I have family in Texas. I have gone south to visit with them almost every year for over three decades. After a while, I started to notice some things about Texans. They have their idiosyncrasies. It is usually a bad idea for me to make generalizations about people, especially about a group of people as massive as the population of Texas. However, I think that there are certain characteristics that distinguish them from most other Americans.
For instance, Texans are respectful toward their elders. I’m not sure that all the older people deserve respect, but down there they get it anyway. When I am in Texas, I am always addressed as “sir.” I didn’t hear the word “sir” that much even when I was an Army officer. What is striking to me is that young people, say folks in their twenties, call me “sir.” They could just as easily call me “boomer,” but they don’t. They don’t seem to do it sarcastically. They genuinely want to show me some level of respect.
Texans love the 2nd Amendment. I’ve been a lot of places, but nobody likes guns like the Texans. Gun rights are like a religion in that state. My son, Hans, is a gun enthusiast and a transplant to Texas from Wisconsin, which is another state where people are very comfortable around firearms. However, in Wisconsin guns are for hunting. People here like guns in order to go after Bambi in November each year. In Texas it seems like people just like guns. I have never been able to discern a clear and logical reason for this obsession, but it exists.
Texans seem to have an independent streak and a need to be self-reliant. That can be simultaneously both inspiring and irritating. As an example, Texas insists on having its own power grid, the Texas Interconnection. This way, Texas doesn’t need to depend on those lesser 49 states for energy, and it is not burdened by Federal regulations. That sounds like a great idea most of the time. That is, except in an instance like the winter of 2021, when the whole Texan grid froze up and millions of people went without power for days.
Texans love to fly their state flag. The Lone Star flag can be seen everywhere, hanging just below the American flag. In Wisconsin nobody flies the state flag. Nobody even knows what the Wisconsin state flag looks like. For the Texans, their flag is like a national flag. They still seem to consider themselves to be a sovereign nation.
When we were driving home from the last visit to Texas, Karin, Asher, and I stopped at a gas station in Tyler, Texas. Tyler is currently best known for having a Catholic bishop who apparently thinks that Pope Francis is liberal heretic. I chalk that up to the native Texan independent streak. Only in Tyler can a bishop be more Catholic than the pope.
At the gas station was a Church’s Chicken vendor. That was no surprise. There are innumerable chicken establishments in Texas. Chicken, and BBQ. Texans love their BBQ. I’ve seen high class BBQ restaurants in Texas, and I’ve also seen a guy cooking it up in an old travel trailer that was resting on cinder blocks, with a smoker out behind the trailer.
Asher, the toddler, was running amok in the gas station searching for the freezer with the ice cream bars in it. I was trying to keep track of the boy. Over at Church’s Chicken was an old man sitting at a small table, happily gnawing at a chicken thigh. He was about my age with white hair and beard. Next to his seat were laying a backpack and one of those foldable canvas camp chairs.
The old guy smiled at me as I chased Asher, and asked, “Having fun yet?”
“Yeah, I do this all the time. I have the boy 24/7.”
The old guy kept chewing and smiling. He said through a mouthful of bird, “Good for you.”
Karin and I ordered some food. We got Asher some chicken and fries. He ate the fries. I ate the chicken.
We finished up and walked out to the car. The old man was standing out front with his pack on his back. He talked a bit to Asher and Karin. I thought he was going to hit us up for money. He asked me, “Are you from Tyler.”
He grinned at me, ‘Good for you. Y’all have a good day, now.”
“You too”, I replied.
He smiled at me and said, “I’ll be doing better if I find myself a home.”
He picked up his camp chair and walked away. I thought about him. I’ve met many homeless people, but none like him. He didn’t ask us for money. He didn’t ask us for anything. He didn’t have a home, but he still had his pride.
He was independent and self-reliant. He was a Texan.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
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