Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

Old sayings are funny. You know how folks say, "My hair stood up on end," or "A chill ran up my spine." Those sound like silly statements, but it really does happen. I get that chill every time I hear the National Anthem … even when I hear it coming from the television. Same happens to me with the Aggie War Hymn. I can't explain it; I don't know what causes it, but I kind of like it. I'm glad that I get those chills.

I remember the first time I ever walked into the Alamo 35 years ago like it was yesterday. I got a serious charge of that "hair standing on end" thing right then and there. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I get it every time I visit one of the major Civil War battlefields like Gettysburg or Antietam, and I know it will happen to me when I visit the great battlefields of Europe. I get it every time I get on or near a major archeological site, like a large "midden," or what we used to call an "Indian mound," in Central Texas. I get it when I visit the graveyards back east where my old ancestors of many generations ago are buried. Usually, this feeling has something to do with history; the history of man, of Texas, of warfare, of our ancestors. Somehow it connects me with those people, those events, those places, and I gain respect and appreciation for what those people went through, how they survived, what they fought for and what that means to me and my grandchildren today.

If it has been a while since you had that "feeling," I recommend that you visit just about any of our state's incredible historic sites. I dare you to wander alone across the San Jacinto Battlefield on a warm spring afternoon and recall that Houston ordered Deaf Smith to burn the bridge over Vince's Bayou behind the small army of Texans to prevent further reinforcements reaching the enemy and to eliminate the possibility of retreat by either army, and tell me you don't get that chill. Maybe one of the best sites to have this experience is at Hueco Tanks in the Chihuahuan Desert east of El Paso. Go there late in the afternoon as it starts cooling down, recognize that this place provides the only water for man or beast for miles and miles, view some of the hundreds of incredible pictographs placed there by ancient man — the first Americans. Then watch the sunset from atop the rock 450 feet above the desert floor, and experience that "feeling" as the rock cools and "talks" and the night sky appears, just as it did when the first humans rested there 10,000 years ago.

This "feeling," this eerie sensation peculiar to us mere humans, evolved with us down through the thousands of generations that preceded us. This "feeling" is one of the reasons that it is absolutely essential that we recognize and protect our state's historic and archeological sites, and make that history, that connection, available to all future generations. I want my great-great-grandchildren and their children to have that same "feeling," to make that connection — not necessarily to me — but to us, to Texas, to our ancestors, to our history. I want their "hair to stand up on end." I want that chill to run up their spines when they encounter their history, our history.

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