Texas Standard » Stories from TexasStories from Texas are written for and recorded for the Texas Standard radio program. They're written by W.F Strong and edited for broadcast by Texas Standard producers.Texas Standard airs Monday through Friday on more than 20 public radio stations across Texas. Visit texasstandard.org/listen to find when it airs where you are. Texas Standard is hosted by David Brown, and infrequently by Laura Rice from KUT Radio in Austin, and Lauren Silverman from KERA Radio in Dallas.
Stories from Texas are written for and recorded for the Texas Standard radio program. They're written by W.F Strong and edited for broadcast by Texas Standard producers.Texas Standard airs Monday through Friday on more than 20 public radio stations across Texas. Visit texasstandard.org/listen to find when it airs where you are. Texas Standard is hosted by David Brown, and infrequently by Laura Rice from KUT Radio in Austin, and Lauren Silverman from KERA Radio in Dallas.
Of the thousands of mourners who posted their goodbyes and gratitudes to Texas writer Larry McMurtry across last month, there was one stand-out theme. It was to thank McMurtry for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Lonesome Dove." Most considered it his premiere gift to them personally, a gift that had immeasurably enriched their lives, as culturally vital as Homer's Iliad was to the Greeks. To many, "Lonesome Dove" is a book of proverbs, with advice such as: "The best way to handle death is to ride on away from it." Or "Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back." In fact, "Lonesome Dove," the day after McMurtry died, rocketed up into the top 100 best selling books on Amazon, and became the #1 bestseller in Westerns. Without a doubt, many who thanked Larry for "Lonesome Dove," have read the other three books in the quadrilogy. Yet, I also know, from long experience, that some fans of the book and film, are unaware that there are three other books. There's a great deal more trail to ride with Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call. The first is "Dead Man's Walk." Call and Gus are young men, in their early twenties. I've always thought of Gus and Call as part of the "buddy cops" genre. Here, we meet them for the first time as Texas Rangers on guard duty, west of the Pecos in pursuit of Comanches. McMurtry writes: "Gus took guard duty a good deal more lightly than his companion, Woodrow Call." Gus annoys Call when he brings out a jug of mescal and takes a swig in front of him. Call remarks, "If the major caught you drinking on guard he'd shoot you." There you see already the contrast that will define their friendship throughout the next two books. Gus the free-spirited, fun-loving sociable rule-breaker and Call the disciplined loner. "Comanche Moon" is the second book in the series. Gus and Woodrow are both now Ranger captains, but that comes later in the book. It opens as Gus and Woodrow are part of a troop of 13 Rangers trying to run down Comanche Chief Kicking Wolf. They are pursuing him along the edge of the Palo Duro Canyon. Out on the Llano Estacado, Gus feels disoriented. McMurtry steps in to provide one of his iconic descriptions of the Texas landscape: "There was not a feature to stop the eye on the long plain: no tree, ridge, rise, hill, dip, animal or bird. Augustus could see nothing at all, and he was well known to have the best vision in the troop. The plain was so wide it seemed you could see to the rim of forever, and yet, in all that distance, there was nothing." "Lonesome Dove" comes next in the story's chronology. I won't say much here as this book is the best known of the four. I will say only that it was the first "Game of Thrones" in the sense that McMurtry killed off a great number of characters we came to love. As McMurtry himself wrote in "Lonesome Dove," "Death and worse happened on the plains." The final book is "Streets of Laredo." It was the original name for "Lonesome Dove" when it was just a screenplay. In this last book, Captain Call is hired to pursue a violent, psychopathic killer named Joey Garza who is a thinly-disguised Billy the Kid. In this book, we get a better look at Call and what he's made of. For instance, here are his thoughts about loyalty: "It seemed to him the highest principle was loyalty. He preferred it to honor. He was never quite sure what men meant when they spoke of their honor, though it had been a popular word during the War. He was sure though, about what he meant when he spoke of loyalty. A man didn't desert his comrades, his troop, his leader. If he did, he was in Call's book, useless." I envy those who have not read the quadrilogy. I would love to be able to have the singular joy of reading them all again for the first time. But a second or third read is mighty enjoyable, too.
