Texas

Texas, South Texas, and the Good Stuff from Across the Border

Texas could be four different states. Two at least. I-35 runs north to south and by most standards divides East Texas from West, two worlds that have little in common. Not only are they different regions within the state, but by any reasonable person different regions within the United States. East Texas, from Dallas to Houston, rightly belongs to the deep south. A drive east from Dallas along Interstate 20 will offer little change as one passes through Longview, Shreveport, Jackson, Meridian and beyond. West Texas rightly belongs to the Southwest. A man from Uvalde will feel more at home in New Mexico, or even old, than in Dallas.

East Texas offers pine forests, humidity, copperheads, and most of the state’s population. Overalls, greens, and squirrel dumplings. Though there are many great people in East Texas, I never forgot seeing the men shrouded in white robes and hoods waving at passing cars from a service station parking lot while we were passing through Mexia on a family trip to Jasper. When my college advisor asked me where I was willing to work after graduation I replied without hesitation:

“Anywhere west of I-35.”

West of I-35 is where I went, yet 300 miles further south than I’d ever lived, not far from where the interstate veers west toward Laredo and the Mexico border. The same state, but a different world.

Below San Antonio, Hispanics are the majority. People mix Spanish with English without a thought. Tortillas are part of every meal. I was a teacher in a poor school district. The boys tested me. The girls flattered me. They brought me gifts—secret love notes, stuffed animals, food. Their older sisters sent homemade tortillas. It took me a week to fall in love with the history, the culture, the food, and the ladies of the region.

I lived in a small cabin on ten acres in farm country. Mr. Salinas charged me little for rent in exchange for my taking care of his Barbados sheep. I loved the place as if it were mine, and I loved my landlord, too. I’d often come home from work and find him asleep on a bench somewhere outside.

Mi hijo,” he’d say, “Come with me to Monterrey. I have beautiful nieces I want you to meet.”

I’ll regret that I never went until my dying day.

I did spend an evening in Acuna, just over the border from Del Rio. Then, you could drive or walk over without a passport. My parents and I drove in as if we were merely going to San Antonio and had a wonderful time drinking at the Corona Club and eating at the famous Ma Crosby’s, where we received better service than we’d ever experienced. I remember the enchiladas. Mama remembers the headache from too many margaritas.

When I left South Texas three years later to return from whence I came, I went through a type of grieving. Never before or since have I felt as homesick as I did over the next year, and for a place I couldn’t rightfully call home. I’ve been gone nearly twenty years, but I still eat my eggs and beans on tortillas, and I often speak to myself in Spanish, which I believe is the most beautiful sounding language ever spoken.

Some people in Texas fly the confederate flag; they say it is part of their heritage. To me, the Mexican flag better represents Texas heritage—the better and more interesting parts, anyway. As another fellow Texan and blogger recently wrote, most of us love our neighbors across the border and are thankful for their influence on and contributions to this state that we live in.

About Nowhere Tribune

A husband and daddy, striving to love his neighbors and be kind to his pets. I love good food, good beer, and a few good friends. My other interests are hiking, taking walks, lifting weights, reading books by manly authors like Hemingway and Twain, and splitting fire wood with my bare hands.

Discussion

30 thoughts on “Texas, South Texas, and the Good Stuff from Across the Border

  1. What a cool time in your life! Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by pkadams | August 7, 2019, 8:55 pm
  2. Great post. I learned more about Texas from what you wrote here than I have in all my 41 years. Nice work. 🙂

    Posted by Ben | August 7, 2019, 8:56 pm
  3. Amazing how life really is away from the news and propaganda. Fabulous perspective John. 2 likes 🎯

    Posted by jim- | August 7, 2019, 10:33 pm
  4. A beautiful and timely post. My Yankee SIL married an East Texan and has lived in squirrel dumpling land for 30 years. Let me just say, it shows… and leave it at that. For that reason I have never felt the desire to visit the state. After reading this? I do. But not her half…

    Posted by Rivergirl | August 8, 2019, 5:14 am
    • They are truly very different, east and west.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 8, 2019, 6:30 am
      • Maine is like that as well. Southern Maine is more populated and liberal, Northern Maine more rural and conservative….

        Posted by Rivergirl | August 8, 2019, 6:57 am
    • Don’t know if I’d condemn an entire half a state because of an in-law. I have some real nut-cakes in my family tree, but a few of us aren’t all that bad. Or maybe I’m one of the nut-cakes; it’s all a matter of perspective I guess.

      You go to a city like Houston or Dallas and I think that you’ll find it about like any other large city. Fun and interesting things, and stuff that you’d want to avoid. I just spent a long weekend in the Houston area and had a great time.

      Posted by Jason Frels | August 8, 2019, 1:16 pm
      • I’m sure you’re right. It just amazed me how someone could be so influenced by where she lives to change every single thing about herself. Perhaps to fit in? I never did when I lived in the south… although I did learn to keep my mouth shut.
        😉

        Posted by Rivergirl | August 8, 2019, 1:28 pm
    • Maybe it was more the family than the place. I certainly knew a lot of rural people when I lived over near the Louisiana border, working in paper mills and oil refineries. Most of them were easy going and fun to be around, but there were some that were seriously judgemental and always harassing you. I can’t count how many times one of them from some religious sect or another tried to convert me. It was fun to see them go after each other though. You could almost make flames appear in their eyes just by telling them you are Catholic.

