Big moments call for big efforts. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the victory of Sam Houston’s ragtag band of volunteers over the Mexican army, which led to the creation of the sovereign Republic of Texas. In the almost two centuries since then, much has changed. Texas is now a state of the union; a state with 25,145,561 people in it; a state where you are increasingly likely to meet someone who just moved here from New Jersey or Guadalajara or Bangalore; a state that, dotted with chain restaurants, feels more like the rest of the country than ever before—and yet one thing remains the same. Texas is still, in spirit, a sovereign republic. We mark as our date of birth not the bureaucratic moment of statehood but the bloody, valorous moment of independence.
Back in 1986, TEXAS MONTHLY commemorated the sesquicentennial with a remarkable issue that featured 150 short essays about different episodes in Texas history. For the terquasquicentennial we decided to make Texas another birthday gift. We designed a remarkable journey—the greatest Texas road trip of all time, we like to call it—that takes you to 175 spots that tell the story of our state. (A pullout map between pages 120 and 121 will help you navigate the 6,000-mile odyssey.) And we designed two collectible covers (pictured), one for subscribers and one for the newsstand, both featuring gorgeous images of the Texas flag. If you’re a subscriber, you’re looking at a giant photograph of the flag that is among the most majestic TEXAS MONTHLY covers ever created; if you bought this magazine on the newsstand, you’re looking at a lenticular print of a waving flag that I’m betting stopped you in your tracks.
The road trip project was expertly guided by deputy editor Brian D. Sweany. Not only is he an incredibly smart editor with the vision to pull off a project like this, but he’s also a devoted traveler of Texas’s byways. (Several years ago, Brian began methodically visiting every one of Texas’s 254 county courthouses with his four-year-old daughter, Madeline; she is now eight, and they have 203 to go.) Devising and compiling the greatest Texas road trip ever is pretty much his idea of an extremely good time.
Brian had the help of historian and University of Texas at Austin professor H. W. Brands, whose excellent book Lone Star Nation had been so much on our minds this year that we enlisted him to help put this issue together. Their efforts have been supported by an enormous cast; all hands have been on deck for this one. Including, ultimately, your own. We’re well aware that readers will want to quibble with this list. So we’ve created a dedicated terquasquicentennial blog at texasmonthly.tumblr.com, where you can argue, debate, tell stories, and upload your own photos and videos of historic spots throughout the remainder of this anniversary year.
This issue chronicles the past, but it also opens a door to the future. This month we’re rolling out our first-ever iPad app with embedded multimedia (available at your friendly neighborhood iTunes Store; for more information go to texasmonthly.com/ipad). It’s got videos of various stops along our road trip, an interactive map, slide shows, and yet a third special flag-themed cover. And next month we’ll be back with another issue on the iPad and then another and another. TEXAS MONTHLY has been around for just 38 of the past 175 years, but we fully intend to be here for the bicentennial, the bicenquinquagenary, and the tercentennial, no matter how our stories get delivered to readers.
I end on a sad note. As we neared the completion of this issue, the heartbreaking news reached us that Tracy Curtis had passed away after a battle with cancer. Tracy was the wife of Greg Curtis, the editor of this magazine from 1981 to 2000. During that time and in the years before, when she worked for TEXAS MONTHLY as our first director of promotions, Tracy contributed to the enterprise in ways too numerous to count. We would not be the same magazine without her energy, her warmth, her intelligence, and her ambition. Just as Texas owes a debt to those who shaped the state’s first 175 years, TEXAS MONTHLY owes a debt to Tracy for helping make this the magazine it is. She will be dearly missed.
How to cook like a Texan; the final months of the shuttle program; a riveting tale of murder, madness, and grief in Houston; a profile of the bird-watcher who made George W. Bush a bird-watcher; a dispatch from the narco-controlled newsrooms of northern Mexico; and a friendly rant from Kinky Friedman, who has finally decided to get a computer.