Texas, where I grew up, is a state big enough to hold as many contradictions in its inhabitants as in the landscape. Parts of it are breathtakingly beautiful; others are bone-dry and barren, making us all wonder how anything could even live there. Or why. The same holds true for the citizens of the Lone Star State and, thus, certain stereotypes have emerged about Texans over time. Some of them fit me to a tee; others, not so much. Texas is consistently thought of as a very conservative, right-wing, fundamentalist state. But that’s not me. I hail from the Molly Ivins/Ann Richards/Jim Hightower liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
Why? Not because I’m a bleeding heart, necessarily, but because it makes economic sense to me that we should all want everyone to do well. President John F. Kennedy said, “A rising tide should lift all boats,” and I agree with that in the most fundamental of ways. Indeed, I think we should even take it a step further and make sure everyone at least has a boat to be lifted by that elusive tide. And, no matter what anybody says, I know there’s a big, big difference between a hand out and a hand up. So, BLOOEY! There’s one stereotype shot down.
Texas is a very religious state. Indeed, I think my 1967 Sunset High School graduating class in Dallas spawned more Baptist ministers, per capita, than any graduating high school class in the history of Texas. For me? Well, the honest truth is that organized religion just really gets on my nerves; even disorganized religion irritates me. It seems our biggest worldwide fights/scandals/messes have always been over religion and I say it’s time to stop it. Therefore, if I have to choose between religion and spirituality, I’ll choose the latter every time. It’s not someone else’s dogma; it’s my own path, the one I am put here to follow. Your job is to follow yours.
Personally, I don’t need a middle man in order to have a relationship with my Creator, and I don’t need religious leaders judging my life or how I live it. I think our purpose here is to love each other and to do some good while we’re here, and there’s not a lot that’s complicated about that. To me, spending untold millions of dollars building mega-church after mega-church, rather than using those resources to help feed and clothe and educate the poor is a sure sign our priorities are out of whack, and I bet Jesus is still shaking his head over that one. You can disagree with me, but I don’t care. So, BLAMMO! Stereotype #2, buh-bye.
Moving to Oregon in 1988 was a life-changing choice for me, one I will never regret, even though the decision to leave my home state was often agonizing. I fell in love with the rivers and the trees and the sweetness of the Oregonians, and I found my life’s love here, too, a Canadian who has traveled the world, kayaked the oceans and rivers, and is perfectly at ease in a pup tent during a blizzard with a jar of peanut butter and a cup of tea. She lives light-heartedly on the earth, which is a good thing for me to learn, too.
There is also a pioneering spirit that Texans and Oregonians share, which appeals to me. When my ancestors were driving cattle across our family ranch in Texas, thousands of people were migrating across the entire country on the Oregon Trail – and many of them on foot, as well – to the lush green of this spectacular place called Oregon to start new lives and build new fortunes. I admire that kind of courage – to leave what’s familiar and strike out for the unknown, trusting that you’ll be shown the way and, if you pay attention, that signs will appear to validate the choices you’ve made. I could write a book about that – wait! I think I already did – THE SECOND COMING OF CURLY RED.
Many years ago, I wrote a limerick for all the people at my birthday party in Dallas, the last stanza of which made them all whoop for joy. It went like this:
WE’VE SOUGHT TRUTH AND MEANING IN ALL THAT WE DO,
YOU’VE COUNTED ON ME AND I’VE COUNTED ON YOU.
AND I’LL STILL SIGN MY NAME NEXT TO YOURS, WHERE THE X IS.
MY HOME’S IN THE NORTHWEST, BUT MY ROOTS ARE IN TEXAS.
Being a Texan is part of who I am, and part of who I will always be. It is as glommed onto me as a wet saddle blanket, braided like a quirt into my DNA. But I love this rare and wondrous place called Oregon, even with all its dampness and fog, even on those days when I wonder if hell is really just a place where the sun don’t shine. There’s a saying in Portland, especially in the winter: IF YOU CAN SEE THE MOUNTAIN, IT’S GONNA RAIN; IF YOU CAN’T SEE THE MOUNTAIN, IT’S RAINING. Still, it is just so lovely here, so magical, so very much a reminder of the brave souls who risked everything to get here, just like the people who risked it all to make Texas their home. And, because of all that, it’s easier to understand now why I describe myself as a Texan who fell in love with Oregon, and an Oregonian who’ll always be just a little bit in love with Texas. I’m a lucky girl.
Oh, and for all of my ultra-conservative friends who think a screaming liberal like me is too much of a pansy to know how to shoot a gun, I’ll give you a ten second head start, Bubba. I suggest you run in a zig-zag pattern. Good luck.