Sunday, February 24, 2008

Texas History and Oil

Today was my first time to visit the Bob Bullock Museum during my five years as an Austin resident. I've been to the IMAX theater quite a few times but never had any reason to visit the museum portion, and I was pleasantly surprised. After reading previous posts, I expected to be disappointed with the exhibit; however, I felt the oil exhibit was adequate with respect to the general outlay of the museum, set up as an informative overview rather than in depth history lesson. As other posts have mentioned, students in Texas take a Texas history class typically during middle school (7th or 8th grade). I vaguely remember any mention of oil and how it changed the course of Texas history, only the Alamo and Stephen F. Austin; I learned more in the few hours of walking around the museum than I did through an entire year of Texas history.

I found the transition from farming to oil particularly interesting. The third floor begins with a journey through the lives of ranchers out in the wide expanse of the Texas frontier, gradually plotting land and settling down through the use of barbed wire. Then there was the history of rice and cotton in the 1880s (I do remember learning quite a bit about this in Texas history). The timber boom hit in the 1880s through the 1930s resulting in "timber towns" such as Diboll and Lufkin, TX. After walking through the Mining Quicksilver and Sheep exhibits, I started realizing a common theme that Texans strive to be the best in any occupation. Texas became the #2 quicksilver producer in the nation by 1940; more sheep and Angora goats were raised in Texas than any other part of the country. In the 1870s, Texans were the largest users of windmills in the USA due to pumping water out of the Ogallala aquifer for wheat farming. Then came the oil boom, and Texas became the largest producer almost overnight. Texans reinvented the industry by pioneering new tools such as the Texas Poor Boys and Christmas Trees. as well as new firefighting technique to quench the dangerous explosions and fires on the oil fields. Perhaps its the large expanse of Texas or just the innate exploratory nature of Texans, but it seems to me there is a common thread throughout Texas history which I hope continues into the next generation of alternative energies - innovation and the desire to be number one.

1 comment:

Jrod said...

I thought it was interesting that you mentioned Lufkin. I grew up there and lived very close to a Georgia Pacific paper mill. The lumber industry, especially Temple Inland, still play a major role in the area.