It’s been 16 years since I’ve been (back) in Texas. I’ve traveled all over the state, from end-to-end. Midland/Odessa is the only major Texas metro I haven’t been to, although I’m not sure if I can count Amarillo, since it’s been even longer since I’ve been there and I don’t remember much except an animal feed rendering plant that looked pretty ghostly.
I’ll share with you a little about what I’ve learned and experienced. If you’ve never visited, I totally encourage you to do so. Living here takes a little more hardiness.
If you live in Texas, you’ll be the butt of jokes and/or jabs of the entire nation. That’s OK. We’re big for a reason: we rock, and we know it. We wouldn’t have 26 million people and we wouldn’t be stealing House of Representative seats from the state of New York if we didn’t.
If you move to–or within–Texas, then no matter where you move, it’ll always be the fastest-growing city/town in the country. Everybody seems to hate and/or make fun of Texas, and yet everybody and their dog wants to move here. Ever since I’ve been (back) here, we’ve lived in or right next door to the fastest-growing communities in the country. I’ve witnessed–and navigated through the traffic of–unprecedented explosive population growth.
I’ll never understand why so many come here because it’s got something that their region of origin does not and yet, they immediately start talking about how “backwards” Texas is and start pushing for legislation to change the way things are. Umm, you moved here for a reason! Lol.
Texas really is as backwards as you think. We recently outlawed some plant (which, for the life of me, I genuinely can’t recall the name of) that gave a natural “high” or a natural calm. We don’t subscribe to the educational Common Core, and we remain one of four or five states to reject it. I’m not so sure the latter is a bad thing, although I’m not pleased about the former (even though I’ve never used whatever plant that was, I’m all for individual rights). Bolo ties really are formal wear here, depending on the region. Many of the chiropractic doctors are borderline-theological in practice (sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re there for a chiropractic treatment or a Sunday sermon! But that doesn’t apply to nearly all of them), and are mostly limited to a strict definition of chiropractic, and the medical establishment rules the day. We don’t even recognize or license naturopathic doctors. When we catch a drunk driver, we don’t automatically tow their vehicle like we should. Hell will probably freeze over before we legalize, decriminalize, or medicalize marijuana.
Texas isn’t nearly as backwards as you think. We have plenty of LGBT-friendly districts (which are pretty large), immigrant sanctuary cities, “smart meters” for monitoring power usage, and philosophical vaccination exemptions. Animal harm is a felony. We have plenty of gluten-free and Paleo-friendly restaurants; it’s not all about chicken-fried steak (ew) or barbecue (although we have a dang good brisket!). We have art shows and health expos. We have some excellent Functional Medicine, if you know where to look and choose carefully. We have plenty of food co-ops, community-supported agriculture, organic farming, granola/crunchy mom groups, and Wiccan/Pagan practitioners. We produce more wind-generated power than the state of California; we lead the nation on this one. We’re also a major solar manufacturer/developer. When it comes to disabilities, we’re very generous, paying for schooling, job training, supplies, assistive technology devices, textbooks, and so on. We also treat disabled people like…real people.
We have bugs. Lots of bugs. Some of these bugs get big. Some look scary. Others hurt. It just depends. We have mosquitos like everyone else. We have butterflies, house flies, horseflies, dragon flies, and sand flies. We have ticks, mites, and fleas. We have all kinds of bees, wasps, and hornets. We have spiders (including the disfiguring brown recluse, the potentially deadly black widow, the harmless wolf spider, and even the tarantula). Chigger bites really do suck. They’re by far the worse type of bite I’ve ever had–even worse than fire ants, which also suck serious ass. We have either two or four types of poisonous snakes. We have June bugs, kissing bugs, moths, cicadas, crickets, cute little gecko lizards, and big-ass bugs I’ve never seen before. We really do have scorpions. They make their way inside homes, as do snakes. My mom makes it a point to turn over her shoes, so that any scorpions inside them will dump out, before she puts them on. Her cats have tattled on several intruding snakes.
Yes, we really do have tropical parasites. No, they’re not just for other countries. Naegleria, a brain-eating parasite that is almost always deadly, lurks in our warm lakes and ponds. Leishmania, a nearly-impervious drug-resistant parasite, has been documented in the bodies of sand flies in multiple Texas regions. Cryptosporidium, another disease-causing parasite, is resistant to chlorine. I’ve seen plenty of other parasites that are either claimed not to be here, or at least not specifically claimed to be here (i.e., silence about it from the powers that be). And of course, we have the infamous black mold that has received so much media coverage.
