My linguistically formative years were probably more sheltered than the average Texan’s. My mother came from the American heartland (Utah/Colorado), that area whose regional dialect most closely approximates Standard American English, and she was my primary linguistic influence (My father was a Texan through and through, but had little influence due to his work). Because I was home-schooled, I didn’t even have the influences of my peers. Additionally, being in the “big-city,” Garland, TX, my exposure to traditional Texan drawl in public encounters was also virtually nonexistent. And so, I grew up without a Texan accent. Now I am for the most part grateful for my lack of ‘hick’ flavor, especially when visiting such anally retentive cities as New York and/or Boston, however, I am nevertheless proud of my Texas heritage. In fact, like many, I would say that I am a Texan first, and an American only distantly second, which is not to say that I am not proud of my American heritage as well.
So, I want to write a poem that captures my sense of identity as a Texan. I want to capture the pride of the Texas patriot, pride of size, pride of ethic, pride of identity, pride of solidarity, pride of ethnicity. But I want to differentiate the Texas of my heart-love, and the Texas of “Dallas” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” especially with its imminent recreation. I want to talk about the people. I want to create the sense of community which extends between all parts of this vast land from the gulf to the northern woodlands to the plains of the midlands to the western mountains to the dustbowl of the panhandle, each area proud of its own distinct features, but even more proud of the whole. I want to talk about the indigenous plants and animals, especially the ones which no outsider would realize makes a delicious snack: Red Sumac (the northern white variety is poisonous), prickly pear (easy to peel and great raw or stewed), wood sorrel (looks like clover with heart shaped leaves and a lemon bite), armadillo (hint, they don’t taste like chicken), whitetail (cook with pork fat to ameliorate the ‘wild’ taste), etc.
But most especially, I want to talk about my own struggle to come to terms with my own identity. Half of me looks down on the very un-global attitude that Texas takes with regard to economics, politics, ecology, and culture; half of me glories in participating in a regional culture that is proud of itself instead of one that despises itself (such as those in states like Mississippi, the Carolinas, and Virginia). I sometimes question where I fit within the Texas socio-political body. I actually spent years feeling like an outsider, an un-Texan, because I spent my first two months of life in Colorado and have a Coloradoan birth certificate. However, I never question my loyalty to Texas, my love of this land, or my love of its people, even when I occasionally look down on them for a “fixin’ to” construction or a pronunciation like “yawnptoo.”
What is it about Texas or Texans that makes us so particularly proud and patriotic? It may be, as some claim, our former independent status, but that seems unlikely considering the fact that no one alive today can personally remember that independence. Maybe it’s something in the atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the water. Perhaps it is lineage that does it. I don’t know, but whatever it is, I’m glad I’ve got it.