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Braggin’ Rights

The following is a transcript of Podcast #8

Texans can claim an impressive list of things to brag about—what we call braggin’ rights. Things like the biggest, the first, the only, etc. . . Let’s take a look at six things for which Texans rightly brag.

  • Brag #1

Texas is the first (and only) state to be an independent nation before becoming a state. From 1836 until 1846, when the actual transfer of governance took place, Texas was a Republic with Sam Houston as its president. Texas is also the only state to enter the United States by treaty instead of by territorial annexation. As part of the annexation agreement, Texas negotiated the right to fly its flag at the same height as the US Stars and Stripes. In addition, the 1845 joint congressional resolution admitting Texas to the US allows for the state to break itself up into a total of five states should it choose to do so. The actual language in the document says, “New states of convenient size—not exceeding four in number, in addition to said state of Texas—and having sufficient population, may hereafter by the consent of said state, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution.” In plain language this provision makes Texas the only state that can divide itself into a total of five new states without anyone’s permission and the US would have to accept the states as part of the US.

  • Brag #2

Here’s another less well-known brag: In 1870, The city of Waco built the longest single-span suspension bridge west of the Mississippi. Measuring 475 feet in length, the bridge (which still exists) spans the Brazos River, and upon completion became a popular river crossing for people and for the cattle being driven up the Chisolm Trail to market. The toll for cattle was a nickel per head and the toll taker kept count. Cowboys’ shouts of “Line ‘em up and move ‘em across!” would echo over the river. Still in operation today, one can cross the fully-restored, toll-free pedestrian bridge between Indian Spring Park on the west side to Martin Luther King Junior Park on the east side. But, remember it’s a long suspension bridge and it swings, which is why children crossing the bridge to school in the early 1900s dubbed it the “swinging bridge” and they bragged about how much they could make it swing!

  • Brag #3

Yee ha! Here’s an important brag: The world’s first rodeo (and no it’s not pronounced

“row-day-oh”) was held in Pecos, Texas on July 4th, 1883, starting a Texas tradition of Fourth of July rodeos that is still followed today across the state. Back in 1883, The town of Pecos had the good fortune to be located at the point where two major cattle trails—The Chislom Trail and the Goodnight-Loving Trail converged and crossed the Butterfield Stage route. Pecos quickly became a supply town for nearby ranches and for herds being driven along the trails to market. “The Law West of the Pecos” kept things pretty quiet, but cowboys can be competitive. Two cowhands, Trav Windham and Morg Livingston decided they’d meet for a ropin’ and ridin’ competition. Other cowboys got the word and wanted to participate as well. A time and place was set, a crowd gathered from town and surrounding ranches and rodeoing was born. Another Texas first. Who won the ridin’ and ropin’ contests?  Well Windam and Livingston each won an event. So next time you attend a rodeo, tip your hat in memory of two top cowhands who started one of Texan’s favorite pastimes — rodeoing!

  • Brag #4

Here’s a brag about flags: If you’ve ever been to the Six Flags theme park, you already know that Texas is the only state to have the flags of six different countries fly over it. Can you name them? If you said, “Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Confederate States, and the United States,” you’d be right. Although six flags have flown over Texas, eight changes of government have occurred, beginning with Spanish rule from 1519-1685, French rule from1685 to1690, Spanish rule again from 1690 to1821, and Mexican rule from 1821-1836. Following the Texas Revolution The Republic of Texas reigned from 1836, until annexation to the US in 1845 (the transfer of governance actually occurred in 1846). In 1861, Texans voted to abrogate the state’s annexation to the US —effectively seceding—and then voted to join the Confederacy. In 1870, the Texas again became officially part of the US.

  • Brag #5

Here’s a tall brag:  The iconic three-hundred-and-two foot tall Texas State Capitol Building was built in 1888 with a dome which is fourteen feet taller than that of the US Capitol in Washington D.C. Located on a twenty-two acre park in Austin, the capitol stands in sharp contrast to the state’s first capitol building, a small two room log cabin. Construction of the current capitol began with the laying of the 12,000 pound sunset red granite cornerstone in March of 1885. The stone bears an engraving of the Seal of Texas and holds a zinc box time capsule from the period. Initially the plan was to cover the building in limestone, but the limestone had a high iron content and was prone to rust. Instead, the owners of Granite Mountain donated a huge amount of sunset red granite to the state, requiring an almost two-and-a-half mile extension of the Austin and Northwestern Railroad to transport the stone from the mountain to the building site. Construction of the building was paid for with a grant of nearly three million acres of land. Located in the Panhandle of Texas, the land became the XIT (Ten in Texas) Ranch. More about that in another blog post. Over 1000 workmen built nearly 360,000 square feet of floor space, encompassing four hundred rooms and nine hundred windows. How would you like to have that window-washing contract? Topping the building’s dome is a statue of The Goddess of Liberty designed by the building’s Michigan architect, Elijah E. Myers. When it was completed in1888, the new Texas capitol was the seventh largest building in the world. Apart from its size, the beauty of the building still gives Texas bragging rights

  • Brag #6

Here’s another first-in-the -world brag: Texas’ Homestead Laws. Yes, I’m really going to brag about laws! Following the Texas Revolution—which resulted in the forming of the Republic of Texas—the new government was eager to attract more citizens and to make Texas a country of homeowners. To help accomplish this goal the Texas Legislature, under the leadership of President Lamar, enacted two different homestead laws. The first was designed to continue the existing policy of liberal land grants. to settlers. The second was a homestead law that was the first of its kind in the entire world. It was designed to protect a household against seizure for debt. While it was counter to English Common Law, the Texas Homestead Act was probably influenced by Spanish-Mexican Law which provided a debtor a small amount of personal property. When the Homestead Act was enacted in January of 1836, here is what it said:  “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas, in Congress assembled, that from and after the passage of this act, there shall be reserved to every citizen or head of a family in the Republic . . . fifty acres of land or one town lot, including his or her homestead, and improvements (not exceeding five hundred dollars in value), all household and kitchen furniture (provided it does not exceed in value two hundred dollars) all implements of husbandry (provided they shall not exceed two hundred dollars in value, all tools, apparatus, and books belonging to the trade or profession of any citizen, five milk cows, one yoke of work oxen or one horse, twenty hogs, and one year’s provisions; and that all laws and parts of laws contravening or opposing the provisions of this act . . . are hereby repealed: Provided the passage of this act shall not interfere with contracts between parties heretofore made.”  This act provided debtors with food, shelter, and the means of making a living. In other words, a fresh start. Today’s Texas Homestead Laws are—as you might expect—more complicated, but the goal is the same, to help prevent people from becoming homeless in the event of a foreclosure or change in economic circumstances. So, thanks to the Republic of Texas’ actions back in 1836, Texans are still benefitting from protection of their homesteads. Your homestead (rural or urban) is  generally exempt from being seized by creditors, except for those holding a pre-existing mortgage or lien. Texas courts continue to interpret the homestead laws broadly to help accomplish these protective goals. Talk to a lawyer if you need to know more.

These are just six thing Texans can brag about. . . . and we do!

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