcomers. The Lipan-Apaches knew them as "people who walk in the water," and others called them "wrestlers" or "without moccasins." But the name that stuck came from two Indian words "Karan (dog)" and "kawa (to love). Since the tribe traveled with small, barkless, foxlike dogs, it became known as the dog lovers, Karankawas. Archaeologists note that this breed of dog has been discovered in only two places in the western hemisphere: among the Karankawas and among the Armwak population of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean.



The nine-banded armadillo can hold its breath for as long as six minutes. Most Texans know that, because of the weight of their armor, they can walk across the bottom of bodies of water. But did you know that they can also swim quite well? They have a trick of "swallowing air" to inflate their stomachs, giving them a temporary buoyancy for long enough to swim across narrow ditches and streams.



Here is a typical dance program of a cowboy's ball, as published by the Taylor County News on March 19, 1886:

1) Grand circle round-up march
2) Horse hunter's quadrille
3) Catch-horse waltz
4) Saddle-up lancers
5) Broncho racquet
6) Captain's quadrille
7) Circular's gallop
8) Round-up lancers
9) Cut-out schottische
10) Branding quadrille
11) Cow and calf racquet
12) Night-horse lancers
13) First guard waltz
14) Second guard quadrille
15) Third guard Newport
16) Fourth guard quardrille
17) Day herder's waltz
18) Maverick's polka
19) Bull calves' medley
20) Stampede all

If I am not mistaken, a dance card listing all of the dances would be given out to all of the dancers before the ball started and then those in attendance would try to get as many different people to dance with them, filling out the dance card with the names of those with whom they danced. Good, clean fun!



There is a bed and breakfast in Fort Davis called "The Veranda." The Veranda was originally a hotel called "The Lempert Hotel." Comanche Chief Quanah Parker stayed at the hotel in the late 1800s when he came to Fort Davis in search of peyote cactus for a peyote ritual. According to Barry Scobee, a legendary pulp-fiction writer and amateur historian who lived out in west Texas for many years (and who passed away in 1977), Quanah Parker showed up in Fort Davis in search of, as Quanah put it, “the gift-of-God cactus to lighten the Red man’s burden”. Accompanied by Chief Rising Star and several others, Chief Quanah arrived at the Lempert Hotel much to the surprise of a Miss Finck, who worked the front desk. An Indian agent who accompanied the party allayed Miss Finck's initial fears, saying Quanah and Rising Star had come in search of peyote and only wanted room and board. According to Comanche legend, peyote was only found in the vicinity of nearby Mitre peak. So, yeah, if you go and stay at the Veranda Bed and Breakfast in Fort Davis ----- which is an exceptionally nice place, by the way ---- you can stay in the place at which Quanah Parker stayed.



Here is a list of ferry tolls across the Nueces River in 1847:

For each and every wheel to a wagon, buggy, or carriage, 25 cents.
For each and every pair of oxen and horses, 25 cents.
For each man and horse, 25 cents.
For each man, 12 1/2 cents.
For each loose horse, 10 cents.
For each head of sheep, goats, or hogs, 3 cents.

------ Paul S. Taylor, "An American-Mexican Frontier," 1934



Did you know that the world's first photograph is in Texas? It's true. In 1826 or 1827, Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first photograph in history, and that photograph is on permanent display on the UT-Austin campus on the first floor of the Harry Ransom Center. You can go and see it pretty much anytime. Here is the photograph and here is a TRULY interesting article about it, about the challenges that Mr. Niepce faced etc... it includes shots of his house, the place from which the photo was taken, and the camera with which he took it. It was an eight hour exposure, if you can believe that:

You can also see Gutenberg Bible when you visit. Really a fantastic place. Tell them Traces of Texas sent you and watch them say, "who?"



Dr. James Long and a group of fillibusters created a fort made out of mud at what is now Port Bolivar in 1819 and stayed there 'til 1821. Long then left his wife, Jane, and entered Mexico, where he died. Jane Wilkinson Long subsequently gave birth to a child, somehow managing to avoid being killed by Indians. Because her baby was the first Anglo baby known to be born in what became Texas, she is known as "The Mother of Texas." And, of course, these days there is a free, 24 hour a day ferry that connects Port Bolivar with Galveston.



If you like cookies or brownies or cake or pie or pizza, you may consider that you owe a debt of gratitude to Gus Baumgarten of Schulenburg, Texas. It was he who effected a revolutionary change in kitchens worldwide. In 1917, Baumgarten was fooling around with a thermometer in his oven and invented controlled-heat baking in the process. Herbert Hoover, who had been appointed head of the U.S. Food Administration by President Woodrow Wilson, heard of Baumgarten's experiments and wrote to him, asking if he would please instruct by mail 2,385 home economists, who would demonstrate this new baking method all over the country. The result was a thermostat on nearly every oven subsequently produced in America and, of course, the world. It's hard to imagine an oven without a thermostat these days, but prior to 1917, baking had consisted of (essentially) heating and cooling, with no direct way to evenly control the heat. So the next time you bite into an apple fritter, remember old Gus Baumgarten in Schulenburg, and thank your lucky stars for the general inventiveness of Texans.



The first long-distance telephone lines in Texas were installed between Houston and Galveston in 1883. Can you imagine how crazy it must have seemed to Houstonians to be able to pick up a phone and talk to somebody 50 miles away? They must have been amazed. Incidentally, the first long distance direct-dialing in Texas was initiated in 1955.



According to Cabeza de Vaca, the coastal Indians in Texas lived nomadic lives that were cyclical and based on where food could be found at any given time during the year. From January to April, these natives lived almost entirely on oysters that they harvested from the Laguna Madre, the series of hypersaline bays that lie between the Texas mainland and barrier islands (like Padre Island) that line the Texas coast. After the dewberries ripened in May, they would move inland to feast on them. In summer they migrated to an area south of San Antonio to collect prickly pears. And when fall arrived they would head to what they called "the river of nuts," probably the Guadalupe River, where they ate the pecans that fell from the trees that covered the forested river bottoms. In late fall and early winter they would harvest cattails and native roots like arrowroot as well as fish from their canoes. And then back again to the oyster beds when the weather turned cold.



Comstock, Texas, was established in 1892 and at first had a railroad sidecar serving as its post office. The town was named for a Southern Pacific railroad section foreman. The trans originally crossed the nearby Pecos River through a series of underground tunnels. Then, in 1890, the Southern Pacific began construction of a high bridge across the Pecos River gorge to shorten the route by eleven miles. Touted as the "eighth wonder of the world," workers spent 87 days building the bridge, which eventually opened for traffic in 1892. A marvel of engineering, the bridge stood 321 feet high, stretched 2,180 feet long ---- the world's longest at the time ---- and cost 1.2 million dollars.To pay for costs, the railroad charged and extra fifty cents just to cross the bridge. A highway bridge spans the Pecos today. it is 273 feet above the river and doesn't cost a cent to drive across.



After Sam Houston resigned as Tennessee's governor he returned to live with the Cherokees, with whom he had lived as a youth. In 1832, while Houston was a member of an Indian delegation to Washington, Ohio Congressman William Stanberry, on the floor of the House, said some slanderous things about him. Houston sent a note challenging Stanberry to a duel. Stanerry refused to answer but started carrying pistols when he went out.

Almost two weeks after the original insult Houston was going to his hotel one evening when he encountered Stanberry on Pennsylvania Avenue. Houston attacked Stanberry with his hickory cane. Stanberry drew one pistol, aimed, and pulled the trigger but the pistol did not fire.

Stanberry filed a complaint with the Speaker. The House voted to arrest Houston, since the offensive statement had een made in that chamber, and Congressmen were supposed to be immune for statements made there. Houston's only punisment could be reprimand and withdrawal of his privilege, as a former Congressman, of coming onto the floor of the House.

Houston appeared the next day and was given 48 hours to prepare his defense. The Arcane Texas Fact of the Day is that his attorney was none other than Francis Scott Key. That's right, THE Francis Scott Key, the man who, 18 years earlier, had written the Star Spangled Banner.

The trial began on April 19. Stanberry showed the bumps on his head and Houston's cane was put into evidence. Key's defense was that the words which so inflamed Houston were not spoken in the House ---- he did not hear those ---- but those printed in the newspaper. it was a rather unsatisfactory position, since the newspaper account was a direct quote of Stansberry's speech in the House.

The trial lasted for a month and attracted a great deal of attention. President Jackson was displeased by the actions of his young friend, Houston, but said a few such chastisements would teach congressmen to maintain civil tongues.

The House found Houston guilty, but the attempt to deprive him of the privileges of the House was defeated by James K. Polk and other Jacksonians.

In the District of Columbia courts Houston was charged with the crime of assault and a fine of 500 dollars was imposed. A year later Houston was advised, "Get that remitted by the Old Chief (Andrew Jackson)." After another year Houston wrote Jackson about the fine. By virtue of his pardoning power, the President granted a remission and Houston never had to pay it.



The Battle of Palo Alto, which took place near Brownsville in May, 1846, was notable not only because it was the first battle of the U.S.-Mexican War, but for a couple of more obscure reasons. For one, it was the first time that the U.S. used mobile, lightweight artillery in battle. But another is that it brought together on the battlefield three future Presidents: U.S. Grant and Zachary Taylor on the American side and Mariano Arista ---- who was President of Mexico for two years beginning in 1851 ---- on the Mexican side. Incidentally, Arista's full name was José Mariano Martín Buenaventura Ignacio Nepomuceno García de Arista Nuez.



In 1977 the San Antonio Light reported that people were "shocked and appalled" at the sight of topless bathers at Austin's Barton Springs swimming pool. "Matter of fact, some folks are driving 200 miles to be shocked and appalled by the sight," the newspaper reported.



The largest raid ever mounted by Native Americans on white cities in what is now the United States occurred in 1840 in Texas. It followed the Council House Fight, in which Republic of Texas officials attempted to capture and take prisoner 33 Comanche chiefs who had come to negotiate a peace treaty, killing many of them together along with two dozen of their family and followers. The Texas Officials were determined to force the Comanche to release all white captives among them. To avenge what the Comanche viewed as a bitter betrayal by the Texans, the Comanche war chief Buffalo Hump raised a huge war party of many of the bands of the Comanche, and raided deep into white-settled areas of Southeast Texas. Victoria was the first town attacked, on August 7th. The next day, Linnville was sacked and burned in a scene that was tragicomedic. That afternoon, the Comanches withdrew, taking with them more than 3,000 horses and mules and hundreds of thousands of dollars of other plunder, ranging from silver to cloth and mirrors. Unfortunately for them, the sheer volume of loot slowed them down, and made them vulnerable to attack from a militia that otherwise would never have caught them. A combined force of Texas Rangers and militia volunteers caught up with the Comanches at Plum Creek near what is now Lockhart and engaged them in a running battle in which the Texans attempted to kill the raiders and recover loot and the Comanches simply attempted to get away. Equally, the militia missed an opportunity to destroy the bulk of the raiding party when they concentrated on recovering and dividing the recovered bullion and other plunder.



It's further around the state of Texas than it is from New York to Liverpool, England.



It sounds like a tall tale to say that the Academy Awards statuette, the Oscar, was named for a Texan, but although he was known to a limited few, Oscar's namesake is indeed a Texan. A man named Oscar Pierce had a niece who worked for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science in Hollywood. When she saw the gold statue for the first time she said "That looks like my uncle Oscar!" The name stuck.



