So what’s so terrible about Texas, anyways?
You mean, what was it about Texas that made me sure – oh so sure – that I was not supposed to be there? That, after spending seven years in the Lone Star State, I was just itching to be anywhere – God, absolutely anywhere else?
Not too much, really. Texas isn’t such a bad place.
You wouldn’t hear me admit that to a lot of people. For most of the time that I lived in Texas, I happened to associate mostly with people who were also from somewhere besides Texas. And guess what one of our favorite pastimes was? That’s exactly right – making fun of Texas.
You’ve probably encountered many of the stereotypes of Texas at some point in your life. And I’ll just say as someone who aims to be absolutely fair and unbiased in one’s judgments of the world, that whatever you heard is absolutely true. If you think of Texas and immediately picture a ten-gallon hat, you are right. If you see cowboys with chaps and spurs riding on wild bulls, you’re also right. If you think of blonde well-to-do ladies with big hair and shiny white teeth, you’re right. Tumbleweeds blowing in the desert wind – even that’s not too far off. Armadillos scuttling along country roads beneath a giant sky littered with starlight…correct. Large palaces of stone fully decked with marble pillars that seem to mark some kind of royal dynasty, labeled by the familiar and sacred sign of recognition, “Local Bible Church,” – right on the money. (If you closed your eyes and pictured those giant cacti with arms reaching skyward – they’re called saguaros – I’m sorry. Those are only native to Arizona. Don’t feel bad, though – it’s a common mistake).
None of this was really all that bad. Making fun of Texas was something that we did as kids (post high school graduates to be exact) because that’s what kids do. It gave us a chance to express ourselves, to compare Texas to wherever we were from and claim our superiority over it. We also lived in rural Texas (a place called Garden Valley – can you find it on any map?) and many of us were not accustomed to being in the middle of no where and having nothing to do with our free time. So, dogging Texas gave us something to do.
I’m grateful for the time I spent in the union’s second largest state – the only of which to have stood as its own independent nation. During my time in Texas I encountered such phenomena as Zebra farms, the I-20 Mud Bog, wild boars, the aforementioned armadillo, acres and acres of wild daffodil gardens, and a whole royal family of donut coffee shops (Donut Palace, Donut King, Royal Donuts, and etcetera).
So, going back to your question, just what exactly was it about Texas that made me absolutely certain that I wanted nothing more, after seven long years, than to leave?
It wasn’t the chiggers looming in the tall grassy fields, or the mosquitoes that laid in waiting for the most romantic time of day (the time of day some of us photographers refer to as “the magic hour” – the perfect golden-hued hour of dusk) to suck your unsuspecting blood. It wasn’t the humidity or the mind-numbing heat, although I did get sick of always being slightly moist all over and peeling damp clothes off my body at the end of the every day. It wasn’t x and it wasn’t y and it wasn’t Z. It wasn’t even E=mc2. It wasn’t any of those things.
It was the fact that there were no mountains anywhere. Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait, I know of mountains in Texas – West Texas is full of them.” You’re right, but I lived in the East far beyond these mountains’ range of visibility. I lived where I could look at the horizon and all I saw for miles and miles were groves of trees and descending hills. This, to me, just wasn’t right. I grew up around mountains. I was born in a valley in Eastern Washington, shadowed by Mt. Adams and just a short drive from the Cascades. Then I moved to Arizona, where the landscape was dramatically different, yet was sheltered by the protective fortresses of monolithic stone. So no matter how I felt about Texas, however much I liked or disliked my job, my studies, or my interactions with those I met and romped with there, something to me always seemed to be missing. I couldn’t really explain it, I just knew something wasn’t right. I knew that when I looked on the horizon and was simply able to see on and on along the road or beyond the trees, I felt like I was looking off into no where and was simply lost. I needed to be walled back in again. I needed to be brought home.