“Oh, have you ridden a horse?” or some equivalent question is the typical response I receive after telling people in Asia I am from Texas. Things start to get worse when I casually tell them I split my childhood between the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis and El Paso. Suddenly I may as well be wearing a cowboy hat and stirrups while hollering away, blonde hair and red bandana flowing in the wind. Realistic as this may be, of course, horses have stolen all the Texas thunder and the Fort Worth Stockyards takes some of the glory back.
When I first sat down to plan my Texas itinerary on my going home trip, I knew I wanted to spend a day in the Fort Worth Stockyards. It had been more than a decade since I had visited and moved to Taipei, Taiwan, and collecting moments so utterly Texan seemed like the natural thing to do. Longhorns and cattle have continued to be a long staple in Texas history and culture. In many ways, it has been more influential in the shaping of Texas than have outlaws and horseback adventures.
I must admit that upon seeing these Texas beasts, I was quite surprised. I hadn’t remembered them as so big with their horns stretching up to 6 or 7 feet in length. Maybe the idea that everything in Texas is bigger might have some valid arguments here.
After wandering around the grounds of the Fort Worth Stockyards, I moseyed over to the Lonesome Dove for lunch at Chef Tim Love’s interpretation of historic trail ride fares with modern sophistication. The menu was filled with quite a handful of dishes I would gladly have munched on all day. Seeing as this was my first major meal back in Texas from Asia, I naturally went for a giant Buffalo Burger. When in Texas, eat like the Texans do. Oh, and bless your heart if you skip over that cornbread!
Going to the Fort Worth Stockyards reminded me of so many moments in my childhood, but more than that, it reminded me to appreciate my historical roots. So many visitors to the Stockyards that day were from overseas. While I couldn’t understand their conversations, I had picked up a decent ability at zoning into the areas of the globe they were hailing from. To know that others were there from all the way around the world waiting just as much as I to see the longhorns jaunt by during one of the last cattle drives in the world instantly gave me a greater appreciation for my own upbringing.
I would travel the world to seek out new cultures and lifestyles while others in those parts of the world were eager to seek out mine. The wild, untamable spirit of an outlaw riding cross-state on horseback has only captured one aspect of the Texas narrative. Cattle had built the foundation of that which allowed settlers to live in the Texas heat and provided the DFW area with competitive world incomes. Maybe cows aren’t a daily component of modern Texas lifestyle, but they offered the wild stead a place to settle after a long, dusty journey.
In some ways, I was coming back to settle, if even for a few short weeks, from my own long journey. And sometimes it takes you a couple of big cows to remind you that home is special too.
Have you been to the Fort Worth Stockyards?