A Column by Jonathon S. Platt
I remember when no one was lookin’ I was puttin’ peanuts in my coke. I took a lot of kidding cause I never did fit in. Now, look at everybody trying to be what I was then. I was country, when country wasn’t cool.”
These words from Barbara Mandrell’s song “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” oftentimes sum up my life. I grew up outside of a small Texas town with a dad who loved working horses and cattle and a grandfather who spent his days on a tractor.
We were Texans, but not because we did these things. Because “Texan” is larger than that. Texans are known ’round the world because we’re larger than life. We’re tougher than tough. And we welcome anyone to become a part of our crew because the honorable status of Texan is not earned by what you wear, what you do or where you were raised.
Being a Texan means being who you are with pride.
Some of the most historic and famous Texans weren’t from this state at all. Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin were born in Virginia. Davy Crockett was a senator from Tennessee. Our beloved former President George W. Bush was born in New Haven, Conn.
Very few of the movie-dwelling western icons of yesteryear came from Texas. Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Lee Van Cleef — none of these men, whom our fathers and grandfathers idealized for their machoness, were “true” Texans. Heck, not even John Wayne was born on Texas soil.
Yet their swagger — their sense of who they were or are — makes them one of us.
However, it seems that Texas has become popular in recent culture. A growing population now sports artificially faded Wrangler jeans, flannel shirts and flat-brimmed trucker hats. To me, as someone who actually grew up in dirty jeans and scuffed boots, it’s done ironically and disingenuously.
Being a Texan doesn’t come down to what one wears or drives or says with a certain accent. Texan is a state of mind and a sense of pride. Simply showing up, purchasing a cowboy hat and kicking on some boots does not in any way make you a Texan.
The beautiful culture I was raised in is no trend or laughing matter, and artificially stepping into it brings out what Merle Haggard calls “the fightin’ side of me.”
If you don’t normally wear a cap and boots, please don’t pretend to. Be yourself. What you wear does not make you a Texan — your heart does.