No apologies, but thanks to Bob Wills, of course, whose holler that the “Texas Playboys are on the air!” should be an inspiration to everybody.
Just what in the world is Fiesta de Tejas!? This is the inaugural — and we hope, not last — edition of a monthly collection of weblog postings about Texas history, Texas geography, Texana and other things Texas. We’re finding our way as we go, much as pioneers got to Texas first, and only then began to realize that they didn’t know exactly where they were, and that they didn’t know exactly what they had.
This is a carnival of Texas blogs. Texas is big, vigorous, and in need of exploration on the World Wide Web. My hope is to bring together sources on Texas history, politics, economics, arts, geography and sciences, in a place that promotes the general dissemination of knowledge about the state. My hope is that teachers of 7th grade Texas history will find a lot here to supplement and improve their teaching of the course, that teachers of history and geography in other places will also find material to enrich their own teaching about Texas, that students will find information to make their projects and papers into rewarding explorations of Texas’ unique persona.
I dubbed it a fiesta, because “carnival” seems too commonplace a term for a place where people can buy macaroni in the shape of the state. I used the older form of the word, “Tejas,” both to reflect the historical focus, and to avoid confusion and copyright issues with established things called Fiesta of Texas. “Tejas” is the original, probably Caddoan word meaning “friend” that Spanish explorers misunderstood to mean the name of the people and the place, and whose spelling quickly metamorphosed into Texas with an “x.”
Texas is the second largest state in the United States, physically (next to Alaska) and in population (next to California). Texas occupies a unique place in U.S. history and lore, and it deserves its own history carnival.
Getting this one off the ground has not been a cakewalk, however, not by any stretch. Inspired by other state historians’ efforts, particularly those of Georgia (thank you, David), I have been unhappily surprised by a dearth of self-nominated entries by Texas historians. I am hopeful this is a momentary hiccough, and that Texas historians will step across this particularly line in the sand to expose their unique writings about their unique state. (And thank you, too, Clio Bluestocking, and ElementaryHistoryTeacher, whose contributions are noted below.)
Still, there is plenty to see. So let’s get to it.
The bluebonnets bloom along Interstate Highway 20, which stretches across Texas from Louisiana to an intersection with Interstate 10 a hundred miles or so east of El Paso. They probably started blooming two weeks ago farther south, but this is the season of Texas wildflowers, which will run in full glory well into June in most of the state. The photo at the top of this post shows bluebonnets (Lupinis texensis) from Ft. Worth, in an Army Corps of Engineers tract. More photos of Texas wildflowers come to us from an Austin gardener who blogs about “Hill Country Wildflowers” at Digging. The drought hampered blooms in 2006; rains in 2007 helped much of the state’s wildflowers, though we’re still underwatered.
Texas wildflowers used to be mowed down by highway maintenance crews. First Lady Ladybird Johnson took on a campaign to protect and promote wildflowers during her husband’s presidency, however, and now Texas and many other states actively promote wildflowers. Texas A&M University and other institutions support and promote wildflower planting, and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center resides near Austin, leading research and promotion of wildflowers worldwide.
North Dakota poet Mark Phillips writes about that West Texas plague, tumbleweeds (Salsola kali), in his poem, “Rootless!”. I defy you to say this isn’t Texas. [I also defy you to make that link work to get to that poem; here, try this link.]
Spring stirs the wild animals of Texas, too — including skunks. The Nature Writers of Texas tell us about skunk romance.
Hey, where’s the history? Start here: Georgians are so fired up not to be outdone by a Texas history carnival, that they even swipe Texas history to blog about! Elementaryhistoryteacher explains Georgia’s contributions to the Texas Revolution, at Georgia On My Mind. See her exposition of “A Few Good Men.” And then note her follow-up, explaining one more Texas debt to Georgia, “A Georgian Gave the Lone Star to Texas.”
“Honoring Texas History Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of,” at DallasBlog — a contribution from Texas’ 27th Land Commissioner, Jerry Patterson. Don’t stop there — go to Patterson’s agency’s site, and notice the dozens of historic Texas maps available for sale — at least one specific to your Texas town or county: General Land Office (GLO) maps.
