Braille Monitor                                                 March 2012

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A Different Country—No Passport Needed

by Norma Crosby

Norma CrosbyFrom the Editor: We have less than three months until the convention, and with this issue comes your first opportunity to preregister and buy banquet and barbeque tickets. As you will see from the following article, you will be traveling to a different country, so make your hotel and travel reservations soon and prepare for an unforgettable experience. The article originally appeared in the Monitor in 1993, when Norma Crosby and her husband Glenn, the then president of the Texas affiliate, were preparing to host the national convention. Current NFB of Texas President Kimberly Flores slightly revised the information for you. Here it is:

People often say that Texas is like a different country, and, if you take the opportunity to attend the 2012 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas, we think you will find this to be the case. No other state can claim the diversity in land, people, and culture that you'll find in Texas. Some say that we Texans brag a lot. But then we recognize that we have a lot to brag about.

Six national flags have flown over Texas, representing eight changes of government. We claim uniqueness simply because we are one of a kind. Texas is the only state to have entered the United States by treaty instead of territorial annexation. The state was an independent nation from 1836 to 1845.

Texas consists of 267,300 square miles of prairies, high and low plains, rivers, islands, bayous, mountains, valleys, canyons, and forests. El Paso is closer to Needles, California, than it is to Dallas. There are 254 counties in the state. One explanation for the large number is that it was necessary for early Texans to vote and do business at the county seat. So they decided that none of the boundaries of a county should be more than a day's ride on horseback from the county seat.

Texas comes from the Hasinai Indian word “tejas,” meaning friends or allies. Although two-thirds of all Texans are Anglo or of northern European descent, the Mexican culture has probably played the biggest role in shaping the Texas lifestyle. Texas food, music, architecture, language, and fashion have all been strongly influenced by 150 years of colonization by Spain and Mexico.

Texans speak a unique brand of English, which sets us apart from other people from the U.S. South and Southwest. One British author, Stephen Brook, described Texas speech as follows: “What nourishing mouthfuls of language, flush with redundancy, one can hear in Texas, words stumbling over each other, vowels endlessly elongated into diphthongs like verbal rainbows, containing elements and ghosts of every vowel sound known to the human race, including a few that, like the Big Bend mosquitofish, are unique to Texas.” Many of us from East Texas speak with a slow drawl that turns one syllable into three. Those from West Texas use minimal language and punctuate their remarks by staring meaningfully at the horizon. South Texans speak a mixture of Spanish and English, sometimes referred to as Spanglish, and those from the northern part of the state speak a mixture of all the above. Unfortunately, no language course can teach you how to speak Texan before your trip to the convention. But you will probably figure it out before the week is over.

One advantage to the Dallas-Fort Worth area is that you will be able to find any type of food you like. But, if you want to get a real taste of Texas, be sure to try barbecue, chicken-fried steak, and Tex-Mex food before leaving. Some say that Texans will barbecue anything, including the tires off their pickup trucks. But real Texas barbecue is beef. Sometimes a Texan will throw some pork ribs or sausages on the pit. But mostly it's beef served with white bread, pickles, onions, potato salad, and beans. And, if they give you a plate that isn't made of paper, you have not entered a true Texas barbecue joint. In fact, in most barbecue restaurants you might be served only on butcher paper, and, if you're lucky, they'll give you a plastic knife and fork.

Then there's chicken-fried steak. It's usually an inexpensive cut of steak, battered and fried like chicken. It should always be served with cream gravy, and the inside should be tender with a crisp crust.

Finally there's Tex-Mex. In Texas we just call it Mexican food. But the truth is that it bears little resemblance to dishes served in the interior of Mexico. It usually contains lots of chilies (peppers, which may be mild or which may clear up any sinus problem you have), frijoles (beans), and rice. And of course you can't have a good Tex-Mex meal without washing it all down with lots of cerveza (beer) or a good margarita. If you want a real change of pace, try some cabrito (baby goat, usually grilled over an open fire). It's a favorite of many Texicans.

Back by popular demand, we are once again planning a barbecue with some Texas-style music. Who knows, we may have mariachis, Texas rock, country, or blues. You never can tell what might happen in Texas. But you had better plan on being with us so that you can find out. There is a song about Texas that says,

When I die, I may not go to heaven.
I don't know if they let cowboys in.
If they don't, just let me go to Texas.
Texas is as close as I've been.

Most Texans believe that our state is heaven, and we welcome all visitors to our large chunk of celestial real estate. Just make your plans to be with us for the 2012 convention of the National Federation of the Blind--nowhere else but Texas.

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