I drove out IH 37 so I could meet a general contractor yesterday. While I waited for him, I looked at the wildflowers blooming in the highway ROW. We had the least rainfall in recorded history in my part of south Texas last year which caused a poor showing of wildflowers rather than the usual spectacular blanket of blue.
I associate wildflowers, specifically bluebonnets, with Texas Independence Day since bluebonnets, our state flower, start blooming in early March, and Texas declared their independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. Not only did we celebrate it in school, we heard about it at home. Although our dad was the high school principal, his undergrad degree was in history. And he loved Texas history. Top that with an aunt whose college classes on the Texas Revolution were legendary and the Coleman girls are well versed in the Texas struggle for independence.
Adjectives and opinions filled our Texas history stories. In our dad’s words, Santa Anna the Mexican general and president who “murdered our brave Texas boys” at the Alamo would have been a Communist if he were alive. That was during the 60’s when any self-respecting Commie was a torturing, dictatorial, tyrannical atheist. Sam Houston who won the final battle at San Jacinto was wily; William Travis who wrote that he would “never surrender or retreat” in his letter to the People of Texas and All the Americans in the World was a courageous man and a patriot.
The colorful tales of “lines in the sand” at the Alamo and Santa Anna exchanging his general’s uniform for that of a private to evade Houston’s forces were car trip entertainment. There was a catch in our dad’s voice when he told the story of Santa Anna’s command to massacre James Fannin and his 344 men at Goliad and their burial in a mass grave. I’m lucky to own that rich tapestry of Texas history and careful not to quote the stories without checking for apocrypha.
Since I started doing genealogical research, I discovered that 2 of my g-g-grandparents qualify me as a daughter of the Texas Revolution. Old Youngs Levi Coleman and his wife Lucy emigrated from Tennessee to Liberty, Texas with Lucy’s parents in 1828. They came with a wave of prospective Texicans who were looking for cheap land at $1.25/acre. Youngs Coleman served the minimum 3 months in Sam Houston’s Texicans Army, enlisting right after Battle of San Jacinto when the war was essentially won. That qualified him for military land grant and he received 320 acres in Jackson County. My sister, Georgie the Elder, used to quote a line from a play she’d been in: “Whatever happens, I go with the winner.” Great-Great Grandpappy could have used that line.
I used to think that Texas bluebonnets couldn’t grow any place but Texas. I even believed that there was a federal law prohibiting the removal of Texas bluebonnet plants from Texas. I am pretty sure a respected family member told me that and I let that belief stand into adulthood. The truth is that the two predominant species of bluebonnets are native to Texas, and they are found in no other location in the world. Indian folklore is filled with stories about the bluebonnet. Spanish priests carefully gathered seeds and planted them around the mission grounds.
Tomie dePaola used one of my favorite folk tales about bluebonnets in The Legend of the Bluebonnet. It tells the story of a little Comanche girl, She-Who-Is-Alone, an orphan whose family has died in a drought driven famine. She-Who-Is-Alone sacrifices her most prized possession, a doll, to the Great Spirits. This doll is her only connection to the family she has lost. The Great Spirits accept her gift, end the drought, and as a sign of forgiveness, they cover the ground every spring with beautiful blue bonnets.
I love that story, my bluebonnets, and my Texas! With all of its funny ways, it’s my home.