Still happy to be in Texas

I still don’t own a cowboy hat. I own no cattle. I donated my boots to Goodwill so they are probably causing bunions on someone else’s feet now. I still prefer Southeast pulled pork, vinegar based barbecue to anything else I’ve ever tried. And I still prefer rivers with water in them. But I have to admit, after 10 years in Texas, I feel comfortable.

Well, comfortable in Texas is a relative term. In the last ten years I’ve experienced the hottest summers I ever encountered. I’ve been buffeted by the strongest winds I could imagine short of a hurricane. I’ve been pelted by hail and covered in dust. I’ve been comfortably warm one day and shivering by the next morning when one of those blue northers whipped across the Panhandle.

I’ve made hasty trips to Wal-Mart on more than one occasion to buy a flannel shirt or wind breaker because the 80-degree temperatures that prevailed when I packed my bags somehow got replaced by a near-freezing cold front. And this weather phenomenon could occur in April, May, September, October or several other months that aren’t considered summer.

Summer, that’s another issue entirely. I never thought I’d see the day when a 95-degree high temperature was considered a moderating trend. And I can actually feel the difference now between 95 and 105. And that malarkey about dry heat is total bunkum. At 105 degrees, dry or not, it’s painfully warm. But we always have a bit of a summer breeze. It’s blowing out of a furnace, but it’s still a breeze.

Texas can be a state of extremes. It’s the driest place I’ve ever been except when it’s the wettest. I’ve never seen droughts last as long or rain disappear as quickly as in Texas. It’s the hottest except when it’s the coldest and it’s the most still except when it’s the most windy, which is most of the time. Texas can be clear as a crystal spring in the morning and so dusty in the afternoon you can’t see ten feet in front of you.

I’ve seen some of the barest ground in Texas I’ve ever seen anywhere and I’ve seen some of the most dense undergrowth.

I can fly to Lubbock or Amarillo about as cheaply as I can drive but I typically take my truck because I enjoy the scenery. The terrain changes about a-half-dozen times between Dallas and the High Plains. We have a few rolling hills around the DFW Metroplex that transform into mesquite rangeland about an hour out. The land levels off a bit about the time you hit Vernon or Graham. You begin to see more cropland than rangeland in the Rolling Plains and cotton fields dot the landscape. Then there are the red canyons that remind me of old cowboy movies. And next thing you know, you’re on the Caprock and flat land, fields stretching for what seems like miles in all directions.

I always watch for roadrunners, coyotes and feral hogs, the latter to make certain I don’t ruin my truck. They can put a pretty good dent in a piece of metal, I’m told.

But the thing I’ve come to appreciate most about Texas is the people. Most of the folks I visit understand that I wasn’t born and raised here. It might be my South Carolina accent coming through or it may be my penchant for Southeast barbecue or the fact that I don’t wear cowboy boots and a hat, but they know right off that I’m not from around here.

In spite of that, farmers and ranchers make allowances for this outsider and make me feel welcome. I don’t know of anywhere I’ve ever been that folks treated me with as much hospitality, good will and courtesy as they do in the Southwest.

So I thank you for welcoming an eastern greenhorn and making me feel right at home for ten good years. I guess I might as well hang around a bit longer. But I would like to see some water in those rivers.

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