Monday, July 16, 2012

What Don Quixote has to do with Texas

If you think everything we say comes from the Bible or Shakespeare, think again. A whole pile of it comes from Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish novelist who wrote Don Quixote de la Mancha. Oh, my, the list is impressive. From “what I have earned from the sweat of my brows” to “let every man mind his own business” and “give the devil his due.”
Read the entire list of famous quotes from Don Quixote sometime and you’ll be amazed. But one of his most quoted quotes is this: “An honest man’s word is as good as his bond.” Maybe that phrase came to Texas by way of the Spanish who have lived here since before the Anglos came. Or maybe we just adopted it because it rang so true. Whatever the origin, we say it a lot and we believe it. In the Old West, before the rule of law found its way to the frontiers of Texas, two things mattered. A person’s word and what he or she did to back it up. Meaning I’ll give my word and then I’ll stand my ground. It’s a pretty simple recipe for existing in the world — one that survives to this day in a place that’s only a whisper away from the frontier way of doing things.
            So because I live here, smack dab in the middle of Texas, I decided to allude to that recipe in naming my blog. It has a double meaning, of course. Anyone can see that. I love words and I love to say them, read them and write them. Is that unusual for a Texan? Hell, no! It’s ingrained. It’s more than a tradition. It’s a sacred trust, handed down for generations of storytellers and tellers of tall tales. I know it goes against type — Texan as the strong silent type — but I swear to you it’s the truth. Some of the greatest storytellers of all time lived here and still live here. How do you think we’ve kept that Texas myth going for such a long time? We keep telling the stories over and over. Putting a little more hair on them with every retelling. It’s fun and we enjoy it when the rest of you buy into it.
            Austin, where I live, is one of the most literate places in the country. We read more books per capita than most anyplace else. We’re home to one of the largest (some say the second largest) writers organization in the country. Yes, we’re what you might call super-literate. There is a tension between who we really are and who the rest of the world thinks we are. And that, my friends, is what Texas is all about. Or as Cervantes would say, “Can we ever have too much of a good thing?”
            By the way, read that list of sayings from Don Quixote here

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