Texan Roy Benavidez, Jr. received the Medal of Honor for valor displayed in Vietnam in 1968. Roy was born in Lindenau, Texas and was raised in Cuero and El Campo. He was the son of a sharecropper who died when he was two years old and orphaned at the age of 7 when his mother passed away. From his medal of honor citation:

"Master Sergeant Benavidez, a Green Beret fighting in the Vietnam War, learned that a small recon team had been surrounded, and all members had been killed or wounded. He got on a bird, and all by himself, jumped off and ran through enemy fire to reach the team. From his medal of Honor citation:

“Prior to reaching the team’s position he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members… Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy’s fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader.

When he reached the leader’s body, Sergeant Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, re-instilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy’s fire and so permit another extraction attempt.

He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft.”



Dallas' Swiss Avenue, which has long been one of the more fashionable addresses in that fine Texas city, was so named because it was originally settled by a group of Swiss immigrants who came to Dallas after Swiss-born Dallas mayor Benjamin Long, a former La Reunion colonist, returned to Zurich in 1870 and persuaded a group of his countrymen to immigrate. About three dozen arrived in December of that year and built homes along what would become Swiss Avenue. And this is not to say anything bad about Dallas, which I love dearly, but can you imagine the expression on their faces when they left their homes and those beautiful Alps in Switzerland, traveled across the ocean, and pulled up into ... Dallas? I wonder if there was any buyer's remorse? 😉



Stanley Kubrick attempted to cast Dan Blocker in his film Dr. Strangelove, after Peter Sellers elected not to add the role of Major T.J. "King" Kong to his multiple other roles, but Blocker's agent rejected the script. The role subsequently went to Slim Pickens, who played the iconic scene of riding an atomic bomb down while waving his cowboy hat. Blocker, who was born in De Kalb, Texas and raised in O'Donnell, Texas, was best known for playing "Hoss Cartwright" on TV's "Bonanza" series.



One of the greatest historical coincidences that I know of:

In 1810, Stephen F. Austin was a student at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky. His best friend was a young man named Robert Todd. Stephen had a budding romance with a young lady named Eliza Parker but, alas, fate intervened when Stephen's father's lead mining business went sour in Missouri and his father, unable to afford tuition, called Stephen home. Before leaving, Stephen asked Robert Todd to keep an eye on Eliza, fully intending to come back to school and resume his romance with her when things got a little better, financially speaking, for his father. 'Twas not to be.

Robert Todd ended up marrying Eliza in 1812. They had a daughter, Mary, who was born in 1818 and ended up marrying Abraham Lincoln in 1842. Many historians consider her as one of the driving forces in Abe's political career, particularly at the beginning. So I always wonder how history would have been changed had Moses' lead mining business in Missouri not gone south. Stephen would no doubt have stayed in Lexington, finished his degree, and become the lawyer he wanted to be. He might have married Eliza himself and there would have been no Mary Todd to marry Abraham Lincoln. There might have been a Mary Austin but things would have been entirely different. And, of course, Austin would most likely never have been driven to move to Texas because his life in Lexington, or wherever, would have been settled. And since it was Austin who provided the impetus that got the whole Texas experiment going, there would have been no Battle at the Alamo, no San Jacinto ... nothing.

The upshot is that Mary Todd Lincoln's mother was, at one time, Stephen F. Austin's sweetheart. And it's fun to ponder what might have happened had the bottom not fallen out of the lead mining business in 1809-1810.

As I often say, history combs the thinnest of hairs. I'm not sure what I mean by that, but it sounds deep.



Vernon, Texas, began life as Eagle Flat, Texas, on account of numerous eagles that nested in the vicinity. It wasn't until the 1870s that they changed the name to "Vernon" in honor of George Washington's home, Mount Vernon.



Here is a list of early Texas newspapers and the year in which they were founded:

The Cotton Plant: San Felipe, 1829
The Mexican Nation: San Felipe, 1831
The Redlander: San Augustine, 1837
The People: Brazoria, 1837
The National Banner: Houston, 1837
The Civilian: Houston, 1838
The Intelligencer: Houston, 1838
The Western Texan: San Antonio, 1848
The Flea: Jacksboro (Fort Richardson), 1869
The Plowboy: Lubbock, 1871
The Busy Bee: San Marcos, 1874
The Iron News: Llano, 1884
The Kicker: Ozona, 1891
The Spy: Mason, 1893
The Daily Thomas Cat: San Marcos, 1898
The Pointer: Dripping Springs, 1905



The U.S.-Mexican war that began in 1846 lasted less than 18 months and yet the ramifications were enormous. In defeat, Mexico forfeited more than one million square miles of territory that it had laid claim to. In time, those vast lands became the states of California, Arizona and New Mexico, with large portions of Colorado, Utah and Nevada thrown in. Texas, then only recently annexed into the Union, was made by treaty free of the long-standing claim of ownership by Mexico. And the Rio Grande was formally fixed as the boundary between Texas and the United States. Incidentally, freshman U.S. Congressman Abraham Lincoln, then only 38 years old, railed against the war so often and with such vigor that his loyalty to the Union was called into question.



The bloodiest battle in Texas history was the Battle of Medina, fought on August 18, 1813 ---- and nobody knows exactly where it took place. Here's what happened:

The early 19th century was a time of political upheaval, and in 1812, while the U.S. was at war with England, Spain faced revolts throughout Latin America, including Mexico. In this revolutionary climate, Americans and others began efforts to influence the fate of Mexico, of which Texas was a province. Bernardo Gutiérrez and Lt. A.W. Magee marched from Louisiana to Texas in 1812 with their Republican Army of the North. Capturing Nacogdoches and Trinidad, they moved on to Presidio La Bahía, where they survived a four-month siege by Spanish governors and their Royalist forces. The Royalists retreated toward San Antonio in February 1813, and in March the Republican Army followed them and was ambushed in the Battle of Rosillo. The Republicans persevered, captured San Antonio and executed the Spanish governors.

Gutiérrez's new Republic of Texas, with its green flag, was marked by internal political problems. Spain sent troops under Gen. Joaquín de Arredondo to retake Texas. Among his men was Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Yes .... THAT Santa Anna. The Republicans marched from San Antonio on Aug. 15, 1813 with about 1,400 troops: American volunteers, Tejanos, Mexicans and Native Americans. Led across the plains south of the Medina River, the fatigued army faced Spanish troops on Aug. 18 and was soundly defeated. Fewer than 100 escaped; most were executed. The Spanish left the decimated Texans on the battlefield and proceeded to San Antonio to punish citizens who supported independence. Eight years later, Mexican leaders ordered the remains of the fallen soldiers to be buried under an oak tree on the battlefield. But here's the thing: nobody knows for sure exactly where that oak tree was. It is believed to have taken place about 20 miles northwest of what is now downtown San Antonio, but no archaeological evidence has been found.

Incidentally, José Antonio Navarro, a founding father of Texas, and José Francisco Ruiz ----- both future signers of the 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence ----- fought in the Battle of Medina, as did at least one man who had fought in the American revolutionary war against the British in the previous century.



America's most purchased and favorite food, the hamburger, was invented in Texas. The hamburger got its start in the Henderson County town of Athens in the 1880s, when Fletcher Davis served up a meat patty with mustard, pickles and onions between two slices of bread. The sandwich caught on, and Davis introduced the hamburger at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904. And despite what others might say about this, that's our story and we're sticking to it!



The last man to be killed by "Wild Bill" Hickock, Phillip Houston Coe, is buried in the Prairie Lea cemetery in Brenham, Texas. Phillip "Phil” Coe was a soldier, a gambler, a businessman, and called the famous Ben Thompson, gunman and gambler, one of his best friends.

Born Phillip Houston Coe in July, 1839 in Gonzales, Texas, to Elizabeth Parker Coe and Phillip Houston Coe, Phil would grow up to be called one of the greatest gunfighters of Texas.

In September, 1861 he joined the Confederate forces in Houston, Texas to fight in the Civil War and was quickly made a 3rd Lieutenant. However, just a few months later, in December, he was mustered out due to illness.

In March, 1862, he re-joined the Confederate forces, enlisting in the 36th Texas Cavalry, fighting for over a year, when he left the force in April, 1863.

After the war over, it is thought that he served with Ben Thompson under Emperor Maximilian in Mexico. It was under famous gunfighter and gambler, Ben Thompson, that Coe would hone his shooting and gambling skills.

By late 1869 he was in Brenham, where his sister, Delilah, and her family lived. There, he met and gambled with such notorious individuals as James Madison Brown, John Wesley Hardin, and William P. Longley. Next he went to Salina, Kansas in 1870, but by May, 1871 he had moved on to the wild Kansas cowtown of Abilene. Also there were Ben Thompson and Bill Hickok, who was serving as city marshal.

Coe and Thompson soon went into a partnership operating the Bull’s Head Saloon, one of the wildest places in the already wild cowtown. This, of course, created dissension between Thompson and Coe with City Marshal, Bill Hickok. Though there were a number of disagreements, tension rose again when Thompson and Coe hanged an oversize painting of a Texas Longhorn, complete in its "full masculinity” at the Bull’s Head Saloon. Most Abilene townspeople were offended by the sign and demanded the animal’s anatomy be altered. As a result, Hickok stood by with a shotgun as the necessary deletions were made to the painting. The tension was, no doubt, so thick it could be cut with a knife, and the alteration was made without serious incident.

Though Coe and Hickok continued to have a number of disagreements, and it was well known the two disliked each other, Thompson and Hickok never had problems with each other, seemingly having a mutual respect for each other’s reputations.

Later, Thompson left town and Coe sold his interest in the saloon, although he remained on as a gambler.

When Hickok and Coe began to court the same woman, rumors started to circulate that each planned to kill the other.

At one point, Coe and Hickok passed words during a disagreement, during which Coe bragged of his expertise in shooting, with Coe reportedly stating he could "kill a crow on the wing", to which Hickok replied: "Did the crow have a pistol? Was he shooting back? I will be."

Eventually, the tension between the Phil Coe and Wild Bill Hickok would culminate in the ultimate gunfight. On the night of October 5, 1871, the trouble came to a head.

It was the end of the cattle season and Coe, along with a number of Texas cowboys were celebrating by drinking and carousing in Abilene's numerous saloons. As the cowboys neared the Alamo Saloon a vicious dog tried to bite Coe, and the gunman took a shot at him. Though he missed the dog, Hickok appeared just minutes later to investigate the gunfire.

The marshal demanded that Coe surrender his firearms, as an ordinance prohibited carrying them in the city. But instead of giving over his weapons Coe sent a bullet Hickok's way, to which the marshal returned fire, shooting Coe twice in the stomach. At about the same time, Hickok heard footsteps coming up behind him and turning swiftly; he fired again and killed Deputy Mike Williams, who had been coming to his aid. Williams' death haunted Hickock for the rest of his life.

Coe lingered in agony for days and finally died on October 9th. His body was transported back to Brenham and buried in Prairie Lea Cemetery.

In the meantime, Hickok drove the rest of the cowboys out of town. But the city of Abilene had had enough. Before long, the city fathers told the Texans there could be no more cattle drives through their town and dismissed Hickok as city marshal.

Though some thought that Ben Thompson would retaliate against Hickok for the shooting, he did not, and by some estimations seemed to believe the shooting was justified

Coe's body was returned to Brenham, where he was buried.