Texas is proud of being big, different, and Texas. Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub earlier discussed the Texas Pledge to the Texas flag — mainly a political blog, A Capitol Annex warns us all, “Don’t Mess With the Texas Pledge.” Texas homeschooler Sprittibee informs us of “Six Flags and Texas snobbery.“
Word didn’t get out to some of us of the educator persuasion, but March was Texas History Month. Abilene Reporter-News columnist Glenn Dromgoole gave quick reviews of recent books about Texas history.
The Top Shelf, a blog by a Texas school district’s director of library services, gives a substantial list of on-line Texas history resources selected by Michelle Davidson Ungarait at the Texas Education Agency, in “March is Texas History Month.”
Mug Shots features a coffee mug created for Texas’ sesquicentennial in 1986, featuring historic comic strips relating Texas history. Whew! A lot of commemorating there — one post of several commemorating Texas History Month.
This is Texas Music says farewell to the band Cooder Graw, who called it quits early this year. It’s a short post, with doorways to a lot more about music. Texas music is an enormous topic, much bigger than most people appreciate. Just how deep? Consider this tribute piece, and alert to a new CD from, Texas musician Joe Ely, from Nikkeiview, by Gil Asakawa. Texas’ diversity in influences, perspectives and admirers fairly drips from that one.
While Texas officially celebrates diversity in music, in other arts, and in business, diversity is not greatly celebrated in all corners of Texas, nor is it accurate that diversity was always celebrated. Texas history recounts many cases where disputes were chiefly between people of different ethnic or racial groups. How should that history be handled in classrooms, in boardrooms, and in government? An interview with an author raises that question, and offers resources for study, at the History News Network, in an article by Rick Schenkman:
Elliot Jaspin, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize (1979), is the author of the just-published book, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America (Basic Books), the March HNN Book of the Month.
Serious thought is given also to the divide between religious and secular in America, using our Hollywood view of Texas as a jumping off point and traipsing through the misconceptions about the trial of John T. Scopes (who lived much of his post-trial life as a petroleum geologist in Houston, Texas), at Adventus, “Return to Never Was.”
Another Texas-flavored mug from Mug Shots.
History is politics, and politics is history, in some parts of Texas all of the time, and in all of Texas part of the time. Do you remember the Digger Barnes character in the old “Dallas” television series? He was fiction. The fictional Digger Barnes can hold no candle to the real Ben Barnes, however, and the political blog, Burnt Orange Report, carried a two-part series (Part I, Part II) explaining the importance of Barnes and covering much of his history, starting in February. Another Texas political blog, Rick Perry vs. the World, interviewed Barnes — part I, here.
Kay Bell at Don’t Mess With Taxes reprints a letter from Bum Phillips about what it means to be from Texas, and in Texas. [Catch the subtle pun on a common Texas slogan? I didn’t, at first . . .)
Texas is rich in science and natural history. Monkeys In the News notes the recent description of ancient primates, near Laredo. (Thanks to Dear Kitty for that one.)
Texas is rich in food, too. Hey, I have to get one of my own posts in here, don’t I? 2007 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the dairy processor in Brenham, Texas, that produces Bluebell Ice Cream, among the best ice creams in the world. You can read it here, “Blue Bell Ice Cream, a tastier part of Texas History.”
If you don’t want ice cream? As Davy Crockett told Tennessee, you may just go to hell — I’m going to Texas. Any fan of ice cream would say the same.
A parting shot, from Mug Shots.
The gates are open for submissions to the next Fiesta de Tejas! scheduled for May 2, 2007. You may e-mail entries to me at edarrell AT sbcglobal DOT net, or take advantage of the Blog Carnival listing, which will create a back-up copy of your entry for us. We need a logo, something appropriate to Texas. Also, if you would like to host a future session of the Fiesta, please drop me a note. These things work better with different eyes and ears working on them from time to time.
If you found something of value here, let me know in comments. And then, spread the word that the carnival is up and running. Yeeeeee haaawwww!
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.