Thursday, March 12, 2015

Alamo Day

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

On March 6 – Alamo Day – I was in Corpus Christi participating in the 119th Annual Meeting of the Texas State Historical Association (an event that will be the subject of next week’s blog). My wife Karon, a math instructor at Panola College, remained at our home in Carthage. But, as Chief of Staff of the State Historian, Karon flew a Texas Flag at our house and wore Texas attire to the college. She also posted on my Facebook page an image of the Alamo with the sentiment, “Remember the Alamo!” Karon was gratified, throughout the day and evening, to receive a great many “Likes” from fellow Texans.

Bailey with her Texas history teacher,
Mrs. Carnley
When I returned I applauded the Lone Star Flag as well as the Facebook posting and responses. Then I was shown an assignment turned in on Alamo Day by a granddaughter, Bailey Nicole Henderson. Bailey is the daughter of Dusty and Causby O’Neal Henderson. Causby is a kindergarten teacher at Van Alstyne Elementary School, where Bailey is a fourth-grader. Bailey’s Texas history instructor is a master teacher, Rajonia Carnley. Mrs. Carnley leads all of the school’s fourth-grade students in a field trip to Austin, on a walking tour of the historic sites of Van Alstyne, and to the famous Mesquite Rodeo while studying Texas cowboys and ranching. Last year Mrs. Carnley was the recipient of the Ottis Lock Educator of the Year Award from the East Texas Historical Association. Certainly she has brought out the best in Bailey Henderson.

For Alamo Day Bailey used Project Bricks to build a model of the Alamo chapel, while model Civil War soldiers were painted to represent Texas and Mexican soldiers. Bailey responded strongly to another Alamo Day assignment. Pupils were told to write a letter to a relative (in this case to the State Historian, AKA “G-Daddy”) from the besieged Alamo. In the letter they were to mention whom they were with, what activities they were involved in, and what was going on around them. At least three historical facts were to be included in each letter, and students were to express their feelings about the situation inside the Alamo – “the more drama the better,” urged their teacher.

On Alamo Day Mrs. Carnley played for each class “The Ballad of the Alamo” sung by Marty Robbins, and she read the famous letter of William B. Travis. In Bailey’s class she was asked to read her letter aloud:

 March 5, 1836

Dear G-Daddy                                                                                                                                              
        Hi; how are you doing?  How is the house? I hope you are doing well. I am here in San Antonio in the Alamo. I am here with my Mom, Dad, and Kendall. We are here fighting for our freedom from Mexico. I am really scared!  I’m scared we will get hurt! Dad has been helping Colonel Travis with the cannons. I am here with Mom, and my sister in the kitchen. I have tried to sleep, but I can’t because it has been loud. Jim Bowie caught pneumonia and got sick. On the day he arrived, Santa Anna raised a blood-red flag, and it meant surrender or die. Davy Crockett plays the fiddle to entertain us. The women and children are in the chapel with Mom, Kendall, and me. It is late but before I go to bed I have one more thing to tell you. I saw William Travis draw a line in the sand. He said, “Those who want to stay with me cross the line, and those who want to leave, I understand.” Everyone crossed the line except one person. Dad even crossed the line. I am so frightened. If I die or get hurt I want you to know it was fun being your granddaughter and I will miss you.
All my Love,
Bailey Nicole

At the end of reading the letter I had to swallow a lump in my throat. When I called Bailey she told me that Mrs. Carnley intends to keep her letter as a model for future students.
Reagan and Nolan Gormley celebrating their
5th birthday on Alamo Day

My family has one other connection to Alamo Day. The youngest of our seven grandchildren – twins Reagan and Nolan Gormley – were born on March 6, 2010. (Their parents are Drew and Berri O’Neal Gormley.) It is easy for us to remember the Alamo each year, but it was especially so in 2015.

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