By W. F. Strong Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of neighborhood cultures in Texas: high security and low security. My wife is high security and I'm low security, by tradition. She was raised in Mexico, in a compound surrounded by the classic 12 foot walls with shards of glass embedded on top. I was raised in rural Texas, in a house, with an acre of yard and no walls or fences. We locked our doors at night, if we remembered. These childhood influences carry over. My wife loves these new, inexpensive security cameras. She has six that cover the outer perimeter and four pointing inward. I told her it feels strange having four cameras watching me in the house. She said, with a smile, "Four that you know of." She says, "It's not about watching you or the kids; it's about knowing where everybody is. It's a mama thing." This is an interesting contrast to my life as a boy in small town Texas. There, nobody I knew locked their doors, except maybe at night. My mom's idea of locking up for the night was to latch the screen door. You know, put the metal hook through the eyelet. She liked leaving the heavy inner door open so the night breeze could flow through the house. "Air vitamins," she called it. Everybody in my neighborhood would lock all their doors when they went on vacation. Yet we all knew that the key to the front door was under the doormat. And any number of neighbors would use that key to put the gathered newspapers or mail into their foyer so passing strangers wouldn't know they weren't home. One neighbor down the block, Mr. Jones, kept his key near the back door, third pot to the right, pushed into the dirt. You'd have to dig a bit to find it. Some around there thought that was excessive, said, "Mr. Jones was a bit paranoid." People also kept their car keys conveniently stored above the driver's visor or in the unused ash tray or glove compartment. I remember a farmer, who lived nearby, calling me once and asking if I'd go over to house and drive his 3500 GMC out to the farm for him. He needed some tools that were in it. I asked if the keys were in the truck and he said, "Of course. Right there above the visor. Where else would they be? That's how come I never lose 'em." That was true. People never much lost their keys then. They were always where they ought to be, under the mat, above the visor. I can remember my mom saying, "One of you boys didn't put the key back under the mat. Find it and put it back." It did seem odd to go to the trouble to have a lock on a door and leave the key in such an accessible place. Might as well tape it on the door. After all these years, I've drifted into a more high-security life, myself. Everything is locked and double-locked. Even if I go outside during the day for more than five minutes, I'll find my wife has locked me out and I'll have to knock to get back in. Wouldn't be surprised if she soon asks for the password-of-the-day for re-entry.
What's In A Name? For These Famous Texans, Everything.
By W. F. Strong Could there be a better name for the world's faster runner than Usain Bolt? It's a dead solid perfect aptronym, which is the formal word for a name that appropriately fits one's occupation, sometimes humorously. A neurological scholar in England was knighted and became, I kid you not, Lord Brain. The president of Barclays Bank used to be Rich Ricci. What else could he have done but become a banker? The same may be said for George Francis Train, a major player in building the eastern portion of the transcontinental railroad across the United States. Barbara Boxer didn't go into boxing literally, but as the long-serving former California senator, she was in the full contact sport of politics. I thought I'd look at aptronyms of Texas – people from Texas who have names that are, or were, particularly apt for them. My friend Judge Ken Wise has an ideal name for a judge. He uses his name, too, aptronomously, for his podcast, "Wise about Texas." In East Texas we used to have a federal judge whose name was William Wayne Justice. He really was all about justice, too. He forced East Texas to integrate their schools and ordered that children of undocumented parents could go to public schools. There are those who study, seriously, the connection between names and destiny. Researchers Brett Pelham and Carvallo Mauricio found that men named Cal and Tex, born outside of Texas and California, had better than 50/50 odds that they'd move to their namesake states in their lifetime. Cals would go to California and those named Tex would mosey on over to the Lone Star State. They also found that the name Dennis is disproportionately represented in the field of Dentistry. Dennis the Dentist. There are also inaptronyms. They are ironic rather than descriptive names. For instance, we used to have a state treasurer in Texas named Jesse James. We put a famous train robber in charge of the money. John Tower was not physically towering, but he was a towering force in politics, both influential and powerful in the U.S. Senate. So his name works both ways. Here's a few more fun Texas aptronyms: Barbara Staff