Q: I’m happy to say that I’m moving back to Texas after some time living in New York. However, I am a bit anxious. I grew up and lived in Houston for twenty-some odd years before moving abroad, and now that I’m returning to Texas my company sees it fit to settle me in Fort Stockton. It’s as beautiful a part of Texas as I have seen, but I’m more used to a metropolitan lifestyle. Fort Stockton is a very small town of 8,000 people and has not so much as a Whataburger or HEB. Any tips on how to adjust to my new small-town West Texas life?
Forest Wharton, Houston (formerly)
A: No matter where you’ve been or how long you’ve been there, getting back to Texas is always a good feeling. So, let the Texanist be the first to extend a hearty “welcome home” to you, Mr. Wharton.
When the Texanist was a younger man, more full of wanderlust than he is today, he lived overseas for a short spell. And while he had quite a jolly old time in jolly old England, his most vivid memory of the experience occurred upon his return, when he was powerfully struck by the contours and colors of the Texas landscape, the broadness of the horizon, the familiar drawls and twangs, and the friendly folk and delicious foods of his Lone Star homeland. He’d missed Texas more than he realized and was happy to be back.
Depending on just how long a Texan’s been gone and, to a certain degree, where exactly he’s been, there can be a little culture shock upon reentry. But the reacclimatization process is akin to sliding on a favorite pair of old boots that you thought you’d lost years ago and then found behind a stack of old ice chests in the garage. That is, it’s a pleasurable experience.
Yours is a unique situation, though. Returning to your hometown of Houston, the U.S.’s fourth largest city, from New York, the U.S.’s largest city, would be one thing, but transitioning from bustling Gotham to relatively sleepy Fort Stockton is going to be, as you are well aware, a different thing altogether. And now that the Texanist is thinking about it, the actual differences between the two places are coming into sharper focus. These two locales really couldn’t be more different. They’re like night and day. Or black and white. Or biscuits and sausage and bagels and lox. Or any things that are very much not like the other.
For starters, Fort Stockton is, like, a thousand times smaller than New York. (Note: the fact checker has informed the Texanist that Fort Stockton is, within a reasonable margin of error, exactly one thousand times smaller than New York. New York has a population of eight-plus million people while Fort Stockton, as you point out, comprises just over eight thousand souls.) A thousand times! Just let those numbers soak in for a minute. And then look forward to enjoying all the peace and quiet in your new home.
Second, you’ll notice right off the bat that all of those New Yorkers you cohabitated with were crammed much more tightly together than are the residents of Fort Stockton. The Big Apple, which squeezes 27,000 people into the area of a square mile, could more aptly be referred to as the Big Sardine Can. By contrast, the same amount of space in Fort Stockton is populated by a scant sixteen hundred folks. In fact, it’s one-seventeenth as dense as New York, as a certain math-happy colleague insists on informing the Texanist. So, in addition to the peace and quiet, enjoy the wide-open spaces, too. Stretch out for a change.
And speaking of wide-open space, Fort Stockton is situated out there in the middle of a great big bunch of it. But if all that roominess ever begins to feel like desolation, take comfort in knowing that your hometown of Houston is only five hundred miles of eastbound I-10 away; visiting your old family and childhood chums will be cheaper (though not easier or quicker) than it has been in many years. If you head in the other direction, El Paso is only 250 miles of westbound I-10 away. And the Tri-Cities of the Trans-Pecos—Alpine, Fort Davis, and Marfa—are a very pretty and manageable hour-and-a-half drive southwest. If you ever find yourself missing an art scene, give Marfa a try. It’s fairly well respected, and, for better or worse, you’re likely to run into a few of your former fellow New Yorkers there, too.
The Texanist suggests taking advantage of all that the area has to offer, which is a lot—especially in the natural wonders department. The state’s largest national park (Big Bend) and largest state park (Big Bend Ranch), as well as the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool (Balmorhea), are just a stone’s throw, relatively speaking, away. Unfortunately, Balmorhea is closed until further notice due to some much-needed concrete repairs, which is a real bummer considering summer is upon us.
Now, on the downside, there is one area where you will definitely notice a marked difference between your old and new home. The Texanist is speaking of the options for shopping and dining. But don’t sweat this too much, as Fort Stockton does have a Walmart Supercenter, a Bealls, and a Sears. As well as the Pecos County Feed & Supply, which you’ll be relieved to know counts a stock of westernwear among its supplies. As for the slightly diminished food scene, well, don’t let that get you down, either. You’ll find more Mexican and steak restaurants than you could visit in a month’s time. And at least one Asian buffet.
Honestly, the transition from megalopolis to backwateropolis is going to be quite a shock to your system, but the Texanist is confident that everything will work out for you. Just keep an open mind, try to enjoy yourself, and watch where you step. Speaking of which, you might consider some new footwear—unless, of course, you’ve held on to those old boots you used to wear before you departed H-Town for New York. In the case that you didn’t, though, Pecos County Feed & Supply has got you covered.
FYI, you’ll find the nearest Whataburger in Odessa, which is less than ninety miles away. You’ll also find that your HEB is located there, too.
Good luck, Forest. And, again, welcome home.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.