This is another of SIL Thea’s 10 on the Tenth post ideas. Apparently my brother misses Texas. (So why hasn’t he returned to the Mother Land you ask? Well I don’t know. I’ve yet to hear a satisfactory answer. Money, jobs, houses, … what’s all that compared to Texas?!) Coincidentally I had to write paper on my ethnicity for a recent class and as the paper explains, although I may have some English, Irish and Scottish blood mixed in with some Cherokee on my maternal grandfather’s side and possibly something called Black Dutch on my daddy’s side, I really consider myself to be Texan. Here are a few excepts of that A+ paper to explain why:
- Texas school children are taught that Texas is a conglomeration of several diverse cultures, including French, Spanish, Mexican and Native American. Into this collection of native and European cultures came a vast influx of Irish, German, English and black American immigrants and slaves during the early 19th century, creating a wave of political and cultural change and birthing what is known today as the spirit of Texas. Governed by six different entities over the 18th and 19th centuries, including a nine-year stint as an independent nation, Texas has developed an attitude of European romanticism, southern gentility and frontier independence.
- There is no official language of Texas but much of our language is wrapped up in our folklore and patriotism. Texans grow up living in towns, traveling on streets and going to schools named for Stephen F. Austin, James Bowie, Charles Goodnight, Sam Houston, Cynthia Parker, Bigfoot Wallace and Davy Crockett. Stories of adventure, heroism, expansion and romance populate our history lessons and our bedtime stories. Even our devils, such as Santa Ana (the General, not the wind) and the Comanche are well known and sometimes even admired for their determination and grit. The Goliad Massacre, the Alamo, the Runaway Scrape and Texas Independence Day are our sorrows and our triumphs. Juneteenth (Emancipation Day), Adobe Walls, Spindletop and Black Sunday are our touchstones and benchmarks.
- Texas was formed in a state of flux. Born in revolution, raised in the uncertain inconsistency of the Republic and folded into the American family under unique circumstance, Texas has a personality of separateness and distinction from other states. This sensation most often leads to an unusual amount of braggadocio and a tendency for Texans to band together in solidarity. Texans are taught that Texas holds, along with her right to divide into as many as five different states and her retention of public lands, the key to U.S. boundaries as we know them today. Texans believe that the Alamo led to the Battle of Jacinto and Texas independence, which eventually led to the Mexican-American War and the eventual territorial expansion of the Western United States. The Texas typecast dichotomy of the taciturn, booted and be-hatted cattle rancher, the loud, shiny suited oilman and the untucked, pickup driving farmer are joined in the culture of independence, pride and land.
- Although most popular Texans of history can be considered rakes and ne’er-do-wells, Texas has a very strong religious foundation. Texas was officially first settled in an effort to Christianize the natives and in fact, before the Republic, Texas colonists had to convert to Catholicism in order to receive land from the Mexican government. Today the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in Texas, closely followed by Southern Baptist. As on most frontiers, churches in Texas were the foundations for schools and other social and civic growth. Over time Texas came to have three major seminaries and several faith-based colleges and universities. Lubbock, Texas, according to local lore, has the most churches per capita in the nation.
- Your average 21st century Texan doesn’t live on a ranch or own an oilrig. Texans today live either in one of four metropolitan areas – Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio or Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos – or are scattered amongst the remaining 240,000 square miles. Major industries in Texas include agriculture, petrochemicals and energy, computer technology and electronics and aerospace and biomedical sciences. As of 2010, Texas shares the top of the list of the most Fortune 500 companies with California at 57.
- One of only seven states lacking a state income tax, Texas has a “low taxes, low services” reputation, yet still boasts the nation’s largest highway and railway systems. All the better to get product to market. Texas has the most farms and highest acreage in production across the United States. Texas also leads in cotton, cereal crops, fresh vegetable, commercial fishing and mineral resource production. Texas’ petroleum deposits make up approximately one-fourth of the known U.S. reserves and the state is also a leader in renewable energy sources such as wind power and solar energy.
- The Arts in Texas had a slow start, but in the last half of the 20th century have blossomed to include performing art such as opera, orchestra, ballet and theater, dozens of art museums including every type of art from drawing, painting and sculpture to architecture, printmaking, and photography and the literary arts such as fiction, poetry and journalism. Some famous artists of Texas include cartoonist Tex Avery, photographer Mark Seliger and architect Thomas M. Price. Famous Texas literary artist include J. Frank Dobie, Patricia Highsmith and Larry McMurtry. And it must be testament to Texas nosiness that so many national journalist such as Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather hail from this fair state.
- Texas is also known for it’s diverse music scene. Most famous for it’s country music as shared by Bob Wills, Willy Nelson and George Strait, Texas also provided a home in Deep Ellum for the Texas blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The rock music of Buddy Holly and ZZ Top must be acknowledged as well as the tejano music of La Mafia and Los Lonely Boys.
- Apart from the Alamo, cattle ranches and oil wells, Texas is probably most well known for its sports. Home to two professional football teams, two Major League baseball teams, three NBA basketball teams, one major league hockey team and a plethora of college sports teams, Texas has much to cheer for, but by and large, the most popular team in the state of Texas is the local high school football team. Texas high school football is the stuff of dreams and folklore. Steeped in tradition, rivalry and loyalty, it is estimated that 1 in 15 Texas residents are attending, playing, coaching or otherwise taking part in Texas football on any given Fall Friday night. In rural areas this number is much greater. Texas children begin indoctrination regarding the local football team, it’s cheerleaders, mascot, band, school colors and fight song soon after birth. All other patriotic duties are secondary.
- Not secondary to any Texan is his stomach and from apple butter to yams, Texas cuisine can cover it. The holy trinity of Texas foods is chili, barbeque and tex-mex. Texas chili was born in San Antonio and is made of beef. A curious off shoot of Texas chili is the Frito pie. Made by layering Frito chips, chili, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onions, Frito pie is a staple in lunchrooms and at stock shows and sporting events across the state. Texas barbeque is usually tangier and spicier than barbeque from elsewhere and is usually served with potato salad, pinto beans and lots of napkins. Tex-mex and is little harder to define. One cannot assume that any Mexican food restaurant serves tex-mex. Enchiladas, chiles rellenos, tacos al carbón, and burritos have long been the standard-bearers for Tex-Mex, all served with a starter of tortilla chips and salsa and a side of Mexican rice and refried beans. The king of all Texas food however is the chicken-fried steak. This peculiarity is a thick slab of cheap beef beaten until tender and dipped in batter, deep-fried like chicken, buried under a puddle of cream gravy, doused with pepper, and served with a glob of mashed potatoes. A good chicken-fried steak should be crisp, light, and tender and served with iced tea. Despite the growing plethora of wineries in Texas, iced tea and cold beer are still the drink of choice of Texans.
Many adjectives have been used to described Texas and the people of Texas. Complimentary words such as big, friendly, romantic, beautiful, courageous, determined, energetic, faithful, brave, breezy, charming, helpful, strong, and successful. Curiously, Texans take pride in the not-so-complimentary words as well; words like fierce, hard, harsh, windy, prickly, proud, thundering, brash, defiant and arrogant. Texans are rarely called mediocre, ordinary or tame.
Come home Jon and bring that beautiful family with you!