For a city defined by myriad forces—music, technology, academics, the Capitol, springs and hills, a certain appreciation for all things weird—it’s no surprise that Austin, despite its influx of newcomers, is rife with protective guardians too, those folks who in one way or another have created, shaped, and promoted the city’s multifaceted identity. After publishing our March cover story, by executive editor Michael Hall, we heard from a number of them—real estate moguls, music critics, fellow journalists, even the mayor himself, who showed up to a party in celebration of our specially commissioned mural. But perhaps the most gratifying response to the piece was a tweet from tech titan Michael Dell: “Totally nailed it.”
And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers:
My family moved to Austin [“The City of the Eternal Boom”] in 1971 from West Texas when my dad became the city’s seventeenth pediatrician. At the time, the city had a population of about 240,000, and the chamber of commerce materials that we got when reading up on the place touted, among other things, how it had the lowest cost of living of any similarly sized metropolitan area in the country (that didn’t last long, even then; if we were to move back, I don’t think we could afford the areas that we knew then). Our Northwest Hills neighborhood was on the edge of town, and the pre–Loop 360 Bull Creek valley between 2222 and U.S. 183 was remote and incredibly beautiful. Even during my time in high school, in the early to mid-seventies, I remember people bemoaning how outsiders were changing Austin and shuddering at the possibility that Austin might become another Houston or a similarly soulless hellhole (in the minds of some of the locals). People wanted to close the entrances to keep all those outsiders from flooding the place. Traffic wasn’t terrible, but the odd layout of many streets could make getting around the city cumbersome. Then, as now, building highways and infrastructure brought out passions, which I recall as centering on trees and fear of unfettered expansion. For me, going to the Broken Spoke, where hippies and the local rednecks gathered together to listen to Austin’s brand of country music (think Willie, Jerry Jeff, Steve Fromholz, Rusty Weir, and their contemporaries), dance the cotton-eyed Joe, and drink beer before heading over to the Armadillo, exemplified the best of the live-together-and-get-along culture that was everywhere then. Just as long as they didn’t make us move to Houston.
Pwt7925, via texasmonthly.com
@mikehalltexas wrote a beautiful exposé on Austin’s past and present. Great reading.
M.K. Paulsen, via Twitter
Great article. I was born and raised in Austin and mourn the city I knew.
Evan Twidwell, via texasmonthly.com
This long article doesn’t once mention Mexicans, who built and served Austin since the 1860’s and made it the great city that it is today. The writer, who is fairly new to Austin, mostly covers the music scene and slackers of the 1980’s and 1990’s and then the arrival of techies and South by Southwest. He almost praises the developers and city politicians for the “New Austin.” He writes about the Smart Growth Initiative but doesn’t mention any of the dirty politics behind the scenes. And, of course, he doesn’t mention what should be the city council’s top priority: providing affordable housing for those who have been displaced from East Austin. With the arrival of newcomers and new businesses, the quality of life for longtime residents has been greatly diminished!
Xochi, via texasmonthly.com
I was blown away by “Bloom of the Century,” and my family adores both Big Bend and the photography of James H. Evans. It was a bit cruel, however, to tell us about the marvels a year after Evans beheld them! It’s understandable, I suppose, if he couldn’t reach the TM offices while sleeping on top of his vehicle.
Jennie Sue Fanous, via email
Like my compadre Christian Wallace, I am a boot-scootin’, barbecue-lickin’ native Texan, and I’d like to say that I am fired up like a gas flare about my fellow native Texan’s fine article on the sorry state of our state song [“Texas, My Texas, You Deserve a New State Song”]. But hey, partner, I’m thinking we need to consider a few more genres here than just country, hip-hop, and Tejano. I mean, it seems a bit one-percentish, and almost downright capitalistic, to misrepresent and disenfranchise so many folks. You do realize that we have a rich diversity of Central Asian cultures represented here in Texas, right? Not to mention Western European and Eastern Asian cultures. Plus a few more multinational continents that I could name. And what about Native Americans? These Texans probably have at least as much right as us good ol’ Pimp C–yodelin’ native Texans to have their music represented. So we should be open-minded. But if we are also prudent, and being careful to exclude any song that might have been hummed by a Confederate soldier or that contains the word “God,” I believe we could cap off the number of official state songs of Texas at just under five hundred. Everything’s bigger in Texas, y’all!
J. G. Kirby, via email
As Christian Wallace acknowledges, creating a new state song in these highly polarized times would be practically impossible. However, adopting multiple state songs is akin to giving everyone a participation trophy. One self-aggrandizing, jingoist jingle beats balkanizing the state song with versions for every taste. In the words of one non-Texan songwriter, let it be.
Preston Lewis, San Angelo
Thanks to Christian Wallace for his touching tribute to his mentor in Texas music and erudite review of the greatness of all things musical from the Lone Star State. Problem is, I can’t get that ditty “Texas, Our Texas,” which I learned in schools in Floresville, Taft, Yoakum, and Laredo, out of my head.
Jack D. Heacock, Bristol, Virginia
In his enumeration of possible state songs and the pros and cons of each, with criticisms of their musical “qualities” and originality as well as connections to Texas, Christian Wallace failed to mention the most glaring problem with “The Eyes of Texas.” Regardless of what my brothers in Austin believe, when anyone outside Texas hears the tune, Texas will be the furthest thing from their minds. They will immediately begin to think of blowing train whistles and Dinah’s horn. This American folk song about walking on the levee and working on the railroad was first published by Princeton University (New Jersey!) in 1894. Mr. Wallace dismissed it due to an expected and deserved reaction from Fightin’ Texas Aggies across the state, but there are several equally legitimate reasons to look elsewhere. In the meantime, he should have taken his poll among groups including Aggies. He would have found a great number who knew not only the name but the lyrics of our state song.
Barry L. Moak, Abilene
Why are people always trying to rewrite Texas history? Our songs are our songs. Everything about Texas comes from our forefathers. Good, bad, or indifferent, it is what it is. I am a true-blue Texan and very proud of it.
Murlene Gillum, via email
Editors’ note: Our piece in the March issue on the nationalization of Texas politics [“National State of Mind”] incorrectly stated that John Cornyn, Texas’s senior U.S. senator, was a member of the Gang of Eight, which backed the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill. In fact, he voted against the measure. We regret the error.