‘Victory or Death’

Received in the mail today a very fine letter addressed to me (and all other people of Texas, and Americans) from Lt. Col. William Barret Travis, seeking help — says he is besieged by a thousand or more of Santa Anna’s troops but he is determined not to surrender. It’s dated Feb. 24 and today is Feb. 25, so if it weren’t for the intervening 173 years we would still have time to get to San Antonio and help him out.

As you might could tell, I’ve been reading a lot of Alamo history lately. Really enjoyed A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory, which details the battle and what is known of the truth behind the stories, but also the roles of Walt Disney, John Wayne, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and recent scholarly criticism in popular perception of the Alamo.

I’m a proud product of the Texas public schools system, which both classified Frito pie as a vegetable and saw to it that all the Texas History sections in my junior high watched Wayne’s “Alamo” on the big screen in the school’s classy old auditorium.  It was the highlight of the semester, at least once we stopped throwing spitballs.

But we already knew the story. I had loved the Alamo since my parents took me to visit it as a kid. I’ve been back several times; a few years ago, I took a closeup of the chapel’s doors, which hung on my living room wall till my most recent move.

This time around in my reading, Col. Travis’ letter really stood out to me. Knowing more about history now, I can appreciate how rare it is that we have such a document from a pivotal event, written with great intensity and clarity by one of the principals. Thinking I might like to frame and hang a copy of it, I poked around on the Web, found and discarded various tea-stained, mahogany-framed replicas for $60 to $130 and settled on a simple reproduction for $2.25 from the Alamo gift shop itself (bonus: Proceeds aid the DRT). It’s perfectly serviceable, even readable — and I’m pretty sure the $60 replica was just one of these prints in an overpriced frame, anyway!

So, Col. Travis: Received your request for aid today by post. Very grateful for what you did. Also, you sure can write a stirring letter.

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