THE FRONT PORCH – Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light? Actually, it’s more the twilight’s last gleaming. I’m a late sleeper, but I got you out here to look at my newest addition: a flag. A Texas flag. It is one of three my children gave me for my birthday. Now I can vote! This banner is a replacement because in my old digs BH. Before Harvey, I had a flag pole in my front yard. On certain occasions I would put out the proper flag: July 4th, Texas Independence Day, Guy Fawkes Day and International Talk Like a Pirate Day. (I was just kidding about Guy Fawkes.) You might have a flag that you put out on special events, or even keep it flying every day. In my case, I was a little apprehensive about putting out a flag since none of my new neighbors here in Golden Years Ghetto did. I checked with the Taste Police and was sent a six-item sheet of instructions, including: the pole must be “harmonious with the dwelling.” I guess my original idea of using a broomstick handle wouldn’t fly, so to speak.
Flying the Lone Star Flag must be curious to those neighbors who are French-Canadian and one who is “an Anguish transportation” which I finally figured out was an English translator, I think. This Lone Star Flag, in turn, gave rise to the state’s nickname: “The Lone Star State.” The nickname came from the flag, not the other way around. The flag is flown everywhere around the state, at homes and businesses, on our license plates, even our school children daily recite: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.” You can buy a Texas flag that flew over our capitol, and even specify the date you want it flown. Add 65 cents if you want a genuine certificate testifying to your creativity.
Along with the flag of Hawaii, ours is one of two state flags to have previously served as a national flag. Ours is a pretty flag, and others must think so, too. In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association surveyed its members on the designs of the 72 U.S. state, territorial, and Canadian provincial flags and ranked the Texas flag second, behind New Mexico. (Vexillography is the art and practice of designing flags; it is allied with vexillology, the scholarly study of flags. A person who designs flags is a vexillographer. A vexillologist is a person who vexes.)
Each color in the Texas flag has its own meaning. Red represents bravery, white symbolizes purity (I don’t know about this “purity” thing) and blue means loyalty. It was first used in the early 1800s during battles between Texas and Mexico, but was not used either at the Alamo or San Jacinto. Six different national flags have flown over Texas representing the countries which have ruled it (France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States.) But I think we actually got them from a theme park in Arlington. Incidentally, it is a myth that only Texas can fly its state flag as high as the U.S. flag.
In the early years of our republic, we had all sorts of flags. Stephen F. Austin and two friends visiting New Orleans designed a Texas flag: A square Union Jack, three stripes — red, white and green — and a single star. His two buddies changed the green to blue, changed the star to the sun with the head of George Washington in the center. They argued over whether to put “Lux Libertas” or “In His Example There is Safety” under Washington’s face. Sounds absolutely dreadful. Wonder if they had been hitting the saloons on Bourbon Street?
A lot of states have their name on their flag. Nevada’s state flag reads: “Battle Born” because Nevada joined the Union during the Civil War. Washington State has — what else? — a picture of George Washington. Maryland has a pretty flag, which also appears on several of Maryland’s state symbols: the state flower, state bird, state insect, and even the state cat. Texas designated the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) as the official state insect in 1995, but we don’t use it on our symbols. We don’t have a state cat, although, in view of recent developments, the Houston Astros could adopt, as their mascot, the cheetahs.
Our flag is clearly a rip-off of the U.S. banner. Indeed, one version looked very much like the U.S. flag, with red and white stripes and a single white star. It was used by the Texas Navy so that the Mexican Navy would think, at a distance, it was being flown by a U.S. warship and wouldn’t attack. We had to be sneaky – we were always outgunned. I also have a U.S. flag, and fly it on the Fourth of July, which this year fell on July 4. I should also put out the Stars and Stripes on Flag Day, June 14, because it was adopted on June 14, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress. But June 14th came and went and I forgot. As a side note, the flag that Francis Scott Key was looking at is in the Smithsonian, and was in sad shape, but was saved by the little polo player on your shirt. Ralph Lauren donated $13 million to help restore the flag.
Where were we? Oh, yes. We are standing in my front yard. I have a Marine Corps flag, scarlet and gold, not red and yellow. I fly it each November 10, the Marine Corps birthday. I had a UT flag, orange and white with a big, white longhorn silhouette in the middle. It got taken away by Harvey, along with my Nobel Peace Prize, Oscar and Medal of Honor. Now start practicing to talk like a pirate.
Ashby’s flags fly at firstname.lastname@example.org