      But I also had several good friends from that area and have nice memories of going fishing, going to the beach, stuff like that. They had weird alcohol laws in Louisiana at the time and I went across the state line a lot between the ages of 19 and 21.

      If you are a life-long city dweller, I can see how parts of east Texas would be a culture shock. And squirrels really aren’t that bad.

      Posted by Jason Frels | August 8, 2019, 1:41 pm
      • I was born in New Jersey, a total city kid. But then we moved to an island off the coast of Maine when I was 14. Talk about culture shock! But I’ve been a country girl ever since. We lived down south for 17 years and though we loved it, we never realized how our politics and views differed so drastically with most of the people who were from there. This was back in the day when you could be friends without ever knowing who each other voted for.
        Ah… the good old days. I’m afraid I probably wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut these days. I remember Klan rallies two towns over from us and gay men being beaten. No. I couldn’t live there again…

        Posted by Rivergirl | August 8, 2019, 2:22 pm
    • I think that things like Facebook and Youtube have made if very difficult for people to live side-by-side and politely disagree on politics. Those platforms seem to push the extremes to get clicks I guess. Makes me sad.

      Yes, there has been a lot of klan activity in the South, including Texas, and it is shameful. Just like the neo-nazi crap that is prevalent in the Northern states and out west. It is all a common theme of hating blacks, jews, catholics, and gays. This goes back to central Europe centuries ago and seems to still find strongholds today. I wish it wasn’t around, but it is. It is probably more common in very rural towns because of the social class of the populations of those areas.

      I also lived in Oklahoma for a while and found it to be similar.

      Posted by Jason Frels | August 8, 2019, 2:32 pm
      • Social media seems to have killed every last scrap of human decency in some people. But it has also been eye opening to realize how some of my long time friends really feel. I live in Maine and feel blessed we rarely deal with that type of hatred and bigotry. Not to say it doesn’t exist, it raised it’s ugly head a few years ago when some churches brought in a group of Somali refugees. A moronic Governor rode that wave into power but thankfully we voted him and his prejudice the hell out of office. I’ve never seen the Neo Nazi’s take hold here either. Up north in the county, you’re apt to see Confederate flags on pick up trucks, but Portland and southern Maine assimilate well as a rule.

        Posted by Rivergirl | August 8, 2019, 2:42 pm
  5. If a person doesn’t live in Texas, he is missing out on a colorful state. Great post.

    Posted by Texoso | August 8, 2019, 5:57 am
  6. South Texas sounds like a great place to live. And the Mexican-American people, both there and out here, have a beautiful culture that we can benefit from by embracing. If only more people could see that.

    Posted by Tippy Gnu | August 8, 2019, 11:57 am
  7. As a person who has lived on both sides of I35 in Texas (I currently live on the west side), I miss the tall trees of east Texas and the coast.

    I don’t find the people in the eastern half of Texas to be all that bad. Sure, you’ll find ignorant or hateful people in any population. Rural is rural just about anywhere you go. I am perpetually tired of Cajun food and hope to never eat it again (I don’t hate it, I’ve just had enough).

    In the western half of Texas you have to go through a lot of goat country and oil patch, but you eventually get to the pretty desert regions. I am also perpetually tired of Tex-Mex food for the same reasons as Cajun food. Every cow town of any size will give you the option of Dairy Queen, Whataburger, probably a Subway, and several dive Tex-Mex places.

    I guess in the end, I prefer the western half because there is less light pollution at night (a bonus side-effect of there being fewer people).

    If I had to wave a flag, it would be a flag of Earth without the imaginary political boundaries drawn in.

    Posted by Jason Frels | August 8, 2019, 1:07 pm
  8. Great post and yup. I moved from Philadelphia to Dallas and it was culture shock. Spent a few years in San Antonio and had a great time. I am socially aware when traveling to far east Texas but have met very nice people in Tyler. The entire state is worth visiting.

    Posted by bigguyhiking | August 9, 2019, 8:57 am
    • There are great people in East Texas, for sure. I just feel much more comfortable west.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 9, 2019, 9:00 am
      • I understand, I still feel comfortable in a larger city.

        Posted by bigguyhiking | August 9, 2019, 9:02 am
      • Though I’ve never lived in a big city, or even what could truly be called a city, I can understand that. In a small town, everyone knows you. You can’t go anywhere without people knowing who you are, what you do… and if they don’t, they want to know. It would be nice to blend in in a big city–to be able to go places without being noticed.

        Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 9, 2019, 9:05 am
  9. This was such an amazing post! Sounds like you’ve lived a pretty interesting life so far, and met a lot of fun people (and eaten lots of good food, which is very important). Thanks for sharing your experiences! 🙂

    Posted by Jay | August 21, 2019, 9:42 am
  10. Lovely post about Texas

    Posted by Connotare | September 20, 2019, 12:55 am
  11. Beautifully written 🙂

    Posted by Marsi | September 27, 2019, 8:39 am

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