People who are from Texas, or have lived there, are devoted to it and I never truly understood why until I lived there ... twice. Texans speak of their state with an affection one doesn't often hear from Oregonians or Michiganders. No matter what city they are from, Texans almost always add "Texas" when they introduce themselves, apparently to avoid confusion, as though there were another Nacodoches or Cut and Shoot anywhere else in the world.
The media elites are revisiting Texas in an attempt to define Rick Perry, the three-term governor and Republican presidential candidate. There were similar Texas stories about George W. Bush and even Lyndon B. Johnson, but liberal media types treated Johnson's Texas roots as quaint, not "dangerous," because his policies (with the exception of the Vietnam War) fit those in the chattering classes. For Perry (and Bush), every stereotype is applied. "Dumb" is one of the nicer ones.
Texans do talk funny. They are always "fixin"' to go someplace. Someone once published a book for non-Texans that translated their accented English. "All," for example, is a black petroleum substance that comes out of the ground.
Southern Baptist is the unofficial state religion, though atheists, agnostics and critics of America are well represented at many Texas universities. Texas Baptists go to church on Sunday mornings (and Sunday and Wednesday nights). They can recite the menu at a church supper, right down to the Jell-O squares with imbedded carrot shavings. Sweet tea is the preferred drink at such functions. Texans love their college football and the Dallas Cowboys.
Texans share a connection not found in any other state. Last week, I took my daughter's car to have her tires checked. She recently moved back to Washington from San Antonio and her car still has Texas plates. A man wearing a University of Texas cap yelled to me, "Go Texas!" That doesn't happen with Vermonters.
The Republic of Texas was once an independent country (from 1836 to 1845) before it became part of the United States on Dec. 29, 1845. It even had its own coinage, which you can buy through numismatic channels. Perhaps this explains Texas' independent streak.
Texas is a place where you can put down roots. The friends one makes there are often friends for life. Again, it's difficult to explain this to people who have not been baptized into Texas. A brief visit won't do it.
When I first moved to Texas to work at a Houston TV station, one of my colleagues had fun asking me to pronounce the names of various streets and towns. I got most of them wrong, because Texans don't pronounce a lot of names and words the way they are "supposed" to be pronounced.
Oh, and anyone who thinks chicken-fried steak has anything to do with chicken (except for chicken broth in the gravy) is clearly a "foreigner."
Texans enjoy laughing at themselves, but they don't take kindly to other people laughing at them. Aggie jokes have been popular for a long time and students or alumni from other Texas schools mostly tell them. The jokes are supposed to highlight the alleged intellectual deficiencies at Texas A & M University. Of course, students and graduates of A & M are not stupid, but the jokes are funny. For example: Did you hear about the Aggie who won a gold medal at the Olympics? He liked it so much that he decided to get it bronzed.
If the elites want to understand Texas, they have to do more than engage in drive-by writing assignments. They should live there, as I did. I still miss much of what Texas offered my family. Rick Perry revives the warm feelings I have for the state. Maybe that's because I finally understand the language.
Email nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/calthomas.