After writing my original article about the state I call home and dearly love, I received a good many comments from those who love her in like manner. Some shared clippings, other writings, lists of things, and their own words about the great state of Texas. I enjoyed reading every one of them and share a kindred spirit with so many who wrote. I’ve also had the opportunity of meeting some real “Texas characters,” and believe me, when I say we have our share of those, too.
I told my husband Ted that we meet so many of them because of what I do for a living. I love going out on an interview and meeting new people, learning their stories, asking questions, sharing information, and writing about them for others to get to know them. Occasionally, I meet a real wonder and I laugh and laugh for days. Many have become good friends over the years and I treasure the wonders they have shared with me.
Because this is Texas, we have our share of braggarts and boasters, but what state doesn’t? It seems to me that Texas is so big that the Texas stories and tales have to be big, too. One of my recent favorites is about a Texas rancher who had lived on his land for years and years following in the footsteps of his forefathers. One day, he learned he had been accused of housing some illegal activities on his ranch and a federal agent appeared at the gate wanting to do a thorough inspection of the rancher’s land. The rancher assured him that he had nothing to hide and would be glad for him to look around. “Spend the day if you like,” he offered, “and if you need more time, I’ll put you up in the bunkhouse yonder and see that you have a good meal tonight.”
The federal agent was young and filled with his own power and did not listen well to the rancher. He was already planning how he would write his report to his superiors about what he would find. The old, wise, farmer said clearly, “Now, if I were you, I wouldn’t go over there in that pasture. It wouldn’t be worth your time and that big old bull is pretty mean. I can’t even trust him myself and this ain’t my first rodeo.” With that, the young agent launched into a tirade about how much government power he had and that he could do anything he wanted. He whipped out his shiny new badge and asked, “Do you see that?” The rancher said, “Yep, I see it.” “Well, this badge gives me the authority to go anywhere on this land and want and inspect anything I find.” “Have it your way,” said the rancher as he walked off to continue his chores.
About 20 minutes went by and he heard terrible screaming and sensed a commotion in the very pasture he had warned the agent about entering. The young guy was running for his very life with the big bull gaining ground every second. “Help me, help me,” he screamed. “You have to do something.” The rancher just leaned on his shovel and said calmly, “Show him your powerful badge there. That ought to do the trick.”
He may have been older and a mere rancher in the eyes of the young dude with little experience, but he knew much more than the young city slicker could ever imagine. He had lived his life in Texas. Pays to heed these old Texas characters. They can help you tremendously or put you in a world of hurt. I’ve learned with most I’ve met that following their lead, heeding their advice, or seeking their friendship is much more important to me than being right or feeling important. And I’ve never been chased by one of their mean bulls.
And, you know, I’d like to think I have learned something powerfully important from each of their lives. I’m thinking of putting together a book on the Texas characters I have been privileged to know. I’d include Curley, who lived in Orange, one of the last true Texas cowboys, Molly Ivins, Bum Phillips, Neal Morgan, Melvin the vacuum cleaner salesman, Regina Rogers, Jerry Valentine, Willie, and oh, so many more. Ted says I am beginning to act like I’ve lived here all of my life. That is one of the best compliments he has ever paid me since I met the old Amarillo cowboy.