Source: "Legends of America," a very nice website that you can find here:



The events of the Texas War for independence from Mexio are well known. What is less well known is that these events were actually the SECOND attempt by Anglos in Texas to secede from Mexico. The Fredonian Rebellion (December 21, 1826 – January 23, 1827) was the first attempt by Anglo settlers in Texas to secede. The settlers, led by Empresario Haden Edwards, declared independence from Mexican Texas and created the Republic of Fredonia near Nacogdoches. The short-lived republic encompassed the land the Mexican government had granted to Edwards in 1825 and included areas that had been previously settled. Edwards's actions soon alienated these established residents, and the increasing hostilities between them and settlers recruited by Edwards led Victor Blanco of the Mexican government to revoke Edwards's contract.

In late December 1826, a group of Edwards's supporters took control of the region by arresting and removing from office several municipality officials affiliated with the established residents. Supporters declared their independence from Mexico. Although the nearby Cherokee tribe initially signed a treaty to support the new republic because a prior agreement with the Mexican government negotiated by Chief Richard Fields was ignored, overtures from Mexican authorities and respected Empresario Stephen F. Austin convinced tribal leaders to repudiate the rebellion. On January 31, 1827, a force of over 100 Mexican soldiers and 250 militiamen from Austin's colony marched into Nacogdoches to restore order. Haden Edwards and his brother Benjamin fled to the United States. Chief Richard Fields was killed by his own tribe. A local merchant was arrested and sentenced to death, but later paroled.

The rebellion led Mexican President Guadalupe Victoria to increase the military presence in the area. As a result, several hostile tribes in the area halted their raids on settlements and agreed to a peace treaty. The Comanche abided by this treaty for many years. Fearing that through the rebellion the United States hoped to gain control of Texas, the Mexican government severely curtailed immigration to the region from the US. This new immigration law was bitterly opposed by colonists and caused increasing dissatisfaction with Mexican rule. Some historians consider the Fredonian Rebellion to be the beginning of the Texas Revolution. In the words of one historian, the rebellion was "premature, but it sparked the powder for later success.

As an aside, I have always loved the name/word "Fredonia." It's just a great-sounding word. Like maybe if I ever get another dog I'm naming him/her "Fredonia" or something.



The Gulf Coast in Texas extends some 367 miles as the crow flies, but along the major highways between Brownsville and Orange you will have to drive 460 miles to cover that distance. In Texas, the gulf's total shoreline ----- including bays, islands, river mouths etc... ----- measures some 3,360 miles.



The fossilized skeletons of creatures such as woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, horses, camels, and many extinct smaller mammals have been discovered in the El Paso area. They are typically found in what's referred to as the Fort Hancock Formation, which is described as "lacustrine and play sediments predominantly consisting of interbedded clays and silts." Examples of the fossils can be seen in the Centennial Museum on the UTEP campus. They are part of an excavation of mammoth bones from a sand quarry near the present site of Vista Hills Hospital.



This history of the Torrey brothers a series of trading houses they established in the 1840s is an interesting one. Tbe Torrey's started their business in order to trade primarily with Native Americans but also with anybody else who happened by.

The firm of Torrey and Brothers traded widely with the Indians for about ten years, from John F. Torrey's arrival in Houston in 1838 until 1848, when the Torreys sold the major trading house to George Barnard and move to California. The Torreys' trading activities were a vital part of Sam Houston's peace policy and acted as a civilizing agent for the Indians. The Torreys conducted a significant fur trade, assisted in the establishment of New Braunfels, recovered stolen horses and captives from the Indians, and established what was perhaps the first regional bank in the United States. John Torrey and his brothers David K. and Thomas S. Torrey built the first frame house in Houston and used it as a trading post and as a supply center for their other posts. David purchased goods in Boston and New York. George Barnard and Sam Houston may have been stockholders in the enterprise.

The Torreys operated a trading house on the Bosque River in 1842 and established houses at Austin, San Antonio (1844), New Braunfels (1845), and Fredericksburg. Barnard opened a branch store on the Navasota River in 1843, and, at Houston's request, the firm opened a branch at the falls of the Brazos. The Brazos post, on Tehuacana Creek in McLennan County, received a license in December 1843 after the Torreys made bond for $10,000. With its official status under a law of the Republic of Texas passed in 1843, the post had a near monopoly of the Texas Indian trade.

In 1846 Dr. Ferdinand von Roemer made a trip from New Braunfels to the Brazos post with John Torrey and described the trading house as standing in a post oak grove on a high, pebble-covered hill overlooking Tehuacana Creek. The post comprised six or seven houses built of rough-hewn logs. The largest house held pelts, another contained trade goods for the Indians, and the remaining served as living quarters. In 1846 Paul Richardson built an additional building for a fee of $100. The post traded goods to the Indians and, for a price, recovered stolen horses, runaway slaves, and captured Mexicans from the Indians. Indians frequently met at a council ground some four miles west of the trading post. In May 1845 about 1,000 lodges, or 4,000 persons, camped near the post. On November 16, 1845, Thomas I. Smith and George W. Terrellqqv made a treaty with the Kichai, Tawakoni, Waco, and Wichita groups at the post. In 1844 the Torrey brothers furnished Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels with weapons for the Adelsverein. The brothers contracted with John O. Meusebach to provision and transport German immigrants from the coast inland.

The Torreys had an unusual banking and credit system. The Tehuacana post served as a clearinghouse for the notes of rangers and Indians in the immediate area and for the entire border from the western edge of what is now Hood County almost to New Braunfels. The trading company sometimes paid advances to Indians for deerskins; the debts could then be paid at the posts on the Navasota River, at the falls of the Brazos, or at New Braunfels. Debts were sometimes paid by supplying six shaved skins for each dollar borrowed. Sam Houston signed and witnessed receipts for the Torrey Company at New Braunfels in 1846 and 1847. From 1844 to 1853 the trading house handled at least 75,000 deerskins. William N. P. Marlin and Leonard Williams, freighters, traveled an estimated 15,000 miles collecting and delivering pelts to Houston at $1.50 a hundred pounds in 1846 and $2 a hundred pounds in 1848.

Williams was the Indian agent assigned to the post in April 1845. Grant and Barton, commission furriers in New York, sold at auction for Torrey and Brothers and later for George Barnard more than seventy-five lots of skins. Barnard bought the Brazos post and moved it to Comanche Peak in Hood County in 1849. Torrey and Brothers entered into a partnership with the J. C. Spencer Company of Robinson County and dissolved this alliance in 1846. By 1849 the Torrey Brothers had sold their remaining interests to Barnard and moved out of Texas toward California.

Source: Handbook of Texas Online, Henry C. Armbruster, "Torrey Trading Houses."



The old Taylor County jail was built in 1879 in Buffalo Gap, Texas. Buffalo Gap, you will recall, was the county seat before it was moved to Abilene. The jailhouse, which still stands, was built on unstable soil, so the builder hollowed out pockets in the limestone blocks and put in cannonballs hauled from Vicksburg, Mississippi after the Civil War to lock the blocks together. It is said that today, well more than 100 years later, the building, now a museum, has no cracks in it.



If you would like to appear especially gracious, bodacious, vivacious, sagacious, ostentatious, capacious, and perspicacious over dinner tonight, inform your dining companions that it was in 1906 that former Governor James Hogg’s last wishes included being buried with a walnut tree at his feet and a pecan tree as a headstone, the nuts to be “given out among the plain people so that they may plant them and make Texas a land of trees.”



The last public hanging in Texas took place on July 30, 1923, in Waco, when Roy Mitchell was executed for one of eight murders he committed during a reign of terror.



90 miles east of El Paso on US 62/180 are extensive surface salt deposits in a desert bolson (a depression with no natural drainage) at the foot of the Guadalupe Mountains. White men first used those flats in mid 1600s, and the Indians likely used them, too. Salt served an important function in meat preservation, in addition to its value as a seasoning. Perhaps more crucial to the men who dug precious metals from the ground , salt was necessary for smelting silver. Silver mines in northern Mexico consumed tremendous quantities, and to meet this need at least two well-traveled salt trails jutted up from Mexico and fanned out though the region.

Flash forward to the 1860s, when corrupt El Paso politicians formed a "salt ring" and began charging fees for salt removal, the injustice of which led to the infamous salt wars of the 1860s and 1870s. The fighting ended in San Elizario with the surrender of a squad of Texas Rangers. Political assassinations and a congressional investigation followed, leading to numerous indictments and the resurrection of Fort Bliss.



Built from the same pink granite from central Texas that the state capitol building is made from, the Tarrant County Courthouse In Fort Worth was completed in 1895 after more than two years of construction. Although the Courthouse building project came in early and nearly 20 percent under budget, the citizens of Tarrant County were outraged by the perceived extravagance, and responded by voting the County Judge and all of the Court Commissioners out of office during the next election. Be that as it may, it's a gorgeous building and I'm glad it turned out the way it did.



On July 5, 1883, Joseph Brinster was legally hanged at the county seat of Ysleta, having been convicted of rape. He had been charged with raping the wife of a non-commissioned officer at Fort Davis and was the first man ever legally hanged in El Paso County. He had to be dropped twice because the first drop did not cause death.



In October, 1886, El Paso had one saloon for every 232 inhabitants, including women and children. The chances of dying of thirst were pretty slim thereabouts, I reckon.



The city of Killeen was established in 1881 when the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, planning to extend its tracks through the area, bought 360 acres some 2½ miles southwest of a community known as Palo Alto, which had existed since about 1872. Soon afterward the railroad platted a seventy-block town on its land and named it after Frank P. Killeen, the assistant general manager of the railroad.



In 2016, Abilene, Texas took the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ "Best Places to Retire. " Per Forbes, if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of your working days, Abilene is a good 150 miles from the D-FW metroplex, and “provides a more down-home environment,” Forbes says. "But being far from a major city doesn’t mean culture and higher education suffer in the West Texas town. There are seven colleges in the area, like Abilene Christian University." Other fast facts about Abilene that make it Forbes’ top locale: "Crime, housing and the cost of living are all lower than the national average." San Marcos and Grand Prairie also made the list of top retirement spots.



Four months after his record-setting trans-Atlantic solo flight, Charles Augustus Lindbergh landed in Abilene for one hour and thirty-six minutes during a nationwide publicity tour. Touching down at Kingsolving Field (now the site of Abilene Zoo) after an almost nine-hour flight from Santa Fe, "Lucky Lindy" was given a hero's welcome by thousands of West Texans. His famous Ryan Monoplane, "Spirit of St. Louis," was taxied into a fenced area and surrounded by National Guard Troops for protection. An escort plane landed later. Heading a parade into Abilene were seventy-one mayors and countless officials. Lindbergh was escorted by Mrs. Mildred Moody (1897-1983), wife of Governor Dan Moody and an Abilene native; Mayor Thomas Edward Hayden (1891-1949); and Chamber of Commerce president Charles William Bacon (1871-1947). The young pilot reportedly balked at a "throne" rigged for him in an open Nash automobile, and rode with Mrs. Moody through the town to Federal lawn. Lindbergh delivered a brief speech over loudspeakers, praising the ideal terrain and weather in Texas for developing civil and military aviation. He was escorted back to this plane and flew two hours and forty-two minutes to his next stop in Fort Worth.



