alamoRemember the Alamo? I do. As a boy, I went to the dentist in a building across from the Alamo. While the dentist did repairs, I floated on laughing gas wondering why Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie had to die. (Or later on, whether Cherry, the girl who lived across the street from me, would leave her blinds open again that night).

At Alamo Heights High School, I learned that men from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, the Carolinas, etc. etc. (in other words, the United States of America), crossed the Red River to fight and die for those Irish-Scots-German immigrants who settled in Mexico north of the Rio Grande, then claimed their sovereignty. The wives of those brave volunteers even sent satin garments for the battle flags.

And after all that, Texas Gov. Rick Perry threatens to secede from the Union? And Tom Delay, looking like a hedge fund manager, is on “Hardball” telling Chris Matthews how courageous Gov. Perry is, standing up to President Obama? Then adding (erroneously) that Texas has the right to secede under the treaty that led to statehood in 1845?

flagsealWell, let’s see. We could ask for volunteers to read a chapter of history to Ricky and Tommy. Or we could help Texas exercise a right the treaty did, in fact, grant – and that is: subdivide into five different states. How cool would that be?

Or, we could just let Texas be Texas and secede without a fight. What are they going to do, barricade Interstates 10, 20 and 35? Excommunicate Willie Nelson? Has anyone checked with Kinky Friedman, politician and singer-songwriter of “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and “Get You’re Biscuits in the Oven & Your Buns in the Bed,” and whose performances often include a favorite tune by Chinga Chavin and Snakebite Jacobs, “Asshole from El Paso?”

Dry winds blow hard in George W. Bush’s adopted republic. But today I do not speak up to take a stand. I simply offer a favorite poem to commemorate my home state’s big windy heart – one big enough to contain a grand mix of the absurd, the beautiful and the indefinable.


By William Stafford

Wide, no limit, the whole

state an airport, a continent

marbles could roll across; and

they say when the fist of the sun

hammers it, the natives love it,

feel they would die if moved. They

have struggled to stay, and have

won, a catastrophe. Now they deserve it –

a cruel thing to say. But true.

But wide. I came on the Sweetwater

once. It was evening, and the doves

insisted they could redeem all the

universe. Never after that could I

deny a link with Texas. A farmer

strikes oil, and stuffs his mattress

with money, like excelsior. At a

space lab they look around and think,

“Might as well try for the moon.”

And they get there. Long ago

the rest of the country joined their state

and thus became, really, a part of Mexico –

why contend? Joining is better, and is done

many ways, even if politicians have limits.

I say join the state, and Mexico, and the

politicians. Beyond irony is the hard country

no one can misjudge, where we survive

Our indulgences and mean just the earth again –


From: “Allegiances,” by William Stafford. Harper & Row. 1970


William Stafford

Kinky Friedman

Gov. Rick Perry

Tom Delay


Dallas Lee

Dallas Lee, former writer and editor for The Associated Press and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, retired as a speechwriter from Bank of America. He is author of The Cotton Patch Evidence: The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia Farm Experiment (Harper & Row 1971).

  1. Suz Korbel

    Hey Dallas,
    As I sit outside in San Antonio on this balmy Fiesta day, I’ve just finished reading your post and an op ed harangue by one of your high school colleagues against BOTH Perry’s solution and the world of tea haters (“They don’t get it – it’s about changing politics” – I wonder if maybe the dialectic is see-sawing much quicker than Mr. Gurwitz and his friends can handle. He says: “The tea parties weren’t about citizens abandoning the union. They were about changing the politicians in Washington who have abandoned the American people.” Since Texas now has more Hispanics than it had people in 1970, I’m hopeful that those tea lovers will soon see their state send a whole new set of faces to DC, but not the type that they would like/assume comes with their stellar birthright. Remember the Alamo? Viva La Raza!

  2. CORRECTION … And apology
    Alas, Kinky Friedman did not write the song “Asshole from El Paso,” as I reported April 17 in my analysis of the impending Texas Secession. He did record it and does perform it, and, I honestly believe, wishes he’d thought of it before his friends Chinga Chavin and Snakebite Jacobs did. Kinky certainly has the credentials to have written it, with other fine songs of his own, such as “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” I’m embarrassed to have made such an error, and to compound it I can’t keep myself from (deepest apologies to my personal hero, Merle Haggard) compounding the shame by telling you that the the Asshole lyrics are sung to the tune of Okie from Muskogee: “We don’t have no love-ins in El Paso/We don’t go to porno picture shows./We don’t swap our wives with our neighbors/And we keep our kids away from Mexico…/And I’m proud to be an Asshole from El Paso…” and so forth. I am truly sorry. Please do not let my carelessness spoil the late William Stafford’s marvelous poem honoring Texas for all it truly is. DL

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