We also have the issues of the northern (and other parts of the) US; Lyme Disease, Morgellons, West Nile virus, garden-variety common colds and flu, and so on. Dallas was home to the only US outbreak of Ebola Virus, a frightening Biosafety Level 4 bug with no known specific treatment, cure, or vaccine. (For those interested in Ebola, I highly recommend the book The Hot Zone by Richard Preston! It reads like a novel, but it’s not – it’s actually a microbial/medical documentary, complete with superb fact-checking and derived from interviews with people who were actually there. The people and events are 100% real.)
(Needless to say, we get profiled on the show “Monsters Inside Me” fairly often.)
Texas is one of the freer states in the union; there is no state personal income tax, and businesses enjoy a very low corporate income tax, making us a magnet for corporate relocation, and thus, job openings. We subscribe to Castle Doctrine (which also extends to your vehicle here), and we converted our Concealed Carry into Open Carry. (This comes with “fine print”, however; it’s not a free-for-all.) Public education sucks like it does around the country these days, but we have plenty of private schools and the homeschool option is well-developed and very attractive. Living off-the-grid is more doable here; I haven’t yet heard of any cases of prosecution for collecting rain water. Bankruptcy doesn’t completely destroy you; here, they can’t take your house, your personal vehicle, or your work supplies/equipment.
On the other hand, the level of freedom one enjoys depends on who they are and what they believe. As with many other states, it took the US Supreme Court to strike down bans on same-sex marriage. Doctors of Chiropractic find themselves continuously under court-battle attack by the Texas Medical Association (TMA), and at times by the Texas Medical Board (TMB). About 65% of homeownership is tangled up in a homeowners association (HOA), which hold entirely too much power. They can set their own draconian rules about how your property looks and what kind of vehicle you drive, complete with the non-empty threat of foreclosure for failure to comply, even if you’re totally current on mortgage and sometimes-astronomical HOA dues/fees.
Texas is full of…well, it’s full. Traffic can be insane. Over 3,500 people died in traffic accidents alone, in 2015 alone. Real estate has changed hands so many times that the prices have become out-of-reach and nobody knows their neighbors anymore (thanks heaps, So Cal, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Florida, and Chicago “investors” and Kiyosaki-brainwashed flippers).
Dallas serves as the gritty crossroads between the reach of former (or current) Mobsters and the eastern arm of the LA-Thailand-etc s3x trade (yes, I meant to misspell that, for search engine (non-)purposes). Houston is pretty much the western arm of the Laredo-to-Miami drug corridor.
Even quiet, boring little San Antonio has a drug cart3l presence they’re not talking about, complete with the occasional extortion-turned-violence upon the innocent better-off Mexican nationals who sometimes come here to hide from them. We actually witnessed the aftermath of such an attack, in our own (former) neighborhood, and personally learned of the background behind the incident from a friend who lived next door to the victims, who overheard the fire department (SAFD) talking about it. There had been a media helicopter circling overhead to cover the house fire live, and as word leaked that it was linked to cart3l activity, the live feed was promptly shut down and even the address of the house involved disappeared from the police blotter. The whole incident became a complete ghost.
San Antonio itself is quite interesting. It’s fairly haunted, such that there’s a guided walking tour of all the haunted places around the downtown area (city center, for my non-US lovelies), given by historians in historical garb every year around Halloween (we did this once to celebrate our wedding anniversary! Awesome). On this tour, we learned that the really pretty Catholic church on one of the central blocks is the second-oldest in the country that is still in service, and a standoff between Caucasian and Indigenous people in that same area actually ended peacefully and with mutual understanding, giving rise to the phrase “bury the hatchet”. Yep, I live 15-20 miles from where that phrase was born (!).
History is alive and well here, even if most of it has been (over-) shadowed by the development of strip malls, banks, and yuppie housing developments, and instead enshrined in roadside monuments and markers. We still have plenty of Ghost Towns, and they’re authentic, preserved little places. I’ve never felt anything ghost-esque, but these places are semi-eerie just the same.
I live where cacti meet grass, the northern edge of the tropics meets the eastern edge of the desert, and the Deep South begins to wane in favor of the vibe of the Great American Southwest. The Alamo is a real building and a remembered event.
Spring Break (the entire months of March and sometimes April) turns the place into a zoo. It’s a bitch. All the Yankees from the north and east come down to show their kids what a cactus looks like for the first time (which I admit is kind of cute, and I do give the parents kudos for taking their kids to another place and teaching them stuff!).
Texas is indeed a mixed bag of tricks. It’s not for the faint of heart or the wobbly of spirit. It’s a hearty place with hearty people and hearty wildlife. It’s unlike any other. It’s sink or swim. It’s win some, lose some. It’s what you make it. It’s quirky, running the gamut from complete logic to utter nonsense. In short, it’s amazing.
PS: Longhorns are real, and they rock! Here’s a picture of my dad, tending to some of their cows (the Longhorn was being shy) on their very-rural property: