“Cause no matter how big the storms…”
Dateline: Toyota Texas Bass Classic
I get it now,
this Texas thing.
As in…everything bigger…thing.
And like “What happens in Vegas blah blah blah,” I think it cheapens the state…this fascination for bigness.
So, I’m writing this for all you non-Texans out there, if all you know about Texas is this BIG thing, Jerry Jones, big shiny buildings and boots, you don’t know Texas.
I have been all over this country, many other lands as well, but I have to tell you, I stack East Texas, and its people, up against the best ya got.
Over the last two weeks I have driven almost 1,000 miles with East Texas under the tires and it’s,
rolling hills of brown and green,
pastures with stately longhorns,
beautiful Live Oak trees,
white rail fences and downtown squares.
The beauty of this part of Texas is not in the BIG, but in the small, once you manage to exit off the crowded I-35, this is a home kind of state.
Proud high schools, proud homes, a state framed in manners, out here where the doors are unlocked.
As much as I miss my daughter, Ashley, who moved away from Connecticut almost 8 years ago, I now know why she stays, I now know why she loves this place, I now know why she calls it home.
She stays, not for the BIGNESS. She stays for the small things.
For me, I would stay for the stars.
They have these roads called “FM” way out here, they may have them all over Texas, don’t know, but I know here that one night I was driving down one of these “Farm-to-Market” roads, straight road, may have been gravel, may have not, but just for ya-hoos I reached down and turned off the lights on the Tundra, and the solar system seemed to light up.
I stopped the Tundra dead in the “FM” road, put it in park, and stepped out onto the road, and just looked up. Up north we build planetariums; these East Texas folks live in one.
Dark, is a natural resource.
Dark, is lost on many of us, we light up the bottom down here on Earth and it sneaks up and lights the sky.
Cherish, the dark, then look up.
Don’t look at the bright shinning stars, everyone sees those, look at the pinpricks, look at the very tiny dots, see them…we don’t. If you don’t believe in heaven in Manhattan, you will out here.
But it was the sunset that got me, a sun so round, so bright orange, so close you could almost touch it.
I can imagine growing up, courting a young lady, a blanket, a lone oak tree on a rolling hill…and the golden sunset.
I know why you love it,
on a blanket, under a lone oak tree,
under the universe and golden glow,
with a crazy shih-tzu,
and a beautiful wife, still very young in my eyes,
we will watch the stars,
we will watch the dark,
and we will be thankful, that we found this small spot,
“…I know I can find me a place that's warm …”
It’s hot; sticky clothes, puddles-in-your-shoes, hot. I have streams running down my body, my sunglasses are fogged, my reporter's notebook pad has drip marks on it.
Todd Faircloth is completely dry.
No sweat. No stink. No problem. Texas, born and raised.
“I love the outdoors here, I can fish in the morning, hunt in the afternoon.”
To me, Todd embodies Texas. You ask him a question, he listens and gives you the straight up answer. Straight forward, “I’m a small town kind of guy, there are several big towns in Texas, but really there are so many small towns all over the state. We are a big state of small towns.”
With every question he begins his answer with, “Yes sir….”
“db, we are very respectful here, its always 'yes sir, no ma’am', comes with our upbringing, comes with our faith.”
The first photo I ever saw of her was a sonogram; now I’m doing an interview with my friend, Kelly Jordon and, in his arms, Ruby, his young daughter.
Kelly is talking. Every once in awhile, Ruby looks up at me and smiles.
“We have everything here in Texas, db…” Kelly brushes a strand of red hair out of Ruby’s face.
“…we have Plains, Mountains, Piney Woods, Hill Country, Scrubland and Deserts.”
Another born-and-raised Texan, “it’s the wide open spaces that I love, out east of I-35 you have hills and trees, out west of I-35 you can see where you are going, I like that, I like seeing forever.”
“The people here, db, the people here are special.”
Matt Reed grew up in a very small town. “My graduating class had 80 kids in it. Our whole town, Madisonville, has maybe, maybe 4,000 people in it.”
Matt is sitting in a Texas Parks & Wildlife golf cart, he is a big man with a big grin, “When I walk down the sidewalk here and someone is walking the other way past me, I look him in the eye, and I say, 'Hi', and he will say hi back to me and we may even stop and talk with each other a bit, and I may have never saw the guy in my life. I have never met a stranger.”
For 70 years Matt’s family owned a small furniture and appliance store in their town. “Its been shut down now, 7 years, db. In fact, I think of some of the old ladies my family sold appliances to and I still think about them and hope their washer is still working, their stove, I’d go fix it if it needed fixin’.”
And then, as with Kelly, as with Todd, “I have no desire to live anywhere else but here in Texas.”
“…the sun is shining…”
Hop-a-long Cassidy, doesn’t live here.
Not everyone has an oil-well in the back yard.
Most don’t build billion-dollar stadium/cathedrals to themselves.
The Texas you see on TV is not the Texas of the soil, of the rolling hills, of the oaks.
I have watched the sun set as beautiful horses grazed underneath. I have watched hawks glide on the thermals, saw one lone longhorn stand rock still, rock proud on a hill.
I have kissed my daughter on the cheek and had tears run down my cheek as I knew she will never follow me back up that way,
and I understand why.
I have seen all the Lone Stars on the homes, the barns, the flags, the signs, but for me, Texas will always be about,
the beauty of the night,
the million stars above,
and all the stars I’ve met who toil the soil,
take care of the reservoirs,
say howdy to a stranger,
and the blanket,
that I will lay down under a graceful oak tree,
on the top of a soft rolling hill,
and look up to thank the universe,
for the lady on the blanket next to me,
and for giving me the opportunity to show her,
“…somewhere in Texas.”
'Somewhere Down in Texas'
Jason Boland & The Stragglers
PS: Thanks to the Rigid Industries dudes for letting me write this story on location in your motor home with the A/C on high.