>Texas Tidbits: The Battleship Texas

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>You know me and my interest in all things Texas. If it’s about Texas, I wanna know about it. I want to spend some time today writing about San Jacinto. No, not the Battle of San Jacinto, the place San Jacinto. There is another history-making icon that is right at home on the Houston Ship Channel at San Jacinto. It stands as a monument to the emerging power of the United States Navy as we entered the 20th Century. I am, of course, talking about the Battleship Texas.

One Helluva Lady

Once the most powerful weapon in the world, the Texas served her country with unparalleled distinction. She was launched from Newport News, Virginia on May 18, 1912 and was commissioned on March 12, 1914. Texas Parks and Wildlife is the caretaker for the Texas and I found this on their website dedicated to the Battleship Texas. From the site: “In 1916, TEXAS became the first U.S. battleship to mount antiaircraft guns and the first to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers, analog forerunners of today’s computers. In 1919, TEXAS became the first U.S. battleship to launch an aircraft. The TEXAS received the first commercial radar in the US Navy in 1939. New antiaircraft batteries, fire control and communication equipment allowed the ship to remain an aging but powerful unit in the US naval fleet. In 1940, Texas was designated flagship of US Atlantic Fleet. The First Marine Division was founded aboard the TEXAS early in 1941. April 21, 1948 the Texas was decommissioned. The TEXAS holds the distinguished designation of a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.” (NOTE: April 21 is the anniversary of Sam Houston’s victory over Santa Ana in the Battle of San Jacinto, the battle which gave Texas her independence from Mexico.)

I was very young, maybe 10 years old the last time I saw and explored the Texas and I still remember the feeling the history as if she were speaking to me. I went down to the hold (I guess that’s what they call it on a battleship) and came upon the brig. The cells were small, cold, damp and isolated and I wonder what a sailor would have to do to be sent to the brig. I also thought of the POWs that might have occupied the cells during the Texas’ service in WWI and WWII. It was an eerie feeling. I could almost hear the crew of the ship as they went about their daily duties of fighting a war. Even at 10 years old (or so), I knew a little about the Texas and during my journey all over the ship, I was filled with pride that she was named after my state. Battleship Texas. It had a nice ring to it. Still does. In her prime, the Texas was a helluva lady. And if I do say so myself, she has aged beautifully.

>Texas Tidbits: This Ain’t Your Baby’s Rattler

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Born Pissed Off

Sunday mornings. A lazy kind of morning sipping on coffee, having a good breakfast while reading the newspaper then getting ready for Church. The preceding statement is true for tens of millions of households across the country this morning. When I was a kid, Sunday mornings were like that. After Church we’d all pile in to my Dad’s ’63 Impala Super Sport (327 cubes, 300 horses, 4-speed and factory duals….sweet car!) for a Sunday Drive out to the country. FYI, “the country” at that time was anywhere not in Dallas or Fort Worth. Most of the time, we didn’t have a particular destination in mind, it was just where ever Dad felt like going. It didn’t matter much to me where we ended up, I knew somewhere along the way we’d see something really cool. I think that may be where I got my itch to explore. I still explore when I go fishing or even if Heather, the girls and I take our own Sunday Drive, I, like my Dad before me, just go. It’s really not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Exploring. Discovering.

One of the neatest things we did on one of our Sunday Drives was to head out to Sweetwater for the Annual Rattlesnake Roundup. many of you are not familiar with that, so I found a short video that gives you an idea of what the event is like.

As a little boy of maybe seven, the rattlesnake Roundup was beyond neat. It was cool. I thought the guy in the pen with all those live rattlers surrounding him, was the bravest man I’d ever seen. Now days, I know that he was just a dumbass. Or drunk. Or both.

The Rattlesnake Roundup is held the second weekend in March every year in Sweetwater at the Nolan County Coliseum. There is more to the Roundup as you’ll see when you, like a BBQ Cooking Contest and other stuff, when you click here.  The Sweetwtaer Jaycees oversee this event each year like they have since 1958. You can contact them at (325) 235-8938.

