I try hard to avoid being a bigot. I really do. But I must admit when it comes to Texas I've always had a burr under my saddle (so to speak). There are just so many things connected to Texas that I don't like. The huge emphasis on guns. The crazy devotion to football. The politics of the place. Country music on every station. No question, I suffered from prejudice about all things Texan.
But this last weekend, I was brought up short. I had to travel to Fort Worth to conduct a memorial service for my wife Linda's cousin. A good guy, who I had enjoyed. And he had been very important to Linda. But he was, despite being from upstate New York, thoroughly Texan. And a biker (as in Harleys). I really didn't know what to expect.
Imagine my surprise then, when as we pulled into our hotel, I realized it was right beside an elaborate shared use trail system (Trinity Trails) that wends its way through Fort Worth. I enjoyed my early morning walks along the river along with dozens, if not hundreds, of Texans out for a run or a bike ride or a stroll. It was wonderful.
And how about this: Sunday morning the lead headline in the Fort Worth newspaper heralded the first place finish of the Korean winner of the Van Cliburn Competition, held right there in the city. The Van Cliburn Competition! One of the premiere international classical music competitions!
Perhaps the most important learning, however, came at the memorial service itself. Linda's cousin had ridden over the years with some pretty heavy duty bikers. And some of them came to the ceremony. Dressed in biker regalia.
After the ceremony one of the guys approached me before leaving. He had longish hair, and a beard, and plenty of tattoos. He wore a Harley Davidson cap and a leather vest, complete with a pocket chain. As he shook my hand, he thanked me for my homily, and said, "Those were some good words. In fact I heard some of them in church this morning."
Texas, I apologize. I still don't like the gun culture. I may still think too much is made of football. A lot of country music still drives me bonkers. And I know I don't like much of your politics. But I shouldn't judge a book--or a state--or its residents--by its cover. And I thank you for a very pleasant visit under less than ideal circumstances.