I know there's a heaven 'cause I live in East Texas

Not exactly on the “beaten path,” East Texas exists in a kind of time dome where modern fashions and trends have difficulty penetrating the Piney Woods.  East Texas is the America of a past time, a place where many doors still aren’t locked, and keys are left in the pickup.  Children, boys and girls, learn at an early age how to fire a gun and hit a target.  At just about the same time, they are learning to read the Bible.

Rodeo, livestock, hay, the feed store, veterinarians are just a normal part of life. The town square probably has a Confederate soldier’s statue, along with large monuments dedicated to the men who fought so many wars for America.  And the county court house can be a great source of local pride because of its unique architecture and the Texas marble used to construct it.  It’s likely there will be an annual festival of some kind on the court house lawn.  In Gilmer, it’s the Yamboree; out in Rhonesboro, just a crossroads, it was the Possum Festival draped in Confederate flags and featuring a Possum Queen!  Small towns with names like Gun Barrel City, Arp, Carthage, Diboll and Tatum are scattered through the rural landscape.  

No, it’s not perfect; there is some crime here, but there is more Christ here than crime, a lot more.  God lives in East Texas, and you don’t have to go further than the local McDonalds or Bodacious BBQ to talk about Christ with a stranger, or see a group of men or women in Bible study most week day mornings.  Bible verses can be seen flashing in between the temperature given on lighted bank signs.  And you won’t have to search too hard on the radio to get a Christian radio station!

East Texas is an almost magical place where vast sums of money poured in after the discovery and development of rich oil reserves.  For a time, Kilgore, Texas had the richest acre in the entire world, and there is a museum in Kilgore to tell the story. 

But East Texas has more than oil to boast of.  While most Americans believe the first flight of man occurred in North Carolina, a museum in Pittsburg, Texas, tells a different story where flight happened before the Wright brothers!  The video explains that no one knows about the Texas flight because there was no movie camera to record it.

And there is much more to East Texas; the place where Elvis performed before he was Elvis!  The cultural fabric of East Texas is a literal nursery for a continuous flow of music and theatrical talent onto the national scene.  Johnny Mathis and Jim Reeves are just two of the nationally renowned performers who came from East Texas.

Then there’s football.  East Texas shuts down on Friday nights in the fall to watch the rising stars of the NFL play on the local high school gridiron under the lights.  Million dollar score boards do exist on high school fields in East Texas where state championships come to reside at the end of almost every season.

To accompany football are large women’s drill groups who practice for a hundred hours or more to bring almost professional half-time shows to high school stadiums packed with thousands of spectators.  Some of these young women will go on to become Tyler Junior College Apache Belles or Kilgore College Rangerettes.  These performance outfits travel the nation and sometimes the world. And from there, on to the Rockettes in New York.  Dance and drill is as much a means to pass on the unique charm and persona that is a Texas woman, as it is a means to learn and perform a precise dance routine under the pressure of ten thousand eyes. 

East Texas is almost the size of New Jersey and rests along Caddo Lake, the western Louisiana border.  East Texas does not run all the way down to Beaumont and Houston, or all the way up to Texarkana.  But that said, the precise borders of East Texas are somewhat hazy. 

East Texas, also known as the Piney Woods, is unique to the great state of Texas.  The land is green year round, with huge forests of pine and cedar.  Livestock, in the form of beef and dairy cattle, horses, goats and chickens are the produce of the large and small farms and ranches in the area.  Roses and cotton are two of the primary crops in the area.  Hunting, fishing, some trapping, and mudding, horseback riding, and water skiing are some of the calmer outside recreational activities.  For the more daring, there is rodeo, sky diving, ballooning, four wheelin’ and auto racing,  Cowboy and red neck are terms that apply to this part of the country. 

East Texas claims several medium-sized cities including Tyler, Longview, Huntsville, and Nacogdoches.

Just off Interstate 20, halfway ‘tween Dallas and Shreveport, Tyler acts as a kind of central commercial and cultural hub for much of East Texas.  At a little over 100,000 in population, it boasts television stations and several colleges – universities and medical centers, but is small enough to retain a town-like flavor where everyone knows just about everyone.  Tyler is home to the annual East Texas State Fair. 

