Texans love Texas. Like, an inordinate amount. If you meet someone from Texas (ahem, you’re listening to one right now), it is guaranteed that within 5 minutes you will know that they are from the greatest state in the Union. And that’s just because we’re so PROUD of where we’re from. I have a bad habit of saying “Well, in Texas we do….” and ending stories with “That must be a Texas thing.”
Apparently this is not normal, so I want to offer an explanation to non-Texas folk as to why Texas people love their state so much (and continue to love it after we leave).
The first point in my hypothesis is that we start our Texas indoctrination very young, focusing on education. I was surprised to learn from my non-Texas friends that saying your state’s pledge of allegiance every morning in elementary school was not normal (yes, we also said the US pledge of allegiance). Apparently it’s also not expected to take a a state history class in middle school (yes, in the 7th grade my entire year of history was Texas State History). And in college, to fulfill my requirement for a Government credit, I was given the option to take either US Government OR Texas Government (I chose Texas, of course). The focus on Texas education might seem strange to people from other states, but I love that we have such a rich and vibrant history that we can study it for years and still learn more! Since I was kind of a huge nerd in school, some of my fondest memories are from going to the Alamo or the San Jacinto monument for school field trips. And I enjoy the fact that I know probably as much about Texas government and history as I do about our own United States government.
Which leads me to my second point, which is that people in Texas believe that Texas comes first, and the United States comes second. Now, I’m not saying that there’s no national patriotism. But I am saying that you are far more likely to see a state flag waving proudly from someone’s home in Texas than you are in any other state. And every Texan knows that Texas used to be a country (for less than 10 years, and it was super unsuccessful, but we don’t mention that), and that’s why the Texas State flag can fly as high as the American flag (this is not allowed in any other state). And when Texans jokingly say “We should secede from the Union!” sometimes some of them aren’t necessarily joking…Texans are proud of the fact that they used to be a country, and even to this day their loyalty lies with the state, not with the United States.
I also believe strongly that Texas has a deep-seated history of unique traditions that cannot be found in any other state. I will use football as an example. As a band geek and eventual marching band drum major, my fondest memories from high school are centered around Friday night football games in my hometown of Beaumont, TX. My senior year I was even the drum major of the band. My parents didn’t really understand this, because they’re not from Texas, but on Friday nights the town shuts DOWN for football. Everyone is at the game, whether you are supporting your high school friends, cheering for your alma mater, or you’re just there because you want to watch a good game and sneak a beer behind the bleachers. If you’ve ever seen Friday Night Lights, the TV show, you know what I’m talking about (Texas Forever!). The Dillon Panthers might not be real, but they’re essentially a stand-in for every real Texas high school football team in every small town throughout the state. I was also lucky enough to go to the greatest college in the world, the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ’em Horns!). Nothing makes you feel quite so proud of your family, your history, and your community as cheering in the middle of 100,000+ screaming fans at a Texas v. Oklahoma game. I’m actually tearing up just thinking about it (yes, I cry a lot, I know) and remembering everything that UT Football meant to me…It was more than just a game, it was your way of being a part of something that was bigger and better than you, of feeling like you belonged on a team, and knowing that that team would continue to be great long after you graduated.
Which brings me to my last point. Nothing feels like HOME quite like Texas does. I think that’s the key to why Texans will always be Texans, even when they leave. I love the springtime and seeing the bluebonnets lining the highways, and I love that it rarely snows. I love that I can go back to Beaumont and get Cajun gumbo, or I can head to Austin for the Salt Lick’s all you can eat brisket, or I can go to the valley for the best Tex-Mex you’ve ever had in your life. I love that we participate in southern traditions, like cotillion for 4th graders to learn table manners and the foxtrot, and coming out debutante balls for 18 year old girls. I love the weirdos in Austin (my people!), and that there’s always live music playing on every street corner. I love how OPINIONATED Texans are, and that we’re stubborn and we don’t back down from a confrontation. I love all of it, and I’ve never been able to recreate it in any other state.
For now, my job and my family are in Ohio, so I will have to be content with traveling occasionally back home for weddings and reunions. I will continue to wear my Texas-shaped belt buckle every day (trust me, these aren’t as uncommon as you might think back home), drop the occasional “ya’ll” into conversation (or “all ya’ll” for groups of 4 or more), call every soda a Coke, and be un-apologetically Texan. I will end this with my favorite quote, which supposedly Davy Crockett proclaimed before joining a losing fight at the Alamo: