Sunday, March 2, 2014



Today, we celebrate Texas Independence Day!  If you’re not celebrating, I ask, why not?  Why is it that our public school system here in Texas no longer celebrates the day that TEXAS became a Nation, that’s right, the free, sovereign, independent Republic of Texas!  Some may argue that is no longer relevant or state that they don’t want to offend anyone.  Well guess what people, you live in the State of Texas and only spending a day or so talking about Texas Independence in a public school and only when you’re in 7th or 8th grade ain’t gunna cut it!  No matter how you got here or where you came from, you’re in Texas now!  Why does that matter?

Well, One-Hundred and Seventy-Eight years ago today, March 2, 1836, the Convention of 1836 at Washington on the Brazos convened and Fifty-Nine men, delegates representing their portion of the soon to be sovereign nation of Texas, inked their names to The Texas Declaration of Independence.  On March 6, 1836, the Alamo fell and all the Texian defenders were slaughtered at the hand of Santa Anna and his forces.

Only Thirty-Five days later on April 26, 1836, General Sam Houston led the Texian Army on a bold attack on Santa Anna’s forces, in broad daylight, with the battle cry “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” and defeated them, soundly, in only eighteen minutes—you read that right 18 MINUTES. 

These men, of Texas lore, who were inspired and guided by the hand of Providence to establish a land of freedom and opportunity, free from the oppressive reign of the Mexican government—what became of them?

Let me tell you about a few of them:

Sam Houston:  Led the victorious attack against Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto, he was shot in the ankle and had 2 horses shot out from under him sometime during that eighteen minutes.  He later served as the President of the Republic of Texas, not once, but twice.  He also served in the congress of the Republic from 1839 to 1840.  After Texas joined the United States of America in 1845, he served as a Senator from Texas in the congress of the United States of America.  But he wasn’t finished there and later served as Governor of Texas.

Thomas J. Rusk:  Thomas J. Rusk was married around 1827 and went on the settle in the Nacogdoches area where he was instrumental in organizing a company of stalwarts to aid in the battles for Texas Independence and was later elected as a delegate to the Convention of 1836.  After Texas became a state he served along side Sam Houston as a Senator in the Congress of the United States of America where, for a brief period he served as President Pro Tem of the U.S. Senate.  Upon his wife’s death, he was inconsolable and took his own life on July 29, 1857.

Richard Ellis:  Richard Ellis was born in Virginia, later moved to Alabama and like many others made to Texas as fast as he could. He was chosen as one of five delegates from Pecan Point to attend the convention of 1836 where he was unanimously elected president of the convention.  He owned a large plantation on his land grant of one League and on Labor or 4,428.4 acres in, what is now, Bowie County, Texas. It seems that Richard Ellis died an untimely, sudden death. Richard Ellis died in Bowie County in 1846, at the age of sixty-five. An obituary printed in the Clarksville Northern Standard reports "Judge Ellis came to his death suddenly by his clothes taking fire."

Lorenzo de Zavala: Lorenzo de Zavala, a Mexican citizen, was active in Politics in Mexico and was even imprisoned there for three years for his advocating of Democratic Reforms, while Mexico was under Spanish rule.  After Mexico gained independence he was appointed as Mexican minister to France by President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.  When Santa Anna began to reveal his true colors, de Zavala moved his family to Texas to Buffalo Bayou, across from what would become the battle ground of the battle of San Jacinto.  De Zavala represented Harrisburg at the convention of 1836.  He was elected as Vice President of the interim government of the Republic of Texas.  He resigned shortly thereafter and died on November 15, 1836.  De Zavala county was formed in 1858 and was named in his honor.

Jose Antonio Navarro:  Jose Antonio Navarro was born of Spanish heritage in San Antonio—a true Native Texan.  He later became friends with Stephen F. Austin.  With Texas then under Mexican rule, Navarro was elected to the legislature of the state of Coahuila and Texas, and later to the Mexican Congress in Mexico City.  He was one of three Mexicans that signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.  Later, as a proponent for Texas Statehood, Navarro was elected to represent Bexar as the sole Hispanic member of the convention of 1845.  He later served two terms in the State Legislature.  He died on January 13, 1871.  Navarro County was established in his honor.

