1) rodeo noun: an event in which people compete at riding horses and bulls, catching animals with ropes, etc.
2) rodeo verb: to participate in rodeo activities as a competitor or spectator
Never heard of rodeo used as a verb? Then maybe you haven’t spent much time in Texas. Don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you. I saw online that The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo starts today and it has put me in a lone star state of mind. It also got me to thinking about how I’m a poor excuse for a Texan. I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots, I don’t know how to two-step, and I was never all that in to country music, especially the newer variety. But like most from my lovely state, I have a healthy amount of state pride. One of the reasons I love being from Texas is because people who have never been have the silliest ideas of what Texas is like. I like playing “cultural ambassador” and explaining away misconceptions or answering questions.
Let’s get a few things straight:
- The majority of people don’t own horses, and they certainly don’t ride them to work, unless they happen to work on a ranch. (yes, I’ve had to address this one before.) Incidentally, every time I have ridden a horse, I was not in Texas.
- Family life for most looks nothing like the experiences of JR Ewing and crew on Southfork. Erase the show Dallas from your mind.
- Texans like to do other things besides rounding up their cows and drinking beer. For example, big cities have world-renown museums and thriving arts scenes. In fact, Houston has more theater seats in a concentrated area than any other place in the US after Broadway.
- Not everyone is a gun-toting, super-conservative, but they certainly exist.
- The population is not ethnically homogeneous and Houston is, according to a Rice University study, the most ethnically diverse city in the country, even surpassing New York. (This segment on NPR (with a great photo of Buddhist monks in front of a strip mall) references the study.)
- Not everyone owns a gun but they are popular.
- Texas is not made up only of small towns such as Cut and Shoot and Comfort. (Yes, those are real towns. Doesn’t Comfort, Texas have a nice ring to it?) Houston, Dallas and San Antonio are all in the top 10 of largest cities in the U.S.
- Texas is not full of homophobic racists (in fact, Houstonians elected one of the first openly gay mayors in the U.S.), but again, they do exist.
- The landscape is not defined by desert and tumbleweeds. Its diverse geography includes pine-covered hills, rolling plains, canyons, mountains, and rivers.
- The accent. Not everyone with a southern drawl is from Texas. Every time my British husband comments on what he considers to be a “crazy” Texan accent of someone on TV, the person is actually from Kentucky or Georgia or somewhere else in the South.
What do you think of when you think of Texas? Maybe you think of oil rigs. Oil is big in Texas, can’t deny that one. Chances are, if you’re an expat in the UAE, you know someone who has lived in Texas because of the oil connection it shares with the UAE. This article in Forbes about the oil production in Texas states that if it were an independent country, Texas would now rank as the 9th largest oil-producing country in the world, surpassing countries like Kuwait and Venezuela. If production continues at its current pace, it will surpass the UAE and other oil-rich nations. Who knew?
I don’t take offense when people share with me a less than informed opinion of Texas (and often times, it’s not too flattering). Even though we all try hard not to be presumptuous, it happens from time to time. In my opinion, discovering the opposite of what I had assumed about people and places is one of the fun things about traveling and living overseas.
Do people have misconceptions about where you are from? Or have you traveled somewhere expecting one thing, only to experience another? Leave a comment below! And if you’re in Houston,