One writer's view of Texas

By Jessie Milligan

The e-mail arrived on my computer the other day. "Are you enjoying Texas and Fort Worth? Is it as much fun as they say? Or is that just myth?"

Myth? I wanted to respond: Yes, hon, there is a Texas. It's as big and as full of possibilities as they say.

No, it's not perfect. We live under the shadows of clouds that blow in from far away, and our own storms sometimes darken our days. But mostly it's sunny, and it's the sunshine that we talk about the most.

Small blessings accumulate here and, when counted, amount to a blessing larger than Texas itself.

When the world seems too crazy, we can always say "Thank God for Texas." Thanks for waitresses who call customers "hon," and thanks for beautiful, ornate courthouses in small town squares.

It's the down-home, Old West part most of us brag about. That's our emotional comfort food.

We can sit at a corner table in a dance hall on a Saturday night and watch a couple twirl to Western swing so smoothly and sweetly that it looks like they are moving with one heartbeat. We can also walk down a street on a Sunday morning and hear the strains of the South — a gospel choir sounding so goodness-almighty glad to be alive that we are happy to be alive, too.

We know we can easily escape our workaday worlds. When life gets too hectic, we can take a drive down a farm road and past a stand of oaks in a field so pretty it looks like a park. And we know that down the highway a piece, we're bound to see a shop called an antique store that is really a small museum of midcentury household goods. We have "retro" down pat, and in that we find comfort.

We all have our own lists of favorites. We have our longhorns, our cowboys, our cowgirls, our ranches, our oil-monied families, our Stockyards that serve as a living museum to days gone by. Those are our heroic images, the icons of the West, and this is where the West begins.

The West to a Texan also means fresh starts, bold ventures, pioneering aspirations. These ideas of old are transposed on our modern landscape, in business and in art, most visibly in large art, which embodies the cutting edge of the New West. Fort Worth is a city where a spare Isamu Noguchi sculpture stands across the street from sculptor Jonathan Borofsky's 50-foot-tall Man With Briefcase, both not too far from the latest addition to the landscape, the 67-plus-foot-tall Vortex by artist Richard Serra.

It's the bigger-than-life West here, allrighty, but it's also part Southern, part big-city, part country, part international, and all of that is worth saying grace over.

Texas is homemade tortillas and salsa one night, barbecue brisket washed down with icy Dr Pepper the next. A Brazilian steakhouse. A lunch of Vietnamese noodles. A dinner of Gulf shrimp curry. Pecan pie. An organically grown salad. Texas is the whole enchilada, and that leaves us with a sense that life is full of potential.

Blessings are counted here in this land so big it feels there's room to grow, so big it feels there is, as the Dixie Chicks sing, room enough to make the big mistakes. And there's room enough for big dreams under these great big skies. And for blessings large and small.

When I responded to my friend's e-mail, what I did say was this: "Is Texas a myth? No, hon, it's actually a lot better."


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