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February 2010 cover image canoe on Bois d'Arc Creek

From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

“Buffalo meat and whiskey!” our little trio exclaimed in loud and proud unison. My two oldest childhood friends, John Nelson and Robert Mickey, and I had just been asked by our schoolteacher what we were having for lunch that day. We were at the ripe old age of 5 at the time, and in kindergarten mind you, so before any of our mothers fire off a frantic letter of “explanation” to the editor, I should assure you that our kindergarten lunches at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church lacked any such exotic fare!

As the family lore goes, I was like most kids of my generation who delighted in telling wild and fanciful tales about grand cowboy and outdoor adventures. From what I can recall, the places I traveled in my mind at that tender age were always filled with wild horses, wilder animals, and the wildest of places, gunfights, horse rides, cattle drives and hunting expeditions. Transporting ourselves to earlier frontier times in Texas' history was a time-honored daily part of our “game playing” as young kids growing up with one foot in the city and the other in the country.

I wish the same for kids today.

For those interested in learning about Texas’ history and heritage, including living history farms, you can find no better place than one of your state parks. Within your 93 state parks, historic sites and natural areas are more than 600,000 acres of places that literally and figuratively tell the story, life and history of our great state. Within them, you can see:

•   The vestiges of battles, big and small, won and lost
•   Spanish and frontier forts that are still standing, and others that aren’t
•   The birthplace of Texas and the homeplace of presidents
•   Missions and monuments
•   Pioneer farms and pictographs
•   Buffalo soldiers and bison herds
•   Ranches and rancherías
•   Grand canyons and grand calderas and much, much more

What all of these 93 places have in common is an overwhelming sense of place that captures the legacy of Texas’ rich history, both the human and natural kind. It is a sense of place that was as relevant to those who lived it at the time as it is to those of us who care about it, and for it, today.

I hope you’ll find some time this month or next to get out and experience some of that rich Texas history at one of your state parks. We will be there waiting for you.

Thanks for caring about Texas’ wild things and wild places. They need you more than ever.

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