National Geographic : 1961 Feb
HS EKTACHROMESBY BARRYC. BISHOP ( N.G .S . Fetching smile catches the spirit of pre-Lenten Charro Days, Brownsville's annual salute to the past. Charro means a wealthy don; and sombrero, bolero, mantilla, and filigreed jewelry deck partic ipants in parades and dances. with great good sense, have devoted quite as much energy to the preservation of wildlife (especially the deer and wild turkey) as to providing something for hunters to shoot. This proconservation attitude has made friends for the commission and friends for the wildlife. For example, many ranchers now go to great pains to provide extra feed, sufficient water, and adequate cover for the game birds. Even a short generation ago such solicitude would have been exceedingly rare. The Texan today views his wildlife refuges with enormous pride. One of the finest is the 47,261-acre Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, established more than 20 years ago by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Aransas, Calhoun, and Refugio counties on the lower Gulf Coast. Once the hunting ground for cannibalistic Indians, this area is now super vised by the Federal authorities working in association with the Game and Fish Com mission. Among other things, the refuge is the last haven of the whooping crane.* There are other Federally supervised ref uges - at Muleshoe, in the Texas Panhandle; the Hagerman Refuge near Denison, North Texas; and the Santa Ana and Laguna Ata scosa refuges near San Benito. State author ities also maintain nine refuges in various parts of the State. Many individual land owners have caught the idea and have estab lished excellent private sanctuaries. The trend is gaining momentum; it is one of the brightest spots in the Texas story of today. Birds Make State a Major Flyway In one area Texas can boast without equiv ocation or hedging that it is ahead of the other States. That is in variety of bird life. In his excellent A Field Guide to the Birds of Texas, Roger Tory Peterson, the dean of U. S. bird observers, who did his study for the Game and Fish Commission, gives the num ber of species found in Texas as 542. The late Roy Bedichek of Austin - author, amateur naturalist, and conversationalist (he was described by his friend J. Frank Dobie, probably accurately, as having "the most richly stored mind in Texas")-called Texas "one great, magnificent flyway." Bedi chek was a bird watcher of the first rank. For many decades, while traveling by automobile over the State in connection with his work for the Texas Interscholastic League, he made a practice of camping out at night. He enjoyed himself immensely, and by his quiet propaganda did perhaps more than any other one man to give Texans some appreciation of the glories of their bird life. It was a pleasure for me to lie in the grass beside this remarkable man while, looking through his field glasses, he would reel off the names of his friends among an enormous gathering of birds. His comments were always * See "Whooping Cranes Fight for Survival," by Robert Porter Allen, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, November, 1959. Matamoros, Mexico, Sends a Queen to Ride in Brownsville's Pageant Texas' southernmost city, lying in the same latitude as Miami, Florida, enjoys shirt sleeve winters, and bananas grow in its city park. Charro Days attracts some 400,000 people, many from Matamoros, Brownsville's sister city across the Rio Grande.