A case for embracing Texas culture

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Big Tex, the official mascot of the Texas State Fair. By Tony Gutierrez. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Walking across the Main Mall, it’s easy to ignore the fact that the Texas flag flies at the same height as its American counterpart. It’s a small piece of information that first graders across the state learn every year, but after spending some time on this campus, I have a new appreciation for this bit of Texas trivia.

This weekend, students across campus saddled up and made the trip to Dallas for the Texas-OU game, where our win came like this weekend’s rain: an incredibly unexpected but much-need surprise. However, like in years past, students know that the TX/OU weekend is about more than a football game. It’s about our culture as Texans.

When I was choosing what college I wanted to go to, I, like many students, was lured by the idea of an Ivy-League education. However, as I fell in love with the University of Texas, I realized a rare benefit of attending this school: it offers students the ability to live Texas history and experience unadulterated Texas culture – something no other university in the country can claim.

America’s vision of Texans is drawn largely from the westerns of the 1960s – guns, horses, sheriffs with ten gallon hats. Even the former title of the TX/OU faceoff- the Red River Shootout- plays into this theme. And that’s not to mention the appearance of the State Fair’s official mascot, Big Tex, who was reborn this year clad in faded jeans and cowboy boots painted with images of Texana such as bluebonnets and the Alamo.

We still have all those things in Texas, of course. But what we also have, which isn’t captured in Hollywood films (or even on Big Tex’s boots), is an attitude towards accomplishing big things that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The students and the culture of the University of Texas embody this attitude and have for decades. Whether protesting the Vietnam War on the West Mall or lobbying at the capital, students at UT have never been afraid to make their voices heard. Our university, in turn, has grown with our state and has and will continue to be an integral part of the economic and cultural growth of Texas.

Don Graham, a professor in the English department, teaches one of the most famous courses in the University of Texas catalogue – Life and Literature of the Southwest. Originally proposed and taught by Texas literary icon J. Frank Dobie, the course is designed to introduce students to the rich body of literature which has developed in our state.

“Students here have Texas pride, but I’ve always wondered the source,” says Graham. “If I’m honest, I don’t know.”

Classes like Graham’s are just one of the many different ways students – even students who didn’t grow up on a cattle ranch – experience the history that shapes Texas culture. Although we each experience Texas culture differently, we all understand the same tradition and legacy. This university was initially stocked with men and women from a rural, undeveloped Texas; the poor ranch boys who couldn’t afford housing in the city were forced into the first male dormitory on campus, B-Hall. From there, the oldest organizations on campus sprouted – the Longhorn Band, Texas Cowboys, and this newspaper, to name a few.  

These traditions persisted, and even after ninety years, students like me gain a new appreciation for things like the hill country, barbeque, and the stained wooden floors of Texas dance halls through their time at Texas. The Red River Rivalry may be over, but the Texas flag is still flying high-and students shouldn’t forget to be proud of that. 

Jordan is an English and finance junior from Missouri City.