WITH SANTA ANNA — Day after day I march through soggy fields, open salt grass, past farms and villages burned to the ground by fleeing Texians. Man, this victorious conquest of a rebellious northern province is the pits. But the General says our brilliant victories should end just ahead, at a place called San Jacinto. Viva, Santa Anna! OK, so I’m drawing up the rear guard, but the Napoleon of the West and his army did pass right through what is today Houston 180 years ago – so did the Texas Army -= and even today various belt buckles, bullets, bones and, perhaps someday two cannons, turn up in someone’s backyard. Armies are notoriously messy, so when thousands of Mexican soldiers packed up and left for the next camp, “Don’t Mess With Texas” was not yet a bumper sticker on most ox carts.
The reason we are discussing this now is that these are Texas’ High Holy Days, that period between the fall of the Alamo on March 6, the Runaway Scrape and the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21. We have so many newcomers around, with more arriving daily, we need to bring them up to speed on what happened before they arrived. I mean, Texas may be greatly improved by the new arrivals, but a few things happened earlier. At the beginning, the first foreigners to come were the Spanish conquistadors looking for the Seven Cities of Gold, although rumors had it there were actually four more, giving us the expression, “Seven come eleven.” Finding nothing but oil, the conquistadors left for a weekend in South Padre Island, but they were soon followed by snowbirds.
Mexico won its independence from Spain only to find its northern provinces were the target of U.S. intensions, so the Mexican government wished to place a buffer between the U.S. and Mexico. Settlers were invited to build towns, suburbs and high school football stadiums in Tejas, which is a Comanche word for “scalps,” Bad blood developed between the Mexican central government and the new arrivals over freedoms, tyranny and whether beans belong in chili. By 1835, the first shots were fired at Anahuac when the Texian cooks raised their flag, “Come and Get It.’’ (Some misguided historians say the flag actually read: “Come and Take It,” referring to a cannon the Texians had that Mexican troops had been ordered to seize.) When Mexican soldiers discovered beans in their chili, combat ensued. It was then that Santa Anna proclaimed; “Read my lips. No new Texas.”
Every Texas school child knows the story of the Alamo, but there are still myths about the saga. No, Travis did not draw a line in the sand. It was dirt. They don’t call it Sand Antonio. Yes, there was a backdoor to the Alamo. That’s why there’s an Oklahoma. One defender did actually refuse to cross the line and left. His name was Moses Rose, but, no, he is not the Yellow Rose of Texas. No, Davy Crockett did not surrender, as he said many times afterwards. An update: There were plans to restore the mission to its original form, but officials couldn’t find any Spanish padres or converted Indians, so they settled for restoring the area to the way it looked at the time of the battle in 1836. No, Ben and Jerry’s is not opening a shop in the plaza called Remember the A La Mode.
This brings us, and two armies, to San Jacinto. (Sam Jacinto was a cousin.) The battle lasted only 19 minutes, 13 without commercials. Among the Texian troops, 30 were led by Don Erasmo Seguin, whose father was the alcalde of San Antonio. Since none of the Texian troops wore a uniform, and since most of the Tejanos didn’t speak English, Gen. Sam Houston was afraid in the fog of war they would be mistaken for Santa Anna’s troops, he (Houston, not Santa Anna) ordered them to stay back and guard the supply wagons and ambulances. Seguin replied: “We certainly did not join your army, General, to ride herd on sick folks. We men from Bexar have more grievances to settle with the Santanistas than anyone else, for we have suffered the most from them. We want to fight!” Houston replied, “Spoken like a man.” They took their place in line. True story. To differentiate his troops from the enemy, Sequin had his men put a playing card in their hat bands, although he didn’t have enough to go around. Seguin told the captured Santa Anna afterwards, “Never take on anyone not playing with a full deck.”
This quote may be a myth, but it is not true that the official state song is “The Eyes of Texas,” although it should be. No, Texas cannot secede from the U.S. at any time. That is a myth spread by the other 49 states. It is also a myth that only Texas can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag. It is true we can divide Texas into as many as five different states. That would give us five Texas legislatures. No thanks. Another point: West, Texas, is not in West Texas. The official state slogan is “”Friendship,” not “Shoot Friendly.” There is a difference in the Tea Party and Teasips. One group wears funny costumes, chants mindless slogans and beats up opposing teams. The others are college students. While on higher education, Bevo is not one of the Marx Brothers, but all are dead. We have two organizations called Texas Rangers. One encourages stealing home. The other makes you sacrifice. Both are known to use bats.
Marching on, as we are nearing San Jacinto to claim