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Roads of Destiny

A Departmental Case
In Texas you may travel a thousand miles in a straight line. If your course is a crooked
one, it is likely that both the distance and your rate of speed may be vastly increased.
Clouds there sail serenely against the wind. The whip-poor-will delivers its disconsolate
cry with the notes exactly reversed from those of his Northern brother. Given a drought
and a subsequently lively rain, and lo! from a glazed and stony soil will spring in a single
night blossomed lilies, miraculously fair. Tom Green County was once the standard of
measurement. I have forgotten how many New Jerseys and Rhode Islands it was that
could have been stowed away and lost in its chaparral. But the legislative axe has slashed
Tom Green into a handful of counties hardly larger than European kingdoms. The
legislature convenes at Austin, near the centre of the state; and, while the representative
from the Rio Grande country is gathering his palm-leaf fan and his linen duster to set out
for the capital, the Pan-handle solon winds his muffler above his well-buttoned overcoat
and kicks the snow from his well-greased boots ready for the same journey. All this
merely to hint that the big ex-republic of the Southwest forms a sizable star on the flag,
and to prepare for the corollary that things sometimes happen there uncut to pattern and
unfettered by metes and bounds.
The Commissioner of Insurance, Statistics, and History of the State of Texas was an
official of no very great or very small importance. The past tense is used, for now he is
Commissioner of Insurance alone. Statistics and history are no longer proper nouns in the
government records.
In the year 188––, the governor appointed Luke Coonrod Standifer to be the head of this
department. Standifer was then fifty-five years of age, and a Texan to the core. His father
had been one of the state's earliest settlers and pioneers. Standifer himself had served the
commonwealth as Indian fighter, soldier, ranger, and legislator. Much learning he did not
claim, but he had drank pretty deep of the spring of experience.
If other grounds were less abundant, Texas should be well up in the lists of glory as the
grateful republic. For both as republic and state, it has busily heaped honours and solid
rewards upon its sons who rescued it from the wilderness.
Wherefore and therefore, Luke Coonrod Standifer, son of Ezra Standifer, ex-Terry
ranger, simon-pure democrat, and lucky dweller in an unrepresented portion of the
politico-geographical map, was appointed Commissioner of Insurance, Statistics, and
Standifer accepted the honour with some doubt as to the nature of the office he was to fill
and his capacity for filling it—but he accepted, and by wire. He immediately set out from
the little country town where he maintained (and was scarcely maintained by) a
somnolent and unfruitful office of surveying and map-drawing. Before departing, he had
looked up under the I's, S's and H's in the "Encyclopædia Britannica" what information
and preparation toward his official duties that those weighty volumes afforded.