The first department store in Taylor County was Minter's Dry Goods Store in Abilene, built in 1925 at 244 Pine Street in that beautiful city. The building still stands, as you can see from this Google Street view. It now houses a cooperative featuring arts and crafts. You cn see the building here:



Joseph McCoy (1837-1915), a cattle broker, is generally credited with initiating the trailing of cattle from Texas north to railheads. He established the stockyards in Abilene, Kansas. Within a few years after 1867, a company with which he was associated was shipping as much as 1000 head a week. A historic marker has been erected on E. Johnson Street in Denison, Texas, in his memory.



On November 15, 1983, Billie Sol Estes, who had been convicted of fraud in 1963, was released on parole from the Federal Penitentiary at Big Spring. Estes, once an associate and financial backer of Lyndon Johnson, went to prison after both federal and state courts found him guilty of bilking West Texas farmers of over 30 million dollars by selling them tens of thousands of fictitious tanks of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. The case made headlines nationwide and caused heads to roll as far away as Washington D.C. Henry Marshall, an employee of the the state Agriculture Department who seems to have been the first person to uncover evidence at the gigantic swindle, was found dead on his ranch near Franklin, shot five times with a bolt-action rifle. A grand jury in Frankston concluded that Marshall had committed suicide.

----- Source: "A Browser's Book of Texas History" by Steven Jent. It's a highly entertaining book and I recommend it for any Texas history shelf



Gunsight, Texas, in southern Stephens County, was named for nearby Gunsight Mountain. It was settled in 1879 and gained a post office in 1880 at J. W. Shepard's store. The community's population was fifty in 1890 and grew to 150 in 1920 because of the oil boom and the town's location near the Wichita Falls and Southern Railway. The population declined, however, after the 1920s and the current population is six people, some chickens, and a dog named "Skeeter." Okay, I made up the part about the chickens and the dog. Incidentally, Gunsight Mountain mountain was named because it runs "as straight as a gun barrel" and has a projecting peak that the early settlers said represented a gunsight. Its summit, at an elevation of 1,658 feet above sea level, rises 208 feet above U.S. 183.



Pretty much everybody knows about Stevie Ray Vaughan, but many don't know the story of his favorite guitar, which he referred to variously as his "wife" or "number one." Stevie got this guitar ---- described as a “ragged American Stratocaster with 1959 pickups, a ’62 neck, and a ’63 body n finish, upside-down tremolo bar, cigarette-burnt headstock” in 1974. He got it from Ray Hennig's Heart of Texas music in Austin. But what is so unusual is that this guitar's previous owner was Christopher Cross, the Austin musician who had series of smash hits in 1980 and 1981, including "Ride Like the Wind," "Sailing" etc... Ray told me in his shop one time that Christopher Cross came in with the guitar and wanted to trade it for something that had a more powerful, more muscular sound. So Ray traded Christopher a Les Paul for it. According to Ray, Stevie Ray Vaughan came in the next day, saw the guitar that Christopher had traded in, played it, and decided he wanted it. Mr. Hennig hadn't even had a chance to clean it up or repair it in any way when --- boom! ---- it went right back out the door. So it went from Christopher Cross to Stevie Ray Vaughan and became one of the most famous guitars in history.



It was in 1898 that the horned frog became the mascot of Texas Christian University. Of course, at that time it was not yet Texas Christian University but instead was named "Add-Ran Christian University." And it was not in Fort Worth, as it is now, but in Waco. It's said that the horned-frog population in Waco was so great that the critters were just everywhere on the campus. In 1902, the school's name was changed to Texas Christian University. In 1910 the main building burned and Fort Worth offered the school a 50-acre campus and 200,000 dollars to move to that city. The university accepted the offer and after 15 years in Waco the school moved to Fort Worth.



The first tolls on the Waco Suspension Bridge were collected on January 1, 1870, just a couple of days after the bridge was completed. There was a huge celebration. The bridge ---- which still stands ----- was considered an architectural marvel and the financing and building of it was so difficult that other Texas cities were quite impressed with the merchants in Waco who had succeeded in getting the bridge built. The San Antonio Express newspaper proclaimed, "All honor to Waco! She is leading all the inland cities with enterprise and prosperity!"

The bridge was indeed a a spectacular engineering feat. Built at a time when most of Texas was still reeling from the Civil War and in the throes of reconstruction, it is impressive even to this day. The main span stretches 475 feet across the Brazos and the roadway was so wide that two stagecoaches could pass each other going in opposite directions. No other bridge in the state for years could compete with it in terms of beauty and size.

The suspension span operated as a toll road for 19 years, until 1889. It was under the ownership of the Waco Bridge Company during that time, after which it was purchased by McLennan County. The County then turned it over to the City of Waco for operation as a free public bridge. The last car crossed it in 1971, when it was retired, at least in terms of vehicular traffic. It has been restored/fixed up several times over the last 145 years, and looks to be good to go for another century at least.



The last surviving Confederate General, Felix Huston Robertson, was the only Texas-born general to serve the Confederacy during the Civil War. He was born in 1839 at Washington-on-the-Brazos. His father, Jerome B. Robertson, also fought in the Civil War and was for a time commander of Hood's Brigade. He attended Baylor University and went to West Point in 1857, but left before graduation to serve the Confederacy. Felix was a harsh disciplinarian whose Indian-like features gave him the nickname "Comanche Robertson."

In 1864, Robertson was assigned a field command, leading first a brigade and later a division of cavalry. On October 3, 1864, a group of guerrillas associated with Robertson's troops during the campaign slaughtered more than one hundred black Union soldiers who had been wounded in the previous day's fighting. One of his subordinate officers, Champ Ferguson, was executed by hanging after the war for his part in what the Northern press deemed the "Saltville Massacre. Noted historian William C. Davis, in his book "An Honorable Defeat. The Last Days of the Confederate Government," reports that Robertson personally "join(ed) in the act of villainy" although he escaped prosecution. Robertson was severely wounded in the elbow during the Battle of Buck Head Creek near Augusta, Georgia, in late November 1864. He lived, but never resumed field duty.

After the war, Robertson returned to Texas and settled in Waco. He studied law, passed his bar exam, and established a profitable legal practice. He and his father speculated in real estate and invested in several local railroads. After the death of his wife, Robertson remarried in 1892. He attempted to enter local politics in 1902 as he ran for mayor of Waco in the Democratic primaries. However, he was defeated by incumbent J. W. Riggins. He became the commander of the local United Confederate Veterans in 1911. In 1913, Texas Governor Oscar B. Colquitt appointed him as the Texas Representative for the Battle of Gettysburg Commission, a national group that commemorated the battle's fiftieth anniversary in July 1913. He died in Waco in 1928 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. At the time of his death he was the last surviving Confederate general.

William C. Davis had this to say about Robertson: "Perjurer, sycophant, quite probably a murderer, Felix Robertson of Texas was almost without doubt the most reprehensible man in either army to wear the uniform of a general. Only by the narrowest of margins did he escape being tried by his own government for what later generations would call war crimes."



Originally from the Balkans, Poland and the former Soviet Union, zebra mussels are firmly established in Europe and have invaded much of the U.S. On April 3, 2009, the first adult zebra mussel in Texas waters was confirmed in Lake Texoma. Zebra mussels have spread from the Red River basin to the Trinity and, most recently, the Brazos river basin. Zebra mussels are currently in Lake Texoma, Lake Ray Roberts, Lewisville Lake, Lake Bridgeport, Lake Lavon, Lake Waco, Dean Gilbert (a 45-acre Community Fishing Lake in Sherman), and Lake Belton. They have also been found on isolated occasions in the Red River below Lake Texoma, the Elm Fork of the Trinity River below Lake Ray Roberts, and Sister Grove Creek, and a boat with zebra mussels attached was found in Lake Ray Hubbard. Zebra mussel DNA has been found in several other lakes where larvae and adults have not been found to verify their presence. ONCE ZEBRA MUSSELS ARE ESTABLISHED IN A BODY OF WATER, THEY ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO ERADICATE WITH CURRENT TECHNOLOGY. Please check to make sure you're not transporting these critters from one lake to another. Here's how to do it:

This is a real threat to the beautiful Texas environment that we all hold dear.



Glen Rose, Texas, started in 1849 as a trading post called Barnard's Mill. Settler Thomas Jordan purchased the mills in 1870 and renamed the town Glen Rose. The town has sometimes been called "The Petrified City" because so much petrified stone was used in building local buildings.



"Lopes and smokes" was an early means of estimating distance. The phrase comes from the fact that most travel was done by horseback, and usual gait was a lope. Cowboys rolled their own cigarettes, which was a tricky maneuver that required the rider to stop the horse and "fix the makings." So a trip might be four smokes distant. In this century, in West Texas, driving their pickups, cowboys often measured their distance by beers. "Valentine's 'bout three beers due west, and one beer left, outta Marfa." Or something like that.



Although there is a Rosa's Cantina in El Paso, and even though Rosa's has been in existence for decades, it was not the inspiration for the famous song by Marty Robbins. Robbins wrote the song in 1957 and recorded it in September, 1959. It was released as a single the following month and became a major hit on both the country and pop music charts, reaching number one in both at the start of 1960. But El Paso city directories show no mention of Rosa's Cantina until 1961. The 1959 city directory lists a beer bar operating at 3454 Doniphan, under the name "J & M Club." The owner was Miguel Aranda, a former Asarco employee.

The 1961 city directory indicates that the bar had come under the proprietorship of Ernest A. Erbe and had been renamed "Rosa’s Cantina." By 1962, Rosa’s Cantina had yet another owner, Roberto Zubia, who remained the owner for several decades.

Further substantiation came from Marty himself, who said that there was nothing true about the story. So even though you may see claims that Rosa's Cantina is THE Rosa's Cantina, the song inspired the bar rather than the bar inspiring the song.



Broken glass from bottles and handles from beer mugs can be seen jutting through the walls of the Alamo here and there. When the U.S. Army reinforced the walls during the 1850s, they used dirt from a nearby garbage dump.



The Beer Can House in Houston is covered with 39,000 beer cans, all of which were consumed over an 18-year period by John Milkovisch, who really, really loved beer.



Ernest Tubb was born on a cotton farm near Crisp (now a ghost town), Texas. His father was a sharecropper, so Tubb spent his youth working on farms throughout the state. But Ernest had dreams and, inspired by Jimmie Rodgers, spent his spare time learning to sing, yodel, and play the guitar. At age 19, he took a job as a singer on San Antonio radio station KONO-AM. The pay was low so that Ernest also dug ditches for the Works Progress Administration and then clerked at a drug store. In 1939 he moved to San Angelo, Texas and was hired to do a 15-minute afternoon live show on radio station KGKL-AM. He drove a beer delivery truck in order to support himself during this time, and during World War II he wrote and recorded a song titled "Beautiful San Angelo."

In 1936, Tubb contacted Jimmie Rodgers’s widow (Rodgers died in 1933) to ask for an autographed photo. A friendship developed and she was instrumental in getting Tubb a recording contract with RCA. His first two records were unsuccessful. A tonsillectomy in 1939 affected his singing style so he turned to songwriting. In 1940 he switched to Decca records to try singing again and it was his sixth Decca release with the single "Walking the Floor Over You" that brought Tubb to stardom. He joined the Grand Ol' Opry in 1943 and with his band, the Troubadours, stayed for more than 40 years.