was great at building staffs for Republican political campaigns. John Sharp, the politically astute former comptroller, is now Texas A&M University chancellor. The last name of Tito of Tito's Vodka fame is Beveridge. Richard King built a ranch empire that was, and remains, one of the biggest ranches in the world. Great name for the man and the ranch. Ken Starr has certainly seemed to be a star in many political events of the last few decades, with the Clinton impeachment being his biggest starring role. Finally, I have to go back a long way to tell you about Robert Neighbors, a man who was the primary Indian agent in Texas back in the 1850s. It was his impossible task of attempting to forge peace between the white settlers and the Comanche. He was one of the few people, at the time, other than Sam Houston, who spoke a Native American language fluently. He used that skill to talk with Comanches in their lodges and teepees and build trust for the treaties he negotiated with the settlers. Sadly, Neighbors was shot in the back and killed by Edward Cornett because he thought Neighbors was too friendly with the Comanche. Despite the fact that there were three eyewitnesses to the crime, Edward was never tried for the murder. It helps to have your brother-in-law on the grand jury.
What's In A Name? For These Famous Texans, Everything.
As Valentine's Day is approaching, I thought I'd share a romantic story about one of Texas's greatest artists, Tom Lea. This is a love story, expressed in one painting, titled "Sarah in the Summertime." I'll tell you the story of that painting and how it came to be. Tom Lea was a true renaissance artist in the sense that he was both a gifted painter and writer. He was a muralist and a novelist. His murals are, to this day, in public buildings in Washington, D.C., El Paso, his home town and Odessa. President George W. Bush had one of his paintings hanging in the Oval Office. Lea's novels, "The Brave Bulls" and "The Wonderful Country" are considered Southwestern classics. His two-volume history of the King Ranch can be found in any home with a good Texas library. Tom met Sarah in 1938, when he was working on his celebrated "Pass of the North" mural in El Paso. He was invited to a small dinner party where she was also a guest. Sarah was from Monticello, Illinois, and in town visiting friends. He was immediately enchanted by her and decided that evening that he wanted to marry her. Tom had the good sense not to confess to that wish right there. No. He waited until their first date two nights later to pop the question. She didn't say "yes" until he met her parents. Several months later, they were married. It was a storybook romance that spanned 63 years. Tom and Sarah were only apart for one extended period of time during their marriage, and that was during World War II, when he was an artist for Life Magazine, embedded with the U.S. Navy. He documented the realities of the war in drawings and paintings, the most famous of which was "The Two Thousand Yard Stare." Naturally, Tom missed Sarah terribly every day. Here I will let the famous novelist take over the narration. He wrote: I had a snapshot of Sarah which I carried in my wallet during the whole war. I looked at it, homesick, all over the world. When the war was over, the first painting I began was a full-length, life-size portrait of Sarah in the same dress, the same pose, the same light as the little snapshot. I worked a long time making a preliminary drawing in charcoal and chalk, designing the glow of light and the placement of the figure against a clearness of blue sky, the mountains like Mount Franklin, the leafy trees and green grass and summer sunlight, before I transferred the drawing to the canvas. It was a detailed and precisely measured drawing. For instance, Sarah's height of 5 foot 6 in high heels was drawn on the canvas exactly 5 ft 6. The painting was done with devotion and without haste. First the background, then the figure, and finally her head. I remember that I worked 26 days painting the pattern of all the little flowers on the dress. ... 2 years after I began work on it, longer than any other painting ever took me, I signed it framed it and gave it to Sarah. I see it everyday in our living room and I see Sarah [too]. 20 years have passed. "Sarah in the Summertime" means more to me that I could ever put on canvas. Adair Margo, his agent and decadeslong friend, and founder of the Tom Lea Institute, told me that Tom Lea would never let that painting leave the house, not for any showing or exhibition. Only once was she able to convince him to put it in a local exhibit, but only for a few hours, and it had to be back that night. Tom and Sarah are buried side by side in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. There's one headstone with divided inscriptions for each. On Sarah's side it says, from Tom, "Sarah and I live on the east side of the mountain. It is the sunrise side. It is the side to see the day coming. Not the side to see the day is gone. The best day is the day coming, with work to do, with eyes wide open, with the heart grateful."
