Author Winston Menzies shares the story of his family and others that made Texas great
What’s the first word you think of when you hear “Cowboys”? Football? Indians? Long before the movie Cowboy vs. Aliens was a passing thought in the mind of its creator, the real Cowboys fought the elements, the land, Indians, outlaws, boll weevils and screwworm flies that threatened their crops and livestock – the very center of their way of life. The battles that the early pioneers against their enemies and nature made our land great. The early settlers to Texas had strength and determination that many of us could only imagine today.
Below are excerpts from The Spirit of Texas in which author Winston Menzies describes the life that his great-grandfather, William Menzies, and many others faced. He also shares lessons that we can learn from these early days of our country. According to Menzies, “This book is a challenge to you, your friends and family, our government leaders, and to our nation—a challenge to look at the powerful, dynamic, and successful history as a pattern for shaping our future. It’s a wake-up call through a true story to recognize the valuable character qualities we’re losing, what national treasures of virtue we’re letting slip away, what strength and connectedness are disappearing from our personal, familial, and national relationships.”
Over time, the spirit of Texas rested on countless rugged, pioneer men and women too numerous to name whose brave acts of courage and selfless duty won the West. They also gave birth to future generations of stalwart citizens just like themselves. These pioneers met the dangers and difficulties of frontier life head-on and subdued them. Their individual acts of bravery and devotion have often gone unnoticed or have, regrettably, long since been lost in the sands of time. Remembering our heritage and learning the lessons our ancestors so ably taught us keep future generations from having to continually start over from scratch. Simply put, pioneering Texas was like riding a wild bronc that had to be broken. You will either have enough of the spirit to break it, or it will break you. It has been said (and rightly so) that Texas was hard on men and dogs but hell on women and horses. For the most part it is not a gentle land. Although beautiful in its own right, it was and remains an arid, unforgiving land. The farther west you go, the terrain becomes more and more a land of scrub oaks, mesquite trees, cactus, rattlesnakes, jackrabbits, armadillos, and scorpions. In addition to all this, the early settlers had to deal with Indians, outlaws, and the fact that Spain and subsequently Mexico wouldn’t allow them to own even a handful of this Texas dirt until 1821. Even then, landownership came with onerous, unbearable conditions. Without an understanding of the struggle this land inspired and required, Texas will mean nothing to you.
This is a true story, gleaned from documents recently found, of a Scottish immigrant who crossed the great ocean with his family to forge a new life in North America. He came first to Canada, then to New York, and finally to Texas at the age of twenty-one with nothing but a wooden tool box. Here he built a family and a legacy of self-reliance and dogged determination, carving out a beautiful but hard-won life as a pioneer rancher. He also became the patriarch of the Texas Menzies clan, and through his character, forged a singular heritage for generations to come.
Lessons William Taught Us
Many families came to Texas from Europe, primarily to flee religious oppression. All they wanted was to be free from tyranny, to have an honest opportunity, and to be free from government control and entanglements. The only problem was that city folk during the Depression wanted to be dependent on the government, which ushered in countless, needless, failed government welfare and assistance programs that have multiplied over the years and led to the present-day oppression. Some have been willing to trade freedom of opportunity for false security and have reaped a harvest of tyranny as their sure reward. They gave up the best part, the right to struggle, which brings as its blessing the seeds of inherent greatness. These seeds can only be planted in the soils of faith, hope, risk, blood, sweat, tears, and hard work.
Texas gave immigrants something truly fantastic: the right to try, fail, learn, and try again—all without the kind of interference from government that always comes with its detrimental and deadly false support systems. The truth is, we cannot as a nation have the freedom to succeed without the freedom to fail. The kind of freedom they had in Texas during William’s day is the same kind we need in America today. Freedom has always been a three-legged stool. To be completely free, it takes political, religious, and economic freedom. None can long exist without the others.
In William’s day they had the privilege of entering a voting booth and drawing the curtain without fear of reprisal or intimidation from hoodlums in combat boots carrying billy clubs. What is worse is to have an attorney general who protects the hoodlums instead of the voters, as we see today. We need to go back to the time when people voted their consciences as to what was best for our country and elected who they thought could best achieve it.
In Great-Granddad’s day, people had the freedom to follow their conscience and to worship whatever God their faith showed them was real. They had the freedom to assemble and worship without fear of someone entering their place of worship and trying to disrupt it or opening fire on them because their particular “religion” and their “holy book” tells them that is what they are supposed to do. Faith in the true and living God is what kept these early Americans secure. It made their families strong and also prospered and guided their every step. Religion provides moorings and something little heard of today: truth. We are suffering in our society today from a dearth of truth, and that necessarily leads to an absence of trust and a breakdown of community. We see it evidenced today in a national cheating epidemic as teachers have changed their students’ answers on standardized tests to ensure good scores as well as to assist in their own promotions. We see it in a president who broke twenty-three of his campaign promises in his first ninety days in office. It is nearly everywhere.
None of what was accomplished in William’s time could have been possible without economic freedom. They had the right to choose their business, their locale, whether to create their own company or not to have a company, as well as what, when, and where to invest. All this, of course, was available without an oppressive tax burden. This is all hugely important in order to have a prospering economy.
In William’s day there weren’t any federal taxes and there was no IRS. That didn’t come about until 1913. It was a dark day when the so-called progressives gained control of the federal government. They came up with the progressive tax system and promised that the federal taxes they were about to institute would only be in place to pay off a few things. These new income taxes would be temporary and then quickly be abolished. They also said that average folks would never be asked to pay more than 1 percent and the rich no more than 7 percent. Never, never, never! They promised, right? Sorry. Within four short years the little guys were taxed up to 4 percent and the big guys to 73 percent. Welcome to the progressive, socialist tax system.
The Spirit of Texas features include:
- More than 170 original photographs.
- Astonishing true stories of the rambunctious old West.
- Details of Texas events never before told.
- An enlightening account of Texas history that is accurate, exciting, and entertaining.
- An inside look at the rough-and-ready ranchers and cattlemen who tried to tame the wild West Texas plains.
The Spirit of Texas: The Astonishing Story of a Pioneer Rancher’s Family and Their Mighty State
by Winston Menzies
Creative Publishing Company/November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9826143-2-7/270 pages/hard cover/$29.99