It’s a nice easy drive to Sweetwater form D/FW on I-20 West and it doesn’t take long to get there. If you get a chance, please go see this thing in person. It’s a cool event.

>Texas Tidbits: Letters from the Alamo

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The Flag of Heroes

There are several reasons why I do this blog, but no two are more important than the fact that I am a Texan and I love my home State and I can’t get enough of the history of Texas. The State and its history are the object of endless fascination to many people, from the ordinary guy like me to the most learned of scholars. I would hazard a guess that the single most written about event in the history of Texas is the Battle of the Alamo. It is certainly one of the best known battles in the annals of military encounters.

One of the things that gripes me the most is a bunch of touchy, feely anti-Texan morons that try to “revise” the facts of the Battle of the Alamo. You know who I am talking about. The idiots that want to make General Santa Ana seem like a misunderstood benevolent leader, when in fact, he was a murderous tyrant who could care less about the people he ruled. In the process of doing that, these Liberal asswipes simultaneously do their dead level best to make the Revolutionaries, (read: white guys) appear to be racist war-mongers or worse. These same dickweeds tend to forget how many Mexicans fought on the side of the evil gringos. How about we bypass any and all prejudice for either side of this story, by using the actual handwritten words of the participants in the Battle itself?

Colonel William B. Travis was the commander of the troops defending the Alamo. Here are his own words as the superior forces of the Mexican Army closed in on the Mission. “Do hasten on aid to me as rapidly as possible, as from the superior number of the enemy, it will be impossible for us to keep them out much longer,” wrote Travis in his famous letter of February 25, 1836. “If they overpower us, we fall a sacrifice at the shrine of our country, and we hope prosperity and our country will do our memory justice. Give me help, oh my country! Victory or Death!” Those are the words of a man who knew his days were numbered. Colonel Travis and the almost 200 other defenders of the Alamo must have come to realize early on that without re-enforcements they were surely to die. Yet, they fought until the end, refusing to surrender to Santa Ana, preferring Death to tyranny. Heroes. Every. Damn. One. Of. Them.

An ordinary Mexican soldier had this to say after the battle: “Poor things – no longer do they [Texans] live – all of them died, and even now I am watching them burn…their leader named Travis, died like a brave man with his rifle in his hand at the back of a cannon.” Confirmation. Travis died a hero, not a sniveling coward as some would want you to believe. Screw the bastards that write otherwise.


Here’s the closing paragraph of the article by Murray Montgomery from which I drew my source material.

“No, we don’t need anyone to re-write our Alamo history for us – it has already been written by our ancestors. We have a rich heritage in Texas and it came about by the sacrifices of a tough breed of people who made their homes in the wilderness. Personally, I would like to see even more tribute paid to the lesser-known men who served in both those armies – Mexican and Texan, alike – after all they too, were patriots. The Mexican was protecting his country and the Texan was fighting for his independence. I don’t know if defending your country or fighting for liberty is politically correct nowadays, but it seems pretty noble to me.”

One more note from Colonel Travis written near the end of the battle, “Take care of my little boy,” he wrote a friend in the last days of the siege. “If the country should be saved, I may make for him a splendid fortune. But if the country should be lost and I should perish, he will have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of a man who died for his country.” With those words, I leave you with this: all you revisionist dumbasses, stick with the facts. If not, get the hell out of Texas. We don’t cotton to liars. And we damn sure don’t cotton to those who would turn our history into a fairy tale. 

>Texas Tidbits: The Flute Player at San Jacinto (?)

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When I post on something here on Three States Plus One, I tend to lean to the more historical and “serious” topics. I thought for today’s post, I’d take something lighthearted from something very serious – The Battle of San Jacinto, the deciding battle in the War for Texas Independence. For those of you who are not Texans, this (the battle) is a real big deal to us Texans. Out of the War for Texas Independence, generally, and the Battle of San Jacinto, specifically, came a story the likes of which I have never even considered before. It’s a pretty cool story.