For me, Lyndon Johnson did more for Texas in his lifetime than any other politician, except for Sam Houston. And Houston's greatest gift was given to Texas in the form of a resounding victory at San Jacinto, before he began his political years as president. Two of Johnson's most enduring gifts to Texas are NASA, and the electricity for rural Texas, especially for the inaccessible hinterlands of the Hill Country. LBJ said, in 1959, that "nothing had ever given him as much satisfaction as" bringing electricity to the rural people of his region. By the end of his life he had a new achievement he was proudest of and believed would be his greatest legacy. That was the founding of the LBJ School of Public Affairs in tandem with dedicating his Presidential Library at the University of Texas at Austin. In this academic year the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Library are both celebrating the 50th anniversary of their founding. The school welcomed its first class in 1970 and the library was dedicated in May of '71. These separate institutions represent a fitting legacy.. After all, he said when he was president, quote —"At the desk where I sit, I have learned one great truth. The answer for all our national problems – the answer for all the problems of the world – come to a single word. That word is 'education.'" Johnson also believed in the education provided by the school of hard knocks. He liked to quote his father who told him that quote — "You should brush yourself up against the grindstone of life and that will give you a polish that Harvard and Yale can't give you." LBJ did not have the eloquence of King or Kennedy, but he was a master of personal persuasion. When he had a congressman in the corner of a room at a political breakfast, and a lawmaker's hand firmly enveloped by his, Johnson could sell abstinence to an alcoholic and even civil rights to a segregationist. No President ever pushed more legislation through Congress than he did, not even FDR. And his focus was on equality for all, in education, in economics, in voting, in opportunity, and in life as a whole. He was a complicated man. He said some racist things in his life, but he was simultaneously an iconic force in the Civil Rights Movement. He passed the Civil Rights Act of '64 and the Medicare and Medicaid Act of 65 as well as the Voting Rights Act of '65. Consequently, years later, LBJ saw the founding of his school of Public Affairs as the greatest chance he had at fostering the continuation of good works for mankind through government. Unlike many today, he believed that government could in fact do the big things that the little guy couldn't do for himself – like deliver electricity to rural farms and make sure the color of your skin didn't determine where you could eat or sleep. When he spoke to a group of students at his School of Public Affairs in Austin about a month before he died. LBJ told them that a life in public affairs, one of helping your fellow man, is the most rewarding of all paths one could take in life. He said, "The greatest known satisfaction for human beings is knowing – and if you are the only one that knows it, it's there and that's what's important – that you've made life more just, more equal, and more opportune for your fellow man – and that's what this school is all about."
