Who you callin’ a ‘Texan’?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — My wife and I were waiting to enter The Hermitage, the home of President (and Gen.) Andrew Jackson.

One of the guides walked down the line chatting up visitors, asking where we live. He got to us and asked where we are from: “Texas,” I told him. Then he launched into a semi-tirade about the state, about Amarillo; he then offered an unkind word about Odessa. I guess he didn’t like it there.

We walked toward the door and entered The Hermitage. “We’ve got a Texan here at the rear of the line,” the gentleman said.

And that brings me to the point of this essay. The term “Texan” doesn’t quit fit me. It seems a bit strange to acknowledge it, given that my wife, sons and I have spent 33 years in Texas. We moved there in 1984 so I could pursue a career in journalism.

We settled in Beaumont. Eleven years later, we gravitated to Amarillo.

We have carved out great lives — individually and collectively — in Texas. There’s plenty about Texas I find appealing. I like the sheer size of the state; I like the absence of a state income tax; I enjoy Texas barbecue; the state parks are second to none; I enjoy the vast differences in topography throughout the state.

Texas isn’t perfect. I don’t like, um, the political leanings of the state’s leadership. I’ll leave it at that.

But do I feel like a “Texan”? No. But understand, it’s not of my choosing. I lost count long ago of the number of times I’ve heard “real Texans” tell me that merely moving to the state — of my own volition — doesn’t make me an actual Texan.

I suppose the term “Texan” is a birth right. You must be born in Texas to be considered the real thing. Is there another state in America where one sees bumper stickers that declare one to be a “Native” of that particular state as frequently as we see them in Texas?

I’ve wrestled with this whole notion for the more than three decades we have lived in Texas. The state is likely to be our forever home. They’ll likely plant me in Texas when the time comes.

The nice gentleman at The Hermitage likely thought he was paying me a compliment. Well, I didn’t take it precisely that way. Don’t misconstrue me; I took no offense at it, either.

State pride means something quite profound to “real Texans.”

I remember that TV journalist Dan Rather — who was born and educated in Texas — once said that he isn’t merely “from Texas; I am of Texas.” I guess that’s the average Texan’s benchmark.

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