Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Story of Texas

It was back to Austin on Tuesday. The main objective was to see "The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum -- The Story of Texas". How's that for a title?... BIG, like just about everything else in Texas. When the name of a place becomes so big that it's necessary for some people to stop and take a breath in the middle, well, it might be a little too big. But people in Texas revel in their BIG-ness, from their cars (actually very few cars... mostly BIG pickup trucks), to their traffic (Austin is very BIG on traffic and congestion), to the size of their collective ego. (Hey, easy there, don't get so riled up... just pokin' a little fun.)

Texas is big, there's no doubt about it. But it's not number one in all categories. In population, it's number 2 -- behind California. In square mile area, it's number 2 -- behind Alaska. If you want to rile a Texan a little, tell 'em that we could split Alaska into two states and make Texas number 3!

There's a notion going around that when Texas was made a State of the USA, it reserved the right to secede whenever it wanted. This is a mistaken notion as a careful reading of the annexation resolution makes no statement of such right. But facts can't stop Texans as this article in Wikipedia [link to article] and this website [link to website] attest. It all makes for BIG conversation, at the very least.


From TX History Museum

But I digress, so let's get back to our day's exploration. The Museum is housed in a very modern complex that includes an IMAX theater, a second regular theater, large meeting rooms, a big cafeteria, a parking garage, and the Museum itself. The lobby area is open four stories high and has key elements of the Story of Texas affixed in a colorful terrazzo mosaic on the floor -- impressive and very well done.

After a needed lunch in the cafeteria, we spent a few hours wandering through Texas history -- from the early native Indians, through the Spanish explorations and conquests, Mexican influences, the struggle for Independence, Statehood, the Civil War, ranching and cattle drives, to the modern period and the importance of the oil industry and agriculture. The exhibits are well done and informative. The Museum owns none of the historic artifacts on display. They're all on loan from other collections, both private and public. No photos at all were allowed inside the Museum exhibit area.

While we enjoyed the Museum, we were both a little under-whelmed by the experience. Why? I'm really not sure. Dar thinks it may be because we've read a lot on Texas history and visited a number of the important historic sites that are part of the Story of Texas. It may be that we're a little "museumed-out" after visiting so many in the past few years.  It could also be that our big Texas-sized lunch was "sitting heavy".

After the Museum we headed down to the 6th Street area, which is "ground-zero" of the restaurant and club scene in Austin. What we didn't realize was that it was also "ground-zero" for the South By SouthWest Film and Music Festival (SXSW) this week. Traffic was clogged. Parking was non-existent. People were everywhere. After a half-hour of snaking through the area looking for a parking place, we decided to seek refuge a little further away from the action while we waited for the Austin rush-hour traffic to subside.

We found a little Brewpub, Uncle Billy's, over on Barton Springs Road, where we could sit outside while sampling a couple of their more interesting concoctions and enjoying a very light dinner. It was comfortable and the conversation flowed easily.

By the time we headed for home, traffic was zipping along and we made it home in less than an hour.

Dar has a few photos from our day in our online photo collection

The Story of Texas on my mind...
Thom