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Here are my articles on the Bracken Bats and Alamo for you review.

Mr. Geary Smith
119 Kollman
Mexia, Texas 76667
(254) 562-2720
About 540 words

The Bracken Bats:
Listen Up to the Tale

If you are ever travelling near or around the San Antonio area, and happen to be out  gazing for bats, the best way to find them is not to look up, but simply to listen.
Amazingly and just something remarkable, bats use echolocation to send out sounds, which echo back.  Then bats can determine their exact location based on how long it takes for the echoes to return. This is truly amazing how bats can determine precisely their location to other bats and things in their environments.
The Bracken Bat Cave, is located on 697 acres of land just north of San Antonio, in the Texas Hill County, is where you can listen up for the katyclicks of millions of bats.  What makes the Bracken Cave so unique and special is that it is the home to the world’s largest bat colony. Each year, especially, during the months of March through October,  an estimated 20 million Mexican Free-tailed bats migrate from Mexico to Texas to give birth and raise their pups. While these bats take refuge all across the state, the largest congregation takes place in or around the Bracken Cave. People from all over the country, as well as, scientists wanting to study bats, gather to see the bats.
Every night, the bats will fly out of the 100-foot-wide crescent-shaped opening to feed. The bats’ exodus is slow at first as they linger at the cave’s lip, circling round and round inside before emerging. Over the next four hours, millions and millions of bats stream out of the cave in graceful swirls as they rise into the wide sky and dissipate in the distance. They spread out over a 60-mile radius from the cave at heights of up to 10,000 feet and over the next 8 to 12 hours feed on hundreds of tons of insects, such as moths and agricultural pests.

Around sundown, the first of the 10 million bats will emerge from the cave.  The sky is covered in a black vortex of bats.  If you listen very carefully, you can hear the flapping of wings, which resembles a gently falling rain.  Some say it is like a well-orchestrated ballet, watching the millions of bats flying never touching or bumping in to each other. The Mexican tailed bats have several distinct and unique qualities that make them very special.
Night Vision-Bats are nocturnal, which makes them excellent night hunters and finding food.  
Hibernation- Bats will hibernate in caves in the winter to protect themselves from the cold weather, and also important as their food supply of insects and fruit decreases. Also, because they are mammals, and do not have feathers, but fur, it helps keep them warm.

According to estimates, the Bracken Cave has been around for about for about 10, 000 years.  Some people want the caves to remain exactly the way they have been for many years.  However, some people would like to see new homes, apartments and shopping centers built. It would be a tragedy to destroy or disturb the Bracken Cave and the home to millions of bats. It should be preserved for generations to come to see and be a part of the awesome sight and experience.  

Mr.Geary Smith
119 Kollman
Mexia,Tx 76667
(254) 562-2720
About 455 words

The Brave Little Cannon Boy

It was during a hot Texas summer about three miles east of San Antonio, Texas when the soldiers first approached the King’s farm to ask for directions and to give their horses some water and a needed rest.  As the soldiers came closer to the small farm, a young freckle-faced William “Billy” King was playing a game of fetch with his dog Comanche out in the front yard.  The young Billy just stared in awe and amazement as his father slowly walked up to the soldiers to inquire about their presence.  Billy just loved everything about the military and being a soldier. He loved their uniforms and how they stood tall and straight.  He loved the way they all march in a straight line.  He loved the silver-handed pistols and shinning sword that they carried.  But, most of all, Billy loved to the stories of bravery and heroic deeds done in battle.

It was about two years later, on a very cold and dreary day in February that a small troop of Gonzales’s Volunteers rode up in the farm.    Billy was now a little older and bigger.  He was at the age to do some of the heavy chores and lifting around the farm.  He would chop wood in the mornings, and do some of the heavy lifting of the bales of hay.  After making sure the soldiers and their horses were watered and feed, he could hear his father talking to Captain Kimball.

It was the next day that the young Billy King rode out from his life on the farm, with Gonzales’s soldiers, along with his dog Comanche.  However, Billy was so young that he did not even have his own gun to fight.

As they rode into the small mission called the Alamo, Billy looked around and found a place to store his supplies and to take a rest.  Afterwards, he met David Crockett, Jim Bowie and some of the other men that had traveled from all over the country.  

Billy was ordered to keep the cannon wet and make sure the heavy 18 pound cannon balls were ready to fire.  And, Billy did an excellent job at keeping and guarding the cannons in the mist of the heated battle. After a fierce battle against overwhelming odds, little Billy King died on March 6, 1836.  He lived and fought beside legendary men like David Crockett, William Travis and Jim Bowie.  He was the youngest Texas hero to fight at the Alamo.  Little William “Billy” King’s bravery and courage would live forever, along side of the other 182 men that fought and died at the Alamo for Texas independence.


Templeton, R.L. Cannon Boy of the Alamo. Quanah, Texas. Nortex Press, 1975.


I read your article on the Alamo.  Overall, it was interesting, but in order to help you, I have a few questions about some of the facts you use.

First, in most accounts I have read, King uses the name William.  I have not seen any where he has the nickname Billy.  It's possible he did go by that, but I haven't seen any accounts using that name.

Second, I'm not sure where you got the information about the dog named Comanche.  I've never read anything about King having a dog in any of the accounts.

Third, if King did see soldiers a few years before he went to the Alamo, they would have been Mexican soldiers that impressed him.  Those were the only soldiers around at that time.  Even when the Texans formed the rebellion, they did not wear uniforms or march with any sort of precision.  

Fourth, in at least one account that I read, William King took his father's gun when he left for the Alamo.  I am not sure if that account is accurate, or whether it was made up, but there is some question in my mind whether or not he had a gun.

Fifth, "little Billy" was 15 years old at the time of the Battle.  He was a teenager, but the story seems to indicate he was still a little boy.  He was certainly big enough that he was able to convince his father that he could take his place at the Alamo.  By one account he killed at least on Mexican soldier in hand to hand combat before he himself was killed.  Portraying him as a little kid just doesn't seem quite right to me.

Sixth, George Kimball, who led the contingent of men from Gonzales, held the rank of Lieutenant, not Captain.

Seventh, experts have named at least 189 men who died defending the Alamo.  There could possibly have been a few more whose names have been lost to history.  The 182 number was used for years, but was based on an inaccurate account of one man who left saying there were 150 men defending the Alamo, later joined by the 32 men in the relief column from Gonzales.  Most historians agree the 150 number was an estimate, not a precise number.

Many accounts about the Alamo are vague, incomplete or contradictory, so we may never know some of the facts related to that battle, but I hope you find my comments helpful.  

- Mike  

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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