We are — as my good West Texas friend Roger mentions each year at this time — entering Texas “Holy” Week.
On Thursday, the faithful among us will celebrate the 181st anniversary of Texas declaring its independence from Mexico. For nearly nine years our great state was an independent nation. A republic formed on the notion citizens’ should have the rights of life, liberty and with special emphasis on an individual’s right to own property.
But other bases were covered too. Under Mexican rule, people were expected to become Catholic, children were expected to be raised and educated as Catholics. There were high taxes and poor — actually no — representation for those being taxed. The Mexican government badly wanted to hold onto the mineral-rich, naturally fertile lands in Texas. Toward that end its dictators had welcomed immigrants from the United States, to till the fertile fields and grow the population.
It happens. Those who follow their dreams toward a better life, or to make a new start, can get pretty adamant about achieving their goals. Not a thing wrong with that. Especially when the goals are noble and there’s more of an “us” than just a “me” in the equation. Independence from a dictator was a natural progression.
Texas history students know the Alamo fell on March 6, 1836, at San Antonio, four days after the declaration had been signed at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Considering there weren’t cell phones and Internet communication 181 years ago, modern students sort of have to be reminded that the Alamo’s defense wasn’t part of the revolutionary plan. In fact, Gen. Sam Houston had told the defenders to abandon the mission turned fort. Those defending the Alamo, including the legendary heroes and Tennessee transplants Davie Crockett and Jim Bowie, went to their deaths without knowing the Republic of Texas had declared its independence.
But the lore and legend, the inspiration of fighting for freedom and loving and appreciating it when it appears you’ve got it has held on and remained strong all these many years. Modern day historians are quick to point out that Santa Anna’s vast advancing Mexican army had no choice but to stop and “deal with” those trying to protect the Alamo. The 12-day siege and bloody battle bought a few days’ time for the Republic to organize and assemble its militia.
And when great victories are claimed and strategies analyzed, Texas’ battle for independence is often told. The Texians were outnumbered and outgunned, but on April 21, 1836, when the Texas few surprised the siesta-taking Santa Anna and his army at San Jacinta, victory was theirs, and independence was won.
I am a proud Texan. Can’t remember when I wasn’t and can’t always — for sure — explain why I am. My best answer is to say I was born into it. My appreciation isn’t for the glamour, unless you consider the star-lit skies out from town, the beautiful wildflowers, the vast landscapes, spectacular sunsets and truly wonderful people. If I didn’t dislike the word so much, I’d say it’s more about the guts — the lean in and do it right; the try hard and enjoy it more; the fix it, don’t break it, laugh if you can, cry if you need to attitude.
Thinking about this column today, I wondered if I could — in good faith — write a glowing love-you-anyway Texas. We’ve elected some strange ones to be in charge — guys who spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about whether or not people are going into the right bathroom stall – when the only way I think they can know another person is in the right stall is by looking under the stall door. We’ve got an ag-commissioner who thinks it will be alright to poison wild hogs without considering the fact we — and a lot of our wildlife and natural waterways — stand to be poisoned in the process. And this school thing? The very idea to transfer public money to private schools in a disguised effort to educate the already advantaged and discriminate against the most vulnerable is truly shameful.
Truth is, disappointment’s no reason to give up on love. I loved Texas when. I missed her when I was gone for nearly 18 years, and vowed when I came back I’d never leave again. I love her still, and somewhere in all this apparent mess we’re in now, I know there is still that basic bottom-line desire for the provisions of life and liberty, goodness and what’s right for each and every one of us.
God bless Texas.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.