e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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Texas and Me

From time to time someone assumes that because I criticize some Texas politicians I must not really know anything about Texas, or I'm a late immigrant.   This started back with Rules of Engagement when I had some things to say about religious extremists and Texas separatists.   That I also presented a positive picture of another side of  Texas personality (with the woman Texas Ranger)  didn't make any impression at all.   And every time I say something about the governor, the Senators, my Congresscritter, someone's all over me like white on rice about how I just don't know what I'm talking about.  Apparently, these people think that only outsiders ever criticize Texas or Texans, a position they can hold only by denying that any critics (including me) are "real Texans." 

So this is a rebuttal of all such past and any future notions.   Here are the facts.  I am a native Texan and have lived my entire life, except for three years of active duty military service, in Texas.  I went to Texas public schools; my degrees are from universities in Texas.  On my mother's side, the family presence in Texas is over 100 years deep.   I grew up in South Texas (250 miles, by the old road, south of San Antonio) and have lived in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio besides where we live now, and have traveled the entire width (Louisiana and Arkansas borders of Texas to El Paso) and height (Mexican border in South Texas to top of Panhandle) at one time or another.   I've climbed Emory Peak in the Chisos;  taken a boat to Padre Island before the causeway was built (my mother's family used to sail over and camp there when she was a kid), waded in the rock-bottom rivers of the Hill Country, spent many an hour in the car on the long, flat, lonely stretches of Texas highway between somewhere and anywhere.  I learned to ride, shoot, and fish; I learned to read sky for weather and the ground for signs of wildlife.   I know what crops grow where, and what it takes (in terms of water, particularly) to grow them; I know the breeds of cattle and what they're best for; I know Texas wildlife and native plants.

In other words, don't try to tell me I don't know diddly about Texas.  

As for Texans-the-people...my grandfather and a partner  had a chain of hardware stores in South Texas...before there were big-box stores, the community hardware store was the backbone of the trades.  Everyone came to the store: farmers, plumbers, carpenters, painters, handymen for tools and supplies...housewives for pots and pans and small kitchen appliances.  I spent formative years of after-school and summers in the store--after my grandfather died, my mother worked in one of the stores, twelve hours a day.  In addition, there was the small town Main Street community--the other stores, their owners, their customers.  Want to know a place?  Work on Main Street and meet the people who build and maintain the town's infrastructure.  But there was more opportunity ahead.

After I finished third grade, my mother started working for a small independent oil & gas company, initially a partnership between a friend of my grandfather's, a lawyer, and another man.   When she made business trips in one of the company planes, I came along as there was no available child care.   When she had to work late, I did my homework at the office, with permission to dig into the little library (mostly law books) when I was done.   Moreover, she was involved in preparing exhibits for several legal cases,  and I learned about those. Various legendary figures of the oil business passed through that office, a few of them before my very eyes.
A cartoon she did for Desk & Derrick, the organization for women employees of oil companies, made it to the halls of Congress.  We also visited drilling rigs in the area, and that experience--and what I had learned from her co-workers and bosses--became a term paper in high school.  So, from the fringes, I saw the oil bidness in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, when I left for college.  By then I'd been through the last big polio epidemics in South Texas, the '50s drought, the early '50s freeze that killed the citrus trees, and a number of hurricanes.  Kids I knew sickened and died in those epidemics; one of my mother's friends was a public health nurse; several others were nurses who'd served in the Pacific during WWII.  

Her boss also owned a number of ranches, and she did the "land work" for them--during which process we were able to visit some.   Many are now ordinary suburban developments, but back then they were cattle, goat, sheep ranches and big farms.   So I met ranch managers, listened to them explaining what they did, where the maps didn't match reality, and so on.  I rode, of course, and not just in a ring or on improved trails...give me a good ranch horse and turn me loose, was my delight.  

Political engagement was normal where I grew up (the kind of bratty behavior seen now was not--people who disagreed could sit and talk about it without coming to blows or insults.)    My mother was active enough to serve on county committees; informed voting, I was taught, was the duty of every citizen.  I voted in every election but two (when I was too sick to go to the polls) from the time I first qualified--once rode a bus all the way from Houston to my home down--an all-nighter--because I hadn't gotten my absentee ballot request in soon enough.  Showed up at my mother's door at 6:30, voted when the polls opened at 7, and was on a bus back to Houston at 7:30.  And incidentally, those 350 mile rides on the bus to or from Houston during college were a great way to meet people and learn more about the parts of Texas I didn't live in.

So the notion that I just don't know the people of Texas doesn't hold up.   I know them, and I know how the political and social landscape has changed over my lifetime--in some ways for the better, and in other ways for the worse.  I've been to precinct meetings when they were called precinct meetings, and more latterly when they've been called caucuses; I've been delegate to county, senatorial district, and state conventions; I remember Barbara Jordan and Sissy Farenthold at the same state convention, which will tell other people who are real Texans what year it was.   

It's my state, and I love the land and its original wealth and beauty.  When it comes to the people, I like a lot of them but not all, and I will continue to point out the boneheaded bozo-ness of the bozos, out of direct knowledge of the same and my own convictions of what the better side of Texanness is.  (A hint: racism, hatred, religious bigotry, paranoia about the other, and a hatred of the federal government is not the better side...)   This being Texas, I expect disagreement...but let's at least be honest about it.   I am a real Texan.  You can't get any realer than a 65 year old who's been out of Texas only for military service.   Statements about "real" Texans that try to make "real" only those who agree with the speaker are...false.   I'm of the opinion that just moving here doesn't make you a Texan (and that George W. Bush is excluded from real Texanness by having been sent East for summers and boarding school...real Texans go to public school and if they don't play football know they're second-class citizens.  The heat of summer and high school football are essential elements) but that's my opinion and--being as this is Texas--I expect argument.   Texas does indeed have its share of boneheaded bozos just like every other state.   Some of them are native Texans, and must count as real Texans, but they aren't the only real Texans, and when they try to insist that the rest of us aren't real Texans, or we don't know the state or its people or its history...they're lying.   Fighting fair used to be a Texas virtue, and some people need to re-learn that lesson.

I criticize what I see that's wrong in my state because it is my state, and who else is more qualified?   I want to be more proud of it; I want to polish all the smudges off its bumpers and have it appear as good as it could be. Here, in my home state, which I love,  it's up to us--all of us Texans--to be upfront about what's wrong here, including when we can't agree (Jeez Louise, did a state legislator really introduce a bill to set standards for appropriate attire for high school cheerleaders?  Yes, Louise, he did.  We have kids in the state who don't get any medical care--hungry people--homeless people--many other pressing real problems--and he's worried about the morality of high school cheerleaders' uniforms and dances.  Hand that man a clue, I say.)  You can't fix what you don't acknowledge.  
Tags: politics, texas

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