As we celebrate what my friend, LeeRoy Garrett, calls “The High Holy Days of Texas” it is a time to reflect on Texas and what it means to each of us. I was asked recently why Texans have so much pride in their state. The short answer is “Read my book, Texas in Her Own Words and you’ll understand.” Frankly, I wanted to know the answer to that question too. That’s why I researched and wrote the book. I have always felt that Texans were different. I believe they have an extra gene. I called it the “T-Chromosome” and I set out to find it. After crisscrossing this state several times I can tell you, I found it and I can give you some definitive answers and here they are.
When you get right down to it Texans share at least four distinct traits no matter where they live in the Lone Star State. The source of that pride comes from four distinctly different entities. First and most prevalent is the fact that Texas was once its own country. No other state can legitimately make that claim and make it stick. Hawaii was once a constitutional monarchy that was annexed (under rather dubious circumstances) turned into a territory and later a state. There was the “Bear Republic” in California. C’mon that lasted for about a cup of coffee. Texas was a Republic that lasted almost ten years and was recognized as a nation by England & France. The fact that Texas was once its own country is a huge part of a Texan’s identity. It’s who they are. If a native Texans doesn’t think you know that; you will only have to wait for six or eight minutes before you WILL be duly informed. Again, it is an intrinsic part of their being.
The next two traits are very closely related. The second trait is the Texas education system. Texas is one of the few states where the state history is so heavy mandated by the public school system. It is the law in Texas. Children will get Texas History in the fourth grade, again in the seventh grade and some school districts elect to teach it in the 11th grade. You will not graduate from a state college without a semester of Texas Government and you will not teach in Texas until you have taken that course. The third trait that relates to that comes from within your own families.
If your family’s Texas roots go back two, three, five, seven generations; whatever, it is a no-brainer. Children grow up hearing these stories from within their own families. They heard the stories about their great, great uncle (fill in the blank) who (fill in the blank). They realize and learn that someone in their family helped make Texas, Texas. They grow up with this intense and internal pride. It is a natural process. These young people grow up knowing they are part of something special…not that they are better but they do know that somehow, they are different. It’s like they’ve been cut out of a different herd.
Finally, all Texans share the Alamo. Texans admire and respect that place and what those men did who died there. What happened there is not unique in history. In fact, people have fought to the death in virtually generation ever since man started to record history. What is unique here is that a country was forged out if it. This is where that rugged individualism comes from. Texans to this day admire people for standing up for what they believe in…even in the face of insurmountable odds. They know they might get knocked on their asses but they don’t care. If they fail, they’re just going to stand up and dust themselves off and say, “Well hell, THAT didn’t work. Now HOW do we make this happen?” Did you catch that? They ask, “HOW do we make it happen.” One thing about Texans…they are HOW thinkers…not IF thinkers. If never enters into the equation. That goes to the very source of the Texas character. It explains why they are the way they are where all that attitude comes from.
For them, NO is NOT an option. As a result of that the cattle industry was started and blossomed here. The oil industry started here and when Texas discovered oil it changed the world. The first computer chip was invented in Texas. Not one of these things were accomplished by accepting the concept of NO.
For sure Texas can be polarizing but I can tell you why. Most of the people in other states do not carry such an intense pride of where they are from. They just don’t understand how anyone can feel that good about where they are from or where they live. Every state has its pride and it should wherever you’re from—whether it’s Hawaii, Vermont or even little Rhode Island.
No other state displays its pride like Texas. I drove from Texas to Maine a few years ago. Once I left Texas, the only time I saw a state flag it was in front of a state building or on the side of a government vehicle or a police car. Here you will find the flag on cars, mailboxes, marquees, barns, roofs and the list goes on. I often close my Texas speeches by admonishing people, “If you don’t believe Texas is special…name me any other state where you can find tortilla chips, ice cubes, sinks, swimming pools or even a waffle iron shaped like THEIR state.” Perhaps my friend Roger Moore said it best, “There are ex-husbands and ex-wives. There are ex-ball players. There are NO ex-Texans.”
Texas is about Pride & People. It is a place where people still believe in God and Friday night football IS a religion. Ask any Texan where you find it and they won’t need a map. It is at the intersection of their heart & soul.