Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Same Program, Different Venues

"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 (www.panola.edu) 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 Thursday evening, June 9, and two days later, on Saturday, June 11, I presented a program on “Gunfighting in Texas” at two different and historically appropriate meetings. There were far more frontier gunfights in Texas than in any other state or territory. More gunfighters were from Texas, and more died in the Lone Star State. The revolving pistol evolved in Texas, largely due to combat use by Texas Rangers. There were more blood feuds in Texas, from the Regulator-Moderator War of the 1840s through the Johnson-Sims Feud of 1916-17-18. The theme of my program is that Texas was the gunfighter capital of the Old West, and I use a number of replica weapons and gun rigs to illustrate the program.
With granddaughter Jessie Martinez and daughter Lynn Martinez

I was invited to present this program several months ago by Debi Carl, Tour Director of the Sid Richardson Museum of Western Art and a member of the North Fort Worth Historical Society. I became acquainted with Debi when I brought students from my Traveling Texas History Classes to the Sid Richardson Museum. On one occasion Debi reciprocated to our visits, bringing an excellent program to the campus of Panola College. Debi asked me to make a presentation on “Texas Gunfighting” to the Stockyards Museum for meeting of the NFWHS. The Stockyards Museum is located in the historic Livestock Exchange Building, which is next door to the Coliseum in the Stockyards District.
With Karon

Karon and I were delighted at the opportunity to enjoy another visit to the Stockyards. We soon enlisted our oldest daughter, Lynn Martinez, and one of her daughters, Jessie, to join our Stockyards outing. I was dressed in Western attire to match the program, while Karon, Lynn, and Jessie donned boots and sharp Western outfits to match the Stockyards. Lynn and her family live in Mansfield and are not strangers to the Stockyards District. They picked a highly atmospheric restaurant for us, and we enjoyed a terrific meal. Afterward we walked to the Livestock Exchange Building. An afternoon circus was staged at the Coliseum, and as the crowd exited we soon encountered another daughter/sister, Berri Gormley, and her three little children. Prior to the circus the children had seen the daily longhorn cattle drive through the Stockyards District, and the children even mounted a longhorn. We had great fun during our unplanned visit with Berri and our youngest grandkids.

Inside the Livestock Exchange chairs were set up in the broad hallway just outside the Stockyards Museum. Museum Director Teresa Burleson took charge of arrangements, which also included a speaker’s stand with microphone and a table for my program props. A large crowd included many Fort Worth friends, and the audience and I had a fine time with the gunfighter program. Frontier Fort Worth was a noted gunfighter town, boasting one of the West’s largest and rowdiest red-light districts, the notorious “Hell’s Half-Acre.” The West’s premier assassin, “Killin’ Jim” Miller, operated out of Fort Worth. Two top-tier shootists, gambler Luke Short and two-gun “Longhair Jim” Courtright, shot it out on Main Street in 1887, with fatal consequences for Courtright. Miller, Short, and Courtright are buried in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery. It was invigorating to talk about gunfighters in a Western setting at an old-time gunfighter town.

With Teresa Burleson (L) and Debi Carl

The Menard Public Library
By Saturday morning I was in Menard in west central Texas. I had been invited by Caroline Runge to provide a program on Texas Gunfighting at the annual fundraiser of the Menard Public Library. I met Caroline last fall at the 2015 West Texas Book Festival. Charming and gracious, she is a ranch wife and a cultural leader in Menard. I always spent a night in Menard with my Traveling Texas History Classes, prior to an early morning visit to the ruins of the presidio of Mission San Saba. The public library was housed in an old commercial building, and there was almost no public funding for the library. But thanks to herculean efforts by Caroline and her cadre of like-minded citizens, a handsome new library opened in 2005 – an impressive asset for a town of only 1,100.

The 2016 fundraiser was held at Menard’s country club, which is adjacent to the old presidio. I arrived about eleven o’clock, and was greeted by Caroline and her friends. The large round tables were beautifully decorated in Texana – at the table where I was seated the centerpiece was a Winchester rifle. The lunch buffet prepared by the ladies was superb, and the crowd was congenial. It was a pleasure to visit with a room full of kindred spirits, and they responded enthusiastically to my program. It was one of the most enjoyable events of my four years as State Historian.
Introduction by Caroline Runge

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