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Fallen Star, Rising Sun

Some topics we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

A book and a movie released last fall reminded Texas Longhorns football fans of a former player dear to them—Freddie Steinmark. Superstore rooftops in the state, seemingly the size of football fields, could turn the sunshine hitting them into electricity if they were filled with solar panels. Finally, this is a good month to reach for a peach.

Heroes and Heartache

Last football season, moviegoers and Texas Longhorns fans revisited the uplifting and tragic story of a past team hero. University of Texas Press published Freddie Steinmark: Faith, Family, Football by Bower Yousse and Thomas J. Cryan (available in paperback in early 2017). Then My All American, a movie about Steinmark, debuted.

Steinmark, a pint-sized kid from Colorado who became a star defensive back, was the symbol of courage for the undefeated 1969 Longhorns, one of the most heralded teams in college football history. President Richard Nixon declared the No. 1-ranked Horns national champions after the so-called Big Shootout, a 15–14 victory over No. 2 Arkansas.

The Steinmark story tugs at Texas heartstrings, though. As that glorious 1969 season reached its climax—a 21–17 Cotton Bowl victory over Notre Dame—Steinmark lost his left leg to cancer. He died a year and a half later.

The scoreboard at Royal-Memorial Stadium bears Steinmark’s name, and UT players tap a plaque dedicated to him as they enter the field before games. They’ll do so again Sunday, September 4, when Texas opens the 2016 season against Notre Dame.

Did You Know?

• UT is the only team from Texas to have played in any of the 50 games pitting the No. 1 team vs. the No. 2 team since The Associated Press football poll began in 1936. The Horns are 4–2 in such games.

• Rodeo is the official state sport of Texas. But don’t tell that to the 165,000-plus high school football players, the most of any state in the U.S.

“Birds Are Amazing”

A bird in the hand is worth plenty of excitement at Lake Jackson during the monthly bird-banding events. Birds are trapped in mist nets at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory and then banded, aged, sexed, measured and weighed before they are released.

“In August, we will be catching mostly resident and breeding birds, including cardinals, chickadees, wrens,” says Susan Heath, avian conservation biologist at the observatory.

Visitors get to see birds up close and in the hand. “Birds are amazing!” Heath says. “You can see features and colors that you can’t see on a bird through binoculars.”

Superstore Solar Bowl

Texas superstore rooftops offer the equivalent area of more than 11,000 football fields, according to Environment America, an environmental advocacy group.

Filling that space with solar panels, the group claims, could potentially generate enough electricity to power more than a third of the state’s superstores and save businesses more than half a billion dollars each year.

50 Years of Paisano

Almost 100 of Texas’ most gifted writers have benefited from Dobie Paisano Fellowships, which for 50 years have provided simple solitude on 254 acres outside of Austin.

J. Frank Dobie, folklorist and one-time University of Texas professor in English, purchased a ranch, which he named Paisano, in 1959 to use as his own retreat. After he died in 1964, his friends wanted to preserve the ranch and honor his legendary generosity to fellow writers.

Houston oilman Ralph A. Johnston bought the property, and other friends of Dobie raised money to cover the purchase price. On August 6, 1966, Johnston signed the deed turning Paisano over to UT.

Is August the Pits?

It sure can feel like it. After all, it’s back-to-school month, and there’s bound to be another 100-degree day right around the corner.

Well, it’s not the pits. It’s actually a peach—National Peach Month.

Tell your teacher what you learned about peaches on your summer vacation:

They are members of the rose family (as are apricots, cherries, almonds and plums).

They originated in China. Spanish explorers brought peaches to America in the 1600s.

Peaches contain a natural sedative that helps reduce anxiety. If you’re stressed about school starting, eat a peach.

Mammoth Milestone

The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25.

Texas has 16 sites in the park service. Big Bend National Park was the first, established in 1935. Waco Mammoth National Monument, where 24 Columbian mammoths and other ice age creatures have been discovered, is the most recent, established in July 2015.

See The National Park Centennial in Texas in the September 2016 issue.

By the Numbers

Texas seafood generates $846 million in sales annually and provides 14,134 jobs for Texans. (Read Seafood Quest: Galveston in the August 2016 issue.)

Worth Repeating

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” — William Faulkner