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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Celebrating a Really Big Brand

Texas! The very sound of that word evokes an expectation. And packed within those five letters and two syllables is, well, a Texas-sized brand that calls to mind cowboys, longhorn cattle, oil, and football; a history of epic struggles among tribes of Indians, between many of those tribes and ranchers, oppressors versus visionaries, and whole communities against the worst nature could throw at them. All of it across a landscape so vast it slowly morphs from subtropical jungle to the tail end of the Rocky Mountains, from high plains to coastal prairie. Only one word can rustle up all that into one succinct package—Texas!

Every realtor on the planet will tell you success begins with one simple principle—location, location, and location. And, brother, Texas has all three, driving its very history almost to a point of predestination. Within its almost 270,000 square miles roams bountiful game, lies fertile land, flows crystal clear water, much-needed and valuable minerals, as well as other resources that have attracted people since deep into the pre-Colombian eras.
Essentially, Texas has almost everything anyone could want or need—but it's not for weenies. Texas can be so hot you boil in your own sweat, or bone chillingly cold. And then there are storms so wild as to shake the pillars of Heaven. 

Geographic location is only part of the story. If you're born in Texas you get it. And if you live there long enough, you'll get it. Texas becomes an attitude, the root of which comes from her tumultuous modern evolution. Unlike any other state in the Union, she is unique in stories of her very own independence. There were Dictator Santa Anna's signature slaughters of rebels at places like Gonzales, Goliad and, most notorious, the Alamo. But finally there was Sam Houston's resolve and swift victory at the Battle of San Jacinto. That moment 177 years ago today would forever carve out a legend known the world over, and that legend was the Republic of Texas. She began as a nation that stood alone and proud for almost a decade before joining the United States. That's how Texas became known as the Lone Star State. 

Houston, Bowie, Travis, Fannin, Seguin, Esparza, and Menchaca—these men inspire notions of toughness and grit. Texans hold very, very dear such examples of independent spirit, bootstrap determination and self-reliance. It is this spirit that infects anyone who lives in Texas long enough.

Some might say those were embellished tales of heroism. No one would say that about survivors of the 1900 storm. It wiped Galveston off the face the map and obliterated more than 6000 souls from the Earth in a single night. No FEMA, no insurance, no one but other
Texans to come to their aid. Even so, these people endured an aftermath of death and destruction that made Katrina in New Orleans look like an overflowing bayou. Galvestonians stayed to rebuild their battered town, raising it 15 feet with dirt, wood scaffolding, and sweat. 

In World War II, cities dismantled their trolley tracks and lopped off street light spires to collect metal for the war machine. An entire home front rallied and sacrificed so soldiers would have all the resources with which to fight. And of the Texans who once more marched off to fight for freedom, distinguishing their state were men like Doris Miller, Audie Murphy, David Lee "Tex" Hill, and Chester Nimitz.

During the early 80s, Texas suffered profound economic hits from the price collapse of petroleum. The city of Houston was labeled as a shining example of the state's overbearing self-perceptions. That’s because the state’s population bulged during the 70s as Midwesterners flooded into to Texas, and Houston in particular, looking for blue collar jobs to replace the ones lost in the auto industry retool. They split within months of the oil bust, leaving overbuilt cities. It was left to real Texans to rebuild an economy. Even in the current economic doldrums, Texas has persevered and held tightly to a pretty decent economy. 

While Texas is tough, it's also known as the "Friendly State." And nothing proves it more than Katrina. Hordes of refugees from New Orleans and place all across southern Louisiana were welcomed to Houston, Dallas and other cities throughout the state. The world watched as the Lone Star State opened its arms, its homes, its hearts, and its wallets to help those fleeing a superstorm. 

Since her birth, many people have called Texas home—native tribes, Tejanos, Germans, Vietnamese, Chinese, and everything in between. Yep, even Italians—as a matter of fact there was a helluva Mafia back in the day. It's still around, but a faded shadow compared to when the Texas Rangers stormed Maceo Brothers' Balinese Room in Galveston. 
What brings people to Texas is not just opportunity. It's also the anything is possible mentality. 

All these things make up a wild and woolly brand we call Texas. There is no other place like it. Love it or hate it, when someone says the word Texas, it sends a jolt between your ears generating a vision of something no other brand can.

Happy Birthday to the great and sovereign state of Texas!