Big Texas Fun at Six Flags Over Texas

My daughter and I just returned from our annual visit to Six Flags Over Texas. For about seven years we’ve made Six Flags the heart of an extended visit to the area. We also work in minor league baseball (Grand Prairie Air Hogs, Fort Worth Cats, and Frisco Rough Riders), major league baseball (Texas Rangers), a great zoo (the Fort Worth Zoo), and horse racing (Lone Star Park).

Some of my earliest impressions of Texas history came from Six Flags back when the park highlighted its historical theme. I’ve started collecting memorabilia  from the old Six Flags because of its unique combination of history and amusement. One of my favorite postcards from the earliest days of Six Flags features a Yankee spy facing a firing squad (all captions are the originals from the postcards). To me, nothing says “family fun” like shooting a Yankee.

Death to Yankee Spy

"Death to Yankee Spy - Confederate Section. In the midst of an enlistment rally, a Yankee spy is discovered. The Confederate firing squad solves the problem with one short burst.""

It’s interesting to see how Texans mix their fun with their history. One of the themes in our textbook is the difference between the myth and reality of Texas. It’s easy to imagine how big the gap between real Texas history and the myths we hold when you consider the kind of impressions we might have picked up from places like Six Flags. Most of these myths  proved harmless. However, it’s disconcerting to think about how many hours our history teachers labored to give us a little authentic history only to see us run off over the summer and witness the recreation of a little “Texas justice” first-hand.

Quick Justice West of the Pecos

"Quick Justice West of the Pecos: Another outlaw meets his just fate at the end of a rope at fabulous SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS"

The image of the old west lives in Texas memory. Rick Perry launched his 2006 reelection campaign with the image of cattle being driven (down a modern city street). In truth, the days of the cattle drive were a very small part of our history and ended when fences blocked the trails. Cowboys of some variety still tend to herds but migratory life of the cattle drives existed only briefly. The “wild west” is more than a century in our past and we’ve generally been much more civilized than we often care to admit.

"BOOT HILL BOUND -- Texas Section Quick as Judge Roy Beans's court is, the gun hand of the sheriff and his deputies is often quicker, and some of the more desperate outlaws prefer to try shooting it out. They never win, and visitors continually see justice done -- a high- light of of a visit to Six Flags Over Texas."

"BOOT HILL BOUND -- Texas Section Quick as Judge Roy Beans's court is, the gun hand of the sheriff and his deputies is often quicker, and some of the more desperate outlaws prefer to try shooting it out. They never win, and visitors continually see justice done -- a high- light of of a visit to Six Flags Over Texas."

Today, Six Flags Over Texas is very different. Little remains of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Confederate, Texas, and USA sections of the park that mirrored the six flags that have flown over Texas. The sections are still on the map, but have clearly lost their flavor as history gave way to corporate influence (Panda Express™ has a location in the Texas section while Ben and Jerry’s™ is in the South) An “El Sombrero” ride still spins patrons on a giant Mexican hat (although a smaller hat size than the original ride). The original conquistador de Coronado ride is long gone since Six Flags quickly decided that having tourists riding around on the back of live burros was a bad idea.

Brave conquistador leaves Mission of San-Fran- Cisco de los Tejas to organize expedition to search for the riches of the Seven Cities of Cibola

"Brave conquistador leaves Mission of San-Fran- Cisco de los Tejas to organize expedition to search for the riches of the Seven Cities of Cibola"

The “branding” that goes on has little to do with cattle and more to do with Starburst, Papa Johns, and other national brands. There are many more Looney Tunes characters and super heroes wandering around than cowboys.  The “Texas Justice” shootout is still staged five times daily but more kids have their picture taken with Batman than Six Flag’s local sheriff. This year saw the replacement of Sam Houston’s Texas show (a short history of the state) with Dick Clark’s Bloopers. The live show at the Crazy Horse Saloon still survives (perhaps because it’s air conditioned), but too many tourists talk noisily or wander in and out during the performance.

SHOWTIME -- CRAZY HORSE SALOON Visitors to Six Flags Over Texas relive the days Of gas footlights and greasepaint as they enjoy an old-fashioned songfest in the Crazy Horse Saloon."

"SHOWTIME -- CRAZY HORSE SALOON Visitors to Six Flags Over Texas relive the days Of gas footlights and greasepaint as they enjoy an old-fashioned songfest in the Crazy Horse Saloon."

