Where Dixie gives way at the gateway to the West

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This is the third in a continuing series about Texas, wherein Texans from across the state introduce us to their city or region of the Lone Star State.

Emily Linz, Contributing Writer

This past year I have witnessed an ongoing debate among several of my friends about whether Texas may be considered part of the South. By “the South,” I refer to the culture primarily of Dixieland: the land of dark, rich soil that is fertile for cotton and tobacco, the land where mothers nurse their children with iced tea rather than milk, the land where students learn that the Civil War was the War of Northern Aggression.

I propose that central Texas, which may be generously defined as the stretch of rolling hills between Austin and Dallas, is the dividing line between the East and West. The Southeast ceases in central Texas, and the Southwest, the arid desert that was home to cowboys and Indians, begins. Central Texas is the crossroads.

photo courtesy of Emily Linz. Bluebonnets, the nonpareil beauties of a Texas springtime, brighten the grassy plains of central Texas each year. The heart of this region is Temple.
photo courtesy of Emily Linz. Bluebonnets, the nonpareil beauties of a Texas springtime, brighten the grassy plains of central Texas each year. The heart of this region is Temple.

My hometown is Temple, which is in the heart of this region. Temple was founded in 1881 by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company – it is quite literally a crossroads. The railroad connected the city to the rest of the state. With the railroad and the construction of Scott and White Hospital in 1904, Temple became the largest city in Bell County.

Temple is an eclectic city with cowboy memorabilia and a Czech Heritage Museum. In the surrounding area, there are small German and Czech Catholic communities that have been settled in the area since the 1800s. In nearby Killeen, there is the United States military post Fort Hood, which is named after Confederate General John Bell Hood. Furthermore, the Major Robert M. White Camp #1250, Sons of Confederate Veterans, sponsors a reenactment of the Battle of Temple Junction.

Farmers grow wheat for bread, but they also grow corn to feed cattle. Traveling from east to west Texas, the trees shrink into shrubs, and the land is nice and brown. The Southwest, Southeast and even the Midwest influenced this culture, producing the hodgepodge that is central Texas.

Despite the sundry influences, central Texas maintains its own distinct flavor. There is the long-standing rivalry between the Longhorns and Aggies, as well as Friday night football, Blue Bell Ice Cream, fields of wheat and corn, land for cattle-grazing and, what I find most special of all, fields carpeted in the spring with the Texas state flower – the bluebonnet. Spliced with elements from the South, the West and the Midwest, an eclectic culture was born. Dixieland ends in the hills, and the land of Manifest Destiny begins.

Central Texas is a unique crossroads – maybe, even arguably, the real gateway to the West.

 

In our next issue, which will appear on April 9, Deandra Lieberman of Tyler will lead us into the Piney Woods of East Texas.

 

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