After the War, many of the men in the Texas Army went back to their jobs as farmers, blacksmiths, store owners, whatever. One guy, Frederick Lemsky, had a job before the War, during the War and after the War that was something you’d never expect from a man who had just fought in one of the most famous Wars and Battles the world had ever seen. I am going to let the Texas State Historical Society’s website take it from here.
“On this day in 1838, Frederick Lemský advertised in the Telegraph and Texas Register offering his services as a music teacher and teacher of German and French. Lemský, born in Europe, came to Texas in 1836 and enlisted in the Texas army. He was a musician in the army until December 1836 and is said to have played “Come to the Bower” on the fife at the battle of San Jacinto. In 1841 Lemský was a charter member of the German Union of Texas, and in 1842 he was recorded as the employer of thirty men digging the Brazos and San Luis Canal in Brazoria County. Lemský and a partner named Franke drowned while transporting corn on a flat barge in Galveston Bay when a “hard norther” blew in and capsized the barge. According to the probate records in Brazoria County, “1 octave flute” and “1 keyed flute” were included in the inventory of his property. They were sold for $2.25 at auction in June 1844″. A flute player! I have never in my life ever once thought of a flute player serving under Sam Houston and was a participant in the Battle of San Jacinto. that’s off the hook wild. As best I can figure, the fifes in the armies at the time of the Texas War for Independence were used to signal various commands to the infantry during a battle. The flute later gave way to trumpets in this regard.

The next time this subject comes up in polite conversation, you’ll be able to impress your friends, one of which is bound to be a smartass know-it-all, with what they think is your near encyclopedic knowledge of the War for Texas Independence. Especially if they are drunk. You’ll thank me later.

>Texas Tidbits: Hellfighter: Red Adair

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Much Man

There are legends and there are LEGENDS. One way to determine if a man is a LEGEND is to find out if he’s ever been played in a movie by John Wayne. Chances are a little better than even (wink> that if he has been played by The Duke in a movie, he’s a LEGEND. Paul Neal Adair is such a man. He was immortalized in the 1968 John Wayne movie, Hellfighters. Paul’s nickname was ‘Red”. I’m sure many of you know this man as Red Adair.

Houston-born Red Adair was a man who traveled the world putting out fires…..oil well fires! Please allow me to get a snippet from Wikipedia, ” Adair gained global notability in 1962, when he tackled a fire at the Gassi Touil gas field in the Algerian Sahara nicknamed the Devil’s Cigarette Lighter, a 450-foot (137 m) pillar of flame that burned from 12:00 PM November 13, 1961 to 9:30 AM on April 28, 1962 (video). In 1977, he and his crew (including Asger “Boots” Hansen) contributed in mending the biggest oil well blowout ever to have occurred in the North Sea (and the 2nd largest offshore blowout worldwide, in terms of volume of crude oil spilled[citation needed]), at the Ekofisk Bravo platform, located in the Norwegian sector and operated by Phillips Petroleum Company (now ConocoPhillips). In 1978, Adair’s top lieutenants Asger “Boots” Hansen and Ed “Coots” Matthews left to found competitor Boots & Coots International Well Control, Inc. In 1988, he was again in the North Sea where he helped to put out the UK sector Piper Alpha oil platform fire. At age 75, Adair took part in extinguishing the oil well fires in Kuwait set by retreating Iraqi troops after the Gulf War in 1991″. At 75? WTF? Red Adair was much man. Hell, at 75, I just wanna wake up on the right side of the dirt every day and Adair at 75 was putting out oil well fires! No wonder he was the subject of a John Wayne movie. The Duke was the only man in Hollywood that could possibly play this guy. Damn.

That, in a few hundred words, is Red Adair. I found the following quote from Adair on his Wikipedia page. he once said, “”If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Now that’s funny! A while back I posted a piece from Coach Bum Phillips and talked of Texans being forged of a hotter fire. When Coach Phillips wrote those words, he was speaking of men exactly like Paul Neal Adair.

>Texas Tidbits: Lee Harvey Oswald

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Coward

On the list of famous Texans, in addition to the good guys, there are a few low life bottom feeders. Today’s entry on Three States Plus One is about one of the bottom feeders. The man we’ll talk about today was once a member of one of our country’s most revered institutions, the United States Marine Corp. Something then happened and this man went from being in service to his country to betraying it by renouncing his US citizenship and applying for citizen status in the Soviet Union. In short, he was a coward and a traitor. This young man of a mere 24 years, then committed one of the most horrific crimes this country had seen up to that point. He murdered the President of the United States of America. Now you know who I am talking about. Lee Harvey Oswald.

