By Kirby Hidy
Among my personal heroes is the late Amon G. Carter, president and publisher of the Fort Worth Star Telegram from 1923 until his death in 1955. Carter was the most brash and colorful promoter of Fort Worth, Texas that ever lived. I encourage you to “Google” him one of these days when you get a chance – fascinating story I think. Mr. Carter used to say, “…The further from home a Texan travels, the more Texan they become.”
In 1995, I moved my young family 1,200 miles from our home in Jeffersonville, Ohio, to our new home west of Ft. Worth, Texas. We lived there for nearly 13 years until my daughter was accepted into the Script School of Journalism at Ohio University. We might have stayed there even then but my daughter wasn’t too keen on being 1,200 miles away from Mama and, well, I think Mama felt pretty much the same. Of course, we would save a lot in tuition if we became Ohio residents again. And, while that may well have been the deciding factor, I chose to believe the former motivation. It tells better. And “telling better” is a lot of what this story is all about.
Our move to Texas came about when I was hired as the National Cutting Horse Association’s Director of Marketing – a job that sounded a lot better than it turned out to be but again, that’s another story. Upon realizing that being a member of the association was preferable to being an employee, I took a job as National Sales Manager for a hi-tech industrial printer manufacturing company. During my tenure with Digital Print, Inc., I traveled from time to time, mostly to big, “Chicago-ish” cities up north for trade shows and meetings with large national printing firms.
And, when I traveled to such places, I wore my traditional Texas business attire – Stetson, stiff-starched white shirt, blue blazer, trophy buckle, starched and pressed tan Wranglers and of course, cowboy boots. Regular exhibitors of the trade shows got to where they recognized me from quite a distance. I’d like to think it was because of my classic “Marlboro Man” rugged looks but in fact, it was because you don’t see many Stetson hats in Chicago. Every year, I’d go to these shows and every year I’d stand at our exhibit and answer the same question – “Do you ride bulls?” I would always offer a polite, “No ma’am” (or sir). I’m a bit long in the tooth for that sort of thing. I ride horses.” This sort of thing went on for years until I was well into my 50’s. Until…..
It happened in Chicago during the last major trade show of the year. It was windy and the Great Lakes Region was cold with snow falling pretty heavily. I decided to take an afternoon away from the show and visit a friend I’d not seen for several years. He and his wife lived out in the suburbs about 45 minutes west of Chicago. I took a cab to Union Station and boarded the train that would take me to a station where I’d be picked up and treated to a good supper, a fine cigar and perhaps a sip or two of good Scotch. If you’ve ever worked weeklong trade shows, you know what an evening away from “show food” and expensive hotel menus can mean. I took advantage of the opportunity.
I took my seat on the train across the aisle from a very pleasant looking older woman that I guessed might be in her mid to late 60’s. I smiled, nodded and tipped my hat (Texas protocol – makes Yankee ladies giggle) and opened the newspaper I’d purchased at the station. About 20 minutes into the ride, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I lowered my newspaper and saw my neighbor smiling shyly and asking, “Excuse me but are you from Texas.”
“Yes ma’am, I am. We live about 25 miles west of Ft. Worth.”
“That’s near Dallas isn’t it?” she asked.
“Kinda…Dallas is where the east peters out. Ft. Worth is where the west begins,” I said, channeling Amon Carter in the best Texas drawl I could muster.
“And do you ride bulls?” She continued as I saw her glance at my silver buckle – a buckle with a cutting horse on it instead of a bull.
“Awww, here we go,” I thought.
That’s when it hit me, Amon Carter’s famous remark about Texans away from home! I sat up straight in my seat, pushed my Stetson back on my head, stroked my handlebar mustache and said, “Why yes, yes I do, but not so much anymore. Gettin’ older you know and don’t heal up as fast as I used to.”
“So you live on a ranch?” she pressed.
OK, I thought. I’m never going to see this woman again and by gosh I’m going to give her the Amon Carter, Golly-Bob-Howdy treatment! But out-and-out lying just ain’t the “Cowboy Way,” especially to a lady. So I kinda’ “compromised“ my reply.
“We have a small place near Weatherford, Texas and just feed horses,” I said.
All true enough. My one-acre “spread” was indeed a small place and I did buy feed for my horses. So far, so good. She’ll fill in the blanks easy enough and I’ll keep my integrity.
“It must be beautiful where you live with all the cactus and tumbleweeds. I’ve never met a real cowboy before,” she continued. “I’d love to see it one day.”
It was about this time we got to my stop and I stood up and again touched the brim of my hat as I prepared to step onto the platform.
“Well, ma’am you’re welcome at our place anytime your travels take you south of the Red River,” I said.
She smiled and nodded as I “moseyed” off the train.
So it’s true, the further you get from Texas, the more Texan you become. I just wasn’t as loud about it as Amon might have been. Still, I couldn’t help but stick out my chest a little further and stand a little straighter as I “moseyed” toward the exit. Sadly though, after being back in Ohio for a few years now, I’ve lost most of my “mosey.” But I’ve never lost my Stetson or my love for the Lone Star State.