Wichita Falls For years signs along the Texas highways, bumper stickers, and just about everything else proudly declared, “Don’t Mess with Texas.” It was classic Texas. Designed to stop litter with a chest-thumping scowl to go with the demand. There’s a new slogan that you can read on the faces of Texans along the road now that they are less likely to shout out, and it’s “Texas is a Mess!”
Texas is now one of the states where coronavirus cases have been rising faster than planes at the mammoth Dallas-Fort Airport. After thumbing his nose at his citizens and Covid-19, Governor Abbott in early July issued a mandatory mask order, claiming he was backtracking in order to keep from shutting the state down.
It seems, like so much in this state, that mandatory is a funny word in Texas with a different meaning than elsewhere in the United States. It’s not on the order of you say, to-MAT-o, and I say TO-mat-o, it’s more like he says mandatory, but everyone hears voluntary, and he really mean voluntary, even though it read like the common, everyday garden-variety mandatory. According to the Texas Tribune report, Abbott also gave “counties the opportunity to opt out if they have a low number of active coronavirus cases. A week later, 78 counties have taken him up on that offer. And a handful of other local governments have insisted that they won’t enforce the order even though they don’t qualify for the opt-out provision.” Texas is a big state, so there are 254 counties, so that’s almost a third officially, and de facto even more. The takeaway is Texas is a mess when it comes to mask and virus.
Stopping for gas at a big Pilot station outside Tyler, as we headed west, a sign on the outside said, masks were mandatory to enter. One cashier was using hers as a chin guard both behind the plexiglass and walking around the store. The truck drivers and most customers were masked, but the elderly couple ahead of me in line was not, and walked through the place like royalty. In Wichita Falls, where we stopped for the night, they were clear about no breakfast and no pool, because of the virus, and they demanded masks in public areas, but one worker sat in the lobby without one. Down the road, picking up some burgers at the nearest place called Barnyard Drafthouse, the young hostess, put on a mask when she saw mine. Most of the servers had masks with their Daisy Dukes, but the kitchen manager put his on when he came up to me. Customers, not so much. That’s kind, mostly not at all. Families, yes. Young guns and gals, not at all. This is Texas now, where their new slogan may be “live hard, die young.”
Elsewhere in Texas, it’s undoubtedly worse than here along the northwestern border. In a Times’ report farther south, they noted that…
“A surge in Starr County, a rural, impoverished area in South Texas, near the border with Mexico, offers a grim example of the type of hospital crisis looming. The county’s infection rate of about 2,350 per 100,000 people is far higher than in more populous parts of Texas, including Houston. The county’s single hospital cannot handle the crush of Covid patients, and ethics committees have been formed to help determine which patients should be treated and which should be sent home to die.”
Like I said, the new slogan is “Texas is a Mess!”