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Sure, Texas is big, but it used to be even bigger.

The Texans have this proverb:

“A trip to Texas is not a trip; damn career.

Texas is big, there’s no doubt about that. But before, it was much larger – about a quarter larger. When Texas joined the United States in 1845, Texas’ borders (and shape) were completely different.

The northern border of Texas in those days extended to where southern Wyoming is today. It’s right. In those days, the northernmost city in Texas was not Dalhart, but Rawlins. You think it’s a long way from Brownsville to Dalhart now – 860 miles – try 1400 miles to Rawlins. In 1845, such a journey was measured in seasons, not days. We will leave early in the spring and get there before the onset of winter.

Texas used to have a beggar for begging. It extended north of the modern boundary and passed through prime real estate from the Colorado Rockies (including Vail) into Wyoming. They called it a chimney because that’s what it looked like, a long, thin chimney winding north. You can still find remnants of Texas out there in that part of Wyoming. For example, there is a stream called Texas Creek.

Texas used to include what is today the begging of Oklahoma. This territory consists of three districts. One of them is still called Texas County. So some Oklahoma people still live in Texas. At least the county of Texas.

Texas claimed the southwestern tip of Kansas. Dodge City was in Texas. Glad to know. Powder Smoke has always felt like a Texas show. We know that Marshal Matt Dillon was born in San Antonio. His father was a Texas Ranger. Everything converges.

New Mexico used to be half the size of what it is now, because Santa Fe, Taos, and all of the eastern part of the state belonged to Texas. Texas was so big in 1845 that if you attached a hinge to the northernmost part and turned it to the north, Brownsville would be in Northern Canada next to Hudson Bay. I don’t think these Brownsvilles would have liked to trade the tropics for the tundra, but the result would have been.

If you flipped Texas south, the people of Rawlins would end up in Peru. East-West borders would be about the same as they are today. However, turn Texas east and you’ll see El Pasoers trading their margaritas for mint juleps in Georgia. Flip it west and the Bomantes will hang out ten times with the California surfers.

So what happened to all of our land? The US government bought it in 1850. For $10 million, they bought our rights to our Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma for 6.7 cents an acre. It seems we sold out on the cheap, but then we were in desperate need of money. And remember, $10 million in 1850 is $300 million in today’s dollars, which is almost enough to buy a nice vacation home in Vail.

But, as I said, we really needed money. We had a state to build, and the only real assets we had in those days were land and strong, hardened people of unbroken spirit. So we sold the land, paid off our debts, and got a much more attractive uniform for the state, a uniform that is well suited for T-shirts.

So, although we have sold our lands, we are nevertheless a good state, especially when we manage it. We still measure distance in time. We still feel like we’re crossing a huge border when we take I-10 through West Texas or I-69 to the southern border. And that old Texas saying still holds true:

“The sun rose; the sun has set; And here I am in Texas.

VF Strong He is a Fulbright Scholar and Professor of Culture and Communications at the University of Texas at the Rio Grande. AT Public Radio 88 FM in Harlingen, Texas, he is a regular expert on Texan literature, Texan legends, Blue Bell ice cream, Whataburger (with cheese), and smoked mesquite brisket.

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