The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells was named for T.B. Baker, the man who built it. Considered by many to be “The Greatest Hotel Man of the South” prior to the stock market crash of 1929, Theodore B. Baker and his hotels were once a household name. By the late twenties, Baker had built a chain of prestigious hotels that stretched from San Antonio, Texas to Birmingham, Alabama, including the Menger, the Gunter, and St. Anthony hotels in San Antonio and the Stephen F. Austin hotel in Austin. During the Great Depression, Baker and many other prominent Texas hotel men like Conrad Hilton found themselves in dire financial straits. However, while Hilton was able to salvage part of his business and build it back up into the company that we know today, unfortunately T.B. Baker and his chain of luxury hotels were not so lucky. After losing everything he passed away in a small house in San Antonio at the age of 96 in 1972 ---- the same year that the Baker closed its doors in Mineral Wells for the very last time.



The city of Garland was originally called "Duck Creek." The first Duck Creek school was built in 1858, and three stores and two grist mills were in operation in the 1870s. Duck Creek was granted a post office in 1878. In 1886 the Katy railroad built through the area from Greenville to Dallas. and a short time later the Santa Fe railroad crossed the Katy from the south, going from Dallas to Greenville. Both railroads missed the village of Duck Creek, however, so various citizens laid out two new towns. The one near the Santa Fe depot was named "Embree" in honor of the Postmaster, K.H. Embree, and the one near the Katy depot assumed the proud name of "Duck Creek." The hamlets refused to join hands, but in 1887 a fire wiped out most of the original Duck Creek, at which time New Duck Creek claimed the post office. The village of Embree contested it. The matter was put to rest in 1888 when newly-elected Congressman Jo Abbott got the post office department to relocate the post office halfway between New Duck Creek and Embree, naming it "Garland" in honor of President Grover Cleveland's attorney General, A.H. Garland, who had earlier been a Confederate congressman from Tennessee.



How explosive was the growth of agriculture in Texas after the Civil War? From 1870-1890, the number of farms in Texas grew from 61,125 to 228,126. During the same time period, cotton production went from 350,628 bales produced to 1,471,242 bales produced and the value of farms, tools and livestock rose from $80,777,550 to $552,127,104. "Farmers are pouring into Western Texas so fast," claimed a New Orleans newspaper in 1886, "that ranchmen have just enough time to move their cattle out and prevent their tails being chopped off by the advancing hoe."



Victoria, Texas has often been called "The City of Roses" and it has also often been at the crossroads of history and NOT just a rest stop on the old San Antonio-Indianola road. Martin de Leon established the settlement in 1824 and named it for Guadalupe Victoria, one-time president of Mexico. De Leon colonized it with Irish, German, Italian and Hispanic residents. It had five mayors before the Republic of Texas was created in 1836. Santa Anna's army passed through after the Goliad Massacre. It was struck by a significant Comanche raid in 1839 and several citizens were killed. In 1846 it was struck by a significant cholera epidemic and many lives were lost.



Around 75 percent of the world’s Snickers bars are manufactured at the M&M/Mars plant in Waco, Texas. So if you’re enjoying or have enjoyed a Snickers anywhere in the world, odds are that very Snickers bar came from Texas.



In 1894, the population of Waco was about 17,000 people. There were almost 70 churches in the city at that time, more than half of them Baptist.



The territory atop the Edwards Plateau that spills over onto the coastal plain and the Brazos river bottoms on both the east and northeast was the 16th century homeland of the Tonkawa Indias. The word "Tonkawa" was derived from the Waco Indian's terms for them: tonkaweya, which meant "the all stay together." Tonkawas called themselves "tickanwatic," meaning something similar to "the most human of all people." This terms appears in many forms, including Tonkawega, Tancoyre, Tanquagas, Tonchahual, and Tonquaay. The independent bands were the Tonkawa proper ---- the Ayeye, Yojaune, Erviplame ---- and a number of smaller , more obscure bands, like the Cavas, Emet, Sana, Tobo, and Tohaha.



Telephus Telemachus Louis Augustus Albertus Johnson, who died in Waco in 1875, was originally buried in the historic First Street Cemetery there. His remains were later re-interred in Oakwood Cemetery, which laid to rest the myth that he was buried sitting at a poker table with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a six shooter in the other.

Johnson was born on November 22, 1822, a son of Hezekiah Johnson. The family moved to Waco in 1852. Johnson received only an elementary education but became one of the wealthiest men in Waco. He engaged primarily in trading and between 1863 and 1864 bought a total of 760 acres of land on the east bank of the Brazos River. He also owned many town lots and influenced the building of the courthouse at Second and Franklin Streets. He was involved in the Tomas de la Vega land suits. After his marriage, he built a home at Second and Mary Streets for his wife for whom Mary Street is named. The house was demolished in 1913. Johnson died on January 27, 1875, and was buried in First Street Cemetery. It was some time later that his remains were re-interred. Also, there is no truth to the rumor that Johnny Cash originally wrote "Boy named Telephus Telemachus Louis Augustus Albertus Johnson" but changed it to "Boy named Sue."



During the blizzard of 1899, the temperature tumbled to 10 degrees below zero in Waco and people ice-skated on the Brazos River.



According to the US Patent Office, the beverage known as Dr Pepper, which was born in Waco, was sold for the very first time on 12th January 1885. It is the oldest major soft-drink brand in the United States.



Although the population of Jefferson, Texas, is now roughly 2,000 people, at one point back in the 1800s the population was 30,000. That was when Jefferson was a thriving riverport. Today, the remnants of all that activity still remain. You'll find more than one hundred buildings in Jefferson that have been awarded historical markers, and there are over forty bed and breakfasts, along with two historic hotels.



On August 7, 1867, in Jefferson, Texas U.S. Revenue collector Davis B. Bonfoey confronted a deputy collector named W.H. Fowler and accused him of conniving with area cotton dealers to embezzle taxes. Fowler drew a pistol and threatened to kill Bonfoey unless he signed a receipt that would absolve him (Fowler) of any misdeed. When Bonfoey agreed, Fowler naively put down his gun to prepare the receipt and Bonfoey pulled his own pistol and shot Fowler dead. He was jailed pending an inquiry into the affair. Later in that same month, Bonfoey's wife was attacked at the their home in Marshall, where a safe held $34,000 dollars in tax money plus $13,000 dollars in personal savings. The robbers failed to break into the safe but left her in a coma and she died without awakening. The detail of federal guards assigned to protect the house was accused of the crime, but this was Reconstruction Texas; the military government sent the men out of town and they soon disappeared. When Bonfoey was released and came home to Marshall, he visited his wife's grave, collapsed in grief, and died the next day.



Along with the city's other ethnic neighborhoods, San Antonio once had an active Italian neighborhood. Most of that area that was was once situated on the northwest side of downtown is now gone, removed by highway construction and urban renewal. Virtually all that remains is San Francisco de Paola Catholic Church, the Christopher Columbus Society Hall, and Columbus Park. At one time, these were focal points of Italian life in San Antonio. One of the earliest influential Italian immigrants was a man named Antonio Bruni, an Italian grocer and businessman in San Antonio who found success and convinced others to join him. Many of the first such immigrants were miners, farmers and unskilled laborers who came to work on the railroad and the mines in Victoria and Thurber Counties. After that work was finished, many of them moved on to the urban centers.



On June 3, 1955, thirteen-year-old Lubbock native Mac Davis witnessed Elvis Presley shake the showroom of a local Pontiac dealership. It changed Davis' life and he knew afterward that he wanted to be a singer. The cool thing is that Presley later recorded seven of Mac Davis’s compositions, including the 1969 Top 10 hits “In the Ghetto” and “Don’t Cry Daddy.”



A Spanish soldier named Pedro Castaneda accompanied the explorer Coronado on the first Spanish expedition into what is now Texas back in 1542. Later, Pedro wrote a description of what the Texas Panhandle was like for the first Europeans to see it: "The country seems like a bowl, and when a man sits down the horizon surrounds him at the distance of a musket shot. There are no groves of trees except at the rivers.... In traversing 800 miles, [no] mountain range was seen, nor a hill nor a hillock three times as high as a man."



The Seawall Wal-Mart in Galveston is reputed to be one of the most haunted places on an island filled with haunted places. That's because that Wal-Mart is located on the former grounds of the St. Mary's Orphans Asylum, which was destroyed during the great 1900 hurricane, taking the lives of 90 children and 10 sisters who were in charge of them. Employees of that Wal-Mart report toys being knocked off shelves, hearing the sounds of children crying where no child is etc....

Incidentally, as the tidal surge rose that fateful day, the sisters had the children sing an old French hymn, "Queen of the Waves," to calm them. Here are the lyrics to that song:

Queen of the Waves

Queen of the Waves, look forth across the ocean
From north to south, from east to stormy west,
See how the waters with tumultuous motion
Rise up and foam without a pause or rest.
But fear we not, tho' storm clouds round us gather,
Thou art our Mother and thy little Child
Is the All Merciful, our loving Brother
God of the sea and of the tempest wild.
Help, then sweet Queen, in our exceeding danger,
By thy seven griefs, in pity Lady save;
Think of the Babe that slept within the manger
And help us now, dear Lady of the Wave.
Up to the shrine we look and see the glimmer
Thy votive lamp sheds down on us afar;
Light of our eyes, oh let it ne'er grow dimmer,
Till in the sky we hail the morning star.
Then joyful hearts shall kneel around thine altar
And grateful psalms reecho down the nave;
Never our faith in thy sweet power can falter,
Mother of God, our Lady of the Wave.



Hurricane Carla, which struck the Texas coast at Port Aransas in 1961, remains one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded. Peak winds of 175 mph were observed. I talked to an old-timer down there who rode it out in a relatively small office-type building. He told me that within about 15 minutes of Carla making landfall he realized he'd made a horrible mistake by staying, and that the most helpless feeling was the sound of the cotter pins on the metal covers over the windows breaking away "with that pinging sound and knowing there was not a damn thing I could do except get down on my knees and pray."



The lovely town of Fredericksburg, in the Texas HIll Country, has a friendly greeting built-in for folks who visit. The first letters of the street names going east along Main Street/290 from the Vereins Kirche spell "All Welcome." Those going west spell "Come Back." It's true. Going east we see Adams, Llano, Lincoln, Washington, Elk, Lee, Columbus, Olive, Mesquite, Eagle streets ("all welcome") and going west we see Crockett, Orange, Milam, Edison, Bowie, Acorn, Cherry, Kay ("come back"). I have met many folks who are from Fredericksburg who don't realize this, but it appears the city founding fathers were thinking ahead about hospitality!



The frozen margarita was invented in 1971 in Dallas by Mariano Martinez, the owner of Mariano's Mexican Cuisine. Mariano adapted a soft serve ice cream machine to make margaritas and dubbed it "The World’s First Frozen Margarita Machine". That machine is now in the collection of the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution.



The Official Texas state soil is "Houston Black." Houston Black Soil extends over 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km2) of the Texas blackland prairies. The soil is composed of expansive clays and is considered one of the classic vertisols. Houston Black soils are used extensively for grain sorghum, cotton, corn, small grain, and forage grasses. In their natural state, they support mostly tall and mid grass prairies of big bluestem, sideoats grama, switchgrass, little bluestem, and indiangrass, with some elm, hackberry, and mesquite trees thrown in for good measure. In the USDA taxonomic system it is designated an "Udic Haplusterts." The soil also shrinks and swells with variations in how much water it contains. Nowhere in the official description do I see the words "makes architects apoplectic" or "makes grown men cry," but I know these things to be true about it, too.