I go for walks in the country often this time of year here in the Rio Grande Valley. This is our Goldilocks season. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. We have a perfectly warming sun in the crisp, cool air of winter mornings. I like to walk along a dirt road that has freshly plowed farmland on one side and a deep motte of mesquite and huisache trees on the other. A committee of vultures watches me from atop the tallest of these trees, far away from civilization. That's the official name for a group of vultures. A Committee. Sometimes they are also called a venue of vultures. I like that. Based on what I've seen of committees and their venues I can see the salience of the metaphor. In Texas, these birds are often mistakenly called buzzards. This is common but it's technically wrong because buzzards are completely different birds. We don't have buzzards in Texas, though I will admit to calling them that myself growing up. I don't recall referring to groups of birds by their correct labels, either – such as murder of crows or covey of quail or flamboyance of flamingos. I still don't. I tend more toward my brother "redneck Dave's" lexicon which is pretty much reduced to the word "bunch." He says, "You got a bunch of ducks in your yard." And if there's more than that he says, "You got a whole bunch of ducks in your yard." More still are covered by, "You got a mighty big bunch of ducks in your yard." Back to the vultures. This committee of vultures – turkey vultures in this case, are perched high up in the trees, like undertakers – eyeing me – sometimes stretching out their wings to display their impressive six-foot span. But mostly I'm a curiosity, not a disturbance. They don't fly away. I'm sure I would be much more interesting to them if I were dead. Turkey Vultures don't have a lot of fans. Many people see them as disgusting birds that eat disgusting things. They have red heads. They're mostly bald, with faces that only a mother could love – a mother vulture, that is. On the ground picking through road kill, they look ungraceful and ragged and ungainly. But in the air, they are, to me, transformed into graceful, heart-stirring masters of the wind. On the ground they are called committees, but in they air they are called kettles of vultures because in their swirling ride upward on the thermals, they look like bubbles rising in heated water. Ornithologists, bird experts, tell us that it is by riding high on the thermals that they hunt for carrion, or dead things. But they don't do it by sight. They do it by smell. The smell of the decaying animals is carried up by the thermals and the birds track that smell to the source. Tests have shown that they always arrive on the upwind side of corpus delicti and that's how experts know that smell is dominant. Yes, the process is gross to us, but if you consider the scientific name for the turkey vulture – Cathartes Aura – they sound noble. It means cleansing breeze. They swoop in on the wind and clean the earth. And they are disinfectors too, consuming anthrax and cholera bacteria and safely removing it. In this sense they are hazmat teams. But my admiration of these magnificent creatures is fully realized watching them in flight. I can sit in my backyard and watch hundreds of them ride high up in the sky like an avian tornado. They're having fun up there. They're not all about carrion, I'm convinced. They're windsurfers fully elated by this vulture sport they collectively love. The winds do not conquer them. They ride them high into the vaulted blue, cloudless skies. Some, pilots tell us, go as high as 20,000 feet and they rarely have to flap their wings. They just soar and glide, at one with the wind. You can find them all across Texas, along with their slightly smaller cousins, the black vultures, which prefer the eastern part of the state. Together they are our cleaners, our sanitizers, the avian, last line of defense for our most famous slogan: "Don't mess with Texas."
