Friday, July 16, 2010

What's So Big About Texas?

I'm not from Texas.  My dad was in the military, and we lived in many states, but not Texas.  Texas was this big state in the middle that was in the way when we did our annual summer road trip from wherever we were living at the time to Denver to see Mom's people and Southern California to see Dad's people.  Texas took at least two days to cross in the car, and we didn't stop and sightsee.  We sat in the hot, boring car.

My hubby John was born in Ft. Worth, and his mom is an amazing Texas cook.   I met John in California; we were married there and then lived there a long time after that.

About 16 years ago, John accepted a position with his current employer in Austin, Texas, at a terrific computer software company.  We moved.  I had checked out the schools and the culture and I was certain it would be a great place to raise our two sons.  My sons have some (very few, of course) faults, but they are friendly and polite, just like the local Texans they grew up among.

John had promised me Austin is one of the prettiest places in Texas, and he was correct.  Austin rolls over hills and creeks and a winding river.  There are a million green trees, and bluebonnets and other wildflowers bloom in the spring.

I fell in love with the people and culture here.  As far as I can tell, here's what's so big about Texas:  the hearts of the people.  (The bugs are really big, too, but let's not discuss that.)  The people here are amazingly friendly and polite.  If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Texas, some kind gentleman will probably give you a tow, or a push, or tire changing assistance.  My son was driving home from college once and forgot his money.  The owner of a gas station in Sweetwater gave him gasoline, which he repaid on his return trip.

People here are really nice to little kids.  I was amazed at how many adults to listened patiently to my little boys just like they were grown-ups.  In fact, a lot of people here have really terrific listening skills.

When we first came here, we forgot the time as we were shopping one evening and didn't leave a store as they were closing.  It was a big box store, too, and they simply kept it open for us.  That was routine here.

Once, when I first came here, I was in a store with a huge jumble table of sale bras.  Some women were helping each other find sizes - and they didn't even know each other!  That's how friendly they are here.

It was Christmas time, and the mall was packed.  I saw a fellow open the door politely for ladies to go in the mall.  He stood there forever, letting one lady after another into that door.  His wife had probably picked out shoes by the time he went in the mall and closed that door.

Texans love football.  It's hard to describe how much, for instance, we've been in stores and heard the UT football score announced on the P.A. system!  The women love football, too.  I often hear women chatting about football.  I hear so many football analogies used as ordinary communication that I had to brush up my football knowledge to figure out what people were telling me.  I like that people here can always talk football or weather (the weather is dramatic) and shift easily away from politics.

At first I found the politeness a little peculiar, but I've realized that it's just kindness, and the world could use a whole lot more kindness.

I make fun of Texas, but my jokes are a lost cause.  The locals don't get the joke, since this is just how things are, and the out-of-state people don't comprehend this culture, except perhaps in the stereotypical bob-wire-and-cowboy-hat way.  I know people in many parts of the country put down Southerners.  There's a general prejudice that a Southern accent goes with some sort of stupidity or ignorance.  How ridiculous - oops, I mean how ignorant!  They have wonderful schools here (look at college and high school ratings) and an incredible work ethic.  I can't get over how well-trained University of Texas accountants are.  That what lawyers tell me about Texas lawyers and engineers tell me about Texas engineers, and so on.  And the doctors!  If you have to be sick, be sick here, where the doctors are so kind and polite, yet well-trained and careful.

I had to learn to understand Texas speech.  First of all, some people really say "dad-burn-it" and "dad-gummit," and I had to stop acting startled (or giggling) when I heard that.  I thought only Hoss Cartright said "dad-burn."  Secondly, "fixin' to" do something means you're going to do it any minute, as in "I'm fixin' to try one of those cookies."  "Meanin' to do" something means you might possibly get around to it; e.g., "I meanin' to clean out some of my yarn stash."  People here also say "might could," as in "You might could put in a new sponge bar."  As far as I can tell, the "might" is an extra word that gentles down a suggestion.

Pronunciations are occasionally quite odd.  For instance, Ls on the end of words are omitted in some parts of the state; "payrow" means "payroll."  Just in case you're getting the hang of this, I've heard L's added, as well:  "ideal" substituted for "idea!"

Spanish-speaking people settled here, and Hispanics have had a marvelous impact on everything about Texas, but Spanish words are routinely mangled.  For instance, Guadalupe street in Austin is "guad-a-loop."  "Manchaca" is prounounced "man-chack."  I had to get used to that and stop using Spanish pronunciations..  In California we made at least a lame attempt at the Spanish pronunciation.  La Jolla is pronounced "La Hoya" in California, but if it were in Texas, Texans would probably call it Law Jolly.

Among the settlers of this region were a lot of Germans.  There are a tremendous number of German place names in Texas, and plenty of beer festivals as well.

Texas cooking is often heavy and delicious, a case in point - Texas Barbeque.  The general procedure is to smoke meat slowly for many hours, until it's falling apart, over a real wood fire and then serve it with very flavorful sauces and succulent side dishes like sweet creamed corn or peach cobbler.  They serve it on butcher paper with rolls of paper towels.  You will get sticky. You will want more very soon.

They will fry almost anything.  Since I've been in Texas, I have encountered fried cheese, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried ice cream, fried sweet potatoes, fried pie, and fried dough.  Not that these items don't taste good, but they pack an unbelievable caloric load.  And, oh, my  - they'll take a jalapeno pepper and stick a shrimp in it and fry it.  There it is on the appetizer plate, all crunchy and brown with a shrimp tail sticking out and not a clue that there's a jalapeno pepper hiding in there.  You get a big surprise when you take a bite!  Of course, a lot of Texans gobble up that hot stuff like it's bland comfort food.  Texas chili, fiery hot, is entirely too spicy for me.

I don't have the metabolism for the food and would rather not be one of the biggest things in Texas, so it's Weight Watchers for me, but hey, I've got a charming Texas group leader who scopes out the Tex-Mex menus for things we can fit into the food program.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a northerner who moved to Alabama. Northerners seem to think that southerners are stupid. Dont know why that is cause it isnt true at all. You're right about the fried food, and BBQ. They have fried pickles here. I tried one and told them that it was a waste of a perfectly good dill pickle. Being from PA we know our pickles ;) I love living here and dont want to move north again and probably wont.