Texas Breaks Away

The ceremony was to honor the four-score living Texans who had participated in the Revolution. They were all quite old, of course. It had been 75 years since 1992, when Texas had become a breakaway republic and, like Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and the Ukraine in Soviet Russia, sought independence from a huge, overbearing nation-state. Yet despite their age, the veterans of the struggle in Texas still had a bounce in their step and a flame of pride in their eye as they waved to the crowds who had come to honor them. Then they walked solemnly into the Alamo for a private multidenominational service.

Ninety-four-year-old Austin Dallas Houston V, of San Antonio, was the featured speaker. He had served as the Texas secretary of state under three administrations, but today his old compadres remembered him for a different reason. To them, he was still the boy of nineteen who, so many years ago, had single-handedly made a covert entry into the bedroom of his sleeping elderly aunt, Uvalde McAllen Houston, then the president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and slipped the key to the Alamo from under her lilac-scented pillow. Later that March night, he let the Texas partisans into the shrine of Texas liberty for their final, successful stand against the tanks and infantry of the United States. “Texas lost the Alamo once,” Houston said at the ceremony, “but we did not lose it twice.”

The old statesman then proceeded with a short account of the Revolution. The relations between Texas and the rest of the United States had always been marked with mutual suspicion, but the crisis that led to Texas’ breaking away began with two court decisions by two different federal judges, both delivered in December 1991. The first decision ordered Texas to release all prisoners from correctional facilities in and around Huntsville and to raze the prison buildings because they presented a threat to the environment. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs—a coalition of prison reformers and environmental activists—had proved that birthrates for the Huntsville canary had fallen so low that the species was threatened with extinction. Expert testimony asserted that the rare bird became depressed at the sight of humans in a cage and refused to mate. The second decision required Texas to accept “eagerly” any and all nuclear waste generated in the United States. “Why would we want to dump it in New En-gland,” the court said, “when we can dump it in Texas?”

Governor Richards called a special session of the Legislature right after the new year. How would Texas pay for the destruction of the Huntsville prisons? How would we pay for the new

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...