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From the Pen of Louie Bond

“Well, you ask me what I like about Texas … I tell you it’s the wide-open spaces. It’s everything between the Sabine and the Rio Grande. It’s the Llano Estacado, it’s the Brazos and the Colorado; the spirit of the people down here who share this land.”

So sings the inimitable Gary P. Nunn in his musical ode to the Lone Star State. As I watched Gary P. and his compadres from the Lost Austin Band get inducted into the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame in January, I reflected on our December 2015 issue cover story on Texas rivers in music and marveled once more at how art and nature interconnect in the most magical ways. Whether it’s through photography or poetry, fables or folk songs, paintings or polkas, we express our love for this great state in every way we can dream up. After all, “it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true,” right?

This month we celebrate the birth of Texas, though this special parcel of land delighted natives and settlers long before 1836. Imagine riding up on our “little” Grand Canyon, Palo Duro, with its rusty streaks of rose and henna and flocks of wild turkeys, or being a thirsty traveler who suddenly finds himself at the Big Spring, rising clear and sweet from Texas soil. To those of us lucky enough to live here, Texas is both inspiration and respite, just as it was in centuries past.

We’ve made a few “improvements” through the years — Dr Pepper and Lone Star, kolaches and brisket, tacos and salsa are among the culinary delights, while Big Tex at the State Fair, the polished pink granite of the Capitol and the San Antonio Riverwalk are modern points of pride. We like our steaks gargantuan, our tea sweet, our boots scuffed and our hats tipped just so.

Writers like John Graves and Larry McMurtry found the Lone Star State to be an indefatigable topic for their prose, while true Texas music comes in forms from Van Cliburn to Lyle Lovett to ZZ Top to Kacey Musgraves. Photographers like Wyman Meinzer and Laurence Parent discover new light and texture every day.

Head west to see the Marfa lights and the stark beauty of the desert. Head east and tilt your head back to see the tops of the tall pines. Head north for land that looks like the location for every epic Western ever filmed and south for immersion into one of our most beloved cultures and a look at hundreds of bird species, which also choose this hallowed ground to rest their weary wings.

Oh, the ways we play here: hunting, fishing, paddling, surfing, biking, hiking, climbing and riding horseback. There’s no end to the fun and excitement, except the quiet calm of the disappearing light at sunset, when the stars spread a blanket of diamonds across the vast expanse of Texas sky.

So, happy 180th birthday to our legendary state. We could go on, but as Gary P. concludes: “Well, you ask me what I like about Texas … I could tell you, but we’d be here all night long.”

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