Saturday, April 7, 2012

Horses, Hats and Bonnets - Exploring Texas

Texas...a place full of vitality, a place where people are proud of their history (no matter how rustic or how violent), a place where you see horses and cows graze right outside the city, a place where wearing a cowboy hat is not only natural, but also sensible, a place where the Sun strikes the Earth with vengeful intensity and with unparalleled pristine beauty, a place that makes one love the desert, and crave for the sea, a. place with unearthly sized cacti and the most beautiful blue bonnets.
All it takes to admire Texas is to leave one's biases and comforts back at home and step out the door, and embrace the challenge in her air. It may be that "It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to. "(Bilbo Baggins, LOTR). Nevertheless, don't keep your feet..
I have lived in Texas for 6 years, having started out in Austin, and then moving to Houston. Austin cannot but be love at first sight, and there were no challenges there. It took over two years of insipid Houston when I finally took the challenge. I was determined to dig through the insipidity, to unearth a different view of  Texas. Why are Texans so proud, why are even their atheists so religious, and why is everyone else so evangelical? Why are they so passionate about their beer, and their flag? I tried to understand the people here, their circumstances, hobbies, and beliefs, and there began an entertaining ride.
My first surprise was in finding that a vast number of people, including CEOs at my company grew up on farms, and learnt to rear cows, and lasso horses when they were not attending school. They are proud of it, they think it invaluable even to the extent of dealing with clients or contractors. I will never forget what my boss once said. "To tackle with a cow, you need to think like a cow".
Their knowledge of the rest of the world may be shockingly poor, but they are proud of being American, and even more of being Texan. Their knowledge of every Bill's and Jack's role in the revolution is even more astounding. And, yes, there are few fool proof tests to check if someone is native Texan- he will love his beer,  he will wear his big hat, boot and belt even if he is no longer in the ranch, he will know how to ride a horse, and will talk incessantly about Texas and the Alamo if given an opening.
Inside The Alamo
 I have seen the Alamo, and I did offend some people when I said that  I found it boring and unimpressive. I have seen far more impressive historic monuments back home, where far more battles of equal or more importance were fought. But, although I did not voice it, I felt a tinge of regret in realizing that we also had far less pride in our History back home.


A testimony to this feeling is the annual three week long Houston Rodeo, the biggest event and gathering in the United States, where thousands of people gather every day to watch and participate in events as far-ranged as tight rope lassoing, to bare back horse and bull riding. In other parts of the arena, there are informative displays of live farm animals like Llamas, pigs, horses, cows and chicken. All this is  in tandem with a 3 week long carnival in the same arena, and every evening ends with a concert attended by over 50,000 people every day. Just attending one day is enough to teach one the spirit of Texas.
The desert, the flowers and the Sun!!! If one knows not how to love them, or believes naively that they do, they need to make a road trip in Texas and drive from the west to the east. At the west, one can drive for miles being able to see everything for miles, and revel in the vast openness of nothing.
Driving in Southwest Texas
The journey will take one through canyons, hills and rivers in central Texas and out to the saline sea in the east. While I have never gone from end to end, I have seen them all, and can imagine how that journey would be. Yes, it will be very very hot, but  it can be done in spring, when it will be hot, but the wild flowers will more than make up for it.

Buttercups, Blue bonnets and Paintbrushes
The above pics were taken near Chappell Hill Texas, last week

 And, I could sing paeans about the Texan Sun, but trust me, it is one of the most beautiful views of the Sun that you will ever come across. It is not a distant blob in the sky, it swallows the sky and takes it down with it. It makes the sky sing and dance and blush a deeper shade of red than in any other part of the world I have been in. If one wants to see how the Sun and the sky can make love to all the land and you, be out on the road in Texas.
Courtesy- Houston Chronicle

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