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The Passing of Texas Culture | Essay

The Passing of Texas Culture | Essay

"I do so love Texas but I am afraid that much of what is so special about Texas culture is fading away. It is hard for the new folks to tell the fake Texas culture from the real," writes Johnny Hughes.

Editor’s note: Johnny Hughes, Ph.D. was a professional poker player who ran poker games to put himself through Texas Technological College where he would later serve as a professor and lecturer for management courses.


The high stakes Texas hold ’em game that floats around West Texas was always a cultural refuge for me where I could find home folks, hear Texan spoken, eat the best home-cooked, native foods and enjoy the always good natured joking and ribbing that are part of it. My dear poker friends also represented the Texas culture a little better than everyone else. As time passes, everything must keep changing. Poker has become more and more universal and diverse. Last week, a barefoot twenty-one year old won three dimes here. The best player is an Indian doctor’s son who is great friends with one of the Brownfield farmer/gamblers. There are Chinese, Yankees, Frat Rats and women playing poker now.

It is so funny to hear the words “Texas Hold ‘Em” over and over on T.V. Poker is legal in all the neighboring states: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and Louisiana. Not Texas. In the early days of the World Series of Poker, Texans dominated and the crowd had many Texans. Texans are not as special anymore.

In Lubbock, I can observe the passing of Texas culture as a constant process of sad and unyielding change. As I leave the house, I can go west to the Starbucks, university, medical district, chain restaurant, mall, and newer parts of town with streets that look like any other medium-size city. The older, family-owned businesses close and generic anywhere America replaces it. The horse auction even closed.

I can go east to the blue-collar parts of town where the restaurant has native Texas food, clothing, language and a certain laid back humorous attitude. At the Ranch House, men eat with their hats on, most of which are gimme or baseball hats, with cowboy hats now being in the minority. The men have enormous amounts of stuff in their shirt pockets: pens, papers, and contracts. Older ladies still have big, big hair. On the west side of town, people are ambitious, faster paced, more stressed, serious and road raged. Most are on cell phones or wishing they were. Folks leave each other alone.

At the Ranch House, the pace is slower and it is o.k., even expected, that you converse with strangers in certain comforting rituals, “You working hard or hardly working?” or “Is it hot enough for you?”

On the older side of town, a cheese omelet, whole wheat toast and coffee is four bucks. At Starbucks, most uptight yups drop four bucks or more for custom coffee.

It’s like in the University/Medical area, the worker bees are all becoming something or writing a resume for the future. At the Ranch House or the Truck Stop, folks are already what they are. They appear happier. They don’t appear as healthy. They don’t appear as well off financially, but they have their life and it is all right with them.

I’ve always noticed that my heavily West Texas poker pals laugh and joke all through the day and like each other. We celebrate Texas, but all that is passing. My former academic colleagues were nearly all from the Midwest. A humorless, boring group that always badmouthed Texas. None ever leave, tenure being so easy and forgiving.

The small towns hold on to Texas food, language, and values in such a way that they are ten years behind if you call it behind.

I’ll head for breakfast at the truck stop where I’ll be observing the hats, and the “howdies” and the, “Can I hep’ yew?” Folks will be reading the paper, taking their time and drinking too much coffee. I do so love Texas but I am afraid that much of what is so special about Texas culture is fading away. It is hard for the new folks to tell the fake Texas culture from the real. Whatever you do, don’t wise up or wake up the Yankees that keep moving here.


Johnny Hughes resides in Lubbock and is the author of  Famous Gamblers, Poker History and Texas Stories and A Texas Beauty, Strong and Smart. See more about Hughes at johnnyhughes.com.

(Featured Photo: Courtesy of Mike Robinson)


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  • leslie ward
    March 29, 2016, 12:41 pm

    this store has been in our family since it was established. elmo bookman was the original owner. stop by and visit.

    • JAY LEESON@leslie ward
      March 30, 2016, 12:45 am

      Will do, Leslie. A great picture of great place, thought it was perfect for the essay. Thanks for checking in to MWTGA!


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