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Texas | Columns | "Hindsights"

Looking back at
Perceptions of West Texas

by Michael Barr
Michael Barr

New York City and West Texas are separated by contrasting cultures, fifteen hundred miles of real estate, and a gulf of misunderstanding.

"I know all about West Texas," a New Yorker journalist once wrote. "It's the place with the most cows and the least milk, the most rivers and the least water, and where you can look the farthest and see the least."


Another New Yorker, while driving between Littlefield and Sudan, was startled when a roadrunner dashed in front of his car.

"What was that?" the New Yorker asked his West Texas traveling companion.

"The bird of paradise," answered the Texan.

"Long way from home isn't it?" replied the New Yorker.


Texans do like to brag about the size of their state, just as New Yorkers enjoy putting Texans in their place by reminding them that Alaska is bigger. One New Yorker told the story of a man from Ketchikan who was traveling through Big Spring with a verbose Texas friend full of pride in his state.-

"Stop the car," the Alaskan told his Texas friend. "I need to see a doctor."

"What's the matter?" asked the Texan.

"Claustrophobia," replied the Alaskan.


A New Yorker in Abilene stopped a man on the street and asked, "Does the wind blow this way all the time?"

"No," replied the Texan. "Sometimes it turns around and blows the other way."


A New York reporter and his son were traveling through West Texas. The man had been to the Lone Star State before and took the opportunity to teach his son some proper Texas etiquette.

"Never ask a man if he is from Texas, son. If he is, sooner or later he'll let you know. If not, you wouldn't want to embarrass him."


After a trip by car from San Angelo to Amarillo, a New Yorker described West Texas to his Manhattan neighbor who had never been west of Hoboken.

"It is so dry in West Texas that trees chase dogs."

"It is so dry in West Texas that a rancher once fainted when a raindrop hit him on the head and had to be revived by throwing a bucket of sand in his face."

"In West Texas there are rivers with no water, towns with no people, and roads that go nowhere."

"West Texas is so big that cowboys headed to town to vote for George Bush 41 arrived in time to vote for George Bush 43."

"Distances in parts of West Texas are hard to judge because the ground is so flat. Just south of Lubbock there's not a hill or hump in the earth to impede the view to the horizon in any direction. They say on the High Plains a man can see forever; then stand on a can of tuna and see another hundred miles."

"There's not much to do in Snyder on a Sunday. The only places open for business are a donut shop, 20 Churches, and the Dairy Queen."

"A tree is a rare sight in West Texas. The vision of a tree off in the distance causes great excitement and has been known to inspire poetry."

"West Texas is as quiet as the sunrise and as empty as a beer joint on Sunday morning."


Another New Yorker told of an old rancher from Mentone who died and went to his reward. When the old man arrived at his destination, he walked along a barbed wire fence until he came to a ten foot aluminum gate. A gatekeeper stood nearby with his hand on the sliding gate latch, ready to welcome the Texan inside. Beyond the gate the Texan noticed the land was brown and barren. The only thing green was prickly pear. There was no grass and not a tree in sight.

"Gosh, Saint Peter," the man said to the gatekeeper. "Heaven looks just like West Texas."

"I'm not Saint Peter," the gatekeeper said, "and what makes you think you're in heaven?"


All jokes aside, West Texas has a unique charm that is often misunderstood. And while most attempts at West Texas humor are wide of the mark, some efforts hit pretty close to home.

"There are two main attractions in West Texas," one New Yorker (who now lives near Marathon) confessed. "Sunrise and sunset."

"And if you have to ask what there is to do, you just don't get it."



Michael Barr
"Hindsights"
October 21, 2015 Column

Sources:
New York Times, March 20, 1955, "Analysis of the Boffolo Texensis," p. 12.
New York Times, November 2, 1958, "The End of Boffolo Texensis," p. 26.
New York Times, January 25, 1987.
Michael Barr, Remembering Bulldog Turner (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2013).



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