Twenty-Nine Years (in Texas)

Twenty-Nine Years (in Texas)

The first thing I remember about August 8, 1984 is the heat. I don’t remember what the temperature was in Chicago when I stepped onto the Braniff flight that brought me to the Lone Star State, but I do remember the blast of heat the moment I stepped from the terminal at DFW Airport that early afternoon. No sooner than arriving in the state that would become “home” for now, twenty-nine years to the day, my mom and I were dive bombed by some big, stinging insects that the Texas Board of Tourism never mentioned.

State of Pain

While my record of never being stung by anything has remained intact for my 44 years, it wasn’t for the lack of the State of Texas trying. With one plane ride, I found myself in a state out to kill my Yankee ass. (Yes, I was called a Yankee quite a bit when I moved down. Don’t hear that as much these days…Hoss!) Within days, I experienced the joy of bare feet in a fire ant mound in the yard. Up north, the grass was soft and green; the ants didn’t swarm. In Texas, the grass was brittle and I learned quickly to always look for ants before standing or sitting anywhere outside for any length of time.

Seeing scorpions in our house was unsettling. Up north, it was the occasional salamander in the basement…maybe the rare carpenter ant that found its way in through an open window (an open window because you could open the windows some days in the summer up north and not bake). But in Texas, we discovered scorpions in the house were not that uncommon where we lived.

The first time I ran through bull nettle without the protection of jeans, I knew what it might be like to run through acid. And these are not fun in bare feet!

It felt like the entire state was out to hurt or kill me.

State of Change

A lot has changed about the area where I live in 29 years. No more do we have an outlaw biker clubhouse in the town of Southlake, Texas. The Solana Complex that many deemed an eyesore when it was constructed in the 80s? I work there, now. State Farm Road 1709,  which was once a two-lane, almost-domed nightmare of a road (rain = seeya in the ditches!) is now three lanes each way…with a turn lane! The tiny high school I went to has been replaced by multiple high schools that are some of the best public schools in the nation. (At least that’s what I hear…and I believe it.)

So much has changed in 29 years, but if you look closely, you can see hints of what used to be there…the things that were the same as they were 29 years before I moved to Texas.

The Right State

Even with the high temperature today being over 100, I’ve grown to like a lot about Texas. I do miss friends up north, but I can’t imagine my life without the friends I’ve made down here. More than that, I’ve shared my life with an extremely talented Texan for over 21 years. Sure, there might be scorpions in that wood pile, but the armadillos and other things more than make up for it. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had in these 29 years are so good that if I find myself spending another 29 years in Texas, it won’t be so bad.

In fact, if you know where to look, despite all the changes, it’s quite a cool place…scorpions, fire ants, goat head burrs, and all!


  1. Deacon Mc says

    All right, lets round up to thirty and make this official. By the power invested in me by Chicken Fried Steak and Sam Houston, I hear by declare you a Texan… 29 years ago. The second you move to Texas, you’re a Texan. Staying here and not getting stung by something is much more difficult.

  2. Nice write and nice, funny thoughts. It’s been an interesting process and while I’ll always think of Chicago as “home”, I can’t imagine moving back to one of those winters. I believe if someone said, okay, you can live wherever you want with no financial concerns, I’d stay put. I’m comfortable here now. And I don’t like to move. Here’s to another 29, and another, and…..

  3. Christopher Gronlund says

    Deacon: I’m glad it was you who declared me a Texan and that you recognize the accomplishment it is to not have been stung…ever! (Now watch, the moment I leave for work, hornets! “Congratulations on finally becoming a Texan; our gift for you? Venom!”

  4. Christopher Gronlund says

    Mary: With no financial concerns, I’d also stick around. (Although, you know…Oregon!) There will always be that pull to Chicago being “home,” but Texas is truly home for me. Wicked nature that’s out to injure and kill and all…

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