I’m the only member of my family born in Texas. My parents, sister, and half-brother’s family all still live in Texas. I currently live in Colorado. Recently, governor Rick Perry started a dialog about Texas leaving the union and now NPR is picking it up. I don’t want to get into the issue of Texas potentially seceding from the nation. The issue is widely misunderstood as Texas holds no right to leave, merely to split into 4 individual states.
As I’ve travelled, I’ve found as much dislike of Texas inside the US as I have for the US in other countries. No where have I found as much anti-Texas attitudes as the snow covered slopes of Colorado. This past season I got in a gondola full of kids who were skipping school. Their entire dialog on the way up was littered with stories about “dumb Texans.” What’s worse is spending enough time on the slopes to see that they’re largely right. When Texans come here on vacation (and they come in flocks), it always makes for a less enjoyable day.
Indeed, there’s plenty to complain about Texas, but I’d like to present a slightly different picture. First of all, Texas history is rather interesting. If you really want to know, take the time to read the Wikipedia entry on Texas. In a nutshell, shortly after Texas managed to win it’s independence from Mexico, it was forced into the US at gunpoint. Those who resisted were jailed. I suspect that the resentment from these events still lingers in the social and cultural undertones all over the state.
Texas is home to some backwoods hillbilly folks still ranting racist remarks and birthing tribes of children. However, Texas is also home to one of the most progressive and forward thinking cities in America – Austin. People tend to forget that Texas is huge. On one end you have swamps and forests of pine trees. On the other end you have sand dunes. A drive from my parent’s house to the beach (all in Texas) takes a full day. You can find just about any caliber of individual somewhere in Texas.
Texas is a rough state. The woods are often filled with things that will bite you or stab you. Texas has cactus, mesquite trees, brambles and bull nettle. Oh, the bull nettle, how it lingers, how it stings. Speaking of poisonous plants, Texas is home of both oak, ivy and even sumac. Not only did Texas get all the poison plants, but all the poison snakes as well. All four poisonous snakes that live in the US can be found in Texas: rattlers, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes.
If you prefer to be eaten rather than poisoned, Texas has bobcats, mountain lions, and wild pigs. And all of these natural dangers combined do not come close to being as agitating as the recent infestation of fire ants. Once you’ve been attacked by fire ants, you’ll be able to spot a mound 30 yards away.
Texas gets pounded by hurricanes on the coast and swept over by tornadoes across the open planes. Droughts are not uncommon in the west and panhandle areas. Then again, having a blizzard drop a dozen feet of snow in the panhandle isn’t particularly uncommon either. A 90 degree February day can easily be followed by a 20 degree day. Summer temperatures over 110 are expected.
Texas challenges you, particularly if you’re living out in the country. Texas can also reward you. With no state income tax and a relatively low cost of living, Texas is the place to go if you need work. While it’s a horrible city to live in, it’s extremely easy to find a job in Houston. Austin is much more difficult, but the city provides a fabulous quality of life. Dallas and Ft Worth land somewhere in the middle on both accounts.
Outside of the city, Texans are – for the most part – extremely friendly. If your car breaks down along side a dirt road, you’re not only likely going to be very safe but also very likely to get a free rescue from some kind soul. Generally speaking, folks help folks out. I’ve lived in many places in Texas and in many states outside of Texas. There are always exceptions and Texas is not without it’s unfriendly and dangerous spots. However, by and large, Texas is one of the friendlier states in the nation.
Finally, the last observation I’d like to submit deals with borders. Being a large border state, Texas gets a lot of influence from Mexico. In fact, as you travel across the US, you can quickly identify a blurring along her borders. States pressed up against the Canadian border tend to sound and act a bit more like Canada. Texas, being pressed up against Mexico, feels like a transition point into another country. While this may come as no surprise, it can be an interesting experience once you’ve observed it for yourself.
If you’re part of the Texas dialog right now, I recommend going there. Spend some time, it’s a big place and will take a little while to get to know.