THE STREET – Another moving van has pulled up to the old McToxic place. From the van, out come the sofas and TV sets, the tables and snow tires, the sled and… wait a minute. This can only mean that yet another family of Yankees is moving here with their strange sayings like “uncle and ont” and “eye-ther way.” How many times will I have to listen to, “In Noo Yawk we always….” More missionaries to the savages. Do you ever get the idea that the Border Patrol is watching the wrong river?
If it appears that Texas is receiving more refugees than usual, you are right. We have already discussed the tens of thousands of Syrians & Co. who are on their way. And the tens of thousands of Central American youths who have arrived to join the 40,000 Katrinians – those orphans of the storm who came and decided to stay. Now we need to deal with those refugees from Detroit, Newark and the other 48 states (for all practical purposes, I count North and South Dakota as one). Yes, it’s not just your imagination, it’s official: more of our fellow Americans are moving to Texas than to any other state. The Not-So-Lonely Star State added 72,243 households from the rest of the nation in 2013. A far, far distant second was Florida with just 28,006 new households.
There are a few minor notes we must address with these statistics. These figures are not people, not a head count, but households, which include the Branch Davidian and the Yearning for Zion Ranch families of 10 wives and 22 kids, who count as two households. Also, these numbers are according to IRS figures as of 2013, when oil was $100 a barrel, although more recent studies show there has not been a real slowdown in GTT. And this data from the IRS are different from the figures supplied by the Census Bureau, because they show the former hometowns based on relocation records of tax returns.
As might be expected, the larger counties, population-wise, added the most newcomers, but there is a surprise. Harris County – the state’s most populous county — added 8,900 new households through domestic migration in 2013. But Houston and its suburbs actually finished second. Number One was Travis County, seated in Austin. It saw the largest influx of domestic migration with 26,000 new households in 2013. Austin beat Houston by almost three to one.
Clearly, our newcomers like the bright lights of the big cities. Here’s the trend. Up until 1950, Texas’s population was more than half rural. Between 1980 and 2010 the state’s rural population grew by 22 percent while its urban population jumped by 88 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, during a booming growth period for the state, 78 Texas counties actually lost population. So where are the out-of-staters moving? Mostly to the Houston area, the Metroplex and the I-35 corridor (Georgetown-Austin-San Antonio). No one moves to Pampa. Would you?
These newcomers bring with them their former culture which, in turn, is changing our own. For example, at any pro sports event in Houston, you will see as many Cardinal or Yankee or Bulls jerseys as you will see Astros or Rockets paraphernalia. When an LA Laker hits nothing but net from mid court, expect to hear loud cheering. On fall afternoons, LSU, USC and Michigan banners decorate Texas’ front yards. Out-of-state universities regularly schedule TV viewing parties at local watering holes. An oddity: when, say, an OU alumnus buys a personalized Texas license plate reading “Go Sooners” or some such cheer, OU gets some of the money. We can only assume those tires do not cause wear and tear on Texas highways and potholes.
Other changes can be seen in the way some new arrivals don’t cotton (look it up, pilgrim) to our history. Next thing you know they will start moving statues around the UT campus, and changing the generation-old names of our public schools like Lee, Reagan and Johnston. Our earlier Texans would have never done that. And when was the last time you heard “Dixie”? So what we old timers (anyone arriving before 2010) need to do is educate our brand-new Texans. For example, our children say “Sir” and “M’am) to their elders – those with an AARP card – while excuse me, thank you and please are not a sign of subservience but of respect, especially when the other person is holding anything with the term “caliber” attached to it. This reminds me, warning shots are for wussies. Before using the term, “fugetaboutit,” check your own caliber. In Texas, “gun control” means holding it with both hands. Those hood ornaments on a Mercedes are actually crosshairs.
More helpful hints for those who just arrived: the slightest ice on Texas streets turns them into destruction derbies. I don’t care how you spell it, the term is, “Come sit rat cheer.” “Remember the Alamo” is not a question. God may be an Englishman, but when He retires He’ll move to Lakeway. This brings us to Houston sports columnist Mickey Herskowitz, who wrote: “There must really be something to religion. People keep comparing it to Texas high school football.” Never squat while wearing spurs. The official state song is not “The Eyes of Texas,” but no one knows what it is. Distances are not measured in miles but in hours. Houston used to have a classical music radio station, but George Strait is retiring. Big Bend is not a clock in London. You cannot buy a Texas legislator, but there are some you can rent for the afternoon. In Texas, an intellectual is someone who can listen to “The William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger.
Finally, if all this time you have been wondering what GTT means, it is what others in less desirable places would write on their cabin doors before departing. GTT was shorthand for: “Gone To Texas.” Those who could read followed. The others are still there.
Ashby moves at email@example.com