West Texas Feed

On this day in 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico. Four days later, the new Texians at the Alamo didn't survive the siege by the unimpressed Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna and is troops. We remembered, but didn't fare any better at Goliad. More than 350 Texas Republic soldiers who had surrendered there were massacred. That really made us mad. And on April 21, 1836, Texas Republic soldiers attacked Santa Anna's troops at San Jacinto. Eighteen minutes later, the proclamation of March 2 became a reality. Texas won its independence from Mexico. We Texans will commemorate the... Read more →


One of the first songs any Texas child learns begins, "The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas." The Hobby-Eberly Telescope is surrounded by star trails centered on Polaris, the North Star. Credit: Frank Cianciolo/McDonald Observatory. Of course, growing up in West Texas, I knew the stars also were pretty darn bright in those skies that are far from the heart of the Lone Star State and big city lights. And all those years of watching the heavens from our backyard on hot summer nights made visiting nearby McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains... Read more →


I grew up in West Texas so I know about living in an arid region. In recent years, that drier lifestyle is something that many more folks across the rest of the Lone Star State have had to learn to live with. Texas, like much of the rest of the United States, has been dealing with drought conditions for years. Late September data from the National Drought Mitigation Center show that 54.77 percent of the country is in moderate drought or worse, the largest percentage so far recorded at that level and a slight increase from the previous week's percentage.... Read more →


How are you spending today? If you're a western aficionado, you're probably at some event commemorating this 7th Annual National Day of the Cowboy. It's not an official U.S. holiday ... yet. But the nonprofit National Day of the Cowboy group (yes, it's a registered 501(c)(3) organization and will happily take your tax-deductible donation) supports the cowboy and cowgirl way and is working to convince Congress that there is enough national interest in preserving America's cowboy culture and pioneer heritage so that Cowboy Day can be made permanent. To that end, the group has focused on getting states to recognize... Read more →


Celebrating Texas Independence Day

Today is special here in my home state. On March 2, 1836, Texas became Texas. Delegates from the 17 Mexican municipalities of Texas and the settlement of Pecan Point had met on March 1, 1836, at Washington-on-the-Brazos to consider their future. In the early morning hours of the next day, they unanimously voted to declare independence from Mexico. But, notes the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas, the move toward self government "remained to be demonstrated to Mexico." Fours days later, newly minted Texans made a stand at the Alamo. None survived. The result was just as dismal on... Read more →


As a kid in West Texas, when the Fourth of July rolled around my friends and I would head out to the countryside to set off fireworks. When the weather was dry, which it usually was, the threat of a scrub fire ignited by a wayward bottle rocket was very real. Since the time my friends and I were firebugs, the fire departments that must deal with such blazes have gotten some help from the Texas tax collector. On Oct. 1, 2001, the Lone Star State enacted a 2 percent tax on the purchase of small fireworks sold to the... Read more →


Happy 174th Birthday, Texas!

March 2 is a big day here in my native state. On this day in 1836, Texas became a republic. Delegates from the 17 Mexican municipalities of Texas and the settlement of Pecan Point had met the day before at Washington-on-the-Brazos to consider independence from Mexico. George C. Childress presented a resolution calling for independence and he was tapped to head a committee to draft a declaration proclaiming such. "In the early morning hours of March 2, the convention voted unanimously to accept the resolution," notes the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas. "After fifty-eight members signed the document,... Read more →


Here on the ol' blog, I tend to focus on federal filings. That's because most of us at some point in our lives have to file paperwork with the IRS. But there also are state taxes. Since there are 50 of them, plus the District of Columbia, and just one of me, the states get somewhat short shrift here, at least when it comes to specific filing responsibilities. However, as we head into the 2010 filing season home stretch, I'm going to remedy, at least partially, this oversight. I've created a separate page with links to each state's and D.C.'s... Read more →


Time for a break from AIG anger. Let's all direct a bit of our outrage at investment firm exec Robert Allen Stanford. You remember my fellow Texan. He's the guy who allegedly committed, as the Securities and Exchange Commission put it, "massive, ongoing fraud" in the form of an investment scheme that centered an $8 billion certificate of deposit program. Back in February, the SEC charged the man from Mexia and three of his companies -- the Antiguan-based Stanford International Bank, the Houston-based broker-dealer and investment adviser Stanford Group Company, and investment adviser Stanford Capital Management -- with orchestrating the... Read more →


Free Tom!

