Stories from Texas

The Texas Polio Epidemic

The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, if there is one, seems to be that it spares children. The polio epidemic that raged off and on in the United States for about 40 years did the opposite. Indeed, it seemed to focus on children. Whereas there is hope that COVID-19, like the flu, will weaken…

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Jim Bowie: Timeless Influencer

A relatively new phenomenon in modern society is the rise of the influencer, a person on social media who is skilled at persuading followers to buy things. Some are influencers by design and some are accidental influencers, finding without trying that they have attracted an army of imitators. I wondered how many of these now…

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The Texas Coral Snake – Beautiful and Occasionally Dangerous

Twice in the last three years I’ve seen good sized coral snakes in my yard. Both times I relocated them deep into the woods nearby. Their presence troubles me because there are often young children playing in my yard. If any were bitten by a Texas Coral Snake, though they probably wouldn’t die, they would…

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Love Letter to Scarlett

Two years ago I introduced you to my then 3-year-old daughter, Scarlett. My Valentine. She was a late arrival in my life and particularly special because I grew up with all boys and had only boys, until she came along. She’s introduced me, for the first time, to the wonderful world of little girls. Scarlett’s…

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The Impeachment and Conviction of Texas Governor Jim Ferguson

It’s hard not to like the down-home folksy style that made Texas Governor Jim Ferguson so enormously popular 100 years ago. After all, he was known as “Farmer Jim.” He often said, “Civilization begins and ends with the plow.” Ferguson was a mesmerizing speaker and storyteller and was splendidly fluent in the dialects of rural…

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Three Texas Myths That Won’t Die

In my travels around the state I run into people now and then who have deeply held convictions about Texas that are simply untrue. They hold to myths that have been nurtured by well-intentioned souls since San Jacinto days, and it breaks my heart to tell them they are mistaken, but not for long. I…

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The Republic of Texas is No More

Later this year, way later this year, we’ll mark the 175th year of Texas statehood. That will be on December 29th. That’s the day in 1845 that Texas officially joined The United States of America, or, as the proudest of Texans say – the day the U.S. was allowed to join Texas. Though the 29th…

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The Man Who Led The Battle Against Yellow Fever

By W. F. Strong I’m walking on the veranda of the Gorgas Building at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville. It’s named for the famous Army physician, William Gorgas, who was sent here to Fort Brown in 1882. This building was already here when he was. It was the hospital he ran. What he would learn here, and…

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The Distance In Smoots

By W. F. Strong Shakespeare told us that “some have greatness thrust upon them.” Such was the case for Oliver Smoot. He was born in Bexar County, Texas, and there was nothing in his formative years to predict the events that would push him into international prominence. Oliver was a fine student and his academic…

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101 Essential Texas Books

By W. F. Strong If I have an addiction, it’s definitely books. I read about two books a week and order two more I’m unlikely to ever get to. But I like them on the shelf as backup the way survivalists hoard food supplies. Admittedly, I’m often short of shelves. When you have more books…

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Sam Houston And Me

By W. F. Strong A couple of weeks ago I got into an argument with my stairs and I lost. The stairs insisted there were 12 steps and I thought 10 would do. I broke my tibia and fibula. The good news is that I ended up at the bottom of the stairs, conveniently located…

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10-and-a-Half Frightening Facts About the Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Originally aired: Oct. 31, 2016. Texas is number one in a great many things: oil, ranching, rodeo, cotton. But you may be surprised to know that we are also number one in horror. That’s right, our very own charming little low-budget film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, is considered by many critics to be the best…

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Wit And Wisdom From T. Boone Pickens

By W.F. Strong Even before I knew much about T. Boone Pickens, I loved his name. Has there ever been a better name for an oil man than T. Boone Pickens? It’s just right as rain. And the man behind the name was so perfect for it that it disproved Shakespeare’s claim that any other…

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What Elvis Presley Owed West Texas

By W.F. Strong It is my belief that Texas was largely responsible for launching Elvis Presley’s phenomenal career. Texas, perhaps as much as Tennessee, gave him a vital push onto the national stage and empowered his rise to the eventual undisputed title of “The king of rock and roll.” Now, I’m not claiming that he…

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The Modern Tall Tales Texans Tell Kids

We Texans have long had a reputation for tall tales, for stretching the truth in entertaining ways. I wondered to what extent this cultural DNA has survived. So I asked this question of Texans on Facebook: What is the most outrageous white lie you ever told your kids? I got several hundred responses and chose…

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How Ingersoll, Texas Lost Its Name

Go east of Dallas on Interstate 30 until you reach Highway 67 near Mt. Vernon. Take that on east and about 30 minutes before you reach Texarkana, you’ll arrive in a little town of about 1,000 people named Ingersoll. Well, it was called Ingersoll when it was founded around 1875. But the name was unofficially…

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Remembering The Summers Of My Youth

Now that we’re in the dog days of summer, I’ve been thinking about the long summers of my youth. We had longer summers then. It’s not just an idealized memory. Schools would dismiss us in late May and we wouldn’t return until September 2nd or so, generally the day following Labor Day. What I remember…

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Gunsmoke & Texas

By W. F. Strong Ever heard of the Gunsmoke Rule? It was created several years ago by TV ratings guru Bill Gorman. He noticed that sports cable channel shows like ESPN’s “First Take” were being beaten by Gunsmoke reruns. In fact, Newsday found in a sample a few years ago that all but seven of…

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The Texas Crutch

By W.F. Strong I like that Texas is so famous for certain things that those things carry the Texas brand all around the world. Like Texas toast, for instance. Or Texas Hold ‘em poker. The Texas two-step. Texas-style brisket. And even within the specialized world of backyard chefs, the brisket has a sub-specialty technique known…

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Teddy Roosevelt’s Texas Campaign

By W. F. Strong The Menger Hotel in San Antonio may boast of hosting more U.S. Presidents than any other hotel in Texas. George H. W. Bush stayed there. Clinton stayed there, as did Reagan. Nixon stayed there. So did Truman and Taft and McKinley. Even Ulysses S. Grant slept there. The most important name…

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