Here are a few bits and pieces of information about my native country, Texas. Some of the items are trivial, some profound, others humorous. They are things I thought that some of you might find interesting.
is the only State in the Union that was ever an independent country in its own right (1836-45), and consequently is the only State to have entered the Union by treaty. During her time as the Republic of Texas, she enjoyed the diplomatic recognition of the United States, Great Britain, France, and several other countries. This period of independence gave rise to the nickname The Lone Star State.
The name Texas comes from the Caddo Indian word tejas, which means friendship. Texas is famous for its friendly people and its hospitality. This largely derives from the fact that in the frontier days, your nearest neighbor might be fifty or more miles away, and visitors were rare things, so you're always glad to receive and entertain them.
Texas is the second-largest State by area; only Alaska is larger. However, in contrast with Alaska, all of Texas is habitable by humans. :-)
By the 1845 Treaty of Annexation, in which Texas annexed the United States, Texas has the right, if she so chooses, to divide into as many as five states, with full Congressional representation for each. So far, she has shown no interest in doing so, and today most Texans cannot imagine a divided Texas.
During the Texas Revolution against Mexico in 1836, 189 Texians (as they called themselves then) held off the 4,000-man Mexican Army at the Alamo in San Antonio for seven days, inflicting 1,500 casualties on the attackers. During the Mexicans' final assault on the old mission, the defenders were killed to the last man. With their lives they bought precious time for Sam Houston to organize an army, which the very next month won Texas' independence at the Battle of San Jacinto near present-day Houston. Note: I would be remiss if I were to omit mention of the contribution made by Hispanic Texans to the winning of Texas' Independence; many Hispanics were numbered among those who lost their lives defending the Alamo, and at other actions during the Revolution.
Before the Republic of Texas became the State of Texas, her boundaries included parts of modern-day New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. This extra territory was ceded to the U.S. in the Treaty of Annexation, in return for which the U.S. assumed all of Texas' then-outstanding public debt.
Texas' first President was Sam Houston, and he was its first Governor after statehood. He is the only person to have served as both Governor and U.S. Senator for each of two different states (Texas and Tennessee). He was again Governor at the time of Secession in 1861, and was forcibly removed from office for refusing to swear allegiance to the Confederacy (he was a strident opponent of Secession).
The State Legislature only meets once every two years. In the early days, Texans had a healthy distrust of government (and still do), and figured that the less the Legislature met, the fewer laws they could pass, and therefore the less harm they could do. In keeping with this, the office of Governor is one of the weakest in the nation. In fact, the Lieutenant Governor, who runs the State Senate, has more real power than the Governor.
The state Constitution (enacted in 1870) still contains a provision authorizing the Governor to call out the militia in case of hostile Indian attack.
Texas' largest city is Houston (population 1.6 million), making it the fourth-largest city in the nation. (This fact really makes the Dallasites chafe, ha ha)
If Texas were independent today, she'd be the world's eleventh-largest oil producer, and likely a member of OPEC.
Texas has no state income tax, and no alimony.
The world's first domed stadium, the Astrodome in Houston, was completed in 1965. During the first year, the players complained of losing fly balls against the clear, glass-paned roof. After painting the glass panes white to ameliorate that problem, it was dicovered that the panes then failed to let through enough sunlight to keep the natural turf on the playing field healthy. This led directly to invention of Astroturf. Mickey Mantle hit the Astrodome's first home run during the opening exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros (who were known previous to that as the Colt .45s).
Despite her large cities, there are still more cattle than people in Texas.
Houston is the home of NASA's Johnson Space Center, which is responsible for manned-spacecraft design and engineering, astronaut selection and training, and contains the Mission Control Center (which was built by Rockwell). Currently, JSC houses the rocks from Mars which it is believed indicate that that planet once had life.
The first word spoken from the Moon was Houston.
The U.S. Navy battleship U.S.S. Texas (BB-35) is the world's last surviving dreadnought. Her keel was laid in 1911, and she saw active duty until 1945. At the time of her commissioning in 1914, she was the world's most powerful weapons system. The Texas is the only U.S. warship to have served in both World Wars. During World War II, she participated in the invasions of Morocco, Normandy (D Day), Southern France, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, as well as performing convoy escort duty during the Battle of the Atlantic. When she was decommissioned in 1948, the people of Texas saved her from the scrapyard by raising money through private and corporate donations to give her a permanent home at the San Jacinto Battleground near Houston (where Texas won her independence from Mexico). Today she is maintained by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a floating museum and monument, and may be toured by the public.
Texas is the home of the Dallas Cowboys, who have won three of the last five Super Bowls, and are 5-3 in Super Bowl appearances overall. They have played in more Super Bowls (8), and won more Super Bowls (5), than any other NFL team. In fact, the Cowboys have won more Super Bowls than any other team has even played in. Texas is also the home of the Houston Rockets, who won back-to-back NBA championships in 1993-94 (vs. the New York Knicks, 4-3) and in 1994-95 (vs. the Orlando Magic, 4-0).
Copyright © 1997, Darrell Pittman, All Rights Reserved