Early Texas trail drivers, while herding the giant herds of Texas cattle over the historic trails of Texas, were sometimes treated during storms to a bizarre phenomena in which eerie luminous flashes of yellow-green tongues lightning-like fire arced from the horns of one steer to that of one nearby. Often this early day "laser show" continued until the entire herd was bathed in an incandescent glow. This phenomena, although a mystery to those old cowboys, is today most often associated with ships, masts and aircraft and is known as "St. Elmo's Fire."



If you go to Gonzales, Texas, and head southeast on U.S. 90A toward Shiner, after about 12 miles you will come to CR 361, which has a historical marker next to it. A turn north on CR 361 will take you to the reason for the historical marker, which is the Braches House and the Sam Houston Oak. The Braches House is a handsome Greek Revival plantation house and stagecoach stop that was built when Texas was an independent republic. The house is large and was quite advanced compared to other houses when it was built. In front of the house is the star attraction, the Sam Houston Oak. Sam Houston's army was camped at this oak on March 11, 1836, when word reached Houston of the fall of the Alamo five days earlier. It was from this oak that Houston sent orders to Col. James Fannin to retreat from Goliad and made plans for his own troops to fall back in order to induce Santa Anna to divide his forces in pursuit. Panic took hold of the settlers and most abandoned their homes to flee to the east, an event known as "the Runaway Scrape." Santa Anna is said to have camped at this same tree after Houston's forces had retreated. Here is a photo of the house with the tree:




William B. Dewees was one of the earliest Anglo settlers in Texas, arriving first in 1821. Upon reaching Nacogdoches, which at that time had a population of roughly 100 people (including the Mexican commandant), Dewees had an unusual experience. It seems that a distraught traveler from Mexico presented himself to the commandant and demanded to be hanged. The commandant, thinking the man was mad, ordered him to leave. But the traveler insisted that he deserved death, as he had murdered his partner on the road and sunk the body in the Angelina river. So insistent was the traveler that the commandant finally agreed to send a party of men along with the traveler to the Angelina, and there the man produced the corpse of his murdered partner, weighted down by rocks. Upon returning to Nacogdoches, the commandant listened to the evidence and granted the conscience-stricken man his wish. According to Dewees, "the commandant called a few persons together to witness the solemn scene, took the man out behind the old stone building and there, according to the man's request, hung him until he was dead."

You know, I read Dewees' letters from Texas and I'm amazed at how matter-of-fact he was about the most fantastic incidents. Hanging a man who demanded to be hanged for a crime nobody knew had been committed? Just another day in early Nacogdoches.




35 miles east of downtown El Paso lies a square mile of huge, jumbled syenite rock known as "Hueco Tanks." As the rock dissolved unevenly through time, it formed depressions ("tanks") in the ground that are capable of holding large amounts of water. In the middle of the desert, this awesome waterhole has attracted both humans and animals for millennia. Among the rocks are caves, canyons, and overhanging cliffs. Prehistoric Indians camped there, and two of their cultures (Jornada and Mogollon) adorned the walls with art, as did early Europeans. Much of the art remains uninterpreted but in Comanche Cave, the largest cave in the complex, the art is believed to tell of a massacre of Indians by Spanish or Mexican cavalry.

The zoo in Abilene, Texas, was founded in 1966. But before the land that the zoo occupies became a zoo it was Kinsolving Field, an aviation facility. It's hard to picture an airport there today, what with the current airport to the south, a man-made lake abutting the zoo and other familiar landmarks that have been in place for years, but the zoo's parking lot once was a runway. Both Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh flew into Kinsolving Field, Lindbergh arriving on a publicity tour just four months after flying to Europe in "The Spirit of St. Louis." After he landed The Spirit of St. Louis at Kinsolving Field, Lindbergh taxied it to a fenced area that was surrounded by national guard troops for protection. Abilene staged a parade and Lindbergh rode with the wife of Governor Dan Moody in an open Nash automobile to Federal Lawn, where he made a brief speech in which he lauded the ideal terrain and weather in Texas for developing civil and military aviation. He was then escorted back to his plane and flew two hours and 42 minutes to his next stop in Fort Worth. It's kind of cool, when you're at the zoo (which is surprisingly impressive small zoo), to consider what happened there 92 years ago.




Stephen F. Austin was a particular man when it came to whom he wanted to immigrate to Texas. On many occasions, and with many different correspondents, he referenced his standards regarding the character of his colonists. His letters are filled with clarity on his position. For example, in 1823 he wrote "No frontiersman who has no other occupation than that of hunter will be received ---- no drunkard, nor gambler, nor profane swearer, nor idler, nor any man against whom there is even probable grounds of suspicion that he is a bad man, or even has been considered a disorderly man will be received."

Knowing how specific Stephen F. Austin was about who came to Texas and thinking about my miscreant friends here now, it makes me wonder what happened!




In the 1870s, a parrot caused a cattle stampede through Stephenville, Texas. It happened like this:

In those days some of the north-bound cattle herds passed through Stephenville. It wasn't much of a village and a few fenced-in fields made going around it inconvenient. There were six or seven log cabins, with shed rooms of rawhide lumber, strung along the trail and out away from it. The central and largest structure served as a courthouse. It had a gallery covered with boards made of pin oak. The liveliest place in town was a saloon, where, for two-bits, a purchaser could get a 'fair-sized drink' of wagon-yard whiskey drawn from a 50 gallon barrel. Usually a group of cowboys were congregated there, but dogs far outnumbered people in the town, and dog fights were the chief entertainment. The sheriff owned a large parrot that habitually perched on the roof of the courthouse gallery. It had picked up a considerable vocabulary from the cowboys, including (naturally) profanities. Its favorite expression was "Ye-oh, sic 'em!" which usually started a dog fight.

On this particular day a herd was stringing through town, shying but keeping the middle of the road, when the parrot flapped his wings, gave a cowboy yell, and screeched "Ye-oh, sic em!" In a second all the dogs commenced to fighting. Some charged the herd, which stampeded. The cattle knocked down all the galleries, including the one the parrot was perched on, rammed through the sheds, and even demolished some of the cabins. Stephenville looked like a tornado hit it.




About 22 miles southeast of Ozona, Texas, is the location of what once was Howard's Spring aka Howard's Well. First known to outsiders in the 18th century, when, according to legend. Franciscan Padre Alvarez prayed for water to ease his thirst, put down his staff, and saw a spring gush forth from the ground, this landmark of western travel was named for its re-discoverer, Richard A. Howard of San Antonio, an ex-Texas Ranger. Howard and other men, along with 15 Delaware Indian guides, made up an expedition sent out in 1848 under Col. John Coffee Hays to map a wagon road from San Antonio to El Paso. Although aided by the discovery of the well, the expedition failed, turning back in a state of near-starvation. In 1849 the U.S. Army made its maps of the route, with Howard along as a guide. Many forty-niners went past the spring on the way to the California gold rush. In 1853 the first regular San Antonio-to-El Paso mail line was routed by way of the well. So were many later ventures. Although white travelers seldom caught sight of them, Indians also frequented the well. There, on April 20, 1872, Comanche and Kiowa surprised a large wagon train led by a man named Gonzales, and killed 16 persons.




Santa Gertrudis cattle are a tropical beef breed of cattle developed in southern Texas on the King Ranch. They were named for the Spanish land grant where Captain Richard King originally established the King Ranch. This breed was officially recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1940, becoming the first beef breed formed in the United States.

The origin given by King Ranch is that it was formed by mating Brahman bulls with Beef Shorthorn cows, with the final composition being about 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Shorthorn. In 1918 King Ranch purchased 52 bulls of 3/4 to 7/8 Bos indicus breeding to mate with 2500 pure-bred Shorthorn cows on the ranch. At this time the American Brahman breed as such did not exist nor were there pure-breed Bos indicus available in the United States .

Monkey was born in 1920, a son of Vinotero, one of the bulls who was purchased in 1918. This bull became the foundation sire for the breed. With the birth of Monkey and a decision to line-breed came a very uniform and very hearty breed of beef cattle. These cattle are red in color, display a blend of Bos indicus and Bos taurus attributes and may be polled or horned.

In addition to being a hardy breed, other characteristics include good milking ability, good for beef production, excellent mothering ability, ease of calving, high heat tolerance and parasite resistance, and an ability to turn off (sell or use for food) a steer at just about any age. The steers also show good weights for their age as well as good weight gains whether on pasture or in a feedlot.

In 1950 the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Association was formed at Kingsville, Texas.

Santa Gertrudis cattle are known the world over for their ability to adapt to harsh climates. They were exported to Australia c. 1951 and have been subjected to inspection and classification since then. The Santa Gertrudis Breeders (Australia) Association was established in 1954 and the Santa Gertrudis Group Breedplan has operated in Australia since 1994. Anna Creek, Australia's largest cattle station raises Santa Gertrudis.

There are approximately 11,500 registered in the United States.

All of the above, with a little editing, per WIKIPEDIA




Until the early-1880's, no range fences existed in the Texas Panhandle. When winter blizzards came, cattle drifted onto Panhandle ranches from Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas, causing those ranches to be overgrazed because, by the time of the spring roundup, there were as many "northern" cattle as local cattle in the herds thereabouts.

In order to prevent the costly and time-consuming job of separating the cattle, each Texas rancher agreed to construct a fence along his north boundary line. The resulting fence was 200 miles long and ran from the northeast corner of the Panhandle southwest to near the site where Dumas, Texas, was later founded, then west about 35 miles into New Mexico. It was a 4-strand, 4-bars fence with posts 30 feet apart and a gate every 3 miles. The materials amounted to about 65 carloads of wire and posts hauled from Dodge City.

In 1890, however, to comply with an 1889 state law prohibiting any fence from crossing or enclosing public property, most of the fence was removed. All that work and all that expense for nothing!




At the time of the creation of the Republic of Texas, Texas contained 281 major and historically significant freshwater springs . Of these, four were originally very large springs (over 100 cubic feet per second flow); however, only two, the Comal and the San Marcos, remain in that class today. The San Marcos springs have never been known to fail, but the larger Comal Springs DID fail for a short period of time in 1956, after a long drought. Of the original 281 major springs, more than 70, many with important historical backgrounds, have completely dried up. Also, of those original 281 major springs, 139 issue from 2 underground reservoirs, the Edwards (Balcones Fault Zone) and the Edwards-Trinity (Plateau) aquifers. San Saba County, with 19 major and significant springs, leads all other counties in the State. Val Verde and Kerr Counties follow closely. The only major warm springs in Texas are Boquillas Warm Springs in Brewster County. These springs range in temperature from 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 41 degrees Celsius) which indicates that they originate from depths as great as 2,000 feet below the surface.




What do you do when you want coffee but there's nary a ground to be had? Old time Texas settlers got inventive. Here's a list of four ways "coffee" was made.