The demise of history at Six Flags Over Texas is not the fault of the Six Flags corporation. I think it’s safe to say that they days in which Texans would find it entertaining to ride  past a few skeletons propped up in an fake saloon are far as our past as the stagecoach. The days of Texans as accidental historians are gone.

"STAGECOACH PASSES GHOSTTOWN TEXAS SECTION -- SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS Here in a colorful and authentic ghosttown saloon, the piano plunks and animated skeleton of the 'Old-Timers' entertain."

"STAGECOACH PASSES GHOSTTOWN - TEXAS SECTION -- SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS. Here in a colorful and authentic ghosttown saloon, the piano plunks and animated skeleton of the 'Old-Timers' entertain."

The State Board of Education–Episode II: The Revenge of the Sith

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Rick Perry is considering Cynthia Dunbar at the new chair of the State Board of Education. This comes after the Texas Senate rejected Perry’s nomination of Don McLeroy.

Dunbar has done more than her share to bring attention the SBOE. In a column she suggested that Obama’s election is “the end of America as we know her.” Dunbar went on to suggest that there will be an attack on America by terrorists and it will be “a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny.” From this, she speculates, Obama will launch martial law. Dunbar claimed she was writing as a “private citizen.” That reminder seems unnecessary since almost no public (or private institution) seemed to want to claim her. Even the website that originally published her rant (www.christianworldviewnetwork.com) removed it from their site.

As it turns out, Rick Perry may want to claim her.

Dunbar has other interesting views. The Chronicle points out that in a book published last year (One Nation Under God: How the Left is Trying to Erase What Made Us Great), Dunbar argues the founders created “an emphatically Christian government” and that should be guided by a “biblical litmus test.” A  press release from Texas Freedom Network graciously pointed out that on page 100 Dunbar describes public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” The Ft. Worth Star Telegram reports that Dunbar points out that she explains the characterization in the chapter and, “I also go on at the end of the chapter and say that I do not believe that it would be responsible to dismantle a system that educates more than 80 percent of the children in this country.”

Fellow SBOE members argue that her views have nothing to do with education policy. However, her writing reveals a contempt for America’s courts when she complains about “the attack this great Country undergoes on a daily basis from our own militant leftist Judicial Branch.” (Obviously, she missed the fact that Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43 did a pretty good job of appointing conservatives to today’s courts.) Whatever worldview shaped her rant against Obama and the courts will be behind other other decisions. It’s hard to see how she has the credibility to effectively lead the board.

I haven’t read the book (And, I’m not going to buy it. When I take  a break from my political science reading I’m going to read something fun). However, it’s hard to not be concerned by any description of the public education system as “tyrannical” and a claim that “the underlying authority for our constitutional form of government stems directly from biblical precedents.” Dunbar is consistent in her beliefs and has relied on home schooling and private schools to educate her children. What seems odd to me is that someone who rejects the legitimacy of public education’s role in the lives of families (page 102) would seek and exercise exactly this authority as a public official.

To be fair, the SBOE has been embarrassed before. Texas Monthly even put together a fun quiz about the innovative ideas emanating from SBOE members. Dunbar isn’t the only character on the Board. However, she may be the most interesting

The politics of typos

Governor Perry recently reject HB 1457 which would have given the Secretary of State’s the authority to resolve obvious typos by voter registration clerks when checking registration cards against drivers license files. State Representative Scott Hochberg sponsored the legislation because he claims that every year about 70,000 legitimate registration applications are delayed or denied, many because of clerical errors.  As it turns out, the Governor’s veto proclamation had a typo of its own.

Hochberg wrote to the Quorum Report:

In his veto message, the Governor warned of fraud, arguing that “A misspelled name or incorrect date of birth on a voter registration application is a strong indication that the application was filled out by someone other than the rightful voter.

As Hochberg points out, Perry’s veto message opens by saying <emphasis added> :

House Bill No. 1457 would require the secretary of state to develop a system for accepting voter registration applications when the information provided by the voter does not match the indentifying information for that individual in the records of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) or other state agencies.

Apparently, indentifying is not technical lingo related to indenting DPS data.

Hochberg asks if the typo in the Governor’s veto message is proof that the veto is fraudulent. We may have to ask for photo ID for anyone who wants to vote or veto a bill.