South Padre

The Port Mansfield Cut and the treasure discovered there

Running from Corpus Christi to near Brownsville, Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the world. Up until the late 1950s, you could drive the entire 113 miles of the island if you had a vehicle with decent four-wheel drive. That option was blocked in 1957 when the Port Mansfield Cut was dredged. The waterway had been a dream of Laguna Madre locals for decades. Texas Standard commentator W.F. Strong tells us how the island was split and what was found.

A. Sinclair: “How Things Got Done”

If you listen to our airwaves a lot, then you already know the name A. Sinclair. That’s the eponymous indie rock project of Austin multi-instrumentalist Aaron Sinclair, who doesn’t typically stick to one tempo for long and steers clear of 4/4 time as best he can. That said, A. Sinclair’s secured a reputation of accessibility, even when stripped down to the basic elements of vocals and guitar. But like countless other creatives, the COVID-19 pandemic presented A. Sinclair with plenty of songwriting fodder among the hurdles of social distancing. A. Sinclair embraced that obstacle of remote collaboration on his latest LP South Padre, working with a dozen contributors across five different states. The resulting masterpiece sounds so organic you’d never guess it was primarily conceived through voice memos, texts, and emails. South Padre came out last Friday, just in time for summer, so embrace the rising temperatures with A. Sinclair’s heated dynamics on tracks like “How Things Got Done”!

Peregrine Falcons

This is the time of year that Peregrine falcons make their incredible journey from Greenland to Argentina and Chile, a distance of over eight thousand miles. One of the most popular migration stopovers for Peregrines is Padre Island. There, they rest and eat for a few days. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong says it’s like a Buc-ee’s for birds – and then some.

Long Before Elon Musk, A Different Man Had A Plan To Develop Boca Chica

One hundred years ago, Col. Sam Robertson stood on the same Boca Chica Beach in South Texas that Elon Musk owns today and dreamed a different dream. Instead of Musk’s spaceport, Robertson dreamed of seaports and an oceanside highway.  

Robertson owned 800 acres at Boca Chica, about 20 miles northeast of Brownsville and it was likely some of the same thousand acres now managed by Musk’s companies. Back then, Robertson built the railroad that connected the Rio Grande Valley to the wider world. He had founded the town of San Benito, serving as sheriff and helping to run the Ku Klux Klan out of the region.  

He had repurposed the old channels known as resacas to irrigate the lower valley. In 1926, he gathered RGV leaders in Brownsville’s El Jardin Hotel to make his pitch for an oceanside highway that would run from Boca Chica all the way up Padre Island to Corpus Christi. It would become, in his words, “the most beautiful 150 miles of highway in the world.”  

Robertson laid out his vision before the Rio Grande Valley Commercial Club. “I have traveled somewhat extensively in this world,” he said, “and have never seen any scenery wilder or more beautiful than this stretch of beach.”

Robertson was not only an entrepreneur; he was a decorated soldier and noted engineer. In 1915, he served as a scout for General Jack Pershing in the pursuit of Pancho Villa in Mexico. During World War I, he served in Europe as a commander of the 22nd Engineers, building railroads and bridges for Allied troops in France. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for bravery under fire. 

The business leaders of the Valley trusted his vision because they believed his claims. He wasn’t pitching a blacktop road. 

“The beach is as smooth as a billiard table,” Robertson said. “No road can be constructed by man as good for autoing as the beach, and the Gulf of Mexico maintains it.” All you would need is maintenance crews to move driftwood out of the way, he said, telling those assembled that he had explored the beach from Corpus Christi to the mouth of the Rio Grande River and that a highway was quite possible and would bring in enormous numbers of tourists. Just “throw across” some bay bridges at either end, he suggested, and you’d be open for business.  

Such a development would be good for the Rio Grande Valley, too, he argued. With good roads to Boca Chica Beach, Valleyites could have a Sunday lunch at home, then drive to the beach for a Sunday afternoon swim at the beach and still be home by 10 p.m. 

Robertson’s oceanside highway was never developed. But looking at South Padre and North Padre today, just north of Boca Chica with their causeway bridges, carefully maintained beaches, opulent hotels and verdant landscaping, you can see that his dream for the island has been partially realized. 

Robertson opened his Del Mar Resort on Boca Chica Beach in 1931, but the resort was virtually wiped out by a hurricane two years later. He rebuilt within six months and constructed an asphalt road from Brownsville to Boca Chica Beach because his personal mantra was: “Civilization follows transportation.” 

Musk would like that, too.

Sea Turtles Hatching

The public releases of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings just wrapped up for the year. The annual ritual draws many to the Texas Gulf Coast. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: August 23, 2018

Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors: how does hush money fit in to the formula for impeachment? We’ll take a look. Also, fears of an upswing of violence on the border. We’ll hear what’s happening and why. And since 2016, law enforcement officials and social media companies have taken steps to curtail fake news and foreign hackers. With the midterms fast approaching, how well is the fight faring? Our Digital Savant Omar Gallaga takes a look. Also, the deer industry up in arms over state efforts to limit where the animals roam. Plus our weekly trip tip takes us to South Padre Island and we’re just getting started. Turn it up! It’s Texas Standard Time!

Texas Standard: April 5, 2017

Has the freedom caucus outlived its usefulness? Congressman Ted Poe on why he walked away and what that means for conservatives in Texas. Also, out of control: after hundreds of arrests and even deaths during spring break, South Padre demand a shift in the island’s image as the teenage party capitol. And from ranchers to rock stars, how the resurgence of chain stitched western wear could be a Texas sized boon for business. Also a warning to gephyrophobes about the scariest bridge in all of you know where. All that and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: September 1, 2016

Immigration is the topic front and center in the Trump campaign right now. How are Hispanic Texans reacting? We’ll hear one perspective. Plus technology can really ruin your day sometimes, but it can not only make our lives easier but save our lives. We’ll talk Tech. Also The mantra of Texas BBQ has always been low and slow. But what happens when you cheat that method and still get great taste? And did it seem rainier than usual this August? That’s an understatement, we’ll take a look at one of the impacts. And how a late 90s heart-throb is moving into new roles, and embracing life as a new Texan. That and a whole lot more, today on the Texas Standard: