Howdy, folks! I’d like to introduce you to Texas.
Texas, named from the Caddo Indian word, tejas, meaning
friends, hosts a mingling of environments and cultures. Early Spanish authorities considered the Caddos friends and their
influence carried over into the Mexican province, the republic, and the present day state. Indians in Texas ranged from the
Apache to the Wichita, and landmark names such as Wichita Falls, Nacogdoches, and Waco from the Heuco Indians still reflect
Hispanic influences are strong both in language and culture.
The state dish is chili, a tongue-sizzling stew brewed with peppers, garlic, onions
and other spices. Visitors will find other tasty Tex-Mex dishes such as cheesy enchiladas covered with onions, chalupas, hot
tamales, taquitos, and burritos filled with hot sauce and sour cream.
Other influences linger as Texas was first under Spanish
rule for three centuries, until the French explorer, La Salle, established his colony at Fort St. Louis near the coastline
after sinking his vessel, the Belle, in Matagorda Bay. In 1821 Texas came under Mexican rule, but won its independence on
the bloody San Jacinto Battleground as the Republic of Texas in 1836. In 1845 it became a state of the United States, although
a Confederate flag flew in its skies for four years.
Many famous people have their roots in Texas. Among them
are Carol Burnett from San Antonio, Willie Nelson, Larry Hagman, ZZ Top, Audie Murphey the war hero, Denton Cooley a famous
Houston heart surgeon, rich man Ross Perot, former US presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, George Bush and our own George W who
calls his wooded ranch near Crawford home.
Over a hundred state parks, with their abundance of lakes
and rivers, forests and beaches, canyons and mountain ranges with more than 90 peaks over a mile high, offer refuge for wildlife
such as pelicans, roadrunners, prairie chickens, white winged doves, alligators, armadillos, deer, raccoons, and more. No
hunting or shooting is allowed and campers are offered a range of facilities from furnished cabins to primitive sites.
Texas boasts a rainbow array of plant life including the
brightly colored bluebonnets that blanket entire fields in spring, climbing violet morning
glories, brilliant pink-blooming strawberry cactus, mesquite brush, the tall pines of east Texas and treasure-yielding pecan
Rock and mineral collectors will discover plentiful samples
of many different gems, including topaz, petrified wood, and granite. The State Capitol in Austin is made of Texas pink granite. Amateur guidebooks
are available from the Bureau of Economic Geology in Austin.
As other things in the Lone Star State, the climate is varied
but mostly mild. Summers are hot and characterized by lazy days at the pool or lounges in a shady backyard with a big glass
of lemonade. Sometimes pesky mosquitoes will drive one back inside to the air conditioning. Occasionally a threatening hurricane
will break the monotony but most residents of the coastline are used to this summer occurrence and methodically prepare or
evacuate. Winter brings the occasional "norther" which drops temperatures temporarily, but not one Texas winter has ever worn
out its welcome with me. Sleet and snow are rare visitors in the south, although northern parts get occasional dustings of
the white stuff.
What Texas lacks in snow, it makes up for in oil. More than
one-third of the nation’s oil is produced in Texas. The Texas oil boom was initiated by Spindletop, one of the greatest "gushers" of all time. On January 10,
1901, south of Beaumont, Spindletop sent "roughnecks" scurrying for cover when it spewed black gold over 100 feet into the
east Texas sky, totaling 800,000 barrels in 8 days, before workers could cap it. In 1985, Spindletop produced 153 million
barrels of oil. Travelers passing through another little town of Luling can not miss the distinct scent filling the air and
the numerous oil wells bobbing up and down like slow motion crows pecking at the earth.
Other economic influences are cattle and fertile farmland.
With all these resources, the only place for Texas to go is up. This is coming true with the manned space program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The year 2003 is filled with challenge for the
NASA Station Program Manager Bill Gerstenmaier says, "The
year ahead will be the most complex so far in the history of the International Space Station and its construction in orbit."
The crew plans to conduct 30 experiments on board the Station. "Mission Control" tours, once a favorite of visitors, have
been canceled, due to heightened security.
If you visit Texas, whether you choose the Space Center
or a remote wilderness campsite, remember from whence our name comes, "friends", and our state’s motto, friendship.
Ya’ll come back now, ya hear!