I was on family vacation in Mexico when another traveler asked the question:
“You’re from Texas? Where’s the cowboy boots?!”
Haha. Funny! But actually, they are back at home, waiting for my return.
I was 10 years old back then, but little by little, I got used to this kind of question. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been teased for my “cute accent” or “southern drawl.” Of course, the majority of Texans don’t actually wear cowboy boots. But you are stuck with me for this post on Texas, and I actually fulfill many of the stereotypes. Buckle up!
As a quick side bar, I’m an “insider” since I spent the first 23 years of life in the lone star state. But I’ve lived in Boston, MA for the past 4 years, so I’ve learned just a little about what New Englanders think of us Texas people. So with no further ado, a list of stereotypes about Texans, with yours truly giving her opinion freely.
1. A bunch of cowboys, shootin’ the breeze and rounding up their cows. Yalp, there are indeed a lot of ranchers and farmers in Texas. Especially in the panhandle, which is the northern, square part of the state from which I hail. My family made our living ranching and farming. We grew wheat — think of the yummy bread you grab from the bakery — and milo, which is mostly used as pig food. (Think down the food chain a little and you’ve got the smell of sizzling bacon, waking you up in the morning.) Our ranch consisted of buying heifers and steers, fattening them up on our grassland, then reselling them for a profit. Afterward, they are eventually, let’s just say…transformed…into the hamburger you ate yesterday. (Sorry, vegetarians.)
So I grew up driving tractors and riding horses, spurs and all! It’s worth saying, though, that the vast majority of Texans do not make a living this way. They are businessmen, politicians, ministers, computer technicians, musicians — you get the point.
2. Uneducated, simple, and narrow-minded. Well now…ain’t that somethin’! Fine. Compared to Bostonians, it’s true that Texans can’t showcase as many college degrees — especially advanced degrees. The drive to become highly-educated and well-informed on a variety of national and international topics is there, but it’s not as prevalent and wide-spread as it is on the East coast. If you got to know Texans — ranging from ranchers in the panhandle to city-dwellers in Austin or Dallas — you would noticed that many, many have graduated from college, if not graduate school. But it wouldn’t be as high a percentage as a similar poll of Massachusetts residents, for example.
What you might also notice, however, is that successful Texans do indeed know a lot about a variety of topics. These topics may not reflect the broad range of subjects prioritized in other parts of the country, but they are none-the-less important. A Texas farmer you chat with may not have much to add to your understanding of global warming, but he sure as heck knows how to raise a crop of wheat, despite all odds. This point may have become cliche or tiresome, but it’s worth remembering that this farmer’s wheat will indeed feed you this winter.
3. A group of Bible-thumping, born-again Christians. It’s true…sort of. Many Texans identify themselves as Christians and go to church…and many do not. Texas is definitely part of the so-called “Bible-belt,” so sometimes people who do not hold religious beliefs feel like outsiders or dissenters, rather than the other way around. (Of course, if Texan Christians are living up to Jesus’ example, non-believers shouldn’t feel like outsiders. Don’t get me started!)
So while many Texans take their faith seriously, many other Texans say they couldn’t care less. And depending on where in Texas you look, you may very well find that “born-again,” church-attending Christians are the minority. The secularization of Western society as a whole has, of course, left it’s mark on Texans’ beliefs…or lack thereof. It’s truly a mixed bag, with a wide variety of beliefs and values represented across the state.
4. Freakin’ conservative and republican. You don’t need me to tell you that this is true, by and large! You’ve all seen the bright red color of the state of Texas, with Austin being the one odd-ball, blue-as-the-sky dot. Everywhere you go in Texas — except in the keep-Austin-weird city — you’ll notice that most people express conservative views about economics, government policies, and social issues. Across the board, Texans feel most comfortable with limited state and federal governments. Texans tend to hold tightly to the right of individuals to determine how they live (i.e. don’t stick your nose in my private home and don’t tell me I can’t carry a gun if I want to).
Sometimes this individualism turns into a selfish, self-centered way of life in which Texans expect everyone — regardless of their life circumstances — to “pull themselves up by the boot straps.” (Did this phrase originate in Texas? I have a feeling.)
Other times, Texans’ more admirable values of compassion, generosity, and hospitality shine brightly and benefit everyone — including those less fortunate. If you wander into a small panhandle town on a Sunday afternoon, you might very well find a barbecue attended by enthusiastic, happy locals, who are busy raising money for a local family in need. Or if you stumbled into a church or community gathering in Texas, you would probably be greeted by half the people there. Someone would be bound to take you out for the local, infamous “Tex-Mex.” And don’t even think of paying. They’ve got you covered, of course. “Nope, don’t even mention it. It’s nothing!” they’d say.
And now, if you can’t already tell, I’m missing the home-state. Even as I often alternate between pride and embarrassment over my people back home, it’s not a bad place to grow up, all in all. This yellow rose of Texas has got half her heart back there on the range. Thanks for reading, y’all!