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Twinkle, Twinkle

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

Lighting up our neighborhoods for the holidays also adds a little sparkle to the galaxy. And happy birthday to a Texas-inspired songwriter who brought another type of sparkle into many lives.

Looking Brighter

Sure, nights are getting longer as the Northern Hemisphere approaches the winter solstice, December 21 —but there’s a bright side.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, holiday lighting makes American suburbs up to 50% brighter than usual, even after midnight, The New York Times reports. Those strings of lights and blinking reindeer, which use enough electricity to power 800,000 homes for a year, can be observed from space.

Start Counting

You’d need 2,683 LED Christmas lights on your roof for them to be seen from space, say researchers at England’s University of Leicester.

Palo Duro Canyon State park is deemed the second-best state park in the country by vacation rental website HometoGo.

Chase A. Fountain | TPWD

Park Pride

Texas has two of the best state parks in the country. Palo Duro Canyon State Park, in the Panhandle, and Brazos Bend State Park, about 45 miles southwest of downtown Houston, rank second and third according to a national rating by HomeToGo. The vacation rental website ranked parks based on solitude, activities, wildlife and nearby accommodations. Letchworth State Park in New York took the top spot.

175 Years Ago

The U.S. Congress approved annexation of Texas on December 29, 1845, making it the 28th state.

The late singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker introduced Jimmy Buffett to Key West and Austin, which eventually led to Buffett’s hit song Margaritaville.

Margarita: Edfoto | Buffett: Amanda Edwards | Getty Images

That Frozen Concoction

During the summer of 1977, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville peaked at No. 8 on the music charts. The defining song of his career has a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame for its cultural and historic significance. It tells of the first huge wave of tourists to hit Key West, Florida, decades earlier and the laid-back lifestyle they discovered.

And it was written in Austin. Buffett enjoyed the titular refreshing beverage in 1976 at Lung’s Cocina del Sur on Anderson Lane, which inspired him to wax lyrical at a friend’s house about “that frozen concoction that helps me hang on.”

Did You Know?

Oh, and Buffett turns 74 on Christmas Day. Let’s all send him shakers of salt.

Blessed Beginnings

Minister Louis Ervendberg held the first recorded church services for Texas Germans 181 years ago this month. The services, December 22, 1839, were at the invitation of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, who later founded New Braunfels. Burgs in a New Land visits New Braunfels and Fredericksburg, which celebrate 175th anniversaries this year.

Gimme a T for Touchdown

What a Christmas Emmitt Smith had 25 years ago, when the Cowboys running back set an NFL record with his 25th rushing touchdown of the season. That record, set December 25, 1995, has been broken three times, twice by Texans.

Priest Holmes of San Antonio, who went to the University of Texas, scored 27 TDs in 2003. And then in 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson of Rosebud, who went to Texas Christian University, set the record of 28, which still stands.

QB or Not To Be

Eldridge Dickey could be the best quarterback that never was.

Dickey was an all-state high school quarterback from Houston before leading Tennessee A&I State College to its first undefeated season and first historically Black college national championship in 1966.

In 1968 the Oakland Raiders made Dickey the first African American quarterback selected in the first round of a pro draft. Because pro teams denied Black players the opportunity to play quarterback, he was converted to wide receiver and never took one snap as a pro player.

Dickey, who died in 2000, was born 75 years ago—December 24, 1945.


50 Years Ago: Julius Whittier became the first African American to letter in football at the University of Texas—in 1970.

25 Years Ago: Wharton-born playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1995 for The Young Man From Atlanta.