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Never Surrender. Never Retreat. Texas Style.


When my parents asked my husband and me if we wanted to join them for a few days during their annual winter pilgrimage through Texas, I fired back a quick, "Nope. Bad idea. Kids are too young. It'll be a trainwreck. Trust me on this one. Ain't happenin'. Let's try again when they're . .. 15."

San Jose Mission - San Antonio, Texas
My husband's cooler head prevailed. "Let's hold on a minute," he said.

And I knew where this was headed.

Aren't my parents just the cutest? Still holding hands -- 40 years and 3 obnoxious, I mean, awesome daughters later.
As it turns out, he was right. My sister watched my littlest, we took our two older kids, and we loved it. 

San Jose Mission - San Antonio, Texas
One of the things we appreciated most about the trip -- apart from the 80 degree weather and the sunshine -- is something Senator Ben Sasse hits on: the difference between vacationing and traveling. "The key distinction here," he says, "is between active seeking and venturing and learning on the one hand, and passively taking in the sights on the other hand."

We were all about the active seeking on this trip.

"Buddy, you can't run off. You have to stay by Grandpa." Little man: "Noted. Staying right by Grandpa."

"'The traveler is an active man at work.' By contrast, 'the tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes sight-seeing.'"

On this trip, we were active.

We got to experience the San Antonio Stock Show, watch its nightly rodeo, learn from cutting horse competitions, and see how Brahman cattle are different from our own.

Girl's wearing her mama's dress with pink fringe and her new pink cowboy hat. Sensing a theme, are we?
My farmer also found someone to steam his cowboy hat to fit better, which pretty much made his trip.

"Travel done right is a kind of work that takes you out of the familiar -- out of your comfort zone -- and offers the chance to see the world through fresh eyes."

We learned about chuckwagons, randomly parked next to and chatted with San Antonio's undefeated boxer Brown Nevarez (the "Living Legend"), and ate too much good food while smelling brisket smoking away nearby. 

I tried to buy a handful of cows to bring home with us -- mostly because they were fluffy -- but that got nixed, so I guess there was maybe one downside to the vacation, but that was basically it.

The kids ate it up too. They may not know the difference between a longhorn and a shorthorn, but they did find the large blue circles of cement at the stock show great "water to splash in" and I kind of loved watching their imagination with something as simple as the ground they were walking on.

We also soaked up Texas history and wondered why our respective states don't cling as tightly to their pasts as Texas does. We went to Presido La Bahia in Goliad and remembered the hundreds of men massacred there for the sake of freedom.

We went to Gonzalez and saw the cannon that began the re-use of "Come and take it" and marveled again at the guts of these frontiersmen who didn't give a hoot what a giant army and its leader told them to do or not do because NO ONE WAS THE BOSS OF THEM.

 "Exploration is 'an art that liberates, that frees, that opens away from narrowness.'"

And we were free, free to stop at the Sam Houston Oak to see where that great man rallied and headquartered his troops before pushing them on, tired and exhausted, but determined.

We learned about the Chisholm Trail and young boys pushing massive herds of cattle while eating dust and biscuits for weeks on end. And we determined to try out best to raise our boys to be such men, the kind that can write and live like William Barret Travis, writing from the Alamo:

Bejar, Feby. 24th. 1836
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World-
Fellow Citizens & compatriots-
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna - I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man - The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken - I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls - I shall never surrender or retreat.  Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch - The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days.  If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country - Victory or Death.
William Barret Travis.
Lt. Col.comdt.

Do you have chills after reading that? 

I get the chills.

Every time. 

And I pray that our sons are those kind of men -- the kind that perhaps have more courage than they ought, but that kind of boldness and bravery nonetheless.


And in the midst of all we saw and learned, we even managed -- quite by accident -- to come across the church in Sulphur Springs where a mass shooting occurred last year. These kinds of things happen when you get off the beaten path. We learned that too. 

"The philosophy of travel starts with the important lesson that travel is an active pursuit that requires preparation (actually 'work' if you want to call it what it really is) and openness."

And we are thankful to my parents for all their work in making this trip such a delight, right down to the hourly brisket and sausage stops. I'm not sure I've ever been so full in my life. No one told me I'd need to bring my fat pants to survive a BBQ run through Texas.

Lesson learned. 

I was wrong. I admit it. We were right to go. The kids did well, we learned a Texas-sized amount in three days, and it was the kind of trip that was good for your mind and your soul . . . not to mention your belly.

So, thank you, Mom and Dad, for teaching us how to be active, grasping, curious travelers.

And for hitting up all the best brisket joints.

We loved that too.

Never surrender. Never retreat. 


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