Friday, September 21, 2007

Take a Ride on the Frisco Line

A hippopotamus is huge. A full-grown male can reach up to 7,000 pounds or more. Hang that much weight on an eleven-foot-long frame and you’d expect a slow, ponderous beast. Surprisingly, hippos are actually quite fast, reaching speeds that would leave Olympic champions in the dust. Yes, hippos are impressive beasts. But one thing hippos aren’t is native to Texas. Why, then, is there a “Hippo Capital of Texas”? It seems that back in 1915 a circus train passed through the sleepy burg of Hutto, Texas, a few miles east of Austin. A wily hippo was able to slip away from its handlers and set up housekeeping in a local creek. This landmark event lead to the adoption of the hippopotamus as the Hutto High School mascot. 87 years later, the Texas Legislature made it official by designating Hutto as the Hippo Capital of Texas. The fact is, while Austin retains the rights to the designation “State Capital of Texas,” there are over fifty cities across the state that can lay claim to being the “something” Capital of Texas. Some make sense. Fredericksburg, for example, is the Polka Capital; likely based on the German and Eastern European roots of many settlers in that area. Glen Rose, home of some impressive fossil finds, is the Dinosaur Capital. Others are a bit more outlandish. The Ostrich Capital (Midland) joins Hutto in honoring an animal not native to our shores. And its neighbor, Odessa, claims the distinction of being the Jackrabbit-Roping Capital. Clearly, there’s just not enough to do in west Texas. And while each of these capitals is designated by an act of the Texas Legislature, some seem to be in dispute. Three different areas lay claim to the Crape Myrtle: Waxahachie, Paris and the entire Lamar County (and that’s not even counting McKinney’s un-official claims). Wildflowers, meanwhile, are claimed by both the city of Temple and DeWitt County. Which leads to the burning question of the week: What is Frisco the Capital of? I’m sure you’d get a variety of answers from citizens across town. Those living near the intersection of Teal and El Dorado would likely vote us the Traffic Jam Capital. A trip down Preston could lead to the distinction of the Bank Branch Capital. Drop by Pizza Hut Park on any Saturday and you could make a case for Frisco being the Soccer Capital. I think Collin County would certainly be in the running for the Toll Road Capital. And while all of those suggestions have merit, I’d like to put forth another suggestion; one that ties more directly into our City’s heritage. I am hereby starting my own personal campaign to designate Frisco as the Railroad Capital of Texas. The Frisco area was initially settled as a stop on the Shawnee Trail. The settlement grew with the arrival of the St. Louis - San Francisco Railroad, called “The Frisco Line” by people along its route. The first plan was to name our city after local resident Francis Emerson. But in 1904, citizens chose the name Frisco City in honor of the railroad that brought commerce to the area. The Frisco Line ultimately became part of the Burlington Northern Railroad and still plays a part in our daily lives. The sound of a train’s whistle as it rumbles past is certainly part of our daily environment. Recently, the City Council moved to adopt the original Frisco logo as our town’s public image, recalling our railroad heritage. You’ll notice that I’ve taken a tip from history to designate this biweekly column The Frisco Line. This is the first in a series of articles about Frisco, Texas. We’re a rapidly growing city that faces a number of unique challenges. I firmly believe that we can meet those challenges if our citizens are kept involved. And to be involved, you have to be informed. So in the coming months, I’ll be touching on topics like road development, toll collection, tax rates, parks and more. If there’s an issue on your mind that you’d like to see exposed, please drop me a note. And if I write something that touches a nerve, let me know that, too. My e-mail address is posted at the end of each piece. Plus, in an effort to reach the widest audience, the Frisco Enterprise will be publishing this piece as part of an online Blog, where you’ll be able to discuss these and other issues with your fellow citizens. Next spring, all of us are going to be faced with the decision of electing a new mayor, as well as a few new city council members. I hope that between now and then, The Frisco Line can help inform and educate you so you can make the best decision for our future. So consider this an invitation to join me here, every other week, for a look inside the Railroad Capital of Texas.

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