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.