If you had walked into the Neiman-Marcus store during the Christmas season in Dallas in 1939, you would have found a beautiful little book for sale titled A Letter from Texas. The 20-page book, by the Texas poet, Townsend Miller, was commissioned by Stanley Marcus himself. He had the gifted printer Carl Hertzog publish an exquisite limited edition of the poem with the Neiman-Marcus imprint on the title page. Mr. Stanley, as Marcus came to be called, loved the Texcentric poem. He wanted to make it available in the store at Christmastime so that out-of-staters would have a unique gift to take back home or send to friends and family.. I happen to have a copy of Miller's book. The poem is a letter to his friend, John. In it, Miller shares his passionate love for Texas with a kind of contagious exuberance: John, it is a strange land. John it is hard to describe. But perhaps try this. Hold up your right hand, palm outward, And break the last three fingers down from the joint. And there you have it. The westering thumb. The silent bleak land, the silent mesas Big Bend and the great canyons at its end El Paso, the Northern Pass, and they came down through it. Southward and east, the slow hot river moving River of Palms, Grande del Norte, and over the wrist, To Brownsville, and it empties into the vast blue waters Miller describes each part of the state using the geography of his hand as a model of the Texas. He says "the tongue staggers" to describe the state's size. Miller was best known for the country music column he wrote for the Austin American-Statesman from 1972-to-1984. He was less of a critic and more of a promoter of the then-nascent music scene in and around Austin – his hometown for most of his life. In his letter-poem to his friend John, Miller also writes: Austin, the central city, and she is crowned with the sun And twice-crowned westward with violet hills, John, the thick roses swarming over the wall. The moon in the white courts, the quivering mornings. Of the Llano Estacado Miller writes: And here I think is the heart of it; Here you begin to sense it, the size, the silence; This is the land, empty under enormous sky, In wide enormous air, nothing of man. Miller's poem is the sort of letter we write when we want to convince a friend to move here. He concludes this way. So now tonight in the central city Texas lies around me. All silent to the stars; so I write of it. Remembering the slow dusk of the Rio Grande Remembering the high hawks of the violet hills Remembering the dark eyes in the Calle de Flores, And the breeze comes up from the Gulf and in the court Pink oleanders brush on the white wall And the moon at flood over the westering hills And my heart is full of it and I send it to you. Mr. Stanley always had fine aesthetic tastes, especially for Christmas gifts. His offering of this book long ago still holds up nicely as a gift idea today, if you can find a copy, which you can with some ambitious searching. Might make a perfect gift for Tesla's Elon Musk. Welcome to Texas, Elon.
The Texas Connection To Colorado's Royal Gorge Bridge
Bridges are measured in three ways, for those who like to keep world records and such: longest, tallest and highest. In Texas, the Fred Hartman Bridge is both the longest bridge at 2.6 miles, and the tallest, at 440 feet. But it is not the highest. That honor goes to the aptly named Pecos High Bridge, which is an astounding 322 feet above the Pecos River – a football field straight up. The highest bridge in America, in case you're wondering, is the Royal Gorge Bridge, which comes in just shy of 1000 feet. It's in Colorado, and would be in Texas today had we kept our original northern lands. Nonetheless, without Texas, it might not exist at all, as you will see in the history I'm fixin' to tell you about. The Royal Gorge Bridge was the dream of Lon P. Piper of San Antonio. They say he stood on the edge of the Gorge in 1928 and imagined laying a bridge across it, a suspension bridge. He had already built a bridge across the Rio Grande into Mexico. This Royal Gorge Bridge would be different though. It would be a bridge to nowhere, one that would exist purely to give tourists the kind of heart-stopping views they couldn't get anywhere else in the world. He knew it would be a challenge, but he was certain it could be done. Within two years he made his dream come true. It cost him $350,000, or $5 million in today's dollars. But when it was finished, he owned the highest bridge in the world – and it would remain so for 72 years. Lon was quite the entrepreneur in those times. He also developed the Richland Springs Treasure Cave in San Saba as a Carlsbad Caverns-like tourist attraction in the 1920s and '30s. He was also an early investor in a new concept of motor hotels – or "motels." Lon hired bridge engineer George Cole of Houston to design the Royal Gorge Bridge and to serve as the general contractor. With 70 men they completed the project in six months without a fatality or any serious injuries. As I learned about the bridge's history, I couldn't help but notice its national character. It was a bridge built by Texans, in Colorado, that spanned the Arkansas River, using Oregon timber for the deck. That's some interstate diversity in one bridge. Mr. Cole went on to design and build the narrow-gauge railroad that would take brave riders to the bottom of the gorge at a 45-degree angle. Now there are gondolas far above the gorge for those who want to go higher still, and zip lines for those who can't get enough tachycardia in their lives. In 1947, Lon sold the bridge to another Texan, Clint Murchison, Sr. Murchison bought it sight unseen, as an investment, and strangely never traveled there to walk across his magnificent possession. He never stood at the precipice of the gorge to admire the highest bridge in the world that he just happened to own. Makes me think of Fitzgerald who said, "The rich are different from you and me." No, Muchison just set up the Royal Gorge Bridge Company and based it in Dallas to manage the Colorado property from there. When he died the bridge was passed on to his sons, Clint Murchison, Jr. (you remember him – he founded and owned the Dallas Cowboys for 25 years), and his brother John. When John Murchison died his wife Lucille inherited the bridge and they say, "she just loved it;" she traveled up there to see it several times a year. For the past 20 years the Royal Gorge Bridge's general manager of operations has been Mike Bandera, a Texan who got his start in the amusement park business at Six Flags Over Texas where he worked for 16 years. Today, the Royal Gorge Bridge, after nearly 100 years, has Colorado ownership. Lucille passed it on to her grandchildren, and they sold it a few years ago to Canyon City. So I'd like to say this to Colorado, about the world-class bridge we envisioned, financed, built and managed for you all these years: "You're welcome."
