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A little about Texas …

February 27, 2023

Eastern Bluebird, Fort Worth, TX


While the state bird is the mockingbird – several of which I have seen for the first time in our friend’s backyard – perhaps it should be instead the F-16 fighter jet, many of which were produced here.


1. White Settlement, Fort Worth suburb

It’s not really named “White Settlement”, is it?

But, yes, it is; it’s a suburb of Fort Worth where many residents who work (or worked) in the defense industry live. As a friend noted, “Almost everyone in my neighborhood has worked for Lockheed.” Defense industries are nothing short of the economic anchor of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Raytheon, Lockheed Martin  and other military contractors all flourish ere as do a number of major military bases, including Carswell Air Force Base. For most of its operational lifetime, the base’s mission was to train and support heavy strategic bombing groups and wings.

While the state bird is the mockingbird – several of which I have seen for the first time in our friend’s backyard – perhaps it should be instead the F-16 fighter jet, many of which were produced here.

We’re visiting a lifelong friend who lives just to the west of Fort Worth, Texas. Her home is a spacious ranch 1750 square foot home sitting on an acre of land which cost her $250,000 three years ago. There is a big living oak tree in the backyard with a two foot diameter at the base and almost enough space to fit a baseball park in. (Such a property in Denver, I would guess would cost between $1.5-2 million, an example of how much less expensive the cost of living is here.)

Nowhere that I have been – not even Colorado Springs with its “Focus on the Family” and the Cheyenne Mountain Military Facility – has the merger of militarism, rightwing Christian fundamentalism and energy merged into one political world view than here in White Settlement, a suburb of Fort Worth. Turkey vultures circle overhead.

This is a neighborhood where newcomers are asked “And tell us, what church do you attend?” or, “You don’t have a gun in the house? Not owning one endangers the entire neighborhood. Everyone else here has one.” American flags are hoisted from most neighboring houses and a large “Let’s Go Brandon” sign sits in front of one neighbor’s house. (“Let’s Go Brandon” – which many people don’t understand – is code language for “F@ck you Biden”). We met one of the neighbors, a woman in her early 70s. Her father built B-24s and B-36s. She spent more than thirty years working on F-111s and F-16s. A small slight woman, her tool kit weighed more than she did.

Accordingly, the name of the neighborhood is “White Settlement”,  politically and religiously conservative and appropriately named. Historically, the overwhelming majority of the residents here worked in defense plants or on military bases.

Just across “White Settlement Road” from where we are, sit three large churches, Redeemer Bible Church, the First Church of Latter Day Saints and the Solid Rock Church.

Announcing that we are in the heart of the military industrial complex here, “Lockheed Blvd” is just down the street. In a local library, I learned that the name derives from an early settler-Indian dispute, which was settled by offering four Indian tribes – two of which were the Catto and the Comanche – plots of land on which to live. The fifth plot was given to Anglo settlers, thus, supposedly, the name “White Settlement”, a title which has stuck.

The biggest employer in these parts is a airplane manufacturing plant, Convair (which later was bought out by General Dynamics, which in turn was absorbed by Lockheed Martin in the mid 1990s). During World War II the Convair factory built 3000 B-24 bombers and employed some 35,000 people. It was estimated (a student term paper on local history in the library) that 75% of White Settlement’s residents were families who bread earner(s) worked in the Convair factory.

After the war, the same plant built B-36 “Peacemaker” bombers – the largest propeller driven bomber ever built. The nuclear-bomb capable B-36 could fly 10,000 miles without refueling and was therefore capable of “delivering” – as if it were a piece of mail – an atomic bomb anywhere in the world.

The B-24 and B-36 were followed by production of the B-58, a supersonic bomber that while in Air Force service set 19 world records for speed, payload (meaning its weight in bombs), and altitude. Nicknamed “the Hustler”, 116 of them were rolled off of the assembly line between 1956 and 1962. Following on the heels of B-58 production, in November, 1962, the Department of Defense announced Fort Worth had been selected to build the supersonic tactical fighter, the F-111, the first aircraft designed jointly by two military services, the Air Force and Navy – which more often than not were in competition with one another for federal funding. The F-111 made its maiden flight in September, 1976.

That was not the end of it. Far from it

Then in 1975, the Air Force began to build F-16 fighter jets, many of which are still in use now a half century later. The initial order was to build some 650 F-16s but just four months later, four NATO nations – Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Netherlands – signed contracts to buy an additional 348 F-16s. The Air Force later announced that a total of 1396 F-16s were built. Early in 1980s, as a consequence of the famous – or is the infamous?- Camp David Accords signed the previous year, Israel became the 6th nation to fly F-16s, still used most recently to bomb Damascus; Egypt became the 7th nation.

2. From Amarillo to Fort Worth

The trip from Amarillo to Fort Worth on the second day of our little trip was noteworthy. The scenery changed from the dry, hard, virtually treeless ground south of Amarillo to a more verdant, well watered region as we neared Fort Worth, reminding us of similar landscape changes across Nebraska from west to east. Not far out of Amarillo we passed the Charles Goodnight Ranch, made famous because of the Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail where, prior to the coming of the railroad, cattle were herded from all over Texas and then driven north to railroad stations in Kansas and Nebraska to be shipped to the slaughterhouse of Chicago.

One cannot underestimate the importance of Methodism here on the High Plains, and not just in Texas. We tried to stop in a town called Clarenton, looking for a restaurant, of which there were none. Many of the houses both on the main street and side streets had metal crosses in their front yard. Turns out the town was an early deeply religious place, a part of a coalition scheme to bring God,, Education and Temperance to the West, as such, an important Methodist religious center.

175 years on, the town is still dry with all that is left of its early religious militancy are the crosses on lawns. What was originally a Methodist college ,Clarendon College, was established in 1898 by the Methodist Episcopal Church,. It was administered as a private institution until 1927 when it became a publicly supported two-year institution is a public community college in Clarendon, Texas.

The area around Clarenton is pecan and peach growing country par excellence. Watermelon and cantaloupe are also grown here.

We made a stop at Wichita Falls, a city of 100,000. I wanted to see “the Falls” for which the place was named. It turned out to be something of a dud, more of a name to attract tourists and anything else. But there is a wonderful park, Lucy Park, which extends north and a touch west of the city. It includes a nature preserve which was worth a visit.

Mockingbird. Texas state bird…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. William Watts permalink
    February 27, 2023 6:37 pm


  2. Janie Hakes permalink
    February 28, 2023 4:15 pm

    Love this. You are truly a man of many talents, Rob — photographer, travel writer, speaker, and all around great guy!

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