The Great Comanche-Ranger Riding Match

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July 11, 2011 -

"In the Spring of 1843 the Comanche Indians became very troublesom [sic] in the west especially around San Antonio."

So wrote James Wilson Nichols in his memoir Now You Hear My Horn to explain how and why he became a Texas Ranger.  When Jack Hays received Congressional approval and $500 of government money to organize a "company of mounted men to act as spies on the Southwestern Frontier," the 23-year-old Nichols quickly enlisted for a year-long term of service.  Hays led his new recruits to an old mission south of San Antonio, where they elected as officers Big Foot Wallace and Ad Gilespi.  These officers and their captain began leading constant patrols in the neighboring countryside while those left behind strove to improve their riding and fighting skills.  Nichols' recollections provide a fascinating glimpse of early life and training with the Texas Rangers and the Comanche foes they emulated.

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Food Fight!

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June 20, 2011 -

Two men holding loaded rifles stand back to back .  Another man counts out loud, "One . . . two . . . ," at which each duelist wheels and fires.  Each man finds his target, yet neither man is injured.  Subsequently they become good friends.  How is this possible?

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Fetching the Bodies: Walter Lane Brings the Boys Home

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June 5, 2011 -

 "Dear Mother, I write to you under the most awful feelings that a sone ever addressed to a
 mother for in half hour my doom will be finished on earth."
 R. H. Dunham
 "Tell my sisters I wish them all to meet me in heaven."
 James Ogden
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All Roads Lead to Aggieland

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May 22, 2011 -

How do you spend a free Sunday?  I mean a day with absolutely nothing planned; no Little League game, church supper, wedding, funeral, graduation, or neighborhood pool party.  A day at the lake?  Lolling in your hammock?  Golf?  Yardwork?  All have their attractions, to be sure (although if you said yardwork you might need to rework your priority list), but none fit my definition of a perfect day of leisure.  My perfect day involves grabbing a camera and a couple of reference books, hopping into my car, and heading for some obscure but historically significant piece of central Texas countryside.  Today was such a day.

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Just Visiting

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May 3, 2011 -

"Now I need to warn you about something," said the friendly woman staffing Lockhart's Caldwell County Museum as she directed me toward the stairs.  "There's a lot of graffiti on the walls up there and some of the guests weren't inclined to write very nice things."  She handed me a flashlight, creaked open the heavy iron door, and nodded at the stairwell.

"Okay, thanks for letting me know," I replied.

I felt lucky that the building was open.  I stopped by on a whim while looking for sites of historical interest one Sunday afternoon in Lockhart, Texas.  I had driven down from Austin primarily to stuff myself with barbecue (Black's, Smitty's, or Kreuz's, a delightfully tough choice) before embarking on a walking tour of downtown.  After climbing back into my car I decided to drive by the old Caldwell County Jail for a photograph.  The 1908 building now houses the Caldwell County Museum, which I assumed would be closed on a Sunday.  The "Open" sign in the window therefore came as a pleasant surprise.

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Chiseled in Stone: Monuments at the Texas Capitol

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April 14, 2011 -

Quick, name the monuments on the grounds of the Texas Capitol.  Can't do it?  How about the number of monuments?  Still stumped?  Join the crowd!  I've visited the Capitol and its grounds countless times over the past 20 years but, until I performed an internet search recently, I would have failed this pop quiz miserably.  As would most modern Texans and fans of Texas history.  According to the State Preservation Board's website there are 18 monuments scattered throughout 22 acres, statues, plaques, and markers of stone and metal commemorating people and causes of great variety, some controversial and some not.  Let's take a peek at a few of them.

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