I motored out to Aggieland yesterday under partly sunny skies; much better-than-expected weather. The bright day softened the culture shock for me until I stopped to browse in an army surplus store and found where all those stars and bars bumper stickers come from. If you’ve ever thought about ‘white flight’ and wondered where they all fled to, this might be the place. I stopped to visit Dickie Flatt but he wasn’t home, at least I didn’t see him around. Maybe he took me for a revenooer, come to ask him about that Swiss tax shelter Phil Gramm sold him.
On the way home, I pulled off the highway to look at an historical marker, and it was a doozy. Here’s the text..
A faithful Negro slave. Came to nearby Courtney, Grimes County in 1851 with his master, John W. S. West from North Carolina. West was a prominent and wealthy pioneer planter and landowner. At the outbreak of the Civil War, West sent Kelly to take care of his three sons-- Robert M., Richard and John Haywood-- who joined the famous Terry's Texas Rangers, where they served with distinction. Kelly was not content to wait on his charges but joined them in battle, firing his own musket and cap and ball pistol. Twice Kelly brought to Texas the wounded Richard, twice took him to the front again. After war, bought a small farm near Marse Robert, raised a large family and prospered. Died in 1890s. The courage and loyalty of Kelly was typical of most Texas Negro slaves. Hundreds went to war with their masters. Many operated the farms and ranches of soldiers away at war, producing food, livestock, cotton and clothing for the Confederacy. Others, did outside work to support their master's families. They protected homes from Indians, bandits and deserters and did community guard and patrol duty. At war's end, most slaves, like Primus Kelly, became useful and productive citizens of Texas.
-This marker is a piece of history in and of itself: I can’t imagine such a thing today anywhere north of Paraguay. The real ending of the last line is implied, something like “useful and productive citizens of Texas, not like that troublemaker Martin Luther King.”
I found another sidetrack on the way home, stopping at Cut Rate, the world’s largest tackle shop. I got to talking to one of the sales crew, a retired gent who once fished with Bob Brister, granddaddy of the Houston Chronicle Outdoors staff. I heard some stories and tried to mine him for fishing tips. He pointed out the window at a formation of fighter planes flying low over the south beltway, and then moved on to help another customer. I finished up my window shopping and headed home.
Driving down the Gulf Freeway, I saw a mess of brakelights ahead of me and exited on Scarsdale to Old Galveston Road to avoid the slowdown. This took me past Ellington Field, where The Blue Angels, the U S Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron were preparing for the Wings Over Houston Air Show. I pulled off the road and watched for a half an hour. Those six planes were everywhere, appearing and disappearing, converging and diverging at supersonic speed, rattling windows throughout Clear Lake.
An awesome show. A reminder of why the U S economy of today is unsustainable, but also of what George Orwell was talking about when he said “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”