What Makes Me Texan By Nature – Abbey Jacks

Abbey Jacks as a child hikingI was born in Kingwood, Texas under the huge canopy of loblolly pines native to the Big Thicket of Texas. These trees were the constant background for my childhood quests as my family and I rode our bikes on the greenbelts to school or to my grandparents’ home, and some of my first and most cherished memories are of these kinds of adventures with my parents. My mom was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines (when Continental was independent of United Airlines), and I was incredibly lucky in my childhood to travel far and often. My dad comes from a long line of native Texans and instilled in me a sense of wonder and respect for the land and nature just outside our door; so, despite getting to be on an airplane for most of my childhood, some of my favorite destinations were in my home state.

One such destination is west Texas, and this area still holds my heart to this day. My childhood is filled with memories of swimming at Balmorhea State Park, star parties at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, and exploring Big Bend National Park and the ghost town in Terlingua. Anybody will tell you I have always had an affinity for nature and wildlife, but I think it was here in these spaces that I developed my love for all things wild and all things Texan. 

As I grew, loving wildlife and animals was the driving force for my hobbies, extracurriculars, and goals. I knew I wanted to work to protect animals in their wild habitats thanks to my childhood heroes like Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin.
Abbey Jacks as a child horseback riding
My parents (thank you Mom and Dad) helped foster that drive in me, and I grew up tackling the joys and challenges of working with animals such as raising a filly for my 4H Club and riding horses competitively throughout middle and high school. I also joined the local horse judging team and this skill stayed with me on to college at Texas A&M University in College Station where I competed at the collegiate level and went on to graduate with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries.

I have been so lucky in my life to do some amazing work with a wide variety of animal species – lions, tigers, bears, oh my! (no, seriously) – but my absolute favorites have always been Texas native species. There is such a pride that we as Texans take in our wild neighbors, and there’s something magical knowing that we share our home with animals like black bears, mountain lions, pronghorn antelopes, and golden eagles.

Abbey Jacks in front of Bracken Cave

We certainly do it bigger here in Texas, and our over 260,000 square miles of land is home to 142 animal species and sees over 500 species of birds – roughly 75 percent of all bird species identified in the United States. We share our home with animal species seen nowhere else in the world, like the Barton Springs salamander and the Rio Grande gold tarantula. Texas is unique and special in so many different ways that are worth protecting, and the fierce pride and ingenuity of every Texan (native or not, y’all means all) is essential in conserving these spaces and the incredible animals that live here alongside us.  

Abbey Jacks at the entrance of Big Bend National Park

When I think about what makes me Texan by Nature, I think of the animal life we see here in the Lone Star State. I think of the wide variety of ecosystems in Texas, from the beaches of the gulf to the panhandle plains and caliche outcroppings to the pine trees and bayous where I grew up. My passion for conservation began in the deserts and mountains of my home state, tracking lizards and snakes in the sand and marveling under the night sky in Big Bend National Park, now the largest dark sky reserve in the world. Most of all, I think about how important it is to protect these wild spaces for generations to come for all Texans. What makes me Texan by Nature? Simply put, it’s the nature in Texas