This year marks the first birthday I've celebrated more years in The Lone Star State than I celebrated in Big Sky Country, which in my estimation makes me as close to a Texan as I'm likely to get. When people ask me how I got to Texas from Montana I tell them I came here to go to college.
When they ask me why I stayed, the answer is simple; When you marry a Texan, there is a pretty good chance you are going to stay right here in Texas.
I'm not complaining. Texas has been good to me. But it truly is like no other place on earth, and that's exactly how Texans like it. I come from a state that has a lot of pride, and a city with even more. But Texas. Well, it takes pride of ownership to a level that is, well, completely Texan.
Here are a few things this Montana girl has learned in the last 18 years.
- Friday Night Lights is no joke. Texans love few things as much as high school football. Until you experience your first Friday night game where literally two entire towns are crammed into the stadium cheering on their teams, you can't fully appreciate what this means. When I say everyone, I mean everyone, from babies who were born earlier that morning to 93 year old men who played on that same high school field seven decades ago, to the band, the cheerleaders, even the kids who couldn't care less about football but are there because if you live in a small town, there is literally no place else for them to go. There is a reason they keep making movies, television series, and writing songs about it. It is that good.
- We make you pledge to be here. As of this moment, I know of no other state that makes you pledge allegiance to their state flag after pledging allegiance to the US flag. This really messes up kids who move here from other states, but not nearly as bad as it messes up adults. I love sitting in public meetings where adults have to say the Texas pledge. Many lifelong Texans forget the words (partially because the legislature changed it in 2007), but for transplants, it is like asking them What Does the Fox Say? (Yep, I stand by that reference).
- The flag can, and does, go anywhere. While we might make you pledge allegiance to the State flag, it certainly doesn't mean we revere it. However, I will say this, Texans sure do love their flag. This is evidenced by the fact it appears on pretty much everything. And I do mean everything. Purses, earrings, garage doors, shower curtains, koozies, underwear. Now, maybe I am wrong and there are a bunch of people walking around with the Iowa state flag on their unmentionables, but to in my estimation, Texas is unique in its love and complete and utter disrespect for its flag. Fun fact: Texas is also the only state that has written into law that its flag can fly at the same height as the United States flag. Just another fun way we like to tell the US Government that they are not the boss of us.
- Everyone has an opinion about A&M. Love them or hate them, Aggies are as engrained in Texas culture as Dairy Queen. For my Montana friends who are reading this, many Texans feel about Aggies like we feel about North Dakotans (note: Texans do not understand why North Dakotans are stupid. If visiting me, replace "ND" with "Aggie" in all jokes). After 18 years, I am slowly starting to come around to the idea that A&M may be a legitimate university and not, in fact, a cult like I have long believed. However, this belief is questioned every time someone "whoops" at a funeral, wears their class ring over their wedding ring, or cancels class because a dog barks. Actually, I'm okay with that last one.
- You can chicken fry anything. Before I lived in Texas I mistakenly believed that the only thing that could be chicken fried was chicken. This is not true. It turns out anything can be chicken fried. Steak, pork, eggplant, even chicken. Yes, I know. Other states would probably just call that "fried chicken." Nope. It is "chicken friend chicken." It is a completely different dish! I personally don't do a lot of chicken frying because in my house it generally ends up with all the windows open, smoke alarms blaring, and pizza delivery. However, I have learned that in a capable Texans hands anything that starts with the words "chicken fried" is smothered in white gravy and completely delicious. Bonus points if it is somewhere on a blue plate special.
- Texas is freaking huge. This doesn't seem like a big revelation, but this is coming from a girl who grew up driving across the state of Montana for fun and frequently drove across Wyoming, which is not only a large land wise, but includes some sort of space-time vacuum that turns minutes into hours and hours into decades. So for me to say that I get bored driving across Texas is actually a big deal. That is because you can drive 15 continuous hours and still be in the state. In the middle of the state. With like 8 more hours until you see a border. It is ridiculous. Also, although my husband swears there are pretty parts somewhere in the state, the scenery is not great. I do enjoy the fact they put the population on the city limit signs.
- People are genuinely nice. Texas is full of genuinely nice people. My best friend Kathy visited me a few years ago and we took the kids to a park near my house. A dad was there with his kids and we started chatting. Turned out he graduated from the same high school as my husband just a few years apart. We sat and talked while the kids played. When he left my Kathy looked at me and said, "Do you know him?" I told her I had never seen him before. She explained that living outside of Detroit for so long she had gotten used to being wary of people. Kathy her family ended up moving to Texas a couple months ago and she has said more than once that she is still getting used to how friendly people are here. It's true, Texans are just good people.
- Don't mess with Texas is more than a catch phrase. It is a way of life. People might make fun of Texans for their boots and the cowboy hats, or their sports franchises or politicians, but the thing about Texans is that they wear those things as a badge of honor. The Texas drawl, and yes sir and no ma'am, the high school football, and homecoming mums, big hair, Texas flag welcome mat, belt buckles, and cowboy boots with tuxedos, those are the things that make Texas Texas. Because being Texan is about being proud of who you are and where you come from, no matter what anyone else thinks.