Of the Fifty-Nine Men that signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, I have only covered five.  But as you can see these were ordinary men—they were Texans, and that means they weren’t afraid to take a stand in the defense of Freedom and Liberty.

I hope all Texans, even those who are living “abroad” outside of the great State of Texas, will take a few minutes to bow your head and thank God that men like these Fifty-Nine and countless others existed and devoted their lives to the cause of freedom and the Republic of Texas.  I hope we all will remain vigilant and remain active in our oversight of those we elect to represent us on the local, State and National levels.  Work to elect strong, principled leaders that will fight for the cause of liberty and that will shun the hint of tyranny and corruption. Above all, remember that you are TEXAN and Texans are “forged of a hotter fire.”  If you still don’t’ know what that means, please read William Barrett Travis’ plea for aid from the Alamo and one of my favorite articles from Bum Phillips.  AND, if you know a Texan that doesn’t know the story of the Alamo, or the Battle of San Jacinto, or the Goliad Massacre, then tell them the story! 


Commendancy of The Alamo
Bejar, Feby. 24th, 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the world --

Fellow Citizens and compatriots -- 

I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna - I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man - The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken - I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls - I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch - The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country - 

Victory or Death
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt. 


Being Texan by Bum Phillips

Dear Friends,

Last year, I wrote a small piece about what it means to me to be a Texan. My friends know it means about damned near everything. Anyway, this fella asked me to reprint what I'd wrote and I didn't have it. So I set out to think about rewriting something. I considered writing about all the great things I love about Texas. There are way too many things to list. I can't even begin to do it justice. Lemme let you in on my short list.

It starts with The Window at Big Bend, which in and of itself is proof of God. It goes to Lake Sam Rayburn where my Granddad taught me more about life than fishin, and enough about fishin to last a lifetime. I can talk about Tyler, and Longview, and Odessa and Cisco, and Abilene and Poteet and every place in between. Every little part of Texas feels special. Every person who ever flew over the Lone Star thinks of Bandera or Victoria or Manor or wherever they call "home" as the best little part of the best state.

So I got to thinkin about it, and here's what I really want to say. Last year, I talked about all the great places and great heroes who make Texas what it is. I talked about Willie and Waylon and Michael Dell and Michael DeBakey and my Dad and LBJ and Denton Cooley. I talked about everybody that came to mind. It took me sitting here tonight reading this stack of emails and thinkin' about where I've been and what I've done since the last time I wrote on this occasion to remind me what it is about Texas that is really great.

You see, this last month or so I finally went to Europe for the first time. I hadn't ever been, and didn't too much want to. But you know all my damned friends are always talking about "the time they went to Europe." So, I finally went. It was a hell of a trip to be sure. All they did when they saw me was say the same thing, before they'd ever met me. "Hey cowboy, we love Texas." I guess the hat tipped em off. But let me tell you what, they all came up with a smile on their faces. You know why? They knew for damned sure that I was gonna be nice to em. They knew it cause they knew I was from Texas. They knew something that hadn't even hit me. They knew Texans, even though they'd never met one.

That's when it occurred to me. Do you know what is great about Texas? Do you know why when my friend Beverly and I were trekking across country to see 15 baseball games we got sick and had to come home after 8? Do you know why every time I cross the border I say, "Lord, please don't let me die in _____"?

Do you know why children in Japan can look at a picture of the great State and know exactly what it is about the same time they can tell a rhombus from a trapezoid? I can tell you that right quick. You. The same spirit that made 186 men cross that line in the sand in San Antonio damned near 165 years ago is still in you today. Why else would my friend send me William Barrett Travis' plea for help in an email just a week ago, or why would Charles Stenciled ask me to reprint a Texas Independence column from a year ago?

