Things I Love about Texas

Gary Nunn’s song- "What I Like About Texas"- can make some Texans cry- I’ve seen it happen! I’ve lived in other states, and I like every place I have lived, but I really do love Texas, and here’s  four of the reasons why I do:

(You can listen to Nunn sing about his reasons while you’re reading.)

There’s a tolerance for difference and eccentricity that not only is real, it’s defining. It’s no accident that there is a very large and growing gay community in Texas. It’s not a coincidence that rogue businessmen (and women) like H.L.Hunt, Ross Perot, and Mary Kay Ash thrived here. It is not mere fortune that nutty fundamentalist churches, unique musicians like Willie Nelson or Leadbelly, and politicians like LBJ and Sam Rayburn called this state home.

There’s a guy in this small town where I live (population: 4000) that drives around wearing women’s clothing. Nobody cares. In Dallas, for many years, the Texas Kid filled his yard and covered his home with roadside and junkyard ephemeral art. His neighbors loved him. Stanley Marsh planted Cadillacs in the ground near Amarillo in 1974. The whole state knows about and loves that mess of wheatfield steel.

cadillac ranch

The "live and let live" policy of personal regard for the neighbors and their many peculiarities is real. "If it ain’t broke, leave ’em alone" is the motto of most Texans and that makes for lots of surprises over the next hill, and some darned interesting people almost everywhere you go in the state.

Just past the tracks, on the other side the old Chevy house, there’s a place that serves the best BBQ you’ve ever tasted. Every town has such a place. Just ask the right people and they’ll reluctantly share their secret, which is almost always located in the expanded kitchen or front yard of an older African American couple. They serve sliced BBQed beef on white bread with a bunch of dill slices and a heap of jalapenos. And that’s it! And it will be the best meal you eat all week!

For years I spent a lot of time in small East Texas towns. No matter the time of day, I discovered it was almost always possible to find these little BBQ joints that no health inspection bureaucrats had been to in years (at least in their official capacities!)  When it was inside a house, you’d sit on one of an eclectic collection of chairs, get a Coke from a refrigerator, be talked to endlessly by the owner who was also the cook who was also the server, and try to keep the grease and sauce off your lap while you ate the best beef sandwich you had ever eaten or would ever eat. At least until the next town.

No habla Ingles. Lots of people here in Texas- some of  whose families have lived here for generations and some who crossed the Rio Grande last month in the middle of the night- don’t speak English, or want to, or need to. This was Tejasmexico long before it was Texas, and norteamericanos are the interlopers in many neighborhoods. They’re welcomed, but here, in many places, the burden of communication is on the gringos. As it should be!

I’m convinced that some of the animosity aimed toward Mexican-Americans and Mexican-Mexicans (here and everywhere in the U.S.) is not economic, as is claimed. It is simple jealousy over communitas– community enjoyed and lived in real ways by people who never have never been out of community with their families, friends, and countrymen.

I used to take my car for repairs to the Naranjas garage in East Dallas. Every day at about 3 p.m. the work there would stop, cases of beer would be opened, and various cuts of meat would be put on a large metal cooker to fry. If you happened by at that time, there might be no one to talk to, but there would always be plenty of people to be with and eat and drink with. No cars would be worked on during that time. But communitas was exploding.

Longhorn cattle, llamas, and even camels can be seen in many pastures. None of these animals earn their ranch owners a dime. But they look nice. They’re fun to have. And they keep the weeds down. Actually, the last comment is usually an excuse for the first two comments. Texans like strange things, beautiful things, out of the ordinary things; they like to look at them, no matter that they are money losers.

I heard a county extension agent in South Dakota, once upon a time, urge a group of young farmers to plow up everything– from fence to fence. "Turn that dirt into money," he said repeatedly. There is still a deep, deep love for the land itself here that would have gotten that agent booed out of town. Even the huge ranchers, with dozens of oil wells and hundreds of cattle, have that special place on their ranches that is their’s, their’s and God’s. They’ll tell you that with an eye on the horizon and a quiver on their lip. They are almost always some of the most generous people you can meet, too. They know where money comes from. Really.

That’s four reasons. I have a whole bunch more, but I don’t want to start crying, too. Come see for yourself sometime. Skip the big cities. Go look for that BBQ place across the tracks, or keep an eye out for a longhorn steer. Then you’ll know you’ve arrived.


13 thoughts on “Things I Love about Texas

  1. Pingback: Dating Blogfeeds » Things I Love about Texas

  2. I loved your blog about Texas, you really did find the best things about Texas, but you forgot just one thing. Texas is known for their incredible music, and we have the best radio station to prove it! Lone Star 92.5 is the best in Country, Outlaw Country, Alternative Country, and Classic Rock, and they play barely any commercials. If ya’ll didnt check them out while visiting, you can always check them out on the net, I work with these fellas, so i can attest to their great selection of music!

  3. Sometimes the tolerance can be difficult to find. Have you seen the bumper sticker? “It’s not the heat and humidity, it’s the hate and stupidity.”

    Lonestar 95? Are you serious? I’m having a tough time finding a groove on that station, in that format. I haven’t heard the Dixie Chicks on there yet, so I’m not even sure I’d call it a Texas station, yet.

  4. Pingback: Waltz across Texas « Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

  5. wow, I don’t know where YOU live in Texas, but tolerance isn’t something I’ve ever experienced there… I hate Texas so much that when I drive across the southern states from FL to Los Angeles, I drive AROUND Texas. I live in New Mexico now, and it has all the beauty of Texas, without the red-state mentality and ego.

    ::No habla Ingles:: ? ah, but Texas will be one of the first to have THE FENCE. There is no FENCE planned in New Mexico for the forsee-able future. THE FENCE is another example of the impact of Texas intolerance on the nation.

    Now I do know there are some gay friendly pockets in Texas, but I kinda think that’s kidna rare.

    I’ll never go back.

  6. You know what? I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. My best friend growing up was my neighbor, who was black. My best friend now? A gay man. Listen, if you drive AROUND Texas just because you think it’s that bad, we didn’t want your sorry butt here anyway. Texas people are tolerant, kind and bull-headed. That’s not to say that if we don’t agree with something, we’re not gonna tell you flat out cause heck yes we will. But We’ll love you in spite of it. That’s the key to tolerance. I might not agree with my gay friend being gay. That’s not me. But I sure as hell love him dearly and so it doesn’t matter. If you don’t like Texas, it’s because you can’t handle Texas. And don’t worry, we don’t hold that against you either. I’ve been other places but I would never want to live anywhere but here. So, stop dogging on us because we never did anything to you

  7. Pingback: 'cause in Texas potted plant purloiners are legitimate targets - Page 15 - Religious Education Forum

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