By Nathan Barton
A new Red River War?
Most of the boundary between the Republic of Texas and the State of Oklahoma is along the Red River, running generally west-east as it flows to the Mississippi. Like most of the rivers of the Great Plains, it is convoluted and frequently changes its exact location. It is an old border, dating back to the mid-1600s and claims of the Kingdom of Spain (still in existence) and the Kingdom of France (long gone). The United Mexican States inherited the border from Spain with independence, and again with Independence in 1836, the Republic of Texas too had this as one of her original borders. To the north, a successor (the French Empire) sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States, and the land was briefly part of Arkansas Territory and then Indian Territory (actually, part of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations) and the Territory of Oklahoma, and included in the State of Oklahoma when the Sooners won statehood.
Both Texan families and those to the north recognized this boundary: it was more than an imaginary line on a map. Texan families homesteaded the land south of the Red River, perhaps even before Texas joined the Union in 1845. Amerind families, some long inhabitants of the area and some recently forced to move to the area (due to the Trail of Tears and other acts of deprivation by the FedGov), did the same. In many cases, the FedGov voided their stake to the land and opened it for homesteading by Anglos, especially in the last decade leading up to statehood in 1910.
The original boundary between French and Spanish territory was the treeline on the south bank of the river (there was no way, at that time, to mark the “ordinary high water mark” of the river or the centerline of the river, both used today for boundary purposes. In writing the “Enabling Act” to admit Oklahoma to the Union, the idiots in Congress apparently used the middle of the river as the boundary.
The river, of course, didn’t care what the papers said, and just as God made it, continued to change its course back and forth, bit by bit, year by year. In some cases the people living on both sides recognized that the river had changed its course, and used the old manmade border. But most folks figured they’d get along and go along with the river.
Jump forward about 105 years. A greedy and corrupt Federal government, led by a man of dubious origins and background, and in particular an agency now known for its iron fist, heavy hand, and slavish devotion to so-called environmental causes and federal power-grabbing, has begun to take action to claim that the land between the two old boundaries, that land south of where the river did or now flows that was not the boundary of Texas in 1845, didn’t belong to the people who settled on it and claimed it (and usually bought it) before or after 1845, or the suckers who bought it from those original settlers or AmerInd families. Nope, it belongs to the FedGov. All of it. 90,000 acres of it. That is more than 140 square miles, or nearly twice the size of the current District of Criminals (excuse ME, “District of Columbia!).
Apparently, the BLM isn’t claiming that the land belongs to the State of Oklahoma (or more accurately in their eyes, is “located within” the State of Oklahoma). It is still in Texan jurisdiction, apparently: it is just that as far as the BLM and DOJ and the other arms of the federal tyrants, the issue of jurisdiction isn’t worth a bucket of spit. Their only position is that something between 110 and 170 years of private ownership is worthless, and just because the FedGov is just now getting around to defending its claim doesn’t really matter. They have the power, they have the people, and they have the guns.
Now, most of this is bottom land. Most of it is probably in cottonwood groves along the river, useful for grazing (if that) and our modern catch-all of land use “wildlife habitat.” There may be a farmstead or ranchstead or five or ten on the land. Shucks, there may even be a town or two, or something like a sewage lagoon or water treatment facility (cemeteries and landfills in the Plains are usually put on hills or shallow, dry ravines, and not in river bottoms). It ain’t gonna break the budget of either Texas or Oklahoma if they don’t get to collect property taxes on it. It won’t matter anything seriously to the ability of Texas or Oklahoma to defend themselves should they have to go to war sometime. And 90,000 acres is not even a drop in the bucket to how much land the BLM controls, much as a corrupt and absolute monarch in England or Scotland might have half a millennium ago.
Indeed, this entire situation reminds me of the parable that the prophet Nathan (yes, my namesake) told King David. The one about the wealthy rancher with hundreds of sheep of his own, who steals the only lamb belonging to a poor, beggared man and serves it up as a banquet for his wealthy friends. Nathan told David the story to point out not just that making Bathsheba his mistress and sleeping with her, cuckolding her husband Uriah, then having Uriah killed in combat was not just a sin but was a disgusting, brutal, greedy, and heinous act.
