On Saturday I did just that. I enlisted in the Texas Army. The Texas Army is the state’s official 1836 ceremonial and reenactment group dedicated to preserving the history of the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas era. Getting to this point has been quite a journey.
Unlike the popular saying “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as quick as I could,” I was dragged to Texas kicking and screaming. I was born in Colorado and grew up despising all things Texas. Let’s just say that the old Texas braggadocio doesn’t sit well with people outside of Texas. As luck would have it, I ended up marrying a native Houstonian and got lured here. Having my fortunes going sour in Colorado, Texas was for me like it was for many original settlers – a chance to start anew.
I figured I’d be here a short while, rebound, and return home. That was just over 12 years ago. Now I’m pretty well entrenched and loving life as a Texan. Sandy and I are big history buffs, so when we moved to the Houston area nine years ago it was only natural that we would go to the reenactments at historic sites. One year, after doing research at Goliad, Sandy learned that her fourth-great-uncle was 4th Sgt. Zachariah H. Short of Capt. Jack Shackelford’s company of Alabama Red Rovers. He was captured and killed in the Goliad Massacre.
Learning about that only fueled our interest in Texas history. We made annual treks to Washington-on-the-Brazos, Goliad, San Jacinto and, on occasion, the Alamo. About four years ago I got a brainstorm to write a book about the dedicated souls who do all the Texas Revolution reenactments. There are many books written about the revolution, but none through the eyes of the men and women who re-live it each year.
I planned to make one of those coffee table picture books and let my camera do most of the talking. I figured if I could follow them for a year and photograph the five or six major events, do a few interviews and throw in some Texas history, I’d have a quick, easy book. That was four years and several thousand photographs ago. I’m still compiling and transcribing interviews. Finding the time to work on the book is difficult. I’ll squeeze in an hour or two on a weekend or maybe the rare weekday, but mostly it just gets pushed aside for the more urgent matters of the day.
Each year as I got to know these folks a little better they’d try to cajole me into joining. I kept putting them off, saying I’ll join next year after the book is done. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back came last fall when J.R. Thomas Jr. of George Ranch Historical Park suggested that a first-person experience would give me a better perspective for my book. He said that everything is different when people are shooting back at you. He put out word on Facebook and several people volunteered to let me borrow outfits and equipment.
That was all I needed. To see so many people trying so hard to get me involved, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate. That’s where Col. Steve Roberts comes into the picture.
Steve is from Kingwood and he took me under his wing, providing me with one of his extra outfits and black powder rifle. I still have a hat and moccasins from my days as a mountain man at a Boy Scout camp, so I was set. I decided as long as I’m in for a penny, I just as well be in for a pound. I agreed to join the Texas Army.
So last Saturday we went to Washington-on-the-Brazos for the annual Texas Independence Day celebration. To make the event even more special, I signed my application inside Independence Hall, the replica of the original building on the spot where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed.
I also participated in three salutes. The rifle Steve loaned me was a bit finicky and only fired two out of eight attempts. I didn’t mind. I was having a grand old time out there. The hardest part for me was resisting the urge to photograph the firing demonstrations so I could participate in them. Sandy and our middle son Luke handled the photography. They did an excellent job. Still, it’s surreal to look at the pictures and see me in them. I look kinda funny because I let my hair grow out and I’ve sprouted a mustache and goatee for the reenactment season. I also noticed that my belly is swelling a bit. I guess it’s time to hit the gym, or practice my marching, which, apparently, I need to do. There was more than just a little bit of laughter when, at the command of right face, I abruptly turned left.
Anyway, the next major event is Goliad on March 24-25, followed by the Runaway Scrape at George Ranch Historical Park on April 7 and San Jacinto on April 21. I hope you’ll come out with us to some of these events and help us keep Texas history alive.
So yeah, I may have come to Texas a kickin’ and a screamin’ but that’s the way I’ll leave it if, God forbid, that time ever comes.