Texas celebrates its uniqueness with others

	Historians refer to this time in Texas as the  period of
 the Runaway Scrape, but for most Texans these are our  High 
Holy Days. This is the period between March 6, anniversary  of 
the fall of the Alamo, and April 21, the birthday  of the battle
 of San Jacinto. It is the time when we look around Texas and 
say, "Huh?" For example, why, oh why, did Anna Nicole Smith have 
to come from Mexia? Then there were Clara Harris who ran over 
and killed her cheating husband, Andrea Yates who killed her 
five children and the diapered astronaut, Lisa Nowak. Not only 
did the last three all come from Texas, they lived in the same 
area south of Houston.

	There were the strange Texans. Gov. George T. Wood rode 
a mule around the state. At night, Wood took a rope and, tied 
one end to the mule and the other end to his ankle. Wood refused
 to wear socks. Early Texan Brit' Bailey was buried standing up,
 facing the West "with my rifle at my side and a jug of whiskey 
at my feet" Did I mention Texan Howard Hughes?

	Texas is the state others love to hate because we have 
too much. work too hard, spend too much, enjoy life to a 
disgusting degree, and it just chaps the hell out of everyone 
else. In this regard Texas is to the United States as the United
 States is to the rest of the world. As the rest of the world 
loves to see Uncle Sam stumble, so do the other 49 states get a 
certain degree of pleasure out of Texas' troubles. The Germans 
have a word for it: schadenfreude, satisfaction obtained 
observing the trouble of others.

	Any right-minded soul, even a Texan, will admit that 
there is much to dislike about the place. Start with Lee Harvey 
Oswald. Charles Whitman -- the Tower Sniper. Branch Davidian 
David Koresh looked all over the world and decided that Texas 
was the best place for him. They came to Texas from elsewhere. 
Is this good news or bad?

Texas is different from other states. There are no private 
beaches, or private rivers in Texas. The people own them all. 
You can ride a motorcycle without a helmet, but not a bicycle. 
Among the governor's powers listed  in today's Texas 
Constitution is the authority to call out the militia to repel 
invasions. In 1999, the governor lost a key power, ordering out 
the militia to suppress Indian raids. In its first 30 years, 
Texas fought three major wars against invaders, and was 
constantly involved in frontier combat. Texas remained in a 
virtual state of war against the Indians for nearly 50 years, 
the longest continuous struggle of its kind in American history.

	 There is a lot of Texas. You drive from  Houston 743 
miles to the east, you will be beyond Tallahassee, Fla., heading 
for Jacksonville. If you drive that same distance west,
 you will still be in Texas. El Paso is closer to the Pacific 
ocean than Beaumont, and Dalhart is closer to six other state 
capitals than it is to Austin. You could put 15 of the 50 states 
in Texas and still have 1,000 square miles to spare.

	 The City of Houston was laid out by a newspaper editor. 
 Marble Falls was laid out by a blind man. As a republic, we  
once rented out our navy.   President Sam  Houston declared the 
navy's commander a pirate and authorized his hanging by  any 
other navy that could catch him.

	 Houston was the second city in the nation to get a 
phone system and, along with New York City, was first to build 
an electric power plant. We lead the nation in cotton, cattle, 
sheep, goats, wool, mohair, hay, pecans and the number of 
inmates we execute.  More than 80 percent of Texas is covered by 
farms and ranches, yet we are one of the most urbanized states 
and the only one with three cities among the biggest 10.

Texas has struggled along, and usually alone, with more time 
spent in poverty than in wealth. But it has, survived and grown.
 Today we alone among the states celebrate our day of 
independence. How do we explain our unique, if not strange, home
 to others?  The answer is easy. God may be an Englishman, but 
when he retires, he'll move to Lakeway.

Ashby is humble at lashby@houston.rr.com.
Pure Texan

History in the Lone Star State shines on 

March is Texas History Month. A good choice, since the month is 
named for Mars, the god of war, and in March of 1836 those early 
Texians spent a lot of time both warring and marching. A month 
devoted to dwelling on our past is an easy sell in the Lone Star 
State because we love to noodle around in our attic, which is 
why we have nearly 12,000 historical markers, more than all the 
other 49 states combined. The study of our past is required in 
all public schools, but there is a problem. Texas history is 
often taught by dull teachers, using dull textbooks. 

