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GTT

I’m not a native Texan.  I was born and reared across the Sabine River in Central Louisiana, and I graduated from Louisiana State University.  When I was discharged from the army, I went to Bryan, Texas, to join my mom and dad who had moved there while I was protecting Germany from those pesky Russians.  I soon took a job as a teacher in Somerville, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.


“Gone to Texas” or “GTT” was used by Americans immigrating to Texas in the 1800’s.  Often their departure for Texas was preceded by debt caused by the Panic of 1819.  The letters were often written on doors of abandoned houses.  I think the first time I heard the expression it was spoken by a teacher from Texas who had gone GTL to teach Louisiana History at LSU.  Davy Crockett, when he was defeated for reelection in Tennessee, said, “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas,” which he did.


The first couple of years of living in Texas led to a lot of trips to Louisiana to visit relatives and friends.  Gawd, the roads were terrible then.  The farther East I traveled, the worse the roads were.  It was as though the highways were trying to discourage me from leaving, yet  I still thought of myself as a misplaced Louisianian for years.


I married Linda, a native of Somerville and, of course, Texas, which meant I was even more unlikely to return to Louisiana.  Thirty-five years working for the same school district further solidified my Texas credentials.


When I first moved to Texas, I recall thinking of it as being a rather quaint state---not much going on, not really exciting.  Politics was pretty tame if compared to Louisiana’s.  Hell, I was used to governors going to prison or being placed in insane asylums.  The biggest oddity in Texas seemed to be the consistent stupidity of the governors...rich but stupid.


Although I did GTT, it wasn’t for the usual suspected reasons: being a felon, being in debt, escaping a love gone bad.  Not  in my case, although I suspect some folks looked at me suspiciously in my early days here.  I’m fairly certain they still view me suspiciously, not because I’m from out of state, but rather because I’ve become such an odd old fellow. 


In Louisiana growing up, I suspect I was viewed as the level-headed voice of reason.  However, after the transfer to the calmer climes of Texas, I believe I was viewed as a loose cannon, a bit of an uncivilized wildman.


I found that I could use this to my advantage in teaching teenagers who were never really sure what my limits were.  I recall one year while I was working  on my front porch, some young fellows were circling their bicycles in the street using foul language.  Although I tried to ignore them, I overheard one say to the other, “Let’s go.  I hear he’s a badass.”  Although nothing could be further from the truth, I took it as a compliment.


I’ve always believed that it really wasn’t important on which piece of ground one was standing on as long as he or she had a firm spot to place a fulcrum.  As Archimedes stated when explaining the principle of the lever, “Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth.”  Well, I wasn’t exactly an earth mover, but I managed to maintain a 35 year “career” in education...not the easiest thing to do.


I’m not permitted to have a “Native Texas” T-shirt or cap or belt buckle, but come on, guys, almost 50 years in Texas should earn me an “Honorary Native Texan” badge.


At first I truly missed the trees of Louisiana more than any other element.  They are magnificent due to a lot of flat land with a lot of bayous, and lakes, and rain.  In Central Texas, the trees are pretty puny.  Fortunately, just outside my window as I type this essay is a huge oak, probably the best in town.  Even a Cajun would be proud of this fellow.


Most of the folks in this part of Texas are Czechs, Poles, Germans, Blacks, and Hispanics.  In Central Louisiana, I think we were mostly Italian, English, Irish, French, Jews, Blacks, and rednecks.


The folks of Texas, at least the ones I’ve encountered, seem to be welcoming to strangers.  They seem to have the “Ya’ll come on down” spirit.  Truthfully, they’re probably not any friendlier than the folks in other Southern states, but they do seem to throw their arms open a little wider.  I think most folks in the South are a little friendlier, a little kinder, than folks in other regions.


In a state full of cattle, it’s somewhat surprising that Texans are not very tolerant of bullshit, particularly from politicians.  They had the good sense to limit the state pols to meeting every two years.


Most of the state funds are spent on highways.  This is followed by money being spent on education.  We try not to overdo any of this spending, and, consequently, not overdo taxes.  Heck, I’m proud of the highways of Texas and the schools are not too shabby.


In my early years in Texas, I once had an occasion to ask an associate why Texans seem so proud of their state.  Being a native Texan, unlike myself, he had a ready answer, “Texans are an optimistic people.”  “An optimistic people”... I often recalled this statement wondering if it were really true.  After being an honorary “Native Texan” for close to fifty years, I’ve concluded that it is true.  When other parts of the country believe that their best days are behind them, Texans truly believe that although life is not bad now, better days are ahead.  I can live with that. 


enough