What would make my friend Elizabeth say, "I don't know if I can marry a man who doesn't love Texas like I do?" Why in the hell are 1,000 people coming to my house this weekend to celebrate a holiday for what used to be a nation that is now a state? Because the spirit that made that nation is the spirit that burned in every person who founded this great place we call Texas, and they passed it on through blood or sweat to every one of us.

You see, that spirit that made Texas what it is, is alive in all of us, even if we can't stand next to a cannon to prove it, and it's our responsibility to keep that fire burning. Every person who ever put a "Native Texan" or an "I wasn't born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could" sticker on his car understands. Anyone who ever hung a map of Texas on their wall or flew a Lone Star flag on their porch knows what I mean.

My Dad's buddy Bill has an old saying. He says that some people were forged of a hotter fire. Well, that's what it is to be Texan. To be forged of a hotter fire.

To know that part of Colorado was Texas. That part of New Mexico was Texas. That part of Oklahoma was Texas. Yep. Talk all you want. Part of what you got was what we gave you. To look at a picture of Idaho or Istanbul and say, "what the Hell is that?" when you know that anyone in Idaho or Istanbul who sees a picture of Texas knows damned good and well what it is. It isn't the shape, it isn't the state, it's the state of mind. You're what makes Texas.

The fact that you would take 15 minutes out of your day to read this, because that's what Texas means to you, that's what makes Texas what it is. The fact that when you see the guy in front of you litter you honk and think, "Sonofabitch. Littering on MY highway."

When was the last time you went to a person's house in New York and you saw a big map of New York on their wall? That was never. When did you ever drive through Oklahoma and see their flag waving on four businesses in a row? Can you even tell me what the flag in Louisiana looks like? I damned sure can't.

But I bet my ass you can't drive 20 minutes from your house and not see a business that has a big Texas flag as part of its logo. If you haven't done business with someone called All Tex something or Lone Star somebody or other, or Texas such and such, you hadn't lived here for too long.

When you ask a man from New York what he is, he'll say a stockbroker, or an accountant, or an ad exec. When you ask a woman from California what she is, she'll tell you her last name or her major. Hell either of em might say "I'm a republican," or they might be a democrat. When you ask a Texan what they are, before they say, "I'm a Methodist," or "I'm a lawyer," or "I'm a Smith," they tell you they're a Texan. I got nothin' against all those other places, and Lord knows they've probably got some fine folks, but in your gut you know it just like I do, Texas is just a little different.

So tomorrow when you drive down the road and you see a person broken down on the side of the road, stop and help. When you are in a bar in California, buy a Californian a drink and tell him it's for Texas Independence Day. Remind the person in the cube next to you that he wouldn't be here enjoying this if it weren't for Sam Houston, and if he or she doesn't know the story, tell them.

When William Barrett Travis wrote in 1836 that he would never surrender and he would have Victory or Death, what he was really saying was that he and his men were forged of a hotter fire. They weren't your average every day men.

Well, that is what it means to be a Texan. It meant it then, and that's why it means it today. It means just what all those people North of the Red River accuse us of thinking it means. It means there's no mountain that we can't climb. It means that we can swim the Gulf in the winter. It means that Earl Campbell ran harder and Houston is bigger and Dallas is richer and Alpine is hotter and Stevie Ray was smoother and God vacations in Texas.

It means that come Hell or high water, when the chips are down and the Good Lord is watching, we're Texans by damned, and just like in 1836, that counts for something. So for today at least, when your chance comes around, go out and prove it. It's true because we believe it's true. If you are sitting wondering what the Hell I'm talking about, this ain't for you.

But if the first thing you are going to do when the Good Lord calls your number is find the men who sat in that tiny mission in San Antonio and shake their hands, then you're the reason I wrote this tonight, and this is for you. So until next time you hear from me, God Bless and Happy Texas Independence Day.

May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. But, rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

Regards From Texas

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