Texas Is Still a Joke

For those who haven’t previously noted, I don’t like Texas. More particularly, I don’t like Texans. Their desperate need to believe their state is a paradise envied by all is equal parts pathetic and irritating.

When I was a child we once camped in the Texas Panhandle, somewhere north of Amarillo. There may be beautiful places in Texas (I’ve yet to see them). There may even be beautiful spots in the Texas Panhandle. For all I know, there may be beautiful places in the Texas Panhandle north of Amarillo. But this campground was a sun-baked plane* of dirt, with the only notable vegetation being some dead trees in the far distance, into which we could only drive our tent-stakes about two inches. My mother sent me to the camp store, and the lady there (noticing my elegant Yankee accent) asked me how I liked Texas. Being raised to be honest, I said I didn’t. She was shocked, and asked, “But why not!?” I don’t remember what I said, but I vividly remember being amazed that anyone could sincerely think that anyone would love such a desolate landscape. And I’m a guy who likes deserts and Kansas!

I didn’t realize at the time how bizarre Texas narcissism was. It was only later, as I met more Texans, that I realized how fervently they work to reinforce the belief that Texas is truly a special place–more beautiful, wonderful, admirable, and enviable than any other place in the world.**

I met a high school student once who was truly shocked that I didn’t think George W. Bush was a great president. He simply couldn’t fathom that anyone would find a Texan to be an unworthy president. He was also shocked when I pointed to his “Don’t mess with Texas” T-shirt and said, “I like to mess with Texas–sometimes I go down there, rent a car, and just drive around throwing trash out the window.”*** “But why would you do that?” he asked plaintively. “Texas is such a beautiful place.”

So on our long train trip through Texas (on a route that seems purposely designed to reinforce my impression that every square inch of Texas is ugly as sin), we had the privilege of having volunteer interpreters on the train between Fort Worth and San Antonio to tell us all about their great state. It began thus: “We’ll have a great opportunity to see wildlife on this trip.” My ears perked up. “We might see lots of deer, maybe some Turkey, and some vultures.” My ears drooped–in other words, it was like any normal day in Michigan, but said with the kind of reverence that made me realize this person believed it really was something unique to Texas. There followed some rambling disquisition about some small town I’d never heard of that had originally had one name, then after the Civil War been renamed after some treasonous rebel I’d never heard of. And then the guy sadly stated that he’d missed the airport, we must have already passed the small airport the train went by, where you could learn to fly, and I realized that this guy thought that a small airport where you could learn to fly was actually a point of interest! Maybe he thought other states don’t have small airports where you can learn to fly, and that none of us poor benighted non-Texans had ever seen such a wonderful thing before.

But I will give Texas this credit. In El Paso, the Burrito Lady meets the train. She makes a hell of a burrito, so if you’re ever on the train in El Paso, don’t fail to buy one.

Oh, and on the train through Michigan today, we saw Sandhill Cranes, far more interesting than deer, vultures, or even turkeys. Take that, Texas. I’m sure they’ve got them, too, but I sure as hell didn’t see any of them there.

* Oh, yes, I spelled that right.

** I’ve met a few Texans who aren’t so bad. But they all know the kind of person I mean.

*** Originally, “Don’t mess with Texas,” was an anti-littering slogan. Predictably, in their perverse combination of arrogance and insecurity, Texans have made it a slogan about Texas machismo.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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7 Responses to Texas Is Still a Joke

  1. AMW says:

    A friend of my dad’s served in Vietnam and knew a Texan soldier who was always going on about how big things were in Texas; bigger than in any other state. It got pretty tiresome, so one day he told the Texan, “You know, I heard about a man from Texas who was killed in action yesterday. He was so big they couldn’t even fit him in the coffin to send him back to the States.” This, of course, got a very positive response, and the Texan said he wasn’t surprised because, of course, everything (and apparently everyone) is bigger in Texas. Then my dad’s friend said, “So you know what they had to do? They gave him an enema and shipped him home in a shoebox.”

    Apparently the Texan was a lot quieter after that.

    On a more positive note, Austin is a very pretty town, and San Antonio’s pretty nice, too. You’ve probably been exposed mostly to the north and west of the state where things are more desolate and rural. You need to get into some of the cities (but not Houston!) and along the coast.

  2. Scott Hanley says:

    Somewhere, probably the Daily Dish, someone recently observed that to understand Iranians, you needed to picture a chauvinistic Texan — and then add 3,000 years.

    There’s also the old joke, “If those Texans don’t shut up, we’re going to cut Alaska in two and make them the third largest state!”

  3. Lance says:

    I lived in Dallas for about a year. It was perhaps the ugliest city I have lived in with the exception of Elkhart Indiana (RV capital of the USA and dilapidated rust belt crud-hole). The downtown area was OK if you like a mishmash of glass buildings and towers but the surrounding countryside looks like Indiana in drought, and that is during the east Texas spring. The rest of the year it is uglier.

    The trees barely survive the dry hot part of the year and then the winter is gray and grim with temperatures often in the twenties and thirties.

    The panhandle is worse.

    I also tired quickly of the Texas sized inflated opinion of their state. The shape of the state is on every other business logo, belt buckle and pick-up truck back window. When they would tell me how great Texas was I would ask if they had been anywhere else. The answer was usually no or Oklahoma or Arkansas.

    Well Oklahoma is no Eden either but they must have only gone into Arkansas as far as Texarkana because much of Arkansas is lovely, if you don’t stop in the poorer towns which sadly is most of them.

    I was also amazed to be called a Yankee so often. I would usually let it slide but occasionally I would tell them that I was born in Florida and then say “But luckily my parents had the good sense to move me north before I was two. Oh, and by the by the North won that little scuffle so I’m not sure why you keep bringing it up.”

  4. Michael Heath says:

    A few early Springs we’ve had some Cranes try and stop by the small lake near our home. The also migrating Canadian Geese chase them off in a honk-fest that challenges the decibel level of my backpack leaf blower.

  5. James Hanley says:

    AMW, I have family in Houston, and I can’t see how anyone lives there. I like Galveston, though. And my daughters and I had a good time walking around downtown San Antonio during our 7 hour layover there.

    Michael Heath–That’s a shame. Canada Geese are everywhere, like Chinese in southeast Asia, but Sandhill Cranes are beautiful birds, one of my favorites.

  6. ppnl says:

    Try east Texas. Green rolling hills, quiet dark bottom land with lakes and ponds all over the place. It would really be great if you got rid of all the people and most of the cows. You must be heat tolerant. And cold tolerant. I grew up outside a little town of less than 5000 that was the county seat. The nearest book store was a two hour drive into Longview. Not great but if you like the woods and fishing then it was an ok place to grow up.

  7. Will says:

    The most obnoxious element of Texan mythology is all the horseshit surrounding their war of independence. They wanted to leave Mexico because they were worried Mexican liberals would emancipate their slaves. And the rest of us are supposed to believe that this was some great achievement for the cause of human liberty.

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