The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986

Life at the Edge: Urban and Industrial
Evolution of Texas,
Frontier Wilderness Frontier Space,
1836-1986
CHRISTOPHER S. DAVIES*
The Frontier Myth in Texas
THE NATURE OF THE FANTASY
To understand the impulse of Texas one has to realize that Texans
are prisoners of their past. Texas today is wandering between two
worlds, the frontier wilderness, now a fading set of memories, and the
glittering urban presence of our telematic age. Frontier and city are
both powerful expressions and influential ideas in Texas, a state in
which city life was a minority experience until 1950. After years as a
victim of its sheer remoteness, Texas's emergence today as a child of the
modern era may prove to be the single most important event in Amer-
ica's history of time and place. Unlike Hamlet's "little patch of ground
that hath in it no profit but the name," the state is blessed with the es-
sential resource of the twentieth century: oil. Consequently, just as the
life of a beautiful woman is different from that of a plain one, so today's
affluent Texas is at variance with the poor Texas of yesterday (figure i).
Texas, which missed the nineteenth-century age of great cities, now
harbors Asa Brigg's "shock cities" of the twentieth century. The fixed
capital of corporatism, embossed in the civic prosperity of the sky-
scraper landscape of Texas's vibrant cities, whose tenures as major
metropoli embrace a mere fifty years, attests to the notion that deca-
dence is the East; "the living direction" is the West and South. As its
shimmering cities rush to crest against the timeless expanse of rural
Texas, a conflict of mistrust is forged between these two entwined ex-
pressions. The enduring tensions that arise from this uneasy symbiosis
between the country and the city affect the attitude and behavior of
* Christopher S. Davies is associate professor of geography at the University of Texas, Austin.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/. Accessed December 26, 2014.