Holt lived in Texas all his life, served in World
War One and possessed a solid education. But in his late 60s,
a time of life when many men are content to let things be, he decided
to write a booklet spotlighting folks who had said unfavorable things
about the Lone Star State.
The result was "So -- You Don't Like Texas," published by the author
(1897-1985) in Copperas
Cove in 1965. At this late date, there's no way to know how
well the book did, but at least 14 Texas libraries still hold copies.
Given that Holt grew up around Santa
Anna in Coleman
County, graduated from Trinity University in San
Antonio and spent half a century as a school teacher or administrator
Anna and later Copperas
Cove, surely he held no grudge
against Mother Texas. More than likely he saw his book as good-natured
fun poking. And few who know anything about Texans could sustain
an argument that residents of this state, at least dyed-in-the-wool
true Texans (which is not to say someone who moved here from say,
California) could not use an occasional regimen of ego deflation.
Holt started out with an anti-Texas quote that dates to the early
days of the Republic. In 1841, a British subject named Charles Hooten
wrote a book called "St. Louis' Isle, or Texiana." The world traveler
"It has become almost a proverb in the United States, that when
a runaway debtor is not to be found...or a murderer has contrived
to elude justice, he has chalked upon his house door 'G.T.T.'....Gone
Hooten then committed mass libel in further noting that the G.T.T.
proverb had not developed "without...fact to support it." Indeed,
the Brit continued, "Scoundrelism, under one shape or another, constitutes
the largest portion of the present population of Texas."
Two decades later, a colonel in Her Majesty's Cold Stream Guards
came to Texas in 1863 to observe the war between North and South
then in progress. He didn't think much of Texas horsemen, reporting
with clear disdain that they could not sit an English saddle nor
jump a horse over a fence.
A Catholic priest, arriving in the 1840s from France to serve parishioners
had no use for Houston.
It was, he wrote, "a wretched little town composed of about 20 shops
and a hundred huts, dispersed here and there among trunks of fallen
trees. It is infected with Methodists and ants."
One of the more famous non-Chamber of Commerce comments in regard
to Texas came from Gen. Phil Sheridan, who in 1866 observed, "If
I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell."
The general, speaking in Galveston
a dozen years later, tried to talk his way out the slur by noting
that he had been in a bad mood when he said it.
Another military man, Col. Richard I. Dodge, as a shavetail spent
time at various Texas military posts prior to the Civil War. Looking
back on those years, he wrote, "Every bush had its thorn; every
animal, reptile, or insect had its horn, tooth, or sting; every
male human his revolver; and each was ready to use his weapon...on
any unfortunate sojourner, on the smallest, or even without the
Not all discouragingly disparaging words about Texas have come from
men. Holt found an early day account of two women talking about
Texas men. First off, the older of the two ladies declared, Texas
men were not educated. Second, and apparently to her mind even worse,
"Deer, bear and turkey don't mind being shot at by them. They seem
to know they are entirely safe." As if that were not insult enough,
she went on to say that Texas men made lousy Indian fighters.
Speaking of combat, World
War Two brought hundreds of thousands of out-of-staters to Texas
for military training. Needless to say, a lot of those involuntary
visitors didn't much cotton to Texas.
"Texas is beautiful," one GI wrote, "but only to Texans."
Another picky private, evidently with at least some knowledge of
U.S. history, observed: "We must have lost the Mexican War, because
we wound up with Texas!"
When Alaska became a state in 1959, Texas lost its long-held position
as the nation's largest state. Some soldier rubbed it in by suggesting
that Alaska should divide itself into two states. That way, he declared,
Texas would be only the third-largest state.
Space does not allow for an unabridged compendium of all the calumny
piled on Texas over the years, but Englishmen and armed service
members appear to have been the chief offenders.
Ah, but sarcasm is a two-edged officer's saber. In the 1990s, a
longtime Dallas seller
of rare and used books, visiting London in the pre-terrorism days
to look for inventory in England's quaint antiquarian shops, was
questioned by a British customs inspector shortly after arriving
"And what brings you to the UK," the official said after examining
the Texan's passport.
"The climate and the food," the Big D bookman shot back.
"Texas Tales" January
4, 2018 column