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I just finished reading your “ Where I’m From” issue, and fellas, I’m touched [June 2010]. My kids are hungry, my dog needs a walk, and my Facebook friends are wondering where I went. I have no opinion on the last episode of Lost, because I didn’t watch the damn thing. I was too busy reading. I was too busy thinking to myself, “Yeah! That’s Texas too!” in nearly every one of your articles. Thanks for celebrating with such clarity and poetry this state of mind we call home.
This was truly “a special issue,” as noted on the cover. Let me count the ways: from the pics of the little boys in their Western attire, reminiscent of the pics of a very young me similarly attired, standing on my grandparents’ front porch in my hometown, Brownwood, to Roger D. Hodge’s “Urban Cowboy,” figuratively describing me now, as I sport my Luccheses with my tropical-print shirts as we go to dinner here in Orlando. That’s what you do, “being from Texas.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of Texas. More precisely, not Texas per se but the vocabulary used to describe this place we inhabit. “Sprawling,” “vast,” “remote.” “Arid,” “dry,” “lonely,” “isolated.” “Empty,” “harsh,” “deceptive,” “unforgiving,” “wide-open.” Then there’s “grit.” As a noun, we are people full of grit. As an adjective, we are gritty people. The stinging sandstorms make us that way. So I may be full of grit, but I’m also sort of worn-out at the moment, as I have just read the new TEXAS MONTHLY cover to cover. Every one of those words (and more) is found abundantly.
I can’t help but wonder, What makes us think we are so darned special, aside from words? Why do we, when we are out of the country, when asked our origin, answer “Texas” rather than “the United States”? And why does everyone then say, “Oh, Texas!” I always feel as if I have an image to uphold when I’m elsewhere. Elsewhere means anyplace over the state line, where it’s taken for granted that I ride horses, am proficient with firearms, can skin a deer, and drive an old pickup truck. My rejoinders, in order: yes, eons ago, when I thought I was Dale Evans; only when threatened by skunks; you must be kidding; and sure, if a 1998 Ford F-150 is considered old.
Maybe writers are responsible. First, the Austin trio, Bedichek, Dobie, and Webb. Then Graves and Kelton. When you say Texas elsewhere, Lonesome Dove automatically comes to mind. Thank you, McMurtry. And film producers have us believing our own hype: We’re connected umbilically to Friday Night Lights and The Last Picture Show and the granddaddy of them all, Giant.
I have to rest for a while. My shoulders ache from the heavy burden of lugging Texas around. Oh, Texas!
My Fair Lady
My thanks for your candid, down-to-earth, and open interview with former first lady Laura Bush [“West Toward Home,” June 2010]. I found Mrs. Bush to be humble, caring, and admirable—and deserving of every honor. She is priceless.
Martha Orr Miller
On the Fence
I was happy to see that someone from El Paso was asked to participate in this month’s special issue [“A River Runs Through It,” June 2010]. However, I was disappointed that the person you picked chose to paint us as a racially divided community lost in World War I—era immigration policies.
The author reaches back five decades before he was born to make a point about immigration policy and never once explains that those policies were not the product of El Paso residents’ prejudice but those of Washington politicians suffering from xenophobia in a time of war. He weaves in and out of his childhood and that of his aunt’s to paint a picture of struggle and sacrifice in a border community. A reader who knows nothing of El Paso might come away thinking our city resembles Lebanon at the height of a thousand-year-old holy war.
I hope, though, that your readers took away a different story from David Dorado Romo’s piece. I hope they saw that his father went from being an illegal immigrant with a job hauling trash to a naturalized citizen who owned a small business, bought his family a house in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, and sent his son to the prestigious Stanford University and then off to see the world. I hope they saw that El Paso was the place where this immigrant, who had nothing when he started, made his American dream come true in a relatively short amount of time.
Occasionally it’s nice to focus on the positives in our lives. Especially when there’s so much of it to focus on.
Like Roger D. Hodge, Juno, Texas, is where I’m from, and although I reside more than four hundred miles away in northeast Texas, I drive the winding Texas Highway 163 from Comstock to Juno every chance I get [“Urban Cowboy,” June 2010].
There is no longer a sign proclaiming the town, but I know where I’m going and pull up the narrow lane to the gate in front of the old rock schoolhouse, which looks just about like it did when I was a second grader. Then I travel about a half mile up the highway to the ruins of the store, where I park across the road from where the teacherage sat.
I get out, stand by my vehicle, and recall the nighttime bustle of the Juno Store, where cowboys would buy a few staples (and sometimes a Coke for me); the spot where the traveler sat for three days waiting for a water pump for his overheated Chevy; the blue quail that visited the water trough behind our house; and the turkey gobbler my daddy shot out of a sycamore tree on the Devils River behind the store on opening day. I imagine playing up on the hill with the Lugo kids from the highway department camp and tossing my cotton rope at a post in the yard to hone my lassoing skills.
It’s 1951 again, until a pickup pulling a boat to Lake Amistad speeds around the curve and brings me back to reality. The driver may not know he is in Juno, but I do, and I love it.
Samuel James Stewart