When I was driving home today, after dropping the littlest at preschool, I thought about how much I love living in Texas, and how that truth seems so weird – at least for people I talk to who are not from Texas. I am not the media stereotype of a Texan. I don't believe in secession. I don't believe everyone should have a gun. I don't have a Stetson. I think Rick Perry is the biggest tool in the history of tools. I am afraid of horses. And yet… here I am. If given the chance, I might even put a bumper sticker on my MacBook emblazoned with Davy Crockett's famous quote: You can all go to Hell, I will go to Texas. And I would only mean it as a little bit ironic.
So, as part of the mission to shine a brighter light in dark days, I bring you:
Why Texas is Great: A List
1. It doesn't matter where you are, if you turn on the radio and flip through enough stations you will always find a Willie Nelson song playing
2. It's not that difficult to find someone riding a horse down the street
3. The sky. When I stand on my porch, or drive down the highway, or wait outside at school pick-up, or hurry through the parking lot at the grocery store, the sky never fails to stop me in my tracks. It stretches forever. The colors are brilliant. The clouds are fast or ponderous, skittering or towering. The sky is huge in Texas. It makes you think you are something special, to be allowed to behold it.
4. The weather. Yesterday, on December 18th, it was 83 degrees. Some people might not like that. And, I agree, it doesn't feel very Christmasy, but that's OK. Because when you live in Texas all it takes is 48 hours and it will be 30 degrees with gale force winds. Sometimes, it only takes 20 minutes. We have summer and winter all in one day. We have gorgeous thunderstorms that light up the sky from one end of the horizon to the next. We have ice that sparkles on still green trees. We have haboobs that overcome entire towns in slow motion ferocity. Texas weather is a microcosm of the world.
5. Nice people. You can go anywhere in Texas and walk into a store or a restaurant, sit down, order an iced tea, and another Texan will start chatting. It doesn't matter if you hate guns and he has on a holster. It doesn't matter if you are a stranger ordering a burrito in a town of 300. Someone will come over and say hello. They might be leery of you. They might be checking things out. But they will offer a chat about the weather, a chat about football, a discussion on the merits of sweet vs. unsweet tea.
If you are in line at the grocery store and make a remark about the price of eggs or the weather, and if the people around you are not transplants from other places where talking in line is a hideous social WTF, you will often find yourselves in an uproarious conversation about God only knows, before it's your turn to check out. My favorite was when two of my kids were acting out because they wanted gum, and a guy teasingly asked them to please behave for their mom. He then smiled at me and said that kids these days don't know anything about hardship. My son proceeded to tell him about Ike and his trach and how we do, actually, know about hardship. Then the guy said his mother was recently trached. We talked about that. And hardship. And gum. And we all made a new friend. In line. Buying eggs.
6. A commitment to crazy. Texas is full of crazy people. We do crazy the way you're supposed to do crazy – full on, no holds barred. We have state legislators who would put M40s in the hands of every teacher. Students across the state get the first day of (various) hunting season(s) off from school. We will allow you to shoot feral hogs from a helicopter. You can only buy a car on one day of the weekend, because you should be in church, not buying cars. In many towns if you want to go out to dinner and have a beer, you have to bring it from home. But you can bring your gun.
Now, I'm not saying I agree with these things, and I'm not saying that I don't roll my eyes, or heave deep sighs or wring my hands or march on the Capitol about some of these things, but you have to give Texas credit: we know how to do crazy. It's historical, really. Texas wouldn't be Texas if it weren't for ornery crazy people. Or maybe I should say ornery people committed to their beliefs.
You might think that this would be a reason to NOT love Texas, and yes, Texas politics are exasperating. But Texas politics also gave us people like Ann Richards and Molly Ivins.
I also think that, given a chance, the equal amounts of passion and commitment on the other side of the fence might just give the current crazy a run for their money in a few years. It will, of course, beget a new slice of crazy, but that's OK. Like I said, Texas does crazy pretty well.
7. The flowers. Have you been to Texas in the springtime? It is like living in a rainbow. The most vivid blues and yellows and reds cascade up and down hills in the most gorgeous displays of color you have ever seen. Just driving down the highway is sometimes enough to take your breath away. Thank-you, Nature, and thank-you, Lady Bird Johnson.
8. Space and science. In one four hour drive, I can show my kids the wide open sky, a side of the road taco shack, a guy on a horse loping along, fields of bluebonnets, a huge metropolitan city, and the heartbeat of the American space program. Awesome.
9. Breakfast tacos. They are everywhere. And they are different everywhere, so you're always on the hunt for the best breakfast taco. Potatoes, eggs, chorizo, avocado, black beans, pico, cheese, bacon, mashed potatoes, whatever you want, it's in a breakfast taco. It's usually around $1, and it's usually the best thing you'll eat all day.
10. Road trips. North to south, east to west, you have some beautiful country ahead of you. Start off in the piney woods, end up in Big Bend. Start off in the prairies of Dallas, end up at the crashing waves of the Texas coast. There is so much to see, even when there is so little to see. It's a gorgeous state to drive through. I highly recommend it.
So there you have it. Why I love Texas. There are a lot of things I don't love, but just as in any head over heels relationship, I feel like I might be able to help change those things over time. We'll see. Until then, it's wide open spaces, chats with strangers, breakfast tacos, and a healthy radius around random horses.
Texas. Yee haw.