Actually, it was May (pictured there at right with Dubya) and Flower who were pardoned, if not actually freed, this year in the annual pre-Thanksgiving event at the White House. Every year, representatives of the National Turkey Federation and the farmer who donates the turkey (or, this year, turkeys) join the President in the White House Rose Garden. The prez gives his "happy holiday" talk and pardons the birds for the assembled photographers and TV cameramen. You can read about this year's ceremony here. That page has more pictures, as well as audio and video links if you're already that... Read more →


Hello … hello … hello
from Santa Elena Canyon

That headline is my admittedly weak attempt to textually relate an echo. Why? Because when we were in the canyon below yesterday, the echo effect was great. That's Santa Elena Canyon, in the far southwest section of Big Bend National Park. The wall to the right is Texas; to the left, Mexico. The terrain here along the Rio Grande River is nice and flat, unlike the place up-river where we stopped on Thursday when were driving to the park. There the bank fell off about 10 inches, but I was determined to put my toes into the waters dividing Mexico... Read more →


Telephone tax scammers are back

Tax scammers are starting to crawl out of the woodwork on a distressingly regular schedule. Back in September, we had tax phishers (blogged about here), looking to hook unsuspecting taxpayers with the lure of false refunds. A month earlier, we had con artists calling folks with promises of cash if they'd just answer a "survey." Details on that scam blogged here. Well, for October we are back to the phones, with multiple scams being reported in Oklahoma and Arkansas. First, let's look at the attempts to swindle Sooner State residents, primarily residents in the central and northeastern parts of the... Read more →


Kermit: Star of hot new TV show!

No, not the frog. My hometown. The cheerleader who was saved so that the world could be saved is from Kermit, Texas! It was just too personally freaky to be watching the already freaky NBC show "Heroes" last night and see Claire, the indestructible cheerleader, discover that she was born in my hometown. It gets better. Her birth mom still lives there. If only my cousin and I had known when we rolled through Kermit last summer! Apparently, no one in the town knew what was coming. There was no buzz. Everyone in my small West Texas burgh was still... Read more →


Think globally, deduct locally

If you plan on taking advantage of the federal tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements, or even if you don't, check with your state and local tax officials, too. They also might have some tax breaks in this area. The clickable map at the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies (DSIRE) is a good place to start. I just learned that Texas allows homeowners a property tax exemption in connection with solar or wind powered energy systems added to a residence. Wow, so if I can come up with a more personal size wind turbine (like those above... Read more →


Rock on, Roy

I'm not a big fan of what passes today for country music, especially the commercially glossy productions that regularly come out of Nashville. Part of my disconnect is musical, part is the process. Sure, many Texas musicians have had success in Tennessee. But just as many have been overlooked or ill-served by the ruling country music machine. The distinctive and far-superior Texas sound that I love so is definitely down home, but not country according to many music label definitions. And that difference poses a major problem for some fellow Lone Star Staters when they deal with corporate reps in... Read more →


Tallying our West Texas wanderings

It's been almost a week since my cousin and I rolled back into Austin. Today, I finally pulled together the vital statistics of our trip down memory lane. The raw travel numbers: 1,470 miles 125 digital photos 17 bottles of water 6 days 5 nights 5 hotels 5 dinners 5 lunches 5 gas station stops 3 breakfasts Assorted admission fees and tourist tchotchkes 1 confirmation that you really can't go home again 1 realization that you can create new memories to enhance your earlier ones Now to translate those figures into dollars. Kathy and I split the costs, but not... Read more →


The power of pie

My cousin Kathy and I pulled into the exurban edge of West Austin around 8 p.m. last night. We would have been home a bit sooner, but we had to make one last stop in Marble Falls at the Blue Bonnet Café. The reason for delaying our return by about 20 minutes was simple: The Blue Bonnet's pie prowess. The restaurant is "world famous" for its food, especially its wide dessert section, which is limited to pies. I know what you're thinking. I'm in Texas and we Texans have been known to exaggerate now and again, but it is certifiably... Read more →


Out and about in Alpine

We're in Alpine today, but just for a little while longer. We rolled into this West Texas town -- Hub of the Big Bend, home of Sul Ross State University and creative hotbed with dozens of art and artisan galleries scattered about town -- on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, all of the shops were closed when we got here. If I were truly paranoid, I'd think our husbands phoned ahead and pleaded with local merchants for a little economic pity in light of the stress we've already put on our respective family bank accounts with this trip. Sorry, gentlemen, but since... Read more →


Holiday hiking, history and hotels

Hello from the wilds of West Texas. All is going quite nicely on the trip down memory lane that my cousin Kathy and I are taking. We haven't gotten irreversibly lost yet. We've generally agreed on what attractions to see (and avoid) in each of our stops. And we're still getting along, despite not having spent this much time together since we were small children and had our parents to whine to if necessary. I am happy to report we are not whining. Just a little wining with our dining. Our first extended stop was in Kermit, which I mentioned... Read more →


Ribbit, Texas

No, my hometown was not named for Kermit the Frog. It's a lot older than the genial green Muppet, named instead in 1938 for Kermit Roosevelt, the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. But ever since Kermit the Frog became so well-known, we've heard the question or comment or joke about the faux frog and the town's name. So finally the town decided if you can't beat the ubiquitous amphibian, adopt him! Actually, Kermit came to Kermit. Literally. Last October, in celebration of his 50th showbiz birthday, the Muppet and his entourage showed up in Kermit, Texas, to kick off... Read more →