The first word spoken from the moon, July 20, 1969, was “Houston,” but the space center was actually in Clear Lake City at the time. By 1720, the Spanish government maintained more soldiers in San Antonio than had been employed throughout the conquest and subjugation of the Aztec and Inca empires.
Ima Hogg did not have a sister named Ura. Humphrey Bogart never did say, “Play it again, Sam” in the 1942 film “Casablanca.” The line was spoken by Ingrid Bergman. Sam was played by a Texan, Dooley Wilson, who was born in Tyler. Notice that you never see Sam’s fingers on the keyboard — he was a drummer.
The reason I bring up these small matters is that we have so many new Texans – our population is growing by one thousand people A DAY! Half of these are newborns, but even they should know a few oddities about their new home. For example, the longest war in American history is not being fought in Afghanistan, but right here. Texans’ war with the Indians lasted for 50 years. Texans constantly gripe about “Washington interference,” but get this observation: “The whole state of Texas counts on the expenditure of money for Army supplies, and when a Congressman tackles the appropriations bill he joins issue with the whole state from Dan to Beersheba.” — Dr. Samuel Smith, U.S. Army, Camp Charlotte, Texas, July 4, 1879. Actor Eli Wallach, in his first Curtain Club role when he was a student at UT-Austin, played a corpse. The part of the doctor was played by Walter Cronkite.
A study from the Center for an Urban Future, a nonprofit research group in Manhattan, estimates it takes $123,322 to enjoy the same middle-class life in New York City as someone earning $50,000 in Houston. The weed whacker was invented here in 1971 by a dance instructor and developer named George Ballas. He got the idea from whirling brushes at a car wash. His prototype consisted of an edger and fishing wire threaded through a can of popcorn.
It’s pronounced ROW-dee-oh, not row-DAY-oh, like that fancy drive in Beverly Hills. Mexia is mah-HAY-yuh, and no one in Houston pronounces the Dallas Cowboys. The official state song is “Texas, Our Texas,” and not “The Eyes of Texas,” although it should be. According to The New York Times the very first hamburger was made by Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas, in the 1880s. There is even a historical marker there. Davis had a café and came up with ground beef between two slices of bread. At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, he set up a concession stand on the midway and sold his invention, probably with a sign, “More Than 12 Sold.”
Now let’s get academic. What is the official name of Texas Tech? It was founded as Texas Technological College and was called that until 1969. Then it became Texas Tech University. No “Technical,” nothing fancy. Texas A&M, once the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, now is officially known as Texas A&M University, no periods. (Incidentally, there is no period in Dr Pepper either.) Texas A&M’s student body is the largest in the United States — 69,465 Aggies. A question: Is Stephen F. (for Fuller) Austin State University in Nacogdoches the only university with an initial as part of its name? I can’t think of another. Finally, the Heisman Trophy was named after John William Heisman who was the first full-time coach at Rice University.
Among powers granted to our governor, the Texas Constitution declares: “He shall have power to call forth the militia to execute the laws of the State, to suppress insurrections, and to repel invasions.” Alas, the governor used to have specific powers to call out the troops to chase Mexican bandits and marauding Indians. He lost that authority in 1999. Yes, indeed, in 1999. Our Legislature once honored Albert DeSalvo “for his work in population control.” Later the lawmakers discovered DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. In 2010, “Enron,” a $4 million Broadway musical about the Houston-based energy debacle, closed after 13 days. The state motto of Texas is “Friendship,” not “Shoot Friendly,” although “gun control” does mean, when shooting, use both hands. Our official state pie is pecan. The bluebonnet is the state flower. The monarch butterfly is our state insect and our official state demagogue is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. If you drove west from Orange for 858 miles, you would still be in Texas (El Paso). If you drove east that same distance, you’d be in Savanah, Ga.
Residents in the other 49 lesser states love to poke fun at us, mainly due to jealousy. Really now, have you ever heard a good South Dakota or Vermont joke? OK, here’s one. A Texas rancher is driving through Vermont and stops to chat with a farmer out in his fields. “Nice place you got here,” says the Texan. “How big is it?” The farmer replies: “Twenty acres.” The Texan scoffs. “Mister, back home I can drive for two hours and not get to the end of my land.” The Vermonter nods. “Yeah, I once had a car like that, too.”
Here is what comedian Jeff Foxworthy has to say about us: You may live in Texas:
If someone in a Lowe’s store offers you assistance and they don’t work there.
If you’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number.
If “vacation” means going anywhere south of Dallas for the weekend.
If you measure distance in hours.
If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once.
If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked.
If you carry jumper cables in your car and your wife knows how to use them.
If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph — you’re going 80 and everybody’s passing you.
Pilgrim, if you can laugh at these jokes, you are already a Texan.
Ashby laughs at firstname.lastname@example.org