National Geographic : 1961 Feb
National Geographic, February, 1961 Texas was admitted to the United States, the Republic of Texas survived- impoverished, worried, and sometimes pathetic. Mexico objected when Texas entered the Union, and thus came the Mexican War. The Civil War brought a new set of horrors. Sam Houston, old and eloquent and far sighted, was governor, and he took a stand against secession. He was thrown out of office, and Texas joined the Confederacy. Like other Southern States, she lost many men, and suffered her share of humiliation in the Reconstruction era. State Could Break Up Into Five The decades immediately following the Civil War were almost as stirring as what had gone before. Wild and half-wild cattle were rounded up along the coast and along the Nueces and the Frio, and driven to Kansas. Spreading their domains beyond this Brush Country, the cattle kings were the big shots. And then the railroads came, and Texas gave much of its public land to help them come. Finally, though few realized its significance at the time, came the symbol of the new era: the oil gusher at Spindletop in January, 1901. One oddity of Texas politics is that it can (under the terms of annexation in 1845) divide itself into five States if it so desires. Sometimes this would seem to be a logical move because of the State's vastness. People along the Sabine River, in East Texas, have seemingly little in common with citizens who grow those wonderful cantaloupes in the Pecos Valley. And the Amarillo nabob, living in that high and windy place, is a stranger to the shrimp gatherer on the Gulf. The trouble is that they are all Texans, united by some almost mystical bond which the outside world might call sentiment. The writer and historian J. Frank Dobie once said that Texas would never split up into five States because no one could decide who would get the Alamo. Maybe that is the nub of the question. I go to San Antonio as frequently as I can, be cause I love the place. And I always visit the Alamo. I can't help it. It is a beautiful spot, Miners at Gran restored with taste and with a painstaking effort at historical accuracy (page 195). It is impossible to be wholly accurate about the Alamo, for all the experts died there. The stone walls around the old mission are thick and graceful. The trees are a healthy green. Hereabouts may be found the spot where (probably) the fevered and wasted knife fighter, Jim Bowie, made his last stand. And here (also probably) is the place Davy Crockett went down swinging his empty rifle like a terrible club. There (again maybe) Colonel Travis, the red-headed commander, drew his line on the floor and asked those who would stay to come across, and they came. The pull of the Alamo, for me, is an inex plicable thing. I'm sure it is not at all because some of my very distant kinsmen died there. I never knew them; they were nothing to me. And yet, well, I do know this, and it is nothing to be ashamed of: I can't be inside the Alamo for more than ten minutes before a teardrop falls down my cheek. There's no escape. This unplanned monster, Texas, in many ways justifies the predictions of the original dreamers and the assertions of the modern boosters. The smogless skylines of the larger cities are quite striking, when the light is right. There is more Texas money available now to finance Texas projects, which Yankee dol lars formerly backed. The growth has been relatively steady. Texas has "not put all its economic eggs in one basket," as one enthu siast puts it. Problems: People and Water The standard of living goes up and up- up indeed, until in some instances it is an inter national joke. The level of education is higher. Great industrial plants, clean and symmetrical, suddenly appear on the flat prairies. Public health matters have im proved. Air conditioning has lessened the terrors of the Texas summer days. In the midst of this self-congratulation, however, the thoughtful Texan is faced with two facts of life of the most profound im portance: First, the population trends in Texas point d Saline Tap an Underground Mountain of Salt Deposited by the evaporation of prehistoric seas and squeezed upward by contractions of the earth, the salt forms a dome a mile wide at the top and an estimated three miles deep. In 1929 the Morton Salt Company sank a shaft to the 750-foot level. Here, working by floodlight, the men dynamite the face of a gallery and load rock salt for hauling to a crusher. Worker on the boom pries fragments from the wall. HS EKTACHROMEBY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERB. ANTHONYSTEWART© N.G.S.