Gotta love the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Gotta love the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

One of my favorite songs has always been ‘Taking the Long Way’ by the Dixie Chicks. I don’t particularly like country music, but the Chicks seem to bring out my multi-generation Texan DNA. I’ve always felt their songs speak certain truths about Texas, and simultaneously celebrate kicking that stereotype in the butt. (My Dad’s name is Earl but he’s never so much as harmed a fly).

In many ways, ‘Taking the Long Way’ has almost been my personal anthem. The song kicks off, “My friends from high school/Married their high school boyfriends/ Moved into houses in the same ZIP codes/Where their parents live.” Luckily most of my high school friends did not marry their high school boyfriends. However, culturally, it always seemed to me that there was a big push that what starts in Texas should stay in Texas. Many of my friends’ parents offered them incentives to stay in state for college–or even in the same city. A lot of people I grew up with never so much as traveled outside of the South, much less the state. Even in an age where DFW is a  major international hub and Houston is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the US–Texans still tend to celebrate all things Texas and find it difficult to understand why anyone would want to leave.

My parents never embraced that. We traveled regularly–not far–but enough so that my brother and I saw outside of the boundaries of the pan handle, hill country, and plains. And they encouraged us to go to school outside of Texas.

So I moved up North. And I experienced ‘the long way’ every time I made the 1,600 mile drive from Dallas to Poughkeepsie–traveling through East Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, the Eastern Seaboard and up into the snowy Hudson Valley–and then back home. It was a long way away. It was not in a pink RV. And it was tough.

There were hippies (thanks Vassar), and Irish (thanks Boston), and Queens (both the borough and again, Vassar), some ass kissing that I refused, and definitely some times when the world came crashing down around me (9/11 New York, 11/28 Mombasa, and 7/7 London). Still, I’ve kept taking different paths and not settling down.

But over the years I’ve realized that taking the long way ’round is not refuting some sort of Texan pull–or my Texan DNA. There are plenty of people I’ve met all over the world who live in their parents’ zip code, have not traveled outside of their state (or their region), who are comfortable just settling for what’s right in front of them. For many, that’s what makes them happy. And that’s what’s important.

Traveling, moving, shifting, taking the road less traveled is what has always made me happy.

Two of my close friends laughed when I started tearing up at the National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth last winter. Enlarged on a screen in front of us, an old cowgirl with crinkled skin and an oversized, roughed-up beltbuckle talked about the ‘spirit of the cowgirl’ as she sauntered across the plains toward her horse. But that oversized, cheesy moment really hit me. Maybe taking the long way around really is the Texan, Dixie, Cowgirl Chick spirit in me. Maybe someday I’m gonna settle down. But in the mean time, I still love taking the long way, taking the long way around.

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