Amazing Texas

Countless books have been written about famous people and events in Texas history, but, you won't find many books about unknown people and events whose stories are every bit as interesting. A writer in Alabama is trying to fill that void, as Jim Bell reports.

What is it about Texas that makes it so interesting to people who don't even live here?   Maybe it's all the movies that have been made about Texas. Texas does, after all, have some of the most interesting history and folklore to be found anywhere.  That's what Theresa Lacey learned when she started researching a book she ended up calling "Amazing Texas."

"The most challenging for me, as a writer, was where to stop putting things in. Because every time I thought I was done, something else would pop up, or I would think 'oh my gosh' I forgot I need to put in ZZ Top or somebody. My publisher, according to our contract, wanted me to have the book at 50 thousand words, but I turned in 73 thousand something, so...."

And Lacey says she persuaded her publisher to keep all 73 thousand of those words. There are just so many great stories to tell, and she wanted to tell as many as she could.  The story of Bonnie and Clyde is one of her favorites.

"Cause Bonnie Parker is, although my family doesn't want me to, we're kin. But I think she's my third cousin or something like that, so she was always whispered about at family reunions, but she's in my chapter on Notorious Texans. It just wouldn't be complete without it." 

Lacey also writes about another famous Parker. Cynthia Ann Parker, who was captured by Comanches as a child and married the chief when she became an adult.  The John Wayne movie The Searchers is a highly fictionalized version of her story. Then there were people who never made the movies. Like that girl in west Texas who went to unusual lengths to win a beauty contest.

"The town of Sanderson, Texas calls itself 'The Cactus Capitol of Texas', and the story goes that back in the 1940s, a girl wanted so badly to win that for the swimsuit competition, she made her swimsuit totally out of cactus.  She did not win the contest, but the people of Sanderson still have her picture, and they just call her Raylene the Cactus Queen."

Then there was the UFO that crashed in the north Texas town of Aurora in 1897.  Well, some people think it was a UFO. Whatever it was, the Aurora UFO continues to fascinate UFO hunters to this day.  Lacey says she's already working on a second edition of Amazing Texas because there's still so much to tell.

"Texas is always evolving.  And there are always new and fascinating trivia and stories. That's one thing about history—it's never static and it's always changing."

Click here to visit the website for Lacey's book "Amazing Texas." 

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio.