For Christmas I was given a book about Texas, the state I was born and raised in. Although I’ve ventured away for short durations to live elsewhere, those times were little more than an extended vacation because I’ve always returned to the town where I was born. It’s been said that if you ever wear out a pair of shoes in Texas, you’ll never leave. I’m proof of that. I love Texas! And, anybody who knows me knows that I love our rich history and that’s the reason I write almost exclusively about the Texas Panhandle. I thought I’d share some little known facts about Texas… from a true, blue Texan’s point of view.
Since Spanish explorers first “claimed” us in 1519, six different national flags have flown over Texas.
From 1685 to 1690, Texas was a French territory before reverting to Spain.
Texas was part of Mexico when that country won its independence from Spain in 1821.
We adopted our own Declaration of Independence in 1836 and became a separate republic after a brief war with Mexico. Did you know that Texas had a Texas Embassy in London and Paris?
In 1845, the United States annexed Texas, making us the 28th state until we seceded to became part of the Confederate States of America. In 1870, after the Civil War, we were then readmitted to the United States.
So, the six flags of Texas belonged to Spain, France, Mexico, Texas, the United States, and the Confederacy. Now you know where “Six Flags Over Texas” amusement parks got their name.
Here’s a fact, I didn’t know and probably wouldn’t believed it if someone had just told me about it; but, during the Civil War, camels were used in our deserts. In 1855, Jefferson Davis, then the U.S. Secretary of War, convinced Congress to allocate money to field-test the beasts of burden. The animals excelled in carrying, enduring without water, and traveling long distance through miserable conditions.
By the end of the War Between the States, although camels had proven efficient for both sides, they fell out of favor. The animals smelled really bad, frightened the horses, and had horrid personalities. Let’s just say, I don’t believe I’ve seen a herd of camels ever in Texas… not that they don’t exist.
The fact that a 10-gallon hat actually holds less than a gallon of water is NOT proof of a Texas braggart. It’s simply a misunderstanding. It’s not a gallon, but a gallon, the word is Spanish for braid, the standard decoration above the brim of the iconic headgear worn by true Texans everywhere. There is also a theory that the Stetson hat company boasted that the tight weave of most Stetsons made them sufficiently waterproof and could be used as a bucket. Early print advertising by Stetson showed a cowboy giving his horse a drink of water from a hat. The truth, the Stetson company notes that a “ten gallon” hat only holds 3 quarts!
The famous Texas Rangers have a recommended dress code which states, “The Texas Ranger hat will be light-colored and shaped in a businessman’s style … commonly called the Rancher or Cattleman. Brims must not exceed 4 inches or be flat with edges rolled up. Hat excessively crushed, rolled, or dipped are not acceptable. Members of the Ranger Division (of the Texas Department of Public Safety) will own both a quality straw and quality felt hat. The appropriate hat will usually be determined by the weather or assignment.”
Throughout the history of the Republic of Texas, there were no chartered banks in the country. When the first Texas state constitution was drafted in 1845, it prohibited the incorporation of banks. Banking functions were performed by financial agents and other business firms. After the Civil War, banks began to flourish in Texas … as did bank robberies.
In the 1920’s, in order to stop a rash of bank robberies, the Texas Bankers Association established the Dead Bank Robber Reward Program. Anyone who killed a bank robber caught in the act would be paid $5,000. Capturing a bank robber alive would not be rewarded. Despite a number of cases of murders staged to look like the foiling of a bank robbery, the offer of reward was not withdrawn until 1964.
Our anthology “Give Me a Cowboy” was originally named “Rodeo” and we agreed that all four stories would take place over the 4th of July rodeo in 1890 in Amarillo, which was our setting for our first anthology,“Give Me a Texan”. But, we quickly recognized a serious problem. The first rodeo, which is the official sport of Texas, was held in 1883 in Pecos. The closest rodeo to our area wasn’t held until 1888 in Canadian, Texas, so to be historically accurate, we changed to the fictional town of Kasota Springs. You might recognize the name from our “A Texas Christmas” because we returned to the town with some recurring characters during the 1887 blizzard.
The West of the Pecos Rodeo is now an annual event; however, the shebang lays claim to being the descendant of that first rodeo. Legend has it that the whole thing came out of a contest between two ranch hands … Trav Windham and Morg Livingston. Both had good professional reputations and people challenged them to see who was best cowboy. Eventually, other talented cowboys who had originally come from all over the territory just to watch found themselves involved in contests of riding broncos and roping cattle. Bullriding was considered dangerous; therefore, there was no official bullriding event in early rodeos. But, there was a lot of money won and lost on the renegade event we now know as bullriding.
I hope you enjoyed my tour of some little known facts about Texas, and since I mentioned several of our anthologies, I will give away one commenter’s choice of an autographed copy of any of the six anthologies.
I’d love to hear about any of your favorite Texas experiences, if you’d like to share with us today?