The Texas Connection To Colorado's Royal Gorge Bridge
By W. F. Strong and Lupita Strong February 2021 will mark Queen Elizabeth II's 69th year on the British throne. In all of those years during which she witnessed some of the world's most pivotal events, one can say — if one is a Texan — that we deserve an honorable mention amongst those events from her majesty's life. Specifically, her 1991 two-day visit to the Lone Star state. She was the first British monarch ever to visit Texas and we gave the Queen a Texas-sized tip of the ole Stetson. She loved it. She asked her U.S. chief of protocol, "Why didn't I come here sooner?" During her visit she gave Texans one of the finest compliments we've ever had, but I'll save that until the end. Texas has long had a special relationship with Great Britain; it was one of the first European nations to recognize the new Republic of Texas. We actually flirted for a while with the notion of becoming part of the British Empire in the 1840's, but the U.S. had other plans. Five years before the Queen came here, her majesty's son, Charles, the Prince of Wales, came to Texas to help celebrate the Texas Sesquicentennial. He cut into the 45 ton, world's largest birthday cake with a three-foot sword. I mean, it was Texas, what else was he supposed to use? At the capital the Prince was given a giant gavel. He laughed and said that it was the biggest he had ever had and "extremely appropriate coming from Texas." While touring San Jacinto later that week. It was February but warm. He asked, "If it's as hot as this in the winter, what is like in the summer? " Texas has had fourteen kings, but it was a queen celebrated by Texas May of 1991. Queen Elizabeth visited Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston with an itinerary jam-packed with visits to the River Walk, NASA, the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, and the Alamo. She even took a ride on the San Antonio River on a beautifully decorated barge. When she arrived at Love Field Airport, she was greeted with strains of "The Yellow Rose of Texas." The words to "God Save the Queen" were recited before the playing of it so that the mostly Texas audience wouldn't sing My Country Tis of Thee to the familiar tune. While in Dallas, she knighted Cecil Howard Green, British-born founder of Texas Instruments and co-founder of the U-T campus there. Accompanying her majesty on the visit was her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Sitting next to him at the Hall of State dinner commemorating the 150th anniversary of Dallas was Louise Caldwell, president of the Dallas Historical Society. Of the experience, she remarked, "It was very hard to find anything that he didn't know more about than me . . . including Texas history." The Queen delighted the audience there by recounting the well known Texas story by John Gunther in which a man tells his son: "Never ask a man where he's from. If he's from Texas he'll tell you. Otherwise no use embarrassing him by asking." At the State Capitol, Gov. Ann Richards hosted the Queen. Eight-thousand people gathered to catch a glimpse of her majesty. The queen declared, "No state commands such fierce pride and loyalty. Lesser mortals are pitied for their misfortune in not being born Texans." And she, the most travelled monarch in the world, knows what she's talking about.
