Friday, February 25, 2011

True Texans

Photo by Paul Lowry

My ancestors came to Texas when it was still part of Mexico.  They settled on the frontier in what is now Caldwell County, Texas.  The area had sandy soil and tall pine trees.  Making a living from that country was no easy task, but they did it.   They did it as a community. Helping each other when needed. They were not conservatives, they were individualists who knew when to depend on their neighbors.  Some went to war when Texas declared its independence from Mexico.  One ancestor rode with Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto where Texas won its independence.  Another fought in the Mexican-American War and died in Mexico.

These men and women looked forward to Texas becoming part of the United States and were proud when that happened.  Later, when the southern states began to secede, votes were taken on whether Texas should secede.  Sam Houston was against secession.   So was one of my ancestors living in Gonzales County.  He voted against secession even though he was the only voter in his precinct and everyone would know his vote.  Indeed, he was the only vote against secession in the whole county.

Another ancestor joined the Confederate Army and fought for Texas.  He refused to surrender when his unit was surrounded and escaped to rejoin other of his comrades.  At the end of the war, he walked home from Louisiana to Central Texas.  He believed that the war was a mistake or as he said to his children and grandchildren (one grandchild was my grandmother): "A rich man's war, but a poor man's fight."  He helped build the courthouse pictured above.

World War I saw more family members fight for the United States.  They saw the United States as their country.  World War II came, uncles joined the army and so did my mother.  She met my father at Fort Hood before he headed for the Pacific and an island hopping war. Korea found my youngest uncle in uniform.  Viet Nam saw my oldest cousin off to fight.  He came back permanently damaged, never the same person again.  He and I are only six months apart.  Now in these wars, another cousin flies huge transport planes in support of the troops.  Sometimes landing in then midst of enemy rockets.

Do we all believe the same?  By no means.  We are a mixed bag of conservatives, liberals, independents, and contrarians.  The contrarians just vote any way the majority doesn't.  We are city slickers and cowboys, truck drivers and writers, but we still get together in memory of the men and women who settled Texas and were our ancestors.

Texas is not conservative and it is not liberal.  True Texans are individuals who chart their own paths and make up their own minds.  Sadly. many that carry on about being from Texas are pale images of real Texans.  Many act tough and brag about their deeds, real or mostly imaginary.

The one image passed from generation to generation in my family is that of the individual that never bragged nor acted tough ("shut-mouthed" my grandmother would say).  Quiet men that impressed many with their even temper.  Beneath that facade though lay the person unafraid to take a stand no matter what his/her neighbors thought.  A person that was slow to anger, but who was willing to risk all to right a wrong.  No one told them what opinions to have, and they saw no need to impose their views on others.

Today, too many people living in Texas do not think on their own.  They are simply sheep being led by the goats.  They do not stop to think of the consequences of reducing an already lean budget.  Texas ranks 48th to 50th in the help it provides to the least among us.  My ancestors would be ashamed as I am.  It is time for those living in Texas to stop following the herd, to stand up for the elderly, the mentally ill and handicapped, and the physically handicapped.  People living in Texas need to stop being selfish and remember those that settled this state, men and women who stood together and helped one another, fought for one another and died for one another. 

People who claim to be Texans need to break from the herd and be independent.  Honor Texas by caring for "the least of these brothers of mine".

No comments: