Think, Texas is a weekly column about Texas history: from the arrival of indigenous people to the rise of the republic and the never-ending evolution of a state like no other.
The first fat book that I read — cover to cover virtually in one sitting — was my seventh-grade Texas history textbook. I was transfixed. This was history unspooled on land that I knew, involving families whose descendants I could meet.
Right away, I pestered my indulgent parents to load the six kids into the back of the 1959 Plymouth station wagon in order to visit the sacred historical settings for the textbook’s tales.
I later learned that there was much more to Texas history — not all of it admirable by a long shot, and told by many, sometimes ignored or suppressed voices — than what was told to seventh graders in 1965.
But it was a start. For the rest of my life, I encountered history all around me.
It fired me up, for instance, to know that Surfside Beach, where my family has returned every year for short vacations since the early 1960s, was once, as Old Velasco, the capital of the Republic of Texas. No trace remains.
My family didn’t wonder why, since we had witnessed up-close the fury that powerful hurricanes can visit on Texas’ barrier islands.
After seventh grade, I took every history course that my schools in Houston and Austin offered — and that I could fit into my course schedule. My master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation were histories of theater in Texas. Back then, college friends and I road-tripped to distant towns to find old opera houses and other performance halls to survey, along with archives — all paper back then — to search for scraps of memories about this Texas topic.
It didn’t stop there.
For the past 30 years, I’ve written about our region’s people, places, culture and history for the Austin American-Statesman. Some of my better history columns have been collected into three books, “Indelible Austin: Vols. 1-3,” published by Waterloo Press.
I discovered even more about our state during 10 glorious years: A buddy and I traced all 50 Texas rivers from their sources to their mouths, or vice versa, by car, on foot and sometimes in the water. We lost count of the number of eateries, parks, local history museums, historical markers, county courthouses, novelty attractions and loquacious locals we encountered along the way.
We never lost our abiding awe of the state.
I share this enthusiasm because I’m thrilled to introduce Think, Texas, a free, weekly digital newsletter about Texas history shared with our friends at other Texas newspapers in our company, who will contribute their own Hometown Histories.
Sign up for the newsletter here.
Each week, we’ll dole out fun facts, serious narratives and Texas titles — a lot has been written about Texas, and we’ll steer you to the best books.
You’ll be a big part of the conversation through our “Reader Rewind” audio series. We also plan a regular history podcast.
So send us your questions and comments as well as your personal encounters with Texas history to firstname.lastname@example.org. The state, after all, is made up of Texans, and every story we hear expands the mosaic of our understanding.