by Mike Payne
As a Texas transplant of nearly nine years, and among those who “got here as fast as I could,” I’ve been compiling a list of important things that new Texans probably ought to know. I have run this before, but I do update my list regularly, and with 350 new people moving to Texas every day, I feel it’s my duty to help them assimilate. Of course, those who were born here are dismissed from the mandatory completion of this reading since you grew up knowing in your bones what we far’ners had to learn through experience.
1. Never tell a Texan how to make a hamburger. A $2.50 hamburger from a hole-in-the-wall a hundred miles from the middle of nowhere is better than any hamburger that has ever been cooked east of the Mississippi. There must be an extra hamburger cookin’ gene that is only found in Texas DNA.
2. Blue Bell Ice Cream comes in pints for a reason. Back East we found pints to be very inconvenient; too much ice cream for one sitting and not enough for two. In Texas, while a pint (yes, it must be Blue Bell, no substitutions) is just perfect anytime throughout the year, it an absolute necessity for survival from April to November when we’re having a li’l hot spell.
3. “In Texas, we don’t cut down Pecan trees.” I personally believe that to survive the heat, everyone in Texas needs a pool; and in order to place ours in the most auspicious sun-to-shade spot, there was one tree that had to go. My wife’s grandma (our next-door neighbor and a native Texan) watched from the window as the pool guys bulldozed this tiny, scraggly little tree. The next time we visited, she politely (yet sternly) informed me of this unwritten Texas law with which I was obviously unfamiliar.
Where we came from they were pretty and plentiful, but not very useful. In Texas, though fewer and far between, they are the difference between life and death in the summer heat. Our house is in the country and it does not have a garage; it only took a few summers of blistering car seats and steering wheels before we began parking in the yard under the big ol’ Pecan tree from May through October.
4. a) If it bites, stings, crawls, slithers, or can make you itch, it lives in your yard; b) There is no such thing as a “little” rattlesnake – remember, every little snake has a Mommy and Daddy.
5. There are way too many stars in the sky. Look at the night sky in Texas and then look at the night sky in a Planetarium (that’s the only way you can see stars most places back East). I’m almost positive there were about a million fewer on the ceiling of the planetarium. (Note to self: Tell son that if he decides to study Astronomy, do it east of the Mississippi – there won’t be nearly as much to remember.)
6. If a Texan tells you it’s just down the road “a piece” you better get your oil changed, your tires rotated and pack a lunch. As near as I can tell, “a piece” here seems to be somewhere between 86-191 miles; just a hop, skip and a jump down the road for good BBQ, the coldest beer or the best breakfast taco.
7. No matter how hot it gets, it can get hotter. I used to laugh when my wife’s Texas family would call and say the temperature had dropped from 104 “all way down” to 98. I have finally realized that Texas heat is a scientific measurement, like the Richter Scale, and that each degree is ten times hotter than the one before it.
8. Boots are a necessity, not just a fashion statement. See #4. Enough said.
9. Jeans are acceptable wedding attire—just make sure you iron them.
10. Texans are proud of being Texans for a reason. This is my favorite. I used to shake my head at all the Texas pride; shirts, hats and belt buckles with the word ‘Texas’ emblazoned on them. “Really?” I would ask. “Can’t these people remember where they live?” Now, I get it. My first visit to the Alamo cemented what being a Texan means—being strong, fair, honorable, and courageous, even unto death, and that’s something to be proud of.
One more thing—people really mean it when they say, “Welcome to Texas.” Just remember…you’re not in [insert your home state here] anymore. I assume you came to Texas for a reason, so remember these 10 simple rules and you’ll be just fine here. Welcome to Texas!