In the 1800s those who were seeking a new life for whatever reason, usually fleeing debt, family burdens, the law, but sometimes simply for the excitement of adventure, were frequently referred to as having “Gone to Texas.” Not yet a republic, territory, or state, Texas was a state of mind. It was a place of second chances, where anything was possible with little hindrance from the law or other people. There wasn’t much law and few people. Until 1836, it was part of Mexico, and Mexico City was a long, long way from Texas. In the 1830s there was an added incentive to be “Gone to Texas,” the movement to become free of Mexico’s corrupt government. The call for liberty and independence was irresistible to many of a generation who grew up listening to their grandparents’ tales of the American Revolution. People came, and to some extend are still coming.
I was one of those “Gone to Texas.”
I was twenty-two years old before I came to Texas, not because I was fleeing home or the law, but because I married a Texan. I was twenty-five when my husband and I moved to the Texas Panhandle. The land was unlike anywhere I had lived before: vast, empty landscapes, a river–the Canadian–with very little water at any time, a horizon you could see from direction, and where trees were an endangered species. I grew up in eastern Oklahoma, in what used to be Indian Territory. There were creeks and rivers, ponds and lakes, and lots of trees. Empty landscapes were small meadows or hay fields, and the horizon was softened by the trees.
In my new life in the Texas Panhandle, the accents were different: a slow drawl with or without the lilt, depending on where your antecedents were Northern European by way of the Southern United States, or Mexico. I found some gossip about Texans to be true: no one asked where I came from, a tradition that probably dates back two hundred years or more. There might be something disreputable or illegal in your background that was no one’s business. Everyone took you at face value until you proved them wrong. And the language was English, but word choice and sentence structure was a little different. “I’m fixin’ to” is future tense and means “I’m going to, or I intend to.” Of course “y’all” is plural. Metaphors and similes more often than not involve animals and agricultural expressions. “That’s gettin’ the fodder down to where the calves are” is one of my favorites. It means to get to the facts, get down to basics, maybe even it is what it is.
These differences between my birthplace and the Texas Panhandle have inspired my fiction, from my Sheriff series set in the rural Texas Panhandle, to my historical novels, A Time too Late, and The Reckoning. My novels, whether crime fiction or historical, celebrate what it means to be “Gone to Texas.”