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Written by Texas Highways

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Typically, a kingdom can be measured in its vast stashes of gold and millions of faithful subjects. But here in Texas, a grand kingdom needs only acres upon acres of beautiful land and a seemingly endless supply of cattle. And that’s exactly what I found in the South Texas town of Kingsville.

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The first time I saw the Monahans sandhills, I thought I had been taken in by a mirage. What else would explain the presence of beautiful rolling dunes out here in the middle of West Texas, with no ocean within 500 miles?

Independence

Remember the Alamo? It was there that William B. Travis penned his famous letter, signed “Victory or Death,” on February 24, 1836. In command of Texas forces besieged by the Mexican army, Travis sent the missive by courier east to San Felipe de Austin, addressed “To the People of Texas and All Americans.” In it, he declared, “I will never surrender or retreat.” Yet he also pleaded for reinforcements “to come to our aid, with all dispatch.”

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Many folks currently residing in Texas arrived only in the past few decades. And while those of us who go much farther back make every effort to educate these newcomers on important aspects of being a Texan, some things must be learned through experience.

villagecreekSunshine beams down through the limbs of soaring bald cypress trees as though the light has been filtered by the stained glass of a grand European cathedral. Then I hear the bark-like chuckle of a pileated woodpecker. Two swift knocks follow from a nearby tree, and I raise my binoculars expectantly to scan the canopy for a positive identification.

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This month, Texas Highways offers a Special Issue spotlighting the National Parks 100 year celebration. Most especially, we explore the national parks within the Lone Star State. And there is much to celebrate.

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The National Park Service operates more than 400 sites around the country as part of its mission to preserve natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. Established in 1916, the NPS celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and everyone is invited to the party.

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Every corner of the state—from the Big Bend to the Big Thicket, and Padre Island to the Panhandle’s Lake Meredith—is home to spectacular getaways and historic places worthy of national notice. If you haven’t visited some of the Lone Star State’s national parks and historic sites before, or haven’t been in a while, the National Park Service Centennial celebration adds special events to the many reasons to explore these places in 2016.

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Some 65,000 years ago, a small herd of female Columbian mammoths and their babies wandered through a grassland in what is now north Waco during an intense rainstorm.

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That great big park down in the yawning western expanse of our state is a gift for which every Texan should drop in to say thank you at least once in a lifetime.

highRes schulenberg141212 014In the 1800s, European settlers flocked to Texas, with many Germans and Czechs putting down roots in the vast expanse between Houston and San Antonio. They brought their families, their traditions, and their food, setting modern trippers up for a Texas-size European vacation.

cofffeecakeSince relocating to the Dallas suburb of Forney, I’ve discovered not only the charms of living in a small town, but also several surprising food finds.

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