By Alexis Whiteford |
When I first shared I was going to Texas for college in my high school literature class, a classmate was quick to exclaim that I was going to the “Yee-Haw” state. Growing up in California, there were many stereotypes regarding Texans and the South. Once I came to Texas, I found out that there are just as many stereotypes for Californians- from valley girls to beach bums.
I am from a mid-sized county in Central California called San Luis Obispo County. Where I live is unique because of the dichotomy between the north part and the south part. North County is more conservative with a large concentration of ranching and farming, while South County is more liberal and has a lot of coastal influences.
While many may think of the beach and surfers when they hear “California”, California is the number one state in agriculture and many of its areas are farms and ranches. Most people imagine California as a beach community where everyone is tan and knows how to surf and, while I do love the beach, I have never touched a surfboard in my life. Even on my best day, I would never be considered tan.
Many people think Texas is filled with cowboys and ranches, but California has its fair share of agriculture and ranching as well. I grew up on a cattle ranch where my cousin raised and took care of the cattle on the property. Every year since I was five until my senior year in high school, I raised and showed animals at the Mid-State Fair. My closest neighbors, dairy goats and sheep farmers, were a mile away. While I did not have close neighbors distance-wise, the people living in my area were incredibly close friends. We knew the people two miles away from us better than other people whose neighbors who live two feet away. We would have weekly summer barbecues and if there were a lot of cars in front if our house we would receive a phone call asking if everything is okay. We may not have been a traditional “California” neighborhood, but we were a close-knit community.
After Texans, students from California make up the largest portion of Baylor’s student population so I wasn’t alone in being a Californian student. I often bond with other Californians when there is a debate on why In-N-Out is better than Whataburger. However, few of these people from California lived in rural areas. While other students, especially Californians, complain that Waco is a small town, Waco isn’t a small town to me- at least it has a stoplight.
When I wore boots to go country dancing, I was asked if I bought boots because I was coming to Texas. Many times, throughout my three years at Baylor I have had to explain my love for country music or why I know so much about various animals. I once had someone ask me if I photoshopped a picture of me with a tractor. Incidents like these are not everyday occurrences, but it goes to show how many have misconceptions about California and agriculture. One of my professors asked if anyone knew anything about cattle and I was one of two that raised a hand. He then proceeded to say, “Of course, this is Texas” and moved on. I don’t get upset when people have confusion about the agricultural side of California, but I find it humorous when people try to argue with me about how California is an agricultural state.
In high school, I wore boots regularly and had an agricultural class everyday. At Baylor, I wear Converse more than boots and the closest thing to agriculture that I get is when I see people replanting the flowers. I still have country roots and appreciate them, but they are not as prominent as they were growing up.
I understand that the Californian stereotype doesn’t include agriculture but it does not mean agriculture does not exist in California. Baylor was a last minute decision. I