Tyler, Texas, rightly claims the title as the Rose Capital of the World, and each year hosts a week-long Rose Festival.  Young ladies from around the world spend a year in preparation for this event, travelling to the area almost a year before to begin their dance and choreography training.  Thousands of dollars will be spent on each young lady’s gown.  The parades, balls, pageants, and other activities connected with this festival are first class, high-dollar events ,and set the standard for the entire South.

A group of people in Tyler are working towards creating the East Texas Heritage Museum.  For almost twenty years this group had worked on developing a Camp Ford Museum.  Camp Ford had been the largest Confederate Prisoner War Camp west of the Mississippi River.  Before it became a prisoner of war camp, Camp Ford had been a training ground for new Confederate units forming in Texas.  Recently, the board of this group rethought their vision and mission.  They all agreed there was so much more to Tyler and East Texas than Camp Ford, and agreed that they were perfectly situated to tell the story of East Texas.  After consideration, the board changed the name of the group from Camp Ford Historical Association to the East Texas Heritage Museum and have begun the process of developing a mission statement and vision.

The story of Camp Ford will remain an important element of the museum’s theme but the board saw a real need to organize and tell the story East Texas – a tall, robust and vigorous story to tell.  Starting with about a quarter of a million dollars in assets, the board has set a goal of raising three million dollars to create the museum.  The members of the board prefer to work towards private funds so as to remain free of government interference in telling the rich and full story of the region.  If you would like to become a part of this effort, you may contact the East Texas Heritage Museum through Col. David Pierson, (USAF Ret.), President, East Texas Heritage Museum Association,  at P.O. Box 1865, Tyler, Tx 75710.  

Mark Vogl
Mark Vogl

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author/contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nolan Chart or its ownership


  1. John De Herrera says

    Mark, nice writing, thanks for it. What are your thoughts on the Article V Convention? East Texas seems like a nice place for folks who revere the Constitution, they ought to be cognizant of what it is, why it’s part of the original high law.

    • MarkVogl says

      John, I know nothing about it. However, if it were a convention to “fix,” “adjust” or tamper with the Constitution I would be very opposed to it. The special interests would be prepared, have the money, and the lawyers and they would feast. What would come out would be nothing like the American Constitution. I would be much more willing to take my chances with secession.

      • John De Herrera says

        Mark, there’s the long answer, and the short answer. The short answer is that in regards to law, ever since written, always been composed of two things: the letter and the spirit: the letter of the law embodies the spirit, like vehicles shall come to a complete stop at an intersection, not a half-stop or kinda stop, to embody the spirit, that we don’t want People harming other People.

        The spirit of the Constitution, once requisite state applications hit on the doorstep of Congress, it shall call time/date for a federal convention of state delegations. The letter of the law, in this case the Constitution itself, is NOT for applications within five/ten years, NOT for same subject, but based on a simple numeric count–because of course the Framers knew then, what we know now, that power corrupts, and the powerful would never want to hold a convention of state delegations specifically held to discuss their power.

        Pick one of the titles that catches your eye; the writing of Bill Walker, constitutional scholar from the great state of Washington:http://www.foa5c.org/mod/resource/view.php?inpopup=true&id=30

        • MarkVogl says

          John, I don’t think a Constitutional convention is a good idea. The words of the Constitution as they are written are terrific, it is the interpretations by the Court that have undone our liberties. And no convention is going to fix that. Secession is the key to fixing this problem, and the key to the next Republic. The Court must fear that if it moves too far the states will leave… that fear is not present now, and the result is what we have.

          • John De Herrera says

            Mark, you are absolutely correct, the words of the Constitution are terrific, indeed, the most important words are that if the federal legislature fails to act in the interests of the People, the People have the right to address those failures.

            Consider what happens when a convention is called: if you are a corrupt politician or judge, and are notified the American People are going to dust off the Constitution and find the common ground, it alters Politics As Usual. In other words, the convention call creates a political dynamic that currently does not exist.

            The job of politicians is to keep People from the left and the right butting heads and arguing over things, whereas the Constitution provides a way for us to come together. Discovering what 75% of the People can agree on is a good idea, if one does not think so, then they have denied the Constitution from operating as intended. Please think about this, your misconceptions about the Article V Convention are harmful to the republic.

            Here is a recent article by Bill Walker: http://www.nolanchart.com/article6310-walter-williams-tea-parties-and-an-article-v-convention.html

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