This week’s guest post comes from romance author Debra Holt. She was kind enough to share with all some of her favorite things about her home state of Texas.
I am a Texan. And darn proud of it as my friends and family will attest! If you haven’t already noticed, the books I have published so far are all set in Texas. And when I do stray afar for a couple of future ones…well it won’t be far…just over our border to the west to New Mexico (which in all fairness, was part of Texas way back in the 1800’s…so technically, that’ll count for keeping it all in my state!)
Where do I begin with sharing my state with you, the readers? Let’s start with size. Texas is HUGE. I can cross three regular states in one day of driving but it takes from half to a whole day to traverse Texas. It is the second largest state in our country (Alaska being first). Brewster is the largest county in our state (6,193 square miles) and is about the size of Connecticut. We are the second most populace state in the country behind California. We have three of the top ten largest cities in the U.S. are within our boundaries…Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
Most proud fact and a good reason we Texans are an independent lot…we are the only state that began as our own country…The Republic of Texas, 1836 to 1845. General Sam Houston (an ancestor) was the first President. When we came into the United States, we retained some interesting rights…we can, if we choose, divide ourselves in to five states; our state flag…the Lone Star Flag…retained its right to fly at equal height to the US flag; Texas owns all of its own public lands…if the federal government wants to create a park etc., it must obtain the state’s permission first.
And we are the only state which was not annexed by the United States…we came in to the union by treaty since we were a sovereign nation.
Texas has a little of everything…we have mountains and deserts in the west, prairies in the north, swamps and forests in the east, and coastal lands in the south. In one day, the city of Amarillo in the north, had snow on the ground and freezing temps while down south on the same day, it was a hot and humid 106 degrees! The saying is true…if you don’t like the weather; just hold on a minute, it’ll change in the blink of an eye…or just drive down the road a bit.
Things can be a bit slow to change at times and that can be said for some of the “laws” still on the books in Texas. Rustling of cattle and horses is still done in Texas, but not many realize that it is still a hanging offense in this state to steal cattle or horses. The same goes for swearing or indecently exposing yourself…in front of a corpse (go figure). In Galveston, Texas, it is illegal to have a camel running loose on the beach. Putting graffiti on someone else’s cow can land you in trouble with the law. It is also frowned upon by the law to be caught carrying fence cutters…better do some fast talking if they aren’t part of your day job.
Early settlers to Texas had to be tough to survive…the land, the critters, the outlaws, marauding Indians, weather, and the loneliness of vast open spaces. There is a lot of wealth both above and below ground in this state. From the pockets of “black gold” (oil) underneath to the vast ranches above it…Texas has quite a few legends. The legendary King Ranch, headquartered just out of Kingsville, Texas, is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Hundreds of thousands of acres with some of the finest horses and cattle in the world can be found on the 6666 Ranch and Pitchfork Ranch in the Panhandle region of the state…the list goes on. Some of these ranches still in operation today date back to before Texas became a Republic…before there was a battle at the Alamo. Real cowboys still ride the lands and do the work their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did before them. It is a way of life that is in the blood of generations. These are the heroes and heroines I choose to write about in my books. I thank the good Lord I was born in Texas and grew up around such people. I have no problem owning my share of that Texas pride.
Here are some other “firsts” or “biggest” accolades: Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony on the North American continent (1.5 million bats can be found under the Congress Avenue bridge) and crowds gather to watch them take their nightly flight into the sky; Dallas Fair Park is home to the largest Ferris wheel in the western hemisphere; Dr Pepper (that’s right…no period after Dr) was created in 1885 by a Waco, Texas, pharmacist; largest petroleum-producing state in the U.S.; largest and oldest rattlesnake roundup is held in Sweetwater, Texas, every March (yes…LIVE rattlesnakes are rounded up and penned); Austin is considered to be the live music capital of the world (visit Sixth street for a sampling); has the most farmed land of any of the fifty states; the hamburger was created in Athens, Texas, and debuted at the Exposition in St. Louis; world’s first rodeo was held in Pecos, Texas, on July 4, 1883; the first domed stadium in the world was built in Houston…the Astrodome; the world’s largest parking lot can be found at DFW Airport; Laredo, Texas boasts the title of world’s largest inland port; the largest helium well can be found underneath Amarillo, Texas; worst natural disaster in U.S. history was the Galveston hurricane of 1900…over 9,000 lives lost; Texas is larger than any European country; El Paso, Texas, is closer to the state of California than it is to Dallas, Texas; the first frozen margarita machine was invented in Dallas (thank you!); Fritos were invented in San Antonio, Texas, in the 1930s; the movie “Giant”, starring Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, was based in large part on the King Ranch; the Tyler Rose Garden is the largest one in the nation; and Terlingua, Texas, boasts the title of the world’s chili capital. This list can go on for quite a while but we’ll live it at this for now.
Readers ask why I always write about Texas locales and cowboys, etc. The answer is easy. I was born and raised a Texan. It is the Texas soil I will return to when I am done. Texas is what I know. I have travelled all of it and lived in so many of its towns…both large and tiny. My ancestors’ lives are woven into the tapestry of this great state. My grandfather (a Texan) was the first sheriff of Curry County, New Mexico, appointed by the Governor, back in the last days of the wild West; my grandmother was a real pioneer woman raising her children in a mud dugout on the prairie; I grew up around ranchers and farmers, spent every moment I could on the back of my horse, Blue Boy (yes, he is mentioned in a book or two), and sat for hours listening to stories of the real Texas Rangers from one of those legendary lawmen as I grew up. I have enormous pride in the fact that one of my ancestors fought and died in the Battle of the Alamo, and another ancestor exacted revenge at the Battle of San Jacinto and went on to become President of the Republic of Texas. Texas is in my DNA and I can’t imagine better heroes and heroines to use for my stories. Once you have seen a blazing Texas sunset over the vast empty horizon or have been mesmerized by an endless sea of the most beautiful Bluebonnets in spring, how can anyone not understand how Texas can get into your heart and mind? And as an editor or two have found out, nothing gets a rise out of me faster than to make a misstep having to do with this subject. Don’t Mess With Texas is more than just a slogan…it is my creed.
A Texas List:
Nickname: The Lone Star State (note the single star on the field of blue, red, and white…having to do with our time as our own country)
Flower: Bluebonnet (yes, it is a weed but when it blooms it is awesome!)
Small mammal: Armadillo
Large mammal: Longhorn
Song: Texas, Our Texas
Famous Texans: George Strait; Gene Autry; President Eisenhower; General Sam Houston; Howard Hughes; President Lyndon Johnson; George Jones; Janis Joplin; Tommy Lee Jones; Sandra Day O’Connor; President George Bush; Tex Ritter; many more.
Dish: Chili (WITHOUT Beans)
Sport: Rodeo (sorry, not football)
Dance: Square Dance (I would vote for Cotton-Eyed Joe)
Famous Names, Sayings or firsts:
Remember the Alamo…..actually spoken first by Texas General Sidney Sherman and not Sam Houston who often gets the credit.
Maverick… really refers to an early Texas lawyer and pioneer who was known to go against the norm sometimes, Samuel Maverick (1803-1870)
Oscar…the Academy Award Statuette was named for Texan Oscar Pierce, whose niece gave the name to the statuette.
Bowie knife…named after the Alamo hero, Jim Bowie, whose brother, Rezin, actually designed the large weapon.
Debra Holt is a romance author who resides in Lubbock, Texas with her husband. She currently has 3 books out and a fourth to launch soon. Check out her books: His Country Bride, Claiming the Maverick’s Heart, and Mercy’s Rescue!