There are many schools of thought
on just what makes Texas, Texas. While some indications are unique in nature
and some aren’t, there are many things that Texas has and does and believes,
that make it like no other place on earth. There’s a valid point to the
advertising slogan “Texas, it’s like a whole other country”. Amen.
After pondering on this very
subject for the better part of my life, I’ve come up with a list of things that
I feel make the Great State of Texas, the one and only Lone Star that shines like no
Night High School Football – Of all the movies on high school football,
Friday Night Lights, defined the essence of the sport of football in the State
of Texas, like no other State in America. In Texas, newspapers allow entire
sections just for the scores, hightlight’s and stories on the most favorite
game in Texas.
Dry Rub BBQ – Often imitated, but never duplicated, the art of dry rub
BBQ is uniquely Texan. The Texas Hill Country is truly, BBQ Mecca. Franklins,
Mueller, Coopers, Blacks, City Market and the Salt Lick are shrines to the art
of Texas Hill Country BBQ. Copious amounts of salt, pepper, Oak, Mesquite or
Pecan smoke, low and slow heat and the magic of time, create a BBQ experience
like no other place. No utensils, served on brown butcher paper and sauce on
the side, please.
Town Salutation – If you ever get the privilege of driving on the back roads
around Small Town, Texas, you’ll see something that might cause you to wonder.
I’m guilty of it, my friends are guilty of it, but it’s a guilt that is a
pleasure. I’m talking about the courtesy of waving at the vehicles passing you
going in the opposite direction. Makes no difference if you know them or not,
wave. It’ll do one of two things; make them smile or make them wonder, “Do I
know that person?” Doesn’t matter if you do or you don’t, that’s Texas.
Pride – There is no one school of thought, that I’ve heard, that will
explain the extreme level of state pride that Texas has. My own personal
opinion is that is goes back to the days of the fight for independence from
Mexico. The original founding states of the nation all had each other to back
the fight for independence from England. Texas had the settlers that moved
there when it was a Mexican state and a 185 rag tag fighters from Tennessee,
Virginia and a few other states as their fighting force. The story is told that
a request for help in the fight to the United States was sent out and that the
request was turned down. So, with a small, unorganized and untrained army, the
quickly formed militia waged war against the mighty Mexican General Santa Anna
and defeated him, sealing the victory from the country of Mexico… by itself,
with no help from any other state in the United States, except for those few,
brave volunteers that came to Texas to fight for the idea of Texas. Now that’s
just my own opinion, as wrong or right as it may be. But it’s the only
explanation that I personally can come up with for our deep, abiding faith, in
the Great State of Texas.
Music – The medium of music in Texas is as far and wide as the distance
from Amarillo to Brownsville. From classical music in the metropolitan areas,
to the sounds of country in the honky-tonks and dance halls that dot the back
roads, Texas music has something for everyone. Pop, Metal, Classical, Country,
Folk, Bluegrass, Tejano, Conjunto, Reggae, Jazz, Gospel, Contemporary Christian…
well, the list goes on and on.
Food – It’s not too often that a state wrangles a style of food and
morphs it into their own. But Texas did just that with Tex-Mex. Most of the
food in the United States is of the Tex-Mex variety. Nachos, chimichanga’s and
fajita’s are all the creation of someone north of the border in Texas.
Traditional Mexican faire’ is more of a comfort food, rather than the
deep-fried, or sizzling style Texas has created.
– The old saying “Everything’s big in Texas” may be a bit of a stretch, but
Texas is known for Big Oil, Big Money, Big Sports and in some cases, Big Mouth’s.
Make no mistake, if a Texan dreams it up, the chances are, he’s going to make
the effort “Big Time”.
means everything – In the continental United States, Texas is the
largest with 268,581 square miles of desert, mountains, prairies, plains,
hills and pine trees. To put that in prospective, you could put 28 states of
Vermont and New Hampshire, almost two New York States and four and one-half
Illinois’. Oh, one last comparison. You can locate 163 states of Rhode Island
with the borders of Texas. Yep, that puts it into perspective.
Ranch land – Every state in the United States has farm and ranch land
and Texas leads the way with 130.2 million acres. It also leads the nation in
production of cotton, beef, goats and mohair production.
So, there you have it mi
amigos, some of my top reasons why Texas is Texas. Again, each one of these might
be something that each state has or does, but this is a handful of things that
makes the Great State of Texas as great as it truly is.
Blessings on a wonderful day,
God bless y’all and God Bless Texas!
You know, there are so many things can bring joy to your life, whether it be sporting events, spending time with family, camping, cooking, being active in your church or some humanitarian activity. Those are some pretty grand things to bring a smile to your face.
But you know, little things can do the same thing. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a smile from a loved one or sleeping in on a lazy Saturday morning could be just the thing to make your entire day. For me, it's the little things that count the most.
But my serious weakness, one thing that will always put a big smile on my face and remove the rumble from my gut, is food. Any food, I don't care... fast food, not so fast food, food I cook, food my wife cooks, food someone else cooks, which is the best food of all, spicy food, mild food, not so mild food and pizza. I've had sushi and shrimp and oysters, raw and in a po-boy, shark and rabbit, squid and calamari, I've eaten bear meat, (once... no more for me thank you) I've had alligator and rattlesnake, boiled crawfish and crabs, elk meat and buffalo, pheasant and quail, dove and venison, wild boar and head-on catfish in a Mexican border town, but I did not drink the water. But I have my limitations too. Do not set a dish in front of me that is made from an animal organ. Nope, just.can't.do.it...Gizzards? wretch... Liver? hurl... Gut soup? I need an air bag, please and hurry, thank you...
