My parents live on a 3500 acre ranch in the East Texas pines. East Texas is considered an extension of the Deep South, whereas West Texas is considered part of the interior Southwest. Its mostly retirees here, with the occasional soon-to-be-retiree trying out the ranch lifestyle as a "weekender". Everyone on the ranch travels by golf cart, knows each other by name (with help from the plaques in the yards) and goes to one of three churches nearby (Baptist, Methodist or Church of Christ). The men all talk politics and the women all wear lipstick around the clock. Each sofa has a pillow arrangement and each garden has a palette. This is a place where thank you notes are written promptly, good outfits are complimented heavily, and dark meat is never used in chicken salad - a place where every woman owns a deviled egg plate and an iced tea pitcher.
Though I am a native Texan, I was not raised where my parents live now. We were nomadic in my growing up years (theme of my life) but we did always live in Texas. My parents (and their parents and grandparents) were all native Texans. My mom and dad built their home in East Texas about 10 years ago with the intention of retiring here. My girls have vague memories of my parents previous homes, but both Savannah and Peyton see this house as the home of their childhood memories with their grandparents. It is also this community (and their memories of our living in Dallas) that my children ideate when I speak of the South and its lifestyles.
This part of Texas holds many contrasts. If you are to leave the Ranch, you find yourself in the middle of East Texas. That means more typical hillbilly stereotypes rather than just Texas/Southern ones. Said another way - outside the Ranch its more Duck Dynasty or Dukes of Hazzard than Dallas or Designing Women. Outside the Ranch there really are men around who go by Bubba or Big Daddy and have a drawl like Foghorn Leghorn. And conversely, women on the Ranch who really do say things like "Why, I nev-aaaahhh!" or "I do declare!" More than 75 years have passed since Scarlett stood on that hill and bellyached about Tara. But in many ways, the women in this area still have that same disposition.
Central Texas, where Camp is located, has a much different feel. The breathtaking hill country and its lakes provide outdoor enthusiasts endless options. The mindset in that area is one of creativity and friendliness. People are hardworking and active. Its a foodie area, a techy area, a trendy area and a super fit area. Oh, and its eclectic! There are outdoor activities and festivals galore which keep the creative startup business owners mixing with the hippies and the government (state capital) employees. And I need not forget to mention the music scene. Many musicians come back to Austin and its surrounding areas after hitting it big, stating that nothing is better than playing good music for a room full of smiling Texans.
Then there are Dallas and Houston, with their own matching personalities. Larger than life in every regard.
This land was settled by people who didn't want to live by the rules of the government. To a large extent, that is still true today. There is a scrappy spirit here, a will, even an entitlement. Though it is not without error in many regards, I love it warts and all.
This weekend I watch all that surrounds me and file the information I collect. I live with every antennae on high alert but when I am here, on Texas soil, it is as if they all go into a different kind of overload. Some would call that inspiration.
More than any other place I have lived or traveled to, Texas seems set apart. With the transient nature of society today, so many foreigners from the North and West have moved here. But Texans they are not. Its seems to me this is a place where you must have either been born or have family who are natives here to feel that it is your dwelling.
Those born here share freely that they are proud to be Americans, but they are also proud to be Texans. Even beyond that though, they are aware of another loyalty. It is a loyalty to this place where habits are strong and memories are deep. Texas was shaped by a complex history and those from here seem resolute in passing it on to generations coming behind them. I see that in my parents. I hear it when I teach my girls. Yes, this is a land that inspires me.