My parents didn’t want me to leave Texas the same way their parents didn’t want them to leave Texas. They’re not being clingy or small-town minded. They just know what a good thing they’ve got.
Still, it’s a great big goofy world out there and sometimes you just get that wild hair to up and go. But it’s a lot harder than you’d think, both literally (you can drive across five states in the time it takes to get to Texas in the rearview mirror) and emotionally.
I’m always surprised by the things I never thought I’d miss. Here are a few of them.
The Speed Limit
Once you’ve exited the autobahn of Texas highways, everything feels like it’s moving in slow motion. It’s the fastest state in the country, period, averaging a brisk 78.3 mph. When you’re in places where the maximum limit is a measly 55 mph, you’ll feel like you could hop out of the car and travel faster on foot.
It’s crazy to pine for the sight of deer in your headlights. But this former West Texan sometimes craves the white-knuckle excitement of dodging doe in late night drives. It turns getting home into a game, and it keeps you more wide-eyed awake than any coffee on earth. And if you hit ’em just right (and don’t wreck your truck or yourself in the process), you’ll get a few great meals out it it. There’s no shame in it. They came to you to die.
Good Ol’ Boys
I had the dumb luck of growing up a nerd in West Texas, where I didn’t hit it off with the good ole boys, rednecks and cowboys. I’m talking the real deal down-and-dirty ‘kickers. The ones who started tailgating in middle school. They didn’t really click with smart-alecky dorks like me. But somehow, growing up in the same small town turns everybody into a family of sorts. And now that I’ve embraced my inner redneck, I miss those good ol’ boys. They knew how to hunt, fish, fight… all of the essential skills. And they sure knew how to party.
Chicken Fried Steak
Why is it so hard for find a good chicken fried steak outside of Texas. Other places try their hands at this heavenly and oily concoction of pan-friend cubesteak and peppered milk gravy, but they just don’t do it right. Whether you go in Texas, be it a steakhouse or a Furr’s Buffet, you’re bound to have a perfect chicken fried steak. Other states will try to offer you “country fried” steak. Don’t fall for it. It’s just not the same.
I will always say “y’all.” Even if I landed on Mars, I’d address those martians with a fine, “Howdy, y’all!” The slang, and the twang, never escapes you, and always sounds like home. Same goes with calling every soda a “Coke.” And I still start sentences with “I’m fixin’ to,” even if non-Texans look at me like I’m a martian.
READ MORE: How to Speak Texan
There are so many H-E-B’s across Texas, you’d assume other states have ’em, too. You’d be dead wrong. The beloved empire of Howard Edward Butt, Jr. (and yes, I still giggle at the name) doesn’t extend to the rest of the U.S. Great for Texas, too bad for grocery shoppers everywhere else. It’s the rare store where you find everything you’re looking for, every time. And the H-E-B store brand of foods is as good, if not better, than the brand name counterparts. You’ll never find anything like it. Don’t take it for granted.
The Texas Two-Step
It’s the easiest dance in the world. You don’t need classes. Don’t need a choreographer. All you need to do is be able to count to two, basically. But believe it or not, I’ve met tons of folks in other states who just can’t seem to get the hang of this easy-going shuffle. It’s a cinch. Quick-quick, slow, slow, quick-quick, slow, slow, quick-quick, slow, slow. But perhaps I’m biased, having learned it through osmosis at 4H barn dances.
The Fast Food Chains
Of course I miss Whataburger. Everybody with working taste buds and choppers does. Its praises have been sung far and wide and the breakfast taquitos live on in my dreams. But there are other unsung chains that offer grub I can’t get anymore and equally hanker for. I’m talking to you, fajita taco combo at Taco Cabana, Mexi dips and chips of Taco Bueno, and spongy bun of Schlotzsky’s.
Say this out loud: “Don’t Mess With Vermont.” Just doesn’t have the same ring, does it? There’s just something about Texas Pride that no other state can hold a candle to. It runs deep through the heart of every denizen, and sticks with you until you die. Can’t be bottled. Can’t be replicated. Can’t be faked. It identifies you. It classifies you. Run a DNA test on any Texan, the results just come back reading, “Texan.”
Somewhere between hot-blooded mammals and cold-blooded reptiles lies that crazy, resilient gene that comprises Texas Blood. It is the heat, not just that danged humidity, that makes Texas summers treacherous. But if it doesn’t kill you (and it sure tries), it makes you stronger. And much sweatier. It’s euphoric and detoxifying, that Texas sweat. The kind of sweat that rich folk pay to replicate at spas. The kind that helps you kick your hangover fast so you can move on to the next. I honestly miss the out-of-body experience of oncoming sun strokes. I just don’t miss the electric bills.