Our editors share recollections of Lone Star State experiences.
I was a toddler when my family moved from Indiana to Garland, a midsize city adjacent to Dallas. It was the summer of 1980, when the area was broiling in a record-setting heat wave that included 69 days of temperatures over 100 — 42 of them consecutive — and five days over 110. My dad’s pickup didn’t have air-conditioning. He occasionally prodded me as I slept to make sure I was still alive. Welcome to Texas.
Dad tells a story from a couple years later when it really sunk in that we were in Texas. He was driving home from work in rush-hour traffic on Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway when he noticed a guy on a motorcycle. The biker wasn’t wearing a helmet but did have another form of protection: a shotgun strapped against the chopper’s high seatback and headrest. He was also drinking a beer.
“I thought it was funny, but also thought, Oh God, he’s gonna get arrested — oh, wait, no he’s not,” Dad recalls.
Nothing the biker was doing was illegal — not in the open-container- and open-carry-friendly Texas of the early 1980s, at least.
“It was like, Here we are,” he says. “This is Texas.” — Jesse Hughey
As a transplant from the Northeast, I’ve always found it humorous how sensitive Texans are. They have a fierce love and loyalty for all things “Texan” and will fight for those things, breakfast tacos included. In 2016, a breakfast taco war ignited between Austin and San Antonio. The cities’ mayors got involved, and the battles on Twitter were scorchers. But here’s the thing: Take one bite of a bone-in pork-chop taco in a squishy house-made flour tortilla at Garcia’s Mexican Food to Go in San Antonio and you’ll side with the Alamo City, as I do. — José R. Ralat
The best Texas memories I have are weekends at my family’s ranch outside of Houston. We’d get up early to collect fresh eggs from the chicken coop, brush horses, and spend countless hours by the pool to escape the blistering heat. — Kristin Brown
Every summer when I was kid, my parents would pile me, my two siblings, and the dog into the car and we would head to our cabin in Colorado, near Pikes Peak. There are two main routes — one cutting through New Mexico and one through the Oklahoma Panhandle. Either way, it’s an 11-plus-hour trip — and the majority of the drive is through Texas. Each time we crossed the border, my dad would wake us up, honking the horn, and my mom would announce, “We aren’t in Texas anymore, kids.” Of course, we would all go nuts, because we knew that meant we only had a few more hours to go. — Holly Henderson
I once had a pet alligator. At least that’s what I told my friends in elementary school. One summer while visiting my grandparents, my grandfather brought a baby alligator in an Igloo cooler onto the back porch. This was in Anahuac (ah-NAH-wak), a small Southeast Texas town about an hour east of Houston, close to the Louisiana border and the Texas Gulf.
It’s a marshy, humid climate, suitable enough for alligators that Anahuac is the official alligator capital of Texas. During the summers, spring breaks, and holidays my family spent there, I spotted alligators regularly at my grandparents’ ranch, which bordered the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. The town even celebrates its reptilian residents with the annual Texas Gatorfest — a festival filled with live music, airboat rides, a barbecue cookoff, and a beauty pageant for all ages.
My family lived in Austin, and I never understood why we couldn’t move to Anahuac. My cousins — who had legit Texas accents — lived there, my grandfather let us drive his Jeep while he counted cattle, and my grandmother supplied an endless amount of back-scratching and homemade tortillas. Each time we returned to Austin, I would relish telling stories about Anahuac to my city friends, including the one about the little baby alligator (that was eventually returned to its natural habitat) that I considered my pet, even if for just a few hours. — Emily C. Laskowski
Photography: José R. Ralat