Perhaps times have changed, but when I was a Texas schoolchild 
no one told me Sam Houston had three wives and an untold number 
of kids of various hews. My studies missed the fact that Santa 
Anna used opium and that Robert Potter, a signer of the Texas 
Declaration of Independence, performed an un-requested 
sex-ending operation on his wife's lover and was later murdered 
by his neighbors. Everyone knows the Republic of Texas had an 
army, but few know that we also had a navy. We were so poor 
entire fleet, including ships and sailors, was once rented out 
to Mexican revolutionaries for $8,000 a month. 

We even maintained a Texas Marine Corps, which had its own money
 problems. Any Texas Marine who died or was killed on duty had 
all his effects but his uniform auctioned off, the money going 
to his next of kin. The Marines then re-issued the uniform to 
the next in line. Even that uniform was a hand-me-down from the 
U.S. Marine Corps. 

You don't have to be a Crockett scientist to appreciate the 
colorful, exciting story of Texas. It is one of those odd 
situations where, the more you look into it, the more you want 
to know. So let's take a look at some overlooked stories of our

- To this day, a Texas Ranger's badge is carved from a Mexican 
silver coin. 

- Outside Brownsville was the Battle of Palmito Ranch. It was 
the last land battle of the Civil War, more than a month after 
Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. The Texans won. 

- The city of Marble Falls was laid out by a blind man. 

- As we all know, William Buckley Jr. is a wit, columnist, TV 
host and sophisticated Ivy Leaguer extraordinaire. What isn't 
very well known is that his grandfather, John Buckley, was high 
sheriff of Duval County. Honest. 

- In Cisco, Conrad Hilton bought his very first hotel, the 
Mobley. After a later West Texas acquisition, Hilton observed, 
"At Lubbock, I found that Texas had no use for an imported 
French chef." 

- In 1924, Warren Pruett's hardware store in Real County was hit
 by an airplane. The pilot was Charles Lindbergh. 

- During inauguration ceremonies for the president of the 
Republic of Texas, among the dignitaries walking in procession 
to the podium were the editors of Texas newspapers. That seems 
only proper. 

- Although the Heisman Award is given by the Downtown Athletic 
Club of New York City, the prize was named for John W. Heisman, 
football coach at Rice, 1924-1927. 

- Speaking of sports, while stationed at San Antonio, Lt. Dwight 
Eisenhower coached football at St. Louis College, now St. Mary's 

-Sam Donaldson, Debbie Reynolds and Sandra Day O'Conner were all 
born in El Paso. 

- The movie prizes, the Oscars, were named for a Texan. In 1931,
 an employee of the motion picture academy, Margaret Herrick, 
upon seeing the little statue, said, "It looks just like my 
Uncle Oscar." Oscar Pierce was a Texas rancher. 

- The first award for Best Movie was given in 1927. It went to 
"Wings," made, not in Hollywood, but in San Antonio. 

- It is a myth that Texas can leave the Union anytime it wishes.
 We tried that once in 1861, and it didn't fly. Another myth is 
that only the Lone Star flag can fly at the same height as the 
U.S. flag. Any state can do that. 

- President Sam Houston was once handed a note demanding a duel 
to the death. Houston returned it to his secretary, saying "This 
is number 24. The angry gentleman must wait." 

- Among the governor's powers listed in today's Texas 
Constitution is the authority to call out the militia to repel 
invasions. In 1999, the governor lost a key command that goes 
with the job: ordering out the militia to suppress Indian raids.
 Ah, yes. If only the teachings of Texas history in our 
classrooms were as exciting as the real thing. Nowhere in my 
textbooks were quotes such as, "... the Texians being entirely a
 military people, not only fought, but drank, in platoons." - 
Western Monthly magazine, October, 1838 

During the republic's days, a shopkeeper in Baltimore sent his 
partner in Galveston a load of bonnets, writing that they "were 
old stock and out of fashion, but believe they will sell in 
Texas." And remember this line from the movie "Thelma and
Louise:" "Look, you shoot off a guy's head with his pants down, 
believe me, Texas is not the place you want to get caught." A 
Houston newspaper editor, Dr. Francis Moore, got elected to the 
Republic of Texas Senate and worked for an anti-dueling law. 
Sen. Oliver Jones labeled it, "An Act for the Protection of 
Cowards." The measure became law, and until 1939, all Texas
officials had to swear an oath that they had never taken part in
a duel. 

When we consider the story of Texas, a mere month is not nearly long enough to
absorb it all. While Massachusetts and Virginia have good state histories,
their juicy parts ended eons ago. Ours continues like a stampeding herd:
Enron, Katrina and Rita, Runaway Scrape II, DeLay, Kinky and the continuing
saga of the astronauts. The best part about Texas history is that some of
it is true.