My wife is NOT as adventurous with her palate as I am, but overall we are serious amateur foodies and for the most part, we have the same desires in food. We watch every cooking show on television, we try to mimic the recipes they share and we have gone so far as to visit a few of the places that the spike-haired, bleach blonde California celebrity chef on the Cooking Channel has made wildly popular on his weekly show.
But all that aside, from time to time, I crave, seriously crave a nice, ripe, purple fig. Yep, I hate to disappoint you, but I'm not a graduate of Cardamum Blue and if I were in the food industry professionally, I'd prefer not to be called a chef. But yes, figs. Why figs you ask? Well, most of us form our likes and dislikes, habits, beliefs and personality early on in life, and generally between the ages of 9 and 14.
At the age of 12, I developed a love for those nice, ripe, giant, Texas figs. It began innocently enough on my walk after school to my families small engine repair shop. My brother and I would help out there after work and the walk home took us down a sleepy, narrow street. On that street was a massive old fig tree, with a big limb that hanged over the fence and into the street. It seemed as if it reached the sky. That may have been due to my relative close proximity to the ground and the tree's amazing height above the ground. Oh, and age. Have you noticed how things you remember as a child seem so much smaller in adulthood? Each day, my brother and I would stroll leisurely down that shady street, our gait slow because of the knowledge of what awaited us at the dirty, greasy and noisy shop... and figs.
We had been partaking in the sweet, juicy bounty of the figs for the better part of the season with never a problem. We'd only enjoy one or two on the way home after a long and arduous day at school, choosing to leave more of the fruit for the next days visit. The first time I heard her voice, I thought they were shooting a scene of "Attack of the Killer Banshees". "Get away from my figs you young hooligans!" were the first words I ever heard out of her mouth. She scowled those words with a level of anger that I'd never heard from an elderly woman, or man for that matter. The initial introduction scared me beyond belief. I dropped my handful of figs and sprinted down the sidewalk, not stopping until I had reached the safety of the family workshop. But those juicy, sweet orbs, that were just waiting to be devoured always drew me back to the scene of the feast.
After that day, my brother and I had to develop a strategy to get at the figs. She was always using a walking cane and neither of us wanted to be the first to see if she could actually fulfill her threat of "splitting our skull with this walker". Yeah, she had me convinced she could. We tried reasoning with her, saying that we were only taking the fruit that was on the limb that was hanging in the street. But no way was she going to reason. "Those are my figs, no matter where the limbs grow!" She would scream that same warning and message every day while she tried to keep from stepping in the level pile of rotting fruit that lay in her yard, under that tree. She didn't want them but she didn't want anyone else having them either.
So the strategy that my brother and I developed was this; while one of us tried, from a distance of course, to keep her occupied on one end of the block, the other would run down the sidewalk like we were leaving. While she made her way to the one that stayed behind on the other end of the block, absorbing her verbal abuse, the other would sneak back up the sidewalk and grab a double handful of the figs. The strategy worked like a charm. For weeks and weeks of each season, we'd enjoy the bounty that the tree had to offer. It seems like a hundred years away. But childhood, like time, passes way too quickly.
I had totally forgotten about those moments way back in my childhood. But a few weeks ago, neither my wife and I were up for cooking. So I jumped in the truck and headed to the local chicken place. I'm not sure why, but on the way back, I came a totally different way than I normally would have. As I headed West on Grand Street, I passed Cole Street, the street the old fig tree was on. Suddenly, like a flood, memories of the cranky old lady, the heavy-fruited fig tree hanging low over Cole Street, came rushing back to me. I remembered those times vividly... the heat in the air, the smell of the warm, sunny day and the rushing "swoosh" of vehicles and the whine of their tires on the highway, just two blocks away.
I slowed my truck down and moved over to the side of the street, ensuring the street was clear behind me. I made a U-turn, drove back down and took a left on Cole street. The road was more lit up than I remembered in my memory. Most of the low-hanging trees had gotten taller or were gone completely. The road was much narrower than I remembered too. Up ahead on the right, I saw the old, decorative wire fence that separated the cranky old lady from my brother and I as we walked, or ran, down the sidewalk.
But as I pulled up to the fence, I noticed that something was amiss, something wasn't right, something just wasn't normal. Suddenly it hit me. The fig tree, the old, cranky lady and her home, were all gone. An uneasy, melancholy sort of mood settled in over me, sort of like I'd been socked in the gut, or I had just seen the wind drop to calm and leave all traces from a ships sail. An important, yet to a degree unsettling part of my youth, was gone. All traces of it, nothing left but the fence and the sidewalk and the memory of a cranky old lady and a tree that brought so much satisfaction to the hunger of a young boy.
I drove slowly home, running those memories through my mind, over and over and over again. Why was that memory so important to me? Was a dirty old street with a not so special tree and a lady that ruled with iron fist over it, that important? Yes, in a way it was. Then I realized, it wasn't the memory of the tree and the joy it brought, or the old, cranky lady that I made life miserable for, a few minutes a day, during the fig season. The reason it hit me so hard was that I realized, things are here today and gone tomorrow. Just like life. One day someone you love is here and the next they're gone. One day a fig tree is here, the next it's gone.
Looking back, had I made an effort to befriend the old lady, I may have made a friend for life. But now, she and her tree are gone, forever, except for being tucked away neatly in my mind. At the time I thought they were bad memories, the reality is, that was part of making me who I am today.
So take it from me, never, ever look at something like it has no meaning or effect on your life at all. For me, a simple fig tree and the memories it holds, has had a profound effect on me and an indescribable joy that I didn't even realize until that day. As long as I'm blessed to live here on this earth, I will never quite look at a big, old purple Texas fig quite the same, ever again.