Happy New Year, everyone! Here before us is an empty calendar, a clean slate of days. How will we use each of those 24-hour periods? Will we wake up each morning, jump out of bed and rush to work or school, eager to fill the day with bad decisions, wrong choices and lack of vision? Yes. Very likely.
If we can predict the future by looking at the past as an indicator, then the answer is a resounding yes for most of us. After all, most of us voted to RE-elect Barack H. Obama, which is proof we are eager to make bad decisions and wrong choices over and over again.
Well, Happy New Year, anyway. Maybe we won’t make bad decisions or wrong choices. Maybe we’ll have a bold vision for ourselves. Let’s hope 2014 is a good year for us.
And please accept my late wish for a Merry Christmas for each of you. I left town in a hurry on the Friday before Christmas and flew from Branson to Dallas to Austin to spend Christmas with my wife and our poodles and my wife’s family.
Delaine is back home in Texas for the winter, staying at her sister’s and brother-in-law’s place. “I’m not spending another winter in Missouri,” she said, as she packed up and left -- in June.
Almost every one of the 11 winters she spent in Missouri gave her pneumonia, so I don’t blame her, especially after spending 10 days in Texas with her.
Now, listen, I love the great State of Missouri, and I love southern Missouri. I’ve been known as the Ozarks Boy for decades because I’m all wrapped up in the history and culture of rural southern Missouri.
But it wouldn’t take long for me to get wrapped up in the history and culture of the great State of Texas and become a transplant like, oh, say, Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas and the founder of the Texas Rangers (the lawmen not the ball club) who lived in Missouri before he went to Texas. His daddy, Moses, is buried over in Potosi. By the way, Moses Austin died in Missouri of pneumonia.
Let me tell you a little story to explain why I would be willing to become known as the Transplanted Boy in Texas from the Ozarks.
See, it was on the Monday afternoon and evening before Christmas. Delaine and I, along with Henry and Sophie, the poodles, had enjoyed a full day of activities and we were hungry. When traveling, I like to eat in home-owned restaurants or in regional chain restaurants, instead of the national chains, so we went to a place called the Bastrop Brewhouse in Bastrop, Texas.
Page 2 of 3 - After I ate, I texted my boss back in St. Robert and informed her (in a gloating sort of way) that we were eating outside and that I was wearing a T-shirt and no jacket. It was moderate and pleasant. She texted back that she was non-stop Christmas shopping with her sister and was enduring the cold and what seemed to be the start of freezing rain.
“I’m sure glad I am here,” I told Delaine as I read the text message from our friend. That’s why I’d be willing to be a transplant, even though my brother-in-law says the only difference between a damned Yankee and a Yankee is that a Yankee visits and leaves while a damned Yankee never leaves.
I don’t like to think of myself as either a damned Yankee or a Yankee, but Texans lump us Missourians in with all the Northerners.
Well, the whole week was moderate and pleasant, weather-wise, and the time with Delaine, the poodles and her family was wonderful.
I tried to get in all the traditional Texas foods while I was there. As soon as I landed in Dallas, I found a Whataburger stand in the airport, and had a Double Meat Whataburger. Yes, Whataburger is a chain, but it is a small Texas-based chain with a superior burger.
Then on the Sunday before Christmas, after church we went to Billy’s, an authentic Texas barbecue restaurant. I learned how authentic it was when I ordered a pulled pork sandwich. I’m a Georgia-born, Missouri-raised Ozarks Boy, and I like a sandwich made from what Georgia writer Lewis Grizzard called “the pork pig.”
“Sir,” said the lady behind the counter. “This is Texas. We serve beef.”
My wife, laughing, said, “I’ve been telling you for years that barbecue is beef.”
So, I ate an authentic Texas barbecued beef sandwich that was delicious. I also had some barbecued mutton. Knowing Western history, I found it odd that the Texans nowadays like and embrace sheep, yet hold the pork pig in disdain.
Well, some of them, anyway, for my brother-in-law heard about my plight and on Tuesday he took this poor “Yankee” to a place called Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which is a Texas-based chain. It had a picture of a pig on the door, so I knew it would be a good place, and the menu above the counter included “Southern Pulled Pork.” That was exactly what I ordered, and it was mighty fine, yes, mighty fine.
Also before I came back to Missouri, I sat down to a dinner of chicken-fried steak, which seems to be the state dish of Texas. I don’t think it really is the state dish, but everybody down there eats it and many restaurants serve it.
Page 3 of 3 - What they serve is different from what we get up here. We get frozen, breaded meat that is deep-fried. Down there, the restaurants bread the steak in the kitchen and then fry it in a skillet. At least that’s always been the case when I’ve ordered one.
There are probably some that get their battered meat out of the freezer and drop it in a deep fryer, but I have never been to such a restaurant in Texas.
I also ate kolaches for breakfast. That’s a pastry brought to Texas by European immigrants way back yonder in state history. Texans love their kolaches, and so do I. There’s even one town that calls itself the capital of kolaches in Texas.
The only place I didn’t get to was a taqueria, a taco shop. These places, operated by Mexicans, serve up real Mexican tacos with Mexican music on the jukebox. It’s a whole different experience from Taco Bell.
I ate some good Tex-Mex food at the Guadalajara Restaurant, but I didn’t make it to a taqueria. Certainly on my next visit, I’ll get to a taqueria.
One of these days, maybe, I’ll pack up and move to Texas as did Davy Crockett who said before he left, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” I’ll phrase it a little differently when and if I go, though.
And I keep remembering that Stephen F. Austin, like his daddy, died of pneumonia. But he caught it and died in Texas.