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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"South" of the Red River

Native Floridians are a rare breed in Florida. It seems everyone hails from Jersey, New York, Ohio and somewhere else “up north.”

Occasionally I run into another displaced Texan and we commiserate on all the Texas things we miss. Then we acquiesce: We’re glad we live in Florida.

The truth is I have a habit of falling in love with where I live. When I lived in Missouri, I embraced the history of the state. Working at the state Capitol and covering historic elections, the death of Gov. Mel Carnahan and being one of only a handful of people in the Governor’s office when Roger Wilson was sworn in tied me indelibly to the state. I loved its hills and rivers and spirit.

Then I moved to Oklahoma. Now embracing Oklahoma was a stretch for a die-hard Texan; but I did embrace it. Mostly, I fell in love with the people of Oklahoma. Tough. Pioneers. Survivors. I still extol the virtues of Oklahoma City whenever anyone dares to dis the state. I left with a heavy heart and even cried when I heard the song Jimmy Webb and Vince Gill wrote for the centennial. Happy Birthday again Oklahoma! (Nov. 16)

Now, I’m in Florida. I have traveled to every nook and cranny from the Florida Keys to Pensacola, from Brooksville to Miami and every town in between. There’s something inherently fun about driving across “Alligator Alley” and catching a glimpse of a gator.

There’s something indescribably wonderful about living where people go on vacation. Sure, we gripe about the tourists, but there’s a pride in knowing that people want to come vacation at your home. I even feel bad if it’s raining when I see families coming out of the hotel. I almost as if we must apologize for the less than perfect weather.

I’m still discovering this great place. I love it for all its quirkiness. I love it for all the independent and “one of a kind” folks who live here.

I’ve become a huge fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Rays. We root for the Florida teams (unless they are playing the Big XII teams, of course).

I’ll always be a Texan. I’ll always love going down to Marfa and watching mysterious ghost lights bounce of the Davis Mountains. I’ll love the sounds and the crowds at a Friday night high school football game in any small town; the flat landscape of the South Plains that lets you believe that on a clear day you can see forever; and I’ll always love the excitement of attending the Sand Hills Rodeo in Odessa, Texas and knowing it’s the first rodeo of the season.

But for now, I’m comfortable being a “Floridian.”


Gina said...

I know what you mean about the tourists. In and around NYC, we do grumble and grouse about the tourists, but we're actually glad to see them.

Cissy said...

Especially in today's economy. Tourists mean jobs. It's getting iffy around here.

Even some of the snowbirds didn't come back this year.