Inventing Texas: Early Historians of the Lone Star State

Inventing Texas: Early Historians of the Lone Star State

Inventing Texas: Early Historians of the Lone Star State

Inventing Texas: Early Historians of the Lone Star State

Excerpt

Have you heard the one about the Yankee businessman who, familiar with all the stories about Texas, found himself one day in Fort Worth for a convention? He ordered a steak in the hotel restaurant and was astounded when it was served on a plate the size of a wagon wheel.

“Oh,” explained the waiter, “you know everything’s big in Texas.”

The Yankee was even more amazed when the martini he ordered arrived in a glass the size of a five-gallon bucket.

“Oh,” giggled the cocktail waitress, “you know everything’s big in Texas.” Not surprisingly, the conventioneer soon found himself just a little woozy and in need of the facilities.

“Which way to the men’s room?” he asked the waiter.

“It’s through those double doors, sir, first door on the left,” came the reply.

So off the foreigner wobbled to relieve himself. He passed through the double doors and found himself in a hallway with doors on the right and left. In his inebriated state, he could not recall the waiter’s instructions. After a moment’s hesitation, he pushed through the door on the right and within two steps stumbled with a mighty splash into the hotel swimming pool. In his panic, only one thought penetrated his consciousness.

“Don’t flush!” he cried. “For God’s sake, don’t flush!”

This is, of course, a silly, cocktail party joke, but it illustrates a popular conception of the Lone Star State that Texans are inclined to exploit and that many are loathe to give up. Texas has a larger-than-life image that some latetwentieth-century historians of the state insist was invented by their counterparts in the nineteenth century, an image, they maintain, that inhibits the full development of Texas history and creates a sense of what it means to be Texan that “precludes many of the state’s citizens from identifying themselves as Texans.” C. Vann Woodward estimated the shelf life of history—that is, the period between generational revisions of it—to be about twenty years. The shelf life of Texas history, by contrast, seems to be approaching two hundred.

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