THE CURB — Another family is moving into my neighborhood, Running Rats Acres. The van has pulled up to the curb and the men are hauling giant boxes into the house, except for the satellite dish, which the new owners are installing in the front yard. It looks like the pit bull cage goes in the back. Wonder why they need landmines?
This is National Moving Month. In Texas, it’s called “May” because every month everyone is coming here from all directions. How many and who? Take California, please. Over 363,000 Californians have moved to Texas over the past five years, more than from any other state. Almost 70,000 Californians came here in 2010 alone, helping the Not-So-Lonely Star State grow more than twice as fast as the nation as a whole. Since 2005, far more Californians have turned Texan than the other way around: 183 Californians moved to Texas for every 100 Texans moving to California.
Every six years a million people move to Texas, and it’s not just the surf and sun set. The Center for an Urban Future, a New York-based think tank, analyzed IRS Migration data and found a 34 percent increase in the number of New York City residents moving to the major cities in Texas — Houston, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio — between 2005 and 2010. (Do you ever get the idea that the Border Patrol is watching the wrong river?) The U.S. Census Bureau says that between 2009 and 2010 about 510,000 people moved to Texas, while 380,000 moved away — a net gain of 130,000 residents. On the other hand, our neighbor to the north, Oklahoma, received more Texans than it lost — mostly the Sooners’ starting lineup. An easy way to determine who is moving where is to check with U-Haul and similar companies. It’s often cheaper to rent a trailer or truck for a one-way trip to Michigan than to rent a rig for a trip to Texas where the rental lots are overflowing.
A strong reason for this mass migration is that Texas has no state income tax. New Yorkers and Californians can take home between 9 percent and 11 percent more of their income just by moving here. Another reason: our schools don’t have snow days (or much of anything else right now). We have mountains and beaches, Tex-Mex and those Hill Country sunsets that make you want to weep with happiness. Another reason is jobs. But we allow immigrants to only take those jobs Texans won’t take, such as practicing humility, driving the speed limit and voting. How can we spot these newcomers? That’s easy. A bed mattress tied to the roof of a ’56 Ford pickup with a chicken coop in the back means Okies, obviously. Rowing down the bayou in a pirogue fairly shouts Louisianan. Wading here? One guess. Trying to hail a cab on a Waco street corner at midnight? Noo Yawk.
May was picked as National Moving Month because this month is the busiest time of the year for Americans changing residencies. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) fear those who chalked GTT on the door of their underwater house (IOU) and came to the Lone Star State (TEX) might get scammed by unscrupulous movers, teamsters and border guards. This is no small problem. In 2012, BBB received more than 1.4 million moving-related inquiries and more than 9,300 complaints against movers. Never change houses in the middle of a scam, and remember that Benjamin Franklin said, “Three removes are as bad as one fire.”
Now we must help our new Texans with some do’s and don’t’s. For example, make sure your mover knows your destination, otherwise you might find your possessions dumped in Arkansas. This is particularly hard on any implements that require electricity. Leave your USC and Green Bay Packers flags back home. Putting them out in your yard on game day only invites a branding, and not of the Madison Avenue type. Our state slogan is: Shoot friendly. Do not say, “Why should I remember the Alamo? They lost.” Do not tell Aggie jokes in College Station unless you want to bring back bonfire, this time with human sacrifices. (Incidentally, Hook ’em and Gig ’em are safe to say in some parts of the state, downright deadly in others. Learn the difference.) Do not say, “I’ll take Elizabethan poetry for $100, Alex.” Matching mud flaps are de rigueur, but be careful where you say de rigueur. Like Cher, Liberace and Beyonce (who’s a Texan), down here some people’s first names don’t need further explanation: Willie, Rush, Bonnie and Clyde, Davy, Earl, LBJ and Mister Sam.
Here’s more advice: Rick Perry is not our governor for life. It just seems that way. “Don’t mess with Texas” started out as an anti-litter campaign. Today it’s our religion. Do not use your car’s directional signals, aka blinkers. That is a dead giveaway that you are from some place else. You are safe to say the following: God bless Texas. I’m not from Texas but I got here as fast as I could. No matter how you spell it, EPA is a four-letter word. Don’t refer to the Rio Grande River. That’s redundant. Grande is Spanish for river. Damnyankee is one word. “Gun control” means holding it with both hands. Learn to say, “No, this is not a Tundra hubcap. It’s my belt buckle.” We don’t care what they say in LA, the word is ROE-dee-oh, not row-DAY-oh.
If you are moving to Texas, you can leave your snow chains back in Cleveland. Same for your sleds and snow shovels. Peel off your Save the Whales and Obama bumper stickers. Learn all the words to “Luckenbach, Texas.” Speaking of music, that song is not — repeat, not — “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Finally, just remember: God may be an Englishman, but when He retires He’ll move to Lakeway.
Tex Ashby is roping at email@example.com