Anne's Diary

The Wild, Wild West

When I look at the list of seemingly senseless massacres that have occurred in the US over the last few decades, I notice that a good number of them have occurred in the West, especially in one state: Texas.

I'm someone who grew up in the Midwest, moved to New York (a "blue" state) then moved across the continent to another blue state (California) with a long stop in the red-state-middle (Texas) along the way. And I can say this: Although I love Texas and Texans, there is definitely an attraction to violence there, even among seemingly peaceful intellectuals.

There's a gun culture there and people on both coasts would find appalling. For instance, there's a gun club in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in San Antonio, and you can hear the sounds of target practice while you're grilling your steaks and sipping your drinks in the back yard. Maybe it's the hunting--not everyone hunts, but everyone knows someone who does.

No expensive suburb in Connecticut would put up with something like this.

The Texan feels he always has to be able to defend himself, even if the closest he ever gets to potential violence is withdrawing money from the ATM at midnight. In contrast, "Coasters" tend to depend on police for protection.

For the first time in history, more than half of the people in the world (that's over three billion of us) live in cities, and by 2050, it's predicted that 70% of us will be city dwellers. That's true of Texans too: 80% of them live in big cities.

Gail Collins wrote an enlightening op ed piece about this in the New York Times, where she said that despite this fact, Texans carry their "rancher" ethos with them, as a kind of self-identity. And living on a huge, multi-acre spread (even just in your mind) demands that you carry a gun (at least a rifle) along with you, in case you have to kill a rattlesnake.

I know what these "ranches" in Texas are like, and they baffled me when I first got there. I was used to a country house being a place that was nestled in a few acres of green vegetation, maybe with a spring on it if you were lucky. In Texas, people's country properties stretch for miles--three and 400 acres or more--and smaller "ranchettes" are sneered at.

A large proportion of these properties are worthless scrub--too barren to even run cattle on. A lot of ranch owners have never even SEEN all the land they own.

Despite this fact, I know ranch owners who go out to these scrubby hideaways every weekend, and do what they would do at home--grill out, put their feet up, then have a few beers.

It's all part of the Texas daydream, and living out there makes one feel like a real Texan-- something hunching over a computer in a coat and tie on weekdays does not.

The John Wayne dream wouldn't be so bad--every state has its official daydream, something that identifies you as a resident of wherever you happen to be--except that the Texas version comes with guns, and if you have a gun, you're sometimes tempted to use it.


As a native Texan, I have to concur that Anne is NOT overstating this fact about Texans. We DO love Guns. :)

Funny how region defines who we are. Growing up in New Orleans, I was awash in that endless party, amostsphere, one fest after another. When I left to teh Northeast I was very surprised at how conservative the big cities are. Many of my freinds fell victims to the excessiveness of that endless party culture, when I return home I am surprised at all the hedonism-haha

Anne,
I grew up in San Antonio at the same time Whitley did, but we never met. His parents lived in the Ritzy Alamo Heights area and belonged to the San Antonio Country Club and we lived on the east side, now all black, and my father worked for the GSA at the downtown Post Office. His one perk was that he could look out his office window and see Alamo Plaza.

I don't know if they still exist, but there was a chain of retail outlets in San Antonio called "Texas Stores" where they sold firearms on one side of the room and liquor on the other side. I'm NOT making this up--they were there as recently as 1986 when I left the area. I grew up thinking this was perfectly normal.

Come to think of it there was a Texas Store right down on Broadway in Alamo Heights where La Madeleine Cafe and Bakery is today--Whitley's old neighborhood! I remember seeing assault rifles prominently displayed on the back wall behind the counter in later years.

I remember that Texas Store well. And fondly. When I was a teenager, the old guy in there could be bamboozled by naughty boys with clumsy fake IDs made on something called a Hectograph Plate. Or was he really fooled? Personally, I've always had guns. When I was younger, I was a good shot. I hunted quail and had fun doing it, and some of my best friends own ranches, hunt and enjoy guns. They aren't particularly violent people, as long as you don't cross them. I can remember when I first went to New York, I saw a shouting match break out on the street. I heard what I thought of as fighting words, and took cover. But there was no fight. No guns came out. I realized that I had entered another world. Which is also where I found my wife, whom I love with all my heart. But when we Texans start shooting the place up, she kicks back with a beer. To each his own.

We have liquor and hunting stores in Utah, too. I don't know what Anne mean's by most 'coasters' but THIS COASTER has her guns and knows how to use them and wouldn't hesitate if needed.

"Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms" is less a government agency and more of a convenience store title in Texas. A friend who cycled competitively while at Rice said he and his team members carried little .38s while out riding.

A local cop stopped him one time while he was riding in his racing slicks and eyed him up and down. "Y'all look like an Eye-talian feggit."

It's all true. I was born and raised here, and I am even amazed at how gung-ho they are in my home state about firearms. The zeal for guns is only overshadowed by the zeal for football. I think beer is high on the list too, followed by barbecue and possibly George Strait. In any case, we are an unruly bunch and our driving isn't much to brag on either.

Although I never learned to use a gun, most people I know have at least one squirreled away in the closet or garage. I even have one friend who comes from a well-known family (All I will allow is that her grandaddy invented the camping lantern that is known world-wide). She is not a native-Texan, but she acclimated to it pretty quickly as a young girl, and her family made sure that she learned how to handle a gun. She lived in an upscale neighborhood known as Davenport Ranch near Lake Austin a few years ago, and one early morning she heard the squeal of tires and a thud and went outside to discover a deer lying on her very well-manicured front lawn. It had been hit and thrown by a car that continued down the road. The deer's legs were broken and it was in agony. She went back into her house, got her rifle, and put the deer out of its misery right then and there.
After dispatching the deer, she called the state Parks and Wildlife department, who sent someone over to pick up the dead deer, no questions asked. According to her, not one of her neighbors bothered to come and see what happened, or even called the local police about gun shots being fired in the neighborhood.

Living my whole life in the midwest, I haven't had many experiences with guns. About ten years ago my dad took me to an indoor shooting range for some practice with his pistols. Even just a few yards away, I was a terrible shot but managed, somehow, to shatter the plastic pvc pipe that was suspended from the wire assembly from the ceiling and holding the paper target-- not once but twice. The lady at the desk never saw anything like it before.

Not sure if this is going to work for everyone, but: http://tinyurl.com/2ves74b

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