GENE AUTRY WROTE “ RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER.”
Fortunately, that’s not why the original singing cowboy will go down in his-to-ree; the Tioga native merely performed this novelty tune. The songwriter was Johnny Marks, of New York, who specialized in annoying holiday ditties (“Holly Jolly Christmas” is his too). Still, Autry’s 1949 recording sold a blitzin’ two million copies, and it’s still the second-best-selling Christmas song ever, outdone only by “White Christmas,” the classic first crooned by Bing Crosby.
Q. This Christmas I want to get my wife a nice piece of jewelry that’s uniquely Texan. (No burnt-orange-rhinestone-studded Longhorn earrings or anything like that; I’m thinking diamond.) Is there really such a thing as a “Lone Star cut”?
A: Fa-la-la-la-la-la-ooh-la-la! There is, and it refers to the five-pointed star a jeweler can create inside your choice of stone. And speaking of that choice, you might want to nix the diamond and go with a blue topaz; it’s been the Texas state gem since 1969, and inside our borders, it’s found only in a swath of the Hill Country near Mason. Where do you go for such a gift? You’ll get good advice and custom work from most independent jewelers, but if you patronize a chain store, consider Zales. It’s now the largest jeweler in North America, with a total of 2,315 outlets, but it started with a single store in Wichita Falls back in 1924.
Q: My son’s class is studying the Exxon Valdez incident, and I started wondering why it’s so famous. Wasn’t there a much bigger oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico once that slimed Padre Island?
A: You’re thinking of the mega-mess better known as Ixtoc I. That was the name of an offshore well operated by Mexico’s national oil company, Pemex; in June 1979 it suddenly blew out and caused crude oil to gush into the Gulf. By August, currents had carried a slick measuring some 4,200 square miles northward, contaminating most of Texas’s coastline. Twenty-five years later, Ixtoc I still ranks as the world’s largest accidental oil spill; the well pumped out 140 million gallons of crude before it was finally capped. That’s some twelve times as much as the Exxon Valdez lost in 1989. But one reason the latter incident remains more famous is that, during the cleanup from Ixtoc I, Mother Nature lent an unexpected hand in the form of heavy storms, which washed away most of the oil and left only thick black tar. Also, the media seized on rumors that Valdez captain Joe Hazelwood had been drinking while on duty. Though