Would that some modern preacher stand up to that squatter in 1600 Pennsy and his minions with the same courage that Nathan stood up to David 3,000 years ago!
It is well and good, though, to point out that the BLM has so much land (the Feds “own” 40% of 10 western states), but what is being done is still a sin (can’t call it a “crime” apparently) even if the BLM only owned a half-acre. Theft is theft.
You see, land in Texas is different than land in most of the rest of the nation. Yes, really! It is usually a lot drier and harder and often has this “disgusting” smell of petroleum hydrocarbons and sulfur! Seriously, though, it is different legally. The FedGov didn’t own or claim a single square inch of Texan land, unlike it did or does in virtually every state admitted to the Union since about 1810 or so, by right of purchase and fast dealings by Congress. Every bit of federal land in Texas, from a local post office’s lot to Fort Hood and Sam Houston National Forest and Padre Island National Seashore was bought from Texas or Texans by the FedGov (or stolen by forfeiture or for failure to pay taxes or bought by the Feds FOR local taxes owed (the infamous Bankhead-Jones Act of the Dustbowl and Great Depression).
Texan land was paid for in a number of ways: by treaty (with Spain or Mexico or various Indian tribes), by purchase of settlers from AmerInd (which may or may not have had much of a title to it) or by right of discovery and occupancy. And by blood. Texican blood, Texian blood, Texan blood. The blood of Anglo Texans and Spanish Texans and French Texans, yes and AmerInd Texans and people from Tennessee and Louisiana and Mississippi and the Carolinas who became Texan by adoption and sometimes didn’t get to live to enjoy their residency in the Republic very long. Texians who rose up against a tyrannical and unjust oligarchic government for liberty for themselves and their neighbors.
I am not saying that American blood (other than the volunteers of 1835 and 1836) was not shed to defend Texas: it was in 1845-48 and in 1914, at least, and I suppose we can pretend it was shed in defense of Texas and the rest of the now Fifty States in the bloodbaths of the 20th and 21st Century. But proportionally Texans shed a lot more blood for their own liberty and land, and for their neighbors’ liberty and land, than the other way around. The events leading to the victory in the War for Texan Independence started with the settlers (and metizo) of Texas trying to aid themselves and their neighboring Mexican states in reestablishing the republican Constitution of 1824, voided by the oligarchs fronted by Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. When that didn’t succeed, they went to Plan B, complete Independence. But they let their emotions rule, and opted for what we can today call the Crimean Solution: annexation into the United States.
To win their war, they got a lot of help from American states, especially but not only several Southern states. A debt of blood. Fifteen years later, Texas tried to pay that debt back, joining the Confederacy and sending its treasure and troops to fight and bleed east of the Mississippi. Texas could have gone back on its own, but it didn’t. It made other mistakes as well (who doesn’t?) but in 1865, Texas wasn’t conquered by the Union, it in essence pled “no contest” and had to give up because it no longer had the resources to fight, because they’d paid their debt of blood twenty times over.
For the thirteen years between the end of the Mexican War (1845-48), and then for another twenty years after the War Between the States, Texans and other Americans shed blood to defend their homes and people. Texas was still poor, but with a new century and new wealth, Texas again began paying back its blood debt: a tiny bit in the Punitive Expedition of 1914-1915 after Pancho Villa’s raid into New Mexico, a lot more in France in the Great War, and an incredible amount in the Second World War and the wars since then: even if that payback was misguided.
The FedGov MUST consider what they are doing. Texas was a poor, barely populated (25,000) half-state which faced down a population in a (at the time) wealthy nation-state with almost 7 million (280 times its number), in an era when physical numbers were very important in war. It was part of a confederacy outnumbered 10 to 1 in people and 20 to one in industrial strength, at a time when industrial strength was equal to population in factoring war. It was not defeated, but instead let itself be drained helping those who had helped it. Today, Texas would be outnumbered still, with 25 MILLION people, against another 300 million Americans, but with incredible industry and access to military installations that provide at least 25% of the total American military force, and probably 100 million of those remaining Americans would at worst be neutral and at best JOIN Texas in its fight, once more, for liberty. Oh, I don’t like the government in Austin much more than the government in DC (or Denver or even Pierre), but I’ll take it over DC any time. It is TIME to make a stand, once again.