Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


At Issue

From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

I’ve always liked being a Texan. I like the people, the land, the culture and the history. I was born and raised in Texas, as were my parents, Ben and Teency, who are now 92 years of age and who will always be great Texans to me. Dad’s great-grandfather, Josiah Cook, died in the Civil War in the blue uniform of the Union. Josiah’s son (my great-grandfather), George Cook, was clad in gray when he got shot up in the same war. They each fought for what they believed in, and I can’t say that one was right and one was wrong. After the war, George loaded up the wife and kids and their few belongings in an old wagon, which, according to family lore, was liberated from the Union Army, and headed for Texas. They settled on a little rocky piece of ground along Lost Creek in Brown County, land that is still in our family. One branch of my mom’s family had been in Texas for 40 years before the Cooks arrived and they still get a little uppity about Dad’s family being newcomers.

Texans back then raised cattle, farmed crops, hand-dug their water wells and lived off the land, including the fish and wildlife resources. Dad always said that we didn’t know what hard times really were. I suspect that his dad said the same, and his dad before that. Farmers, ranchers, migrant workers and ranch hands from Mexico worked long and hard and they, too, found a better life in Texas over the last century or two. As the decades passed, Texans worked in the oil fields, fought in a couple of world wars and other conflicts, and moved to town for better jobs and better lives for their children. Sometimes we resent the newcomers, the new Texans. But I have to smile when I think of the similarities between George and his wagon and the Vietnamese fishermen who have succeeded in commercial fishing along the Gulf Coast. They, like George, stood their ground and became Texans. They have that same wonderful streak of independence and willingness to work hard and sacrifice; that same pride and determination that forms the culture of Texas.

Texans share an incredibly diverse, rich background. Visit our state’s historic sites to learn about our history, our independent streak and our culture. For example, see where Franciscan missionaries operated the first large-scale cattle ranch in Texas, beginning in 1749 at the Mission Espritu Santo State Historic Site in Goliad, or tour a restored pre-Civil War sugar plantation at Varner-Hogg Plantation. At Fort Griffin State Historic Site, you can walk among the partially restored ruins of a post-Civil War frontier garrison. Texas has such diverse historic sites as the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site, where the history of the Pacific theater of World War II is preserved in artifacts, exhibits and paintings; and Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, where you can see the pictographs by prehistoric Indians and where the drivers of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach route sought water in the natural rock basins.

And don’t miss the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site on Houston’s Buffalo Bayou. From the vantage point atop the 570-foot-high monument you can contemplate the sweep of Texas history where after weeks of retreating, the ragtag Texas army defeated Santa Anna’s army on the ground below in an 18-minute battle. And, where, just across the Texans’ campsite, today rests the Battleship Texas, which served in both world wars.

You will love these places and people, and they will become part of you and your story as a Texan.

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