I personally know the man who took Oswald to work on that fateful day in November of 1963. His name was Bill. I won’t give Bill’s last name for obvious reasons. At the time, Bill lived down the block from Oswald and just across the street from one of the elementary schools I would later attend when I moved to Irving. When Bill picked up Oswald to head off to work that fateful morning, Lee was carrying a long, paper wrapped object. The story goes something like this:

Bill: What do you got there, Lee?
Oswald: Curtain rods.
Bill: OK, let’s get to work.
          End of Coversation

Bill would later learn, just like the rest of us, that the man he drove to work on November 22, 1963 murdered the President of the United States and severely wounded the Governor of Texas. Then, just two days later in the basement of the Dallas Police Department while being escorted to the Dallas County Jail, Oswald himself was shot to death by a local night club owner, Jack Ruby. Oswald had declared himself to be “a patsy” in a grand conspiracy in the assassination of John Kennedy, and when he was gunned down by Jack Ruby, the conspiracy theories began and haven’t slowed down over the last 47 years.

While Lee Harvey Oswald has secured a place in History, he also has a reserved place in Hell for not only crimes (sins) against God, but for the crime he perpetrated against a whole nation when he killed JFK. From my point of view, the United States grew up that day in 1963, thanks to Lee Harvey Oswald. At that time, we were just a few years past the time of Leave It to Beaver and  I Love Lucy. An innocence was taken from us all on November 22, 1963 and it was taken from us by a coward of man who, had he stood trial for murdering the President, would have received no mercy from a jury of his peers. But that was taken from us, too, when Jack Ruby killed Oswald. The country as a whole got no closure from events of that day in Dallas. We did, however, learn about the “Grassy Knoll” and a thousand other conspiracy-related “evidence”.

So there you have it. A brief look at a small, small man who set an entire nation to grieve the death of a young, vibrant President and the end of this country’s innocence. Lee Harvey Oswald, murderer, traitor, coward. Rot. In. Hell.

>Texas Tidbits:They Called Him Hoss

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I am going to give you some hints about a man that the great majority of you will know. But, I am almost certain that when I reveal the answer to the hints, you will say to yourself, “I’ll be damned. I would have never guess that those hints referred to him. Ready? OK, get your thinking cap on. 

  • This man was born in DeKalb, Texas on December 10, 1928.
  • He played football at Hardin Simmons University in 1946.
  • This guy graduated from Sul Ross State Teachers College in Alpine with a Masters Degree in the Dramatic Arts.
  • He was a sixth grade teacher and coach at Eddy Elementary School in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
  • He was an English and Drama teacher at Sonora.
  • This fellow was also a bouncer at a bar and a rodeo performer before he became famous.
  • He co-starred in a TV show that ran for 14 seasons and 431 episodes.
  • The dude was 6’3″ and 300 pounds.
  • He appeared in a 1957 Three Stooges short as an outer space monster.

If, by the clues above you correctly guessed this actor’s ID, then you deserve to be treated to a steak lunch. I knew a couple of the clues myself, but I had no idea about the others. The actor’s name? Dan Blocker, a.k.a., Eric “Hoss” Cartwright from Bonanza. Are you as surprised as I was when I read all those bullet points? Even as a kid, Hoss was always my favorite character on Bonanza. I think it was the fact that I could sense a little boy inside that mammoth frame of his. A Gentle Giant as it were. He was a kid at heart, but he was all man when he had to kick some bad guy’s ass. He was Hoss.

On May 13, 1972, Dan Blocker underwent gall bladder surgery, a seemingly routine procedure. He never went home. Dan Blocker was dead at age 43. Bonanza lasted one more season after Blocker’s death, which was, incidentally, dealt with in the story line of the show. Needless to say, the Ponderosa was never the same without Hoss there.

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