Things you don't really need to know about Texas
How Big Is It?
Since 1959, a number of fine people continue to believe that the Lone Star State is no longer the biggest in the USA. I reckon that some folks still believe in the Tooth Fairy, too. Until global warming melts enough of Alaska, revealing the true size of this northern pretender, we'll have to content ourselves with some generally accepted and verifiable facts.
Texas is 266,807 square miles. That's as big as France and England put together, with a few acres left over.
Say you want to drive the length of Texas from north to south, from Texline to Boca Chica Beach. That's 1019 miles.
It's almost as far driving from east to west, from Anthony to Toledo Village. That's 932 miles.
Interstate 10 crosses the entire width of the USA, connecting Santa Monica, California, on the Pacific Coast to Jacksonville, Florida, on the Atlantic. More than one third of this highway lies within Texas borders.
Texas has 254 counties, more than any other state. So many, in fact, that two of them are named for people named Smith. Virginia is a distant second with only 95 counties.
Even so, Texas was larger at one time. A few years after joining the United States, Texas gave up claims to territory further north and west, lands that now reside within the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming.
Dalhart is closer to five other state capitals than it is to Austin. El Paso is closer to Los Angeles, California, than to Port Arthur.
Texas forms more than half of the US-Mexican border.
How far is it from London to Paris? Only 213 miles in Europe, but 313 miles in Texas.
But it's not just size, it's attitude
Texas is the only independent country to join the United States as a peer. (Hawaii was also a separate country, but it became a US territory prior to statehood.)
Three Texas cities are among the nine largest in the US: Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. California is the only other state with more than one city in the top ten (Los Angeles and San Diego). (2000 census)
The Texas Capitol Building in Austin is larger than any other state capitol. At 308 feet, it is seven feet taller than the national capitol in Washington.
The San Jacinto monument is 570 feet high, making it 15 feet taller than the Washington monument.
Texas is filled with colorful characters. Few can match the remarkable life of Sam Houston. Before immigrating to Texas, Houston served as US Congressman and Governor back in his native Tennessee. After leading the Texas army to victory at San Jacinto and winning independence from Mexico, Houston became the first elected President of the Republic of Texas. When Texas was admitted to the United States, Houston was elected one first Senators. Later he was elected Governor of Texas, though he resigned when Texas seceded from the US during the Civil War.
During his life, Sam Houston was a citizen of four different countries: the United States of America, the Republic of Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States of America. Additionally, he was a citizen of the Cherokee nation. He was a general in Texas army. He was a Presbyterian, a Catholic, and later a Baptist.
The University of Texas at Austin is the largest NCAA Division I-A school. Rice University in Houston is the smallest.
The Official State Molecule of Texas is buckminsterfullerene, discovered at Rice University.
King Ranch is larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Two natives of Texas were elected President. Lyndon Johnson is one, of course, having remained a Texan from birth. The other one may surprise you. Dwight Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, but moved to Kansas as a child. While both Presidents Bush were residents of Texas when elected to the White House, they are Yankees by birth. George H. W. "Poppy" Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, while his son George W. "Shrub" Bush is a native of New Haven, Connecticut.
Loving County is the least populous county in the US. As of the 2000 census there were 67 residents. There has been one recorded birth in the county since 1956.
The town of Rio Rico, once north of the Rio Grande and part of Texas, now sits across the river in Mexico. In 1906 an irrigation company dug a new channel in the Rio Grande south of Mercedes, isolating about 480 acres known as El Horcón including the town of Rio Rico. The community gradually came under Mexican jurisdiction. During Prohibition, Americans could cross the bridge to drink, gamble, and otherwise cavort in this Texas town that observed Mexican laws. The USA ceded ownership of the territory to Mexico with the 1970 Boundary Treaty. This map still shows the parcel as part of the United States.
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© 2003 Kermit Lancaster