Hardwired

Panther City

During my research on Fort Worth’s history, I discovered that in the 1870s, this rough-and-tumble frontier town had won the moniker of Hell’s Half Acre. What I didn’t know was that Fort Worth was also called Panther City. It turns out that many locals had either forgotten or never even knew how Fort Worth came to be known by this nickname. I had a hard time believing that panthers once stalked the bottoms of the Trinity River, so I dug deeper. 

I did know about the long-standing rivalry between Fort Worth and their neighbor to the east—Dallas— having read quite a bit about the historical spats that surrounded the location and building of the DFW International Airport. In fact, their rivalry goes back decades, beginning with competition for rail lines.

In 1875, the Dallas Daily Herald published a column about an alleged scandal in “our suburban village of Fort Worth.” The satirical article, written by a lawyer named Robert Cowart, “who didn’t have too good of a feeling about Fort Worth,” commented that Fort Worth was such a sleepy city that nobody noticed a huge, dangerous panther napping in the middle of downtown.

The insult from Cowart, a recent transplant from Fort Worth to Dallas backfired. Instead of triggering a negative response, the reaction from Fort Worth residents was extremely positive. The town—long known for its rodeos, barbecue, and honky-tonks—embraced their new icon—the panther—as a symbol of hope and strength. 

Today, the majestic cat’s presence is everywhere within the city limits. There’s Panther Island Pavilion, Panther Island Brewing Company, and the ambitious Panther Island/Central City Flood Project, as well as statues of the panther quietly sleeping among the hustle and bustle of downtown Fort Worth. 

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Texas Co-op Power

Photo credit: Nicolas Viard, article by W. F. Strong: https://texascooppower.com/how-texas-became-a-desert/

Years ago, while sorting through my mail, I tossed a magazine titled Texas Co-op Power into the recycle bin at the post office as I had done for ages.  I was certain the magazine was no more than an update on how the electric utility coop was functioning financially and the demographics of its customers – neither of which held any particular interest for me. Big mistake!

One day the magazine ended up in my take-home pile. I was about to set it aside when an article title on the cover caught my eye: “In The Care of Canines. How rescue dogs are learning to help people.” After I read it, I thought, “Wow! Have I ever been missing out.” 

This article prompted me to read the magazine from cover to cover. Yes, there were updates on how our power company was performing, but there was so much more. The articles were rich in Texas history, food, travel, events taking place around the state. Every month I found something of interest, and all of the material was educational. One such example is “Joined by a Fence” by W. F. Strong (https://texascooppower.com/joined-by-a-fence/)  

Never again has that magazine been automatically discarded.

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The Lone Star State

Friends and readers have often asked if I would ever set a book in Texas. For years, my standard reaction was to laugh and shoot back with, “Why would I?” Sure, I love where I live in the Lone Star State, but set a book here? After all, what’s so intriguing about living in the Eastern Cross Timbers region of North Texas that a fiction author would set a thriller here? But in the end, that’s exactly what I did. I set book four, CLON-X, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.  

Once I began to research the history of the DFW area, I discovered reasons to do a re-think. The more I learned, the more addicted I became to knowing more about those early settlers who made the Texas Plains their new home. And as a person who has a deep respect for and love of the land – not to mention being an outdoors person – I immersed myself not only in their stories, but also in the knowledge of the land itself. 

The Cross Timbers is a forest-grassland ecoregion with both savannah and woodlands of post oak, blackjack oaks, and my personal favorite, the eastern red cedar. Some consider the red cedar to be an invasive species, but my love endures. The oaks in the Cross Timbers area were not considered usable timber, so deforestation wasn’t widely practiced there. As a result, these old-growth forests contained millions of post oaks from 200 to 400 years old and red cedar over 500 years old. In 1835, one early American explorer who forged a path through the Cross Timbers terrain described it “like struggling through a forest of cast iron.”

After the history of North Texas dug its hooks into me, I found myself devouring anything and everything related to the early settlers who called Texas the Lone Star State. Why and how did Texas come by this moniker? Theories abound as to the exact story, but it seems the tale begins south of the border. 

When Texas was a province of Mexico, the land that’s known today as the state of Texas encompassed two areas called Coahuila y Tejas. It’s thought that the original flag for this land bore two gold stars in the middle of the red, green, and white stripes of the Mexican flag. Once Texas won its independence from Mexico, the victory resulted in the design of a new flag for the independent Republic of Texas. That first flag, and subsequent variations of it, all featured a lone star, representing defiance, pride and — most importantly — independence, with the red, white, and blue representing, respectively, bravery, purity, and loyalty. All noble traits.

Although we no longer live in a freestanding republic, Texans still pride themselves on their rugged individualism and independent spirit. And as you might expect, the people who are happy to make Texas their home still have that “Lone Star State” spirit. 

Texas joined the Union on December 29, 1845, as the 28th state. I have discovered that, as with so much of history, controversy surrounds even the Texas flag. Who designed it? The Texas State Library and Archives Commission says the flag was designed by Austin artist Peter Krag for $200. Read more about the flag controversies at https://www.kut.org/austin/2016-06-15/why-nobody-knows-who-designed-the-texas-flag 

As someone who’s happy to call Texas home, I find my appetite to learn more about my adopted state has definitely taken hold. Read more about Texas history by starting here https://patkrapf.com/texas-the-german-belt/ Then follow me through the archives of the Lone Star State.

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