By W.F. Strong The year was 1919. J. Frank Norfleet, after two years of pursuit, finally slapped the handcuffs on Mr. Stetson in Florida. Stetson – real name: Joe Furey – had swindled Norfleet out of $90,000 in Dallas and Fort Worth two years before. Stetson was shocked to see him and paid him a backhanded compliment. He said, "Well, you old trail hound. I never expected to see you out here. ... I thought we left you flat broke in Fort Worth." Please don't take me back to Texas, Norfleet ... your "damnable hounding" has already cost me "as much money as I have made" off of you. Stetson's surprise at having Norfleet slap handcuffs on him is equal to the surprise that most people have when they first hear the incredible story of the old rancher's dogged and ultimately successful pursuit of his swindlers. I'm not spoiling the story by telling the ending because the joy of this story is in the chase. Norfleet had no experience in law enforcement, big city life or sophisticated cons. He was a cowboy and a hunter, a man who had always lived on the edge of the Texas frontier. So when he made up us his mind to pursue the band of bunco men who conned him, he used the only tools he had, which were unfathomable patience, cutting for sign, following the trail no matter how faint, employing camouflage in the way of disguises, always being well-armed, and being willing to withstand all nature of hardship to win in the end. Norfleet out-conned the con men. He seemed to be operating under the motto of Texas Ranger Capt. Bill McDonald: "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right who just keeps on a-comin'." Norfleet was born in Lampasas and grew up on the Texas plains. He was a working cowboy trail herder in his early days and later managed to buy his own ranch out near Plainview. At 54, he had finally accumulated some real wealth. So he went to Dallas and Fort Worth with the intent of selling his ranch to buy a bigger one. It was there that con men ensnared him in their sophisticated plot. It went like this: Norfleet got into a seemingly casual conversation about mules in the lobby of the St. George Hotel in Dallas. He said that "to one of his upbringing, the most lonesome place in the world is a large city." So he was happy to find someone of similar tastes and interests. This man, Hamlin, upon hearing Norfleet had a ranch to sell, said he just happened to know someone who might be interested in his land. That interested party, Mr. Spencer, magically appeared and said they would need to go to the Adolphus to see another man. When they sat down in the lobby to wait, Spencer cleverly steered Norfleet so that he'd sit in just the right place to discover a man's pocket book "lost" in the crevice of the couch. The pocket book had "$240 in cash and a cashable bond for $100,000 dollars." Mr. Stetson was the name on the Mason's card inside. Spencer and Norfleet inquired at the desk for a Mr. Stetson, got his room number, and returned the pocket book to him. Mr. Stetson – AKA Joe Furey – offered them both $100 reward. Norfleet refused. Stetson told him that he was a stockbroker with the Dallas exchange and said, "Would you mind me placing that money on the market and would you accept what money it might earn?" Later that day Stetson gave Norfleet $800 as the amount his $100 earned. And that is how the hook was set. From there, much more money was made and eventually cash guarantees required by the fake exchange. When the con men cleared out on the last round, absconding with all of Norfleet's money, he was left repeating to himself in a stunned haze, "Forty-five thousand dollars gone; $90,000 in debt; 54 years old." If it happened today he'd be saying, "Seven-hundred-thousand-dollars gone; $1.5 million in debt; 54 years old." Most swindled people keep quiet about it. Some report it to police but just suffer the loss and go about rebuilding their lives. Furey, who conned many an Englishmen said that the British always handled the loss with such poise. But he resented Norfleet for taking it so personally. So here is where you will want to pick up the book and get on the trail with Norfleet. He logs 30,000 miles pursuing these con men. Its'a great adventure and demonstrates an old cowboy's enormous creativity and grit. He just wouldn't quit. You can read his own telling of the story in his fast-moving autobiography, "Norfleet," published in 1924. Or, you can read a more modern version historically contextualized by Amy Reading in "The Mark Inside." Whichever you choose, cinch up your saddles nice and snug. It's gonna be a wild ride.