We must consider this statement: “Aggies are alums of Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M.” Uh-oh. Explaining that an Aggie is a student or graduate of Texas A&M is so obvious. It’s like explaining to a lion tamer that he shouldn’t wear a meat suit. Not to put too fine a point on it (don’t you just love those pompous English terms?), but the aging Fightin’ Farmers don’t even call themselves “alums,” but rather “former students” or “Turkey Day Depressed.”
The above quote is from an essay in The New York Times by columnist Gail Collins, a remarkably astute journalist who is writing a book on Texas. But obviously, when it comes to the Lone Star State, readers of the Times don’t know beans – which they probably put in their chili. So what’s new?
What’s new is that Collins’s work is only one of many by visiting journalists from the Eastern establishment press who have come to write about our state, because of the impending presidency of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Many reports will be enlightening, but many will be wrong. So in an attempt to head off errors, distortions and omissions about our beloved home, let us offer some advice, remembering all along: Longhorns and longnecks, no place but Texas, built by God, guns and guts – the last two can be seen in some of our finer watering holes on Saturday nights.
First, we don’t like government, pronounced “gubment.” Texas is a donor state, meaning we send more money to Washington than we get back. This does not prevent us from wrestling every dime we can from the U.S. Treasury, as the Johnson Space Center was telling the Houston Ship Channel and Fort Hood. This is not hypocrisy, but a love-hate relationship. We love the bank. We hate the banker.
A few more points: “Friday Night Lights” is shown on the Religion Channel. The Texas Legislature has proclaimed four Official Heroes of Texas: Stephen F. Austin, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and – no kidding — Earl Campbell. If you put a hinge on the top of the Panhandle and flipped Texas northward, Brownsville would be in Canada, but this would sure flatten Topeka. Brownsville is nearer to Guatemala than it is to Dalhart. Texans believe the Second Amendment gives everyone the Constitutional protection to protect the Constitution.
Some don’ts: Never say, “Willie’s OK but I prefer Bach.” “Davy surrendered.”
Never walk into a cantina, ice house or saloon and shout: “Draw!” Don’t use your car’s directional blinker. Armadillos are not possum on the half shell. And don’t mess with Texas, ever!
There are some myths which you should not repeat: It is a myth that Texas can leave the Union anytime it wishes. We tried that once, in 1861, and it didn’t fly. Another myth is that only the Lone Star flag can fly at the same height as the U.S. flag. Any state can do that. But we do love our ensign. During the flag-burning debate before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 21, 1989, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor asked the Texas attorney whether a state has as much interest in protecting its state flag as the American flag. Justice Antonin Scalia interjected, “Well, Texas maybe.” The Texas attorney replied, “Texas, absolutely, your honor.” I rest my case.
Religion is important in Texas. We firmly believe God may be an Englishman, but when he retires he’ll move to Lakeway. It is no accident that the largest building in any small town is the First Baptist Church. The second largest is the Second Baptist Church. Listen to the radio preachers who will tell you how they found God. For some it was through the Yellow Pages. You will learn that Texans follow a common faith and a common Sunday prayer, especially if the Cowboys are behind. And note how, before we execute our convicts, they are read their civil rites.
Some of you ink-stained wretches will write of “Texas fatigue” because so many Texans have occupied the White House in recent years. Beginning with Eisenhower, and if Perry wins two terms, a Lone Star Statesman will have occupied the Oval Office exactly half that time. So?
A few pointers on what we say and how we say it: “If at first you don’t secede…” is not a pun on a cliché but a political movement. When we speak of “inside the beltway” we mean our waistlines. “Foreign relations” refers to our cousins back in Matamoros. The “evil empire” is the EPA. When we want you to join us, we say, “Sit rat cheer.” A Yellow Dog Democrat is not a rabid Republican. The “oil business” is the “awl bidniss,” which needs government subsidies without those bothersome tree-huggers nosing around.
We can always spot a new TV weatherperson because they get place names wrong, so try: Refugio, Pedernales and Waxahachie. Despite the Branch Davidians’ fame, it’s WAY-koe, not WACK-o.
“Vanna, do we have a G up there for this cowboy?” We say goin’ and doin’ and talkin.’ When we say we’re fixin’ to do something, it does not mean we will take a hammer and nails to repair something. It means we are about to do something, like fix Perry’s platform.
This brings us to the three newcomers who were driving through central Texas and saw a sign, “Mexia.” Says one newcomer: “Up ahead is MEX-eye-a.”
“No,” says the other, “it’s pronounced, Muh-HAY-ya.”
“You’re both wrong,” says the third. “The town is called Meh-ee-uh.”
They pull into a cafe and order lunch. One says to the waitress, “Excuse me, Ma’m, but we’ve been arguing over how to pronounce the name of this place. Would you say it, real slowly?”
She takes a big breath, and says slowly, “DAY-re Queeeeen.”
Finally, one of our major problems is that so many others want to join us, crowding our schools, highways and jails. So welcome to Texas. Just don’t stay.
Tex Ashby is writin’ at email@example.com