Over the Hump

THE REAL REASON THAT camels are called ships of the desert is that riding them can make you seasick, declares cowboy evangelist Howdy Fowler. “There are two rules of the road,” he told me as he boosted me up and onto the back of the huge double-humped Bactrian camel known as K.C., short for King of the Camels. “Don’t scream and don’t throw up.” Fowler was smiling beneath the broad brim of his black cowboy hat, but I soon realized he wasn’t kidding.

Screen Gem

WHEN DRIVE-IN THEATERS CAME TO South Texas in the late forties, most residents were unclear on the concept. Watching a movie from inside your car had not been tried before, and I think the idea caused the kind of vague apprehension felt the first time someone proposed firing a rifle from the new Wright brothers aeroplane: The thing might flip over. But as a born risk taker, I saw the drive-in movie as an exciting new technology that scientists had been rushing to complete in time for my first driver’s license.

Paper Trail

For more than twenty years an ancient yellowed document hung on the wall of a San Antonio savings and loan. It was a receipt authorizing the Republic of Texas to pay a Mexican farmer for his cattle, signed by William Barret Travis just four days before the siege of the Alamo. Not until the savings and loan went bust last year was the document examined—and found to have been stolen from the state archives in the Texas State Library. Sheepishly, the savings and loan’s new owners restored it to its former home.

Mood Indigo

The profusion of Texans' favorite wildflower implies an extravagant ease of being. In fact, the bluebonnet's existence is hardscrabble and full of peril. Timing of rain is the crucial element. Too much summer rain can fool bluebonnets; they sprout prematurely and die before they bloom. Conversely, fall and winter drought can be ruinous.

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