1. "We would parch okra seed, barley meal, or anything we could get and make coffee." ----- Mrs. M.E.F. Mackey, explaining how impoverished settlers were in post-Civil War Texas to the Dallas Semi Weekly Farm News,1913

2. Mrs. [Mary] New "cut up sweet potatoes in small bits, strung them on a string, dried them and parched them like coffee. Then they were ground in the old coffee mill. There you are: sweet potato coffee. In some sections the pioneers used barley for coffee." ----- T.U. Taylor, Austin Statesman, 1941

3."Such a thing as a real cup of coffee was not to be had at all. Instead they roasted corn and acorns and mixed certain portions together and used it." ----- A. Huffmeyer, "Adventures of an Old Texas Cowboy," 1941

4. "For coffee they used a mixture of cracked and parched post oak acorns, rye and wheat grains." ----- Alexander Sweet, "Texas Siftings," 1881




On November 21, 1884, the Reverend Joseph Wiklin Tays, who was better known as "Parson Tays" and who was the first Protestant minister in El Paso, died there. Shortly before he passed away he had presided at the funeral of a smallpox victim and subsequently came down with the disease himself. He died after a week of suffering, tended to by only his son and his wife. That night., two men from the city showed up at the house, hurriedly wrapped Parson Tays in a sheet, and rushed the body to Concordia Cemetery, where it was hastily buried during a driving rainstorm. Parson Tays, who had ministered to so many sick and dying, was himself laid away with only two drenched, grave-digging strangers to say a kind, final word. Tough life back then.

Here's what his gravestone looks like:





On Dec. 1, 1901, North Texas rancher William Riley Curtis was shot while on a train when a fellow passenger's gun accidentally discharged. William led one of those fascinating Texas lives. He was born about 1845 in Jacksboro, Texas, where he grew up a ragged orphan and learned self-sufficiency at an early age but was denied the education he coveted. He worked for several years learning the cattle business from William S."Bose" Ikard. He earned some of his first money riding for Oliver Loving, driving herds to Shreveport, Louisiana, and up the Chisholm Trail to Kansas. For a time he served as a Texas Ranger. He married Alice V. Ghormley of Weatherford on May 18, 1869; they made their home in Jacksboro. To their union were born three sons and a daughter.

In 1870 Bill Curtis and his younger brother, Jim C., purchased Mose Dameron's small herd of Diamond Tail Ranch cattle. They grazed this herd along Cache Creek near Fort Sill after securing a government contract to sell beef to Fort Reno and Fort Sill in the Indian Territory. Soon they accumulated enough wealth to build up ranches on both Cache Creek and the Wichita River. After the expiration of the contract compelled them to seek other pastures, the Curtises established their ranch headquarters near Cambridge in Clay County. There Bill was dealt a severe blow with the accidental death of his brother in 1878. At the same time, he realized that his land was too crowded for good grazing and therefore moved his cattle north to Grosebeck Creek, near the site of present Quanah.

Curtis formed a new partnership with Thomas J. Atkinson, one of a family of Jack County pioneers. With the help of a cowboy, Sam Bean, the partners early in 1879 selected for their headquarters a site on Gypsum Creek, in southeastern Childress County. Later they moved this new headquarters to the junction of Doe and Buck creeks in Collingsworth County. Since their families resided in Henrietta, where the children had better educational opportunities, the partners never constructed a permanent ranchhouse. However, the Curtis and Atkinson families enjoyed summers on the ranch; the Atkinsons brought their own hired nurse and trail cook, along with appropriate camping equipment. Over the next few years Curtis secured more government contracts for reservation beef sales and delivered herds to the Kansas markets.

In the early 1880s George Loving, son of Oliver Loving, made a proposition whereby Curtis could sell out to British capital for a handsome sum and Loving himself could make a $100,000 commission. Curtis accepted, the contract was drawn up, and Loving went to Scotland to form a company and bring back prospective investors to see the Diamond Tail. Despite the ranch's crude living conditions, the Scotsmen were impressed and offered Curtis $1.25 million for the place, which he accepted. Before the deal could be completed, however, Curtis was indicted for shooting a lawyer from Henrietta who tried to kill him. Although he was acquitted, this turn of events caused the Scotsmen to call off negotiations. Due to their initial lack of trust, Curtis later turned down a second offer from Scotland, proposing that he retain one-quarter interest and manage the ranch himself. George Loving lost his commission, and the Diamond Tail remained in the possession of Curtis and Atkinson.

Curtis was widely known for generosity. After Giles emerged as the Diamond Tail's main shipping point with the arrival of the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway in 1887, Curtis began hosting an annual barbecue. A highlight of that event was his presentation of a baby carriage to every baby named for him during that year. When the lean years of the late 1880s caught up with Curtis, he brought in Sam Lazarus, a man with remarkable financial skills, as a receiver to put the ranch in the black again. On February 11, 1893, when a blizzard swept across the Panhandle, Curtis saved the Diamond Tail cattle by riding ahead of them in a heavy Arctic suit. With a pair of wire clippers he cut every fence in his path, allowing the herd to pass through and find safety. Beginning in 1895, Curtis moved most of his cattle to Chavez County, New Mexico. His oldest son, Jim, managed the cattle there and bought out several smaller ranches. Curtis, in the meantime, bought and sold whole herds at Amarillo, holding them on open range near the numerous playas until sold and then shipping them out to the buyers by rail.

On December 1, 1901, Curtis and W. H. Harrell, an Amarillo cattleman and longtime friend, caught the Fort Worth and Denver City train from Amarillo to Memphis, Texas, on business. While making their way to the diner as the train neared Giles, Curtis jostled a passenger whose gun dropped to the floor and discharged accidentally, giving Curtis a fatal wound. A special train from Clarendon rushed him to Fort Worth, but he lived only a few days. The president of the FW&DC road, who was a friend of Curtis, ran a special train to Henrietta to bear the body home for burial. Curtis's last request to his family was complete forgiveness for the careless man whose gun had killed him. For many years the Curtis children and their families continued ranching activities in New Mexico, and some of them made their homes in Amarillo, where their heirs still reside. Several years after Curtis's death, George L. Rickard, a one-time Diamond Tail cowboy since grown rich, used the brand on his herd of 50,000 head in South America as a tribute to his former boss.

Source: Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "CURTIS, WILLIAM RILEY,"




Since "Ford vs. Ferrari" is now a movie, I thought it would be a good time to point out that Carroll Shelby, the focal point of that movie, was not only the first American to win the 24 Hour Le Mans race (in 1959), but a Texan as well, having been born in Leesburg, Texas, in 1923 and passing away in Dallas in 2012, aged 89. Leesburg is an unincorporated community in southwestern Camp County, which is in northeast Texas. Leesburg lies along State Highway 11 west of the city of Pittsburg, the county seat of Camp County. Matt Damon plays Carroll Shelby in the movie, which is receiving good reviews.




The town of Muldoon (16 miles southwest of La Grange) was named after Father Michael Muldoon, a clergyman who briefly served Stephen F. Austin's first colonists. He was the only non-Hispanic member of the Monterrey, Mexico Diocese and was probably assigned his duties because he spoke English. He was born in County Cavan in Ireland and later ordained in Spain.

In 1834, Muldoon travelled to Mexico to visit Stephen F. Austin during Austin's confinement there. Later, he assisted William Wharton in his escape from a Matamoros prison in 1837, after which the town of Wharton, Texas was founded. Muldoon was openly pro-Texan, which led to his own brief imprisonment by the Mexican government. However, he was eventually released, and even traveled back to Texas following the revolution, making an appearance in 1842 during which he was given a letter of appreciation from Texas President Anson Jones. Afterward, Father Muldoon disappeared from history and his final resting place is unknown. The 2010 census showed that the population of Muldoon was 114 ----- and growing very slowly. Personally, I think it's kind of cool that this man showed up on the scene, has a town named after him, then disappears without a trace. Just one of the many mysteries about Texas history about which I wonder ....




"Teneha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair" was a conductor's call along the small Houston East and West Texas Railway back many decades ago. East Texans who fought in World War II introduced others to the four towns as part of an urgent plea when craps shooting: "Teneha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair....Give me a seven, see if I care." Later, Tex Ritter immortalized the four towns in a venerable country-western song, "Teneha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair, let me get off just any ole where."




Speaking of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in San Antonio, you can play a round of golf on the grounds where the Rough Riders trained, Camp Riverside. At the time it was the grounds of the International Fair, but is now Riverside Golf Course, located along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River.




Cheetos were invented in 1948 by the same man who created Fritos, Charles Elmer Doolin. It was Doolin who first cooked early test batches in the Frito Company's Dallas, Texas-based research and development kitchen. The new snacks were marketed by the H.W. Lay company, and in 1961 the two companies merged to become Frito-Lay. The snack, which is extruded corn coated with artificially-colored cheddar cheese, is sold in many countries around the world and dominates its market space like few other brands. But, yeah, both Fritos and Cheetos were created in Texas by the same man. I say we need to make a statue of him! He needs to go into the Traces of Texas Hall of Fame.




The first electric traffic lights in Houston went into service on May 18th, 1922. I'm told that one of the motorists who got caught in the ensuing traffic jam finally made it home a couple of days ago. ?



On the very first day of the 2018 Tour de France, Houstonian Lawson Craddock crashed, breaking his scapula (shoulder blade) and tearing up his face (see photo). Most professional cyclists probably would have quit, knowing that there was still 20+ stages and 2,000 + miles to ride. But most professional cyclists aren't Texans. Not only did Lawson get back on his bike and ride 50 miles to finish the stage, but he resolved to try to complete the Tour, injuries notwithstanding. Because that clearly wasn't enough badassery, later that night he decided to dedicate 100 dollars to Hurricane Harvey relief for each stage that he finished. Then he set up a Go Fund Me that raised more than 279,000 dollars for Harvey relief. Folks, I was a fairly good cyclist earlier in my life and there is no doubt in my mind that professional cycling is the world's toughest sport. The suffering that the riders do is beyond imagination, and that's WITHOUT having a broken shoulder blade and a bloodied face. 22 days later, Lawson finished the Tour de France in dead last place ------ but he finished. I am in awe and y'all should be, too.

Way to go, Lawson! What an amazing accomplishment!




If you're like me, you like looking at maps of Texas and searching for places with unusual names. I was looking at Coleman County on a map when I saw a community called "Whon." Whon is at the intersection of FM 2633 and County Road 224/226, about about 15 miles southwest of Brownwood. Anyway, I wondered how Whon became Whon so I looked it up. Turns out it was a case of early good intentions done in by a bad case of being Texan. This community in southeast Coleman County wanted to honor an esteemed local cowboy. He was Hispanic. When his name was suggested to the Post Office department, the local postmistress, Mrs. Sam McCain, simply spelled his name as best she could, phonetically and in English. I guess Juan himself was too nice to correct the spelling. In any case, the population of Whon, Texas, is currently about 15, though in the past as many as 60 hardy folks have called Whon home.



The fossilized remains of gigantic crocodiles have been discovered in the Aguja Formation in the south-central part of the Big Bend National Park. These are among the largest crocodiles ever known.

With lengths of 40–50 feet and jaws studded with 6-inch teeth, these powerful predators were extraordinarily equipped to feed upon a variety of dinosaurs. In fact, dinosaur bones have been found here that are heavily damaged and covered with distinctive crocodile bite marks! Just like modern day crocodilians, Deinosuchus riograndensis probably hunted by ambush—lying submerged near shore, and violently seizing large dinosaurs as they foraged amid the vegetation of Big Bend's ancient swamps.

This photo of a magnificent skull of Deinosuchus was taken in 1957. The skull is on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.



We recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first college football game to be broadcast on the radio. That took place on November 23, 1919, and pitted the University of Texas Longhorns against the Texas Aggies. The Aggies won, 7-0.



Vietnamese is the third most common language spoken in Texas, after English and Spanish.

All of this is my way of saying that some Pho sounds good for lunch. ?




