Last year, I wrote a small piece about what it means to me to be a Texan.
My friends know it means about near everything. Anyway, this fella asked me
to reprint what I'd wrote and I didn't have it. So I set out to think about
rewriting something. I considered writing about all the great things I love
about Texas. There are way too many things to list. I can't even begin to do
Lemme let you in on my short list. It starts with The Window at Big Bend,
which in and of itself is proof of God.
It goes to Lake Sam Rayburn where my Grandad taught me more about life than
fishin, and enough about fishin to last a lifetime.
I can talk about Tyler, and Longview, and Odessa and Cisco, and Abilene and
Poteet and every place in between.
Every little part of Texas feels special.
Every person who ever flew over the Lone Star thinks of Bandera or Victoria
or Manor or wherever they call "home" as the best little part of the best
state. So I got to thinkin about it, and here's what I really want to say.
Last year, I talked about all the great places and great heroes who make
Texas what it is. I talked about Willie and Waylon and Michael Dell and
Michael DeBakey and my Dad and LBJ and Denton Cooley. I talked about
everybody that came to mind. It took me sitting here tonight reading this
stack of emails and thinking about where I've been and what I've done since
the last time. I wrote on this occasion to remind me what it is about Texas
that is really great. You see, this last month or so I finally went to
Europe for the first time. I hadn't ever been, and didn't too much want to.
But you know all my friends are always talking about "the time they went to
Europe." So, I finally went.
It was a hell of a trip to be sure. All they did when they saw me was say
the same thing, before they'd ever met me. "Hey cowboy, we love Texas." I
guess the hat tipped em off.
But let me tell you what, they all came up with a smile on their faces. You
know why? They knew for sure that I was gonna be nice to em. They knew it
cause they knew I was from Texas. They knew something that hadn't even hit
me. They knew Texans, even though they'd never met one. That's when it
occurred to me. Do you know what is great about Texas? Do you know why when
my friend Beverly and I were trekking across country to see 15 baseball
games we got sick and had to come home after 8? Do you know why every time I
cross the border I say, "Lord, please don't let me die in _____"? Do you
know why children in Japan can look at a picture of the great State and know
exactly what it is about the same time they can tell a rhombus from a
trapezoid? I can tell you that right quick.
The same spirit that made 186 men cross that line in the sand in San Antonio
damned near 165 years ago is still in you today. Why else would my friend
send me William Barrett Travis' plea for help in an email just a week ago,
or why would Charles Stenciled ask me to reprint a Texas Independence column
from a year ago? What would make my friend Elizabeth say, "I don't know if I
can marry a man who doesn't love Texas like I do?" Why are 1,000 people
coming to my house this weekend to celebrate a holiday for what used to be a
nation that is now a state? Because the spirit that made that nation is the
spirit that burned in every person who founded this great place we call
Texas, and they passed it on through blood or sweat to every one of us.
You see, that spirit that made Texas what it is, is alive in all of us, even
if we can't stand next to a cannon to prove it, and it's our responsibility
to keep that fire burning. Every person who ever put a "Native Texan" or an
"I wasn't born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could" sticker on his
car understands. Anyone who ever hung a map of Texas on their wall or flew a
Lone Star flag on their porch knows what I mean. My Dad's buddy Bill has
an old saying. He says that some people were forged of a hotter fire. Well,
that's what it is to be Texan. To be forged of a hotter fire. To know that
part of Colorado was Texas. That part of New Mexico was Texas. That part of
Oklahoma was Texas. Yep. Talk all you want. Part of what you got was what we
gave you. To look at a picture of Idaho or Istanbul and say, "what the Hell
is that?" when you know that anyone in Idaho or Istanbul who sees a picture
of Texas knows good and well what it is. It isn't the shape, it isn't the
state, it's the state of mind. You're what makes Texas.
The fact that you would take 15 minutes out of your day to read this,
because that's what Texas means to you, that's what makes Texas what it is.
The fact that when you see the guy in front of you litter you honk and
think, "Hey, you littering on MY highway." When was the last time you went
to a person's house in New York and you saw a big map of New York on their
wall? That was never. When did you ever drive through Oklahoma and see their
flag waving on four businesses in a row? Can you even tell me what the flag
in Louisiana looks like? I danged sure can't. But I bet you can't drive 20
minutes from your house and not see a business that has a big Texas flag as
part of its logo. If you haven't done business with someone called All Tex
something or Lone Star somebody or other, or Texas such and such, you hadn't
lived here for too long.
So tomorrow when you drive down the road and you see a person broken down on
the side of the road, stop and help. When you are in a bar in California,
buy a Californian a drink and tell him it's for Texas Independence Day.
Remind the person in the cube next to you that he wouldn't be here enjoying
this if it weren't for Sam Houston, and if he or she doesn't know the story,
tell them. When William Barrettt Travis wrote in 1836 that he would never
surrender and he would have Victory or Death, what he was really saying was
that he and his men were forged of a hotter fire. They weren't your average
everyday men. Well, that is what it means to be a Texan. It meant it then,
and that's why it means it today. It means just what all those people North
of the Red River accuse us of thinking it means. It means there's no
mountain that we can't climb. It means that we can swim the Gulf in the
winter. It means that Earl Campbell ran harder and Houston is bigger and
Dallas is richer and Alpine is hotter and Stevie Ray was smoother and God
vacations in Texas. It means that come hell or high water, when the chips
are down and the Good Lord is watching, we're Texans, and just like in 1836,
that counts for something. So for today at least, when your chance comes
around, go out and prove it. It's true because we believe it's true. If you
are sitting wondering what the hell I'm talking about, this ain't for you.
But if the first thing you are going to do when the Good Lord calls your
number is find the men who sat in that tiny mission in San Antonio and shake
their hands, then you're the reason I wrote this tonight, and this is for
So until next time you hear from me, God Bless and Happy Texas Independence
Day. May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies
and quick to make friends. But, rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know
nothing but happiness from this day forward.
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