dog days of summer seems like a good time to take it easy and ponder a little
Texas trivia over a glass of iced tea.
Here’s a sampling collected from
here or there:
Of course, the Dutch bought Manhattan for $24…
real estate containing the entire town of Seguin
changed hands in 1843 for $50. A $50 bill today has a lot less buying power, but
for a whole town, that was a pretty good deal.
In 1860, Goliad
was the fourth-largest city in Texas. Of course,
it was tied with Austin, Houston,
Marshall, and Nacogdoches.
Largest metropolis was San Antonio,
with more than 8,000 residents, followed by Jefferson
(7,500) and Galveston.
What’s a walking wheel?
The Polk County Museum in Livingston
has on display a large wooden wheel with spokes said to have been used on the
plantation of James K. Polk, president during the Mexican War and namesake of
the county. So, was a walking wheel some kind of early day toy, or aid to the
mobility impaired? Nope. Turns out “walking wheel” is just another term for the
large wheel used in spinning yarn.
The lone lady…
For nearly six years
in the 1880s, Mrs. W.W. Wetsel enjoyed quite a distinction. The wife of the business
manager of the Frying Pan Ranch in Potter County, she was the only woman in the
county. Being the only woman for miles and miles in a landscape stretching miles
and miles must have been interesting considering all the lonely cowboys on the
ranch. Indeed, the cowboys came to her, but for Bible study and the singing of
hymns, not courtin’.
As the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad brought more
people to the county, Mrs. Wetsel finally got some feminine company and cowboys
didn’t have to wait until Sunday to get to see a woman.
Air ship, ahoy…
In 1927, the keeper of the lighthouse
at Port Isabel is the
one who spotted Lindbergh’s plane as he left U.S. airspace for Mexico on his first
New York to Mexico City non-stop flight. No radar back then, of course.
Lots of land…
Based on 1930 Census data, Texas
had enough land for each man, woman and child to own 29 acres.
1936, Texas consumed more cheese per capita than any state in the nation.
Old time Texans knew things about the land that city slickers never
Though doubtless common knowledge to ranchers
and other stewards of the land, the following information may cause most of us
to pause and think:
Especially during times of drought, animals
turn to woody plants instead of grass as forage. This is called browse. Heavy
browsing impacts the land.
The most modest muncher of browse is the critter
most would suspect to be the biggest consumer, the cow. But only 7 percent of
the diet of cattle comes from browse, followed by sheep at 20 percent, goats at
50 percent and deer at 65 percent. (Which should answer for many homeowners what
happens to their flowers and other yard plants at night.)
So what do these
herbivores eat when grass is not available?
At least on the Edwards Plateau,
the browsing order goes from so-called Class I plants to Class IV plants. Varieties
in the first tier are known by some biologists as “ice cream plants.” Among those
are Texas oak (but other types of oak are in Class III), Carolina buckthorn, Texas
mulberry, mountain mahogany and white honeysuckle.
Plants an animal has
to be really, really hungry to eat include mesquite, juniper, catclaw, algerita,
Texas persimmon, mountain laurel and prickly pear.
Bottom line for history
buffs: Animals have
changed Texas’ landscape along with man.
© Mike Cox
August 7, 2008
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