Garner is a small Texas town located west of Fort Worth. According to the Texas State Historical Associaton, before its name was changed, it was called Trappe Spring. It was there that two boys, William A. Thomas and Walter Earl, "invented" the domino game "42."

It seems that Thomas, 12, and Earl, 14, children of devout Baptists, were caught playing cards in the hayloft of a barn. Playing cards was considered sinful in those days, and the boys were disciplined for their indiscretion.

Well, necessity breeds invention and the two boys set out to find a way to play cards using dominoes. By the fall of 1887, they had devised a four-player game using double-six dominoes that incorporated bidding and trumps, very similar to the game of 42 played in Texas today.

Since domino playing was acceptable to their parents and other residents of Trappe Spring, Thomas and Earl began teaching others how to play the game. The game caught on and spread from there. The Earl and Thomas families later moved to Windom in Fannin County (north-northeast of Dallas), and the game reportedly spread from there, too.

Now you know the rest of the story .... Good day.



Levelland, Texas, was originally named Hockley City. That's what Charles W. Post called it when he surveyed it in 1912. The name was changed when Hockley County was organized in 1921 and Levelland became the county seat. If you've ever been to Levelland, you know exactly why they decided to name it that. James McMurtry knows why, too:



Actor Jesse Plemons, best known by Texans for his role as Landry Clarke in the wonderful "Friday Night Lights" TV series, is directly related to Stephen F. Austin. Landry's great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Emily Austin, was Stephen F. Austin's sister. That makes Jesse Stephen F. Austin's great-great-great-great-great grandnephew. Jesse was born in Dallas in 1988 and spent a good deal of his childhood in Mart, Texas. To say that his career has taken off since Friday Night Lights would be an understatement: he's currently starring in "The Irishman" opposite Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino and is engaged to Kirsten Dunst. I read all of this just now and thought "our little Landry is all growed up!"



As written by Truman Capote in the novel and played by Audrey Hepburn in the movie, Holly Golightly, the main character in "Breakfast at Tifffany's," is from Tulip, Texas. For the longest time, I thought Tulip was a fictional place. It is not. Tulip is a small community on Farm Road 2554 twelve miles north of Bonham in north central Fannin County. The land around Tulip can produce cotton, corn, wheat, oats, vegetables, and fruits, though one finds mostly cattle ranches nowadays. In 2002 some forty-eight people lived in Tulip.




During its heyday, the brick factory in Thurber, Texas, was producing 80,000 bricks per day. This was in the early 1900s, when Thurber's population was an 10,000 people. Thurber is a ghost town today.



There are two varieties of roadrunners, the greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) and the lesser roadrunner (Geococcyx velox). The ones we see here in Texas are the greater roadrunner. The lesser roadrunner is slightly smaller, not as streaky, and has a smaller bill. Both the lesser roadrunner and the greater roadrunner leave behind very distinct "X" track marks appearing as if they are traveling in both directions. The greater roadrunner has been clocked at speeds of up to 27 mph. They generally try to run away from predators but they will fly if threatened.


Despite occasional infanticide, the Karankawa Indians of the Texas coast were extremely fond of their children. Cabeza de Vaca wrote that they "love their children the most of any in the world, and treat them with the greatest mildness." He was amazed to learn that Karankawa children nursed until they were 12 years old ---- old enough to fend for themselves. In answer to his question regarding this practice, the Karankawas told him that it was because of the frequent necessity to go several days without food that children had to be allowed to nurse for so long a time; otherwise they would starve or at best be sickly. Incidentally, Karankawa children were given two names, one a nickname which was used in public and to outsiders, the other a secret name, probably having magical significance.



There once was a place called Zigzag, Texas. Zigzag was about six miles west of Devine, Texas, in Medina County. Zigzag got its name from the twisted, bendy road one had to take to reach it. It had a post office from 1901 to 1911 and, in 1945, there was a school and a cotton gin. By the 1980s all that was left of Zigzag was a Baptist church and I think that even that is now gone. But if you take FM 2200 west of Devine for a few miles you'll drive through what once was Zigzag, Texas. Kinda wish it was still there.



A Mexican-born Spanish officer named most of Texas' rivers ---- and named Texas itself. His own name was Alonso de León. He was born in Mexico in 1640 and, as governor of the Province of Coahuila, led several expeditions into what is now Texas. On one such expedition, he named the Nueces, the Hondo, the Medina, the Guadalupe, the Navidad (now called the San Marcos River), the Colorado, the Brazos, and the Trinity (La Santisima Trinidad) rivers. On his last expedition, in 1690, he marched into East Texas to found the first Spanish mission, San Francisco de los Tejas, among the Tejas (Hasinai) Indians in present-day Houston County. Thus this northeastern frontier of Spanish Mexico was provided with a name. Incidentally his descendants still reside in the Mexican state of Nuevo León.



The building of John Wayne's "The Alamo" movie set near Brackettville required more than 1.5 million adobe bricks, all of which were made onsite.



There was, at one point, a community called "Yell, Texas." Yell, also known as "Yell Settlement," was twenty-two miles northwest of San Marcos in the hills of central Hays County. It was settled in 1869. The community apparently was originally called West Point; a school opened under that name in 1876. With the establishment of a post office in 1890, the community moved one-half mile to the north and was renamed in honor of early settler and Methodist circuit rider Mordecai Yell. Mordecai was one of those hellfire and damnation preachers and when I read about his town I thought "What better name for a community named after such a preacher than Yell? By 1892 two gristmills were in operation. When postal authorities complained of confusion with a town called Tell, the name was changed to Good and then to Best before the post office was closed in 1907. It was reported in 1990 that some locals still referred to it as "Yell Settlement."

Incidentally, Mordecai Yell died in 1897 at the age of 89 and is buried in the Lytton Springs cemetery in Caldwell County. Here's a photo of his nice grave marker. It reads:

Rev Modecai Yell

Pioneer Methodist Preacher of
Texas Born in Tenn 1809
Member of Tenn and Memphis Conf
1832 to 1844 Texas Conf. 1844
to 1866 Father of Original
Northwest Texas Conf Of Which
He Died a Super Annuated Member
Jan 1897
He Lived Faithful To God And
Mankind And Died As A Victor In
The Faith of Jesus Christ




"Somewhere during all this [about 1920], they stopped calling themselves "The Four Nightingales" and changed the name of the act to the "Marx Brothers & Co." Presumably this was to hide their identity, but essentially the act was the same. They were fooling no one, and by the time they pulled into a place called Nacogdoches, Texas, they were prepared for what could conceivably be a last ditch stand.

Their first performance in Nacogdoches was at a matinee. It was a real honky-tonk kind of theater. "The audience was full of big ranchers in ten-gallon hats, and a few small ranchers in five-gallon hats," Father told me.

The first part of the performance went fairly well, but in the middle of the show the audience suddenly got up en masse and disappeared through the front exit. Investigation disclosed that the customers had gone outside to view a runaway mule.

My father and his brothers, though accustomed to insults, were enraged by this one. When the customers filed back into the theater, thirty minutes later, the Marx brothers were no longer interested in giving a good performance. All they wanted to do was get even with the audience, and the only way they knew how was to burlesque the kind of singing they had been doing so seriously.

This quickly evolved into a roughhouse comedy bit, with the Marxes, led by my father, flinging insults about Texas and its inhabitants to the audience as rapidly as they could think of them... My father is not very clear about the exact phraseology of some of these insults, but he does remember calling the Texans in the audience "damned Yankees" and throwing in a couple of lines that went something like:

Is full of Roaches.


The Jackass
Is the finest
Flower of

They were not looking for laughs; they fully expected to be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. But instead the audience loved their clowning and greeted their insults and most tired jokes with uproarious laughter.

And so they were suddenly comedians, with their fame traveling all the way to Denison, Texas. The manager of the theater in Denison not only wanted to book them, but he offered to raise the salary for the whole act from fifty to seventy-five dollars a week.

"After that we were a pretty big hit everywhere else we played in Texas. I guess we could have stayed there indefinitely, but after we got ourselves reasonably solvent, we decided to go back to Chicago. After all, how long can anyone eat chili con carne?"

----- Arthur Marx,"Life With Groucho," 1954



On March 1, 1973 at around 8:30 p.m., a hailstorm struck Conroe, Texas, that covered Interstate 45 with hailstones 6-24 inches deep.



Martin Varner, born March 7, 1787, left his Virginia home at an early age after the death of his mother and lived with his two sisters in Missouri. When he heard of Moses Austin's colonization plan for Texas, he immediately applied for a grant and in 1821 joined the first group of Austin's colonists, settling at Hickory point in what is now Brazoria County. Varner's grant was the twelfth issued of the "Old Three Hundred." Varner had the first distillery in Texas. In 1829, Stephen F. Austin thanked him for a bottle of home-made rum, which he called "the first ardent spirits of any kind made in the colony." Varrner grew restless and sold his plantation to Columbus Patton; (much) later it was bought by Gov. Jim Hogg, whose daughter Ima gave it to the state. It is now the Varner-Hogg Plantation Museum and State Park.

After fighting in the Texas Revolution, Varner took land in Wood county. In 1843, a neighbor, Simon Gonzales, borrowed money from Varner, putting up some of his tools as collateral. Gonzales later rode back to Varner's house and asked for return of the tools without repaying the loan. Varner refused, an argument ensued, and the neighbor pulled a gun and shot Varner, reportedly in the back. Seeing his father shot, Varner's only son, Stephen F. Varner, aged 18, ran to the man, who was still on horseback, and grabbed his arm, only to be shot through the heart. Their loyal slave, Joe, appeared on the scene, disarmed the killer, and turned him over to Varner who, enraged, cut the tendons in the neighbor's legs, then proceeded to strip him of skin. Varner's wife grabbed a kitchen fork and gouged out the killer's eyes. A neighbor found the man still alive and, as an act of mercy, gave him the coup de grace with a shot to the head. (Descendants say the body was thrown in a hog wallow, from which flooding rains washed it away, and it was never found; others report that it was buried nearby.) Varner died after three days, leaving a wife and six young daughters.

In 1975, a historical monument was erected near the rural homesite, naming Varner as the first Anglo settler of Wood County.

------- Courtesy A.C. Greene's wonderful "Sketches from the Five States of Texas." The book is highly recommended for the Texas history buff on your Christmas list.



Women did not serve on juries in Texas until 1954.



McLean, Texas, the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40, was once known as "Uplift City" for the large brassiere factory, Marie's Foundations, which used to employ a good percentage of the area residents. The factory is long gone now, but the building was renovated and now houses the Devil's Rope Museum.



The Brazos river is the largest river between the Red River and the Rio Grande. It is 840 miles long and rises from three forks: the Salt, Clear, and Double Mountain Forks. According to legend, the Brazos saved Coronado's expedition of 1540-1542 from dying of thirst, so the men thankfully named it "Los Brazos de Dios" ( The Arms of God). So if you ever wondered how it got its name, well there you go.



1) Light as air
2) Stronger than whiskey
3) Cheaper than dirt

Three claims made by John "Bet-a-million" Gates about the newfangled barbed wire he was trying to sell to Texas ranchers in 1876. He became a very rich man selling "bob-wire" in Texas and elsewhere.

On March 1, 1836, the Alamo's 12-pound guns fired two shots. One of them hit Santa Anna's headquarters.





Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.

Posted : 8th January 2020 10:23 pm