In the sweet Piney Woods of East Texas


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

Deandra Lieberman, Staff Writer

The placid pond behind Deandra's home in the piney woods of East Texas.
When foreigners try to imagine Texas, they picture a cactus-dotted, arid desert, populated by itinerant, gun-slinging, guitar-playing cowboys.
They do not picture Tyler, Texas.
Tyler, my home, belongs to the Piney Woods region of East Texas, an area blanketed by thickly clustered pine trees and impenetrable undergrowth, with a floor of clayey dirt, and populated by a great number of coyotes, white-tailed deer, raccoons, snakes, hogs and roses. The roses, though they do not sprout freely, represent so major an industry in the city that Tyler calls itself “the Rose Capital of the World,” and tourists flock to Tyler each October to celebrate the Texas Rose Festival.
But this is no forest primeval or secret garden-town. Tyler spends her days jealously spying on elder sister Dallas, and imitates her whenever possible. As such, Tyler is increasingly filled with the same restaurant chains and specialty grocery stores that urban Dallas holds, and many Tylerites regularly hit the road for Dallas.
But despite her ambitions and her recent, undeniable growth spurt, Tyler is yet the sweeter and more innocent of the two sisters. With stores that only began selling alcohol this January, a whopping four buildings that could actually be called “tall,” and with only sporadic sidewalks, Tyler lacks an “urban vibe.”
Although this means that the youth of Tyler have few ready means of entertainment, it helps maintain the city’s general friendliness. Tyler is a good place to raise a family, even if (as is commonly acknowledged by Tyler youth) it’s not always so good a place to find someone with whom to do that. Tyler is a fairly safe Bible-belt town, where people tend to be of a “well, bless your heart!” disposition that I’ve come to cherish.
The people of Tyler—along with the people of East Texas as a whole—typically fish, hunt, love football, barbecue frequently and well, and know not only their banker’s Christian name, but their banker’s cousin, and where both of them go to church.
As Sonny Carl Davis said of Carthage, Texas (also of the Piney Woods), in the movie Bernie:
“This is where the South begins; this is life behind the Pine Curtain. And, truth be known, it’s a good place.”

Next week, Elizabeth Lynch will show us the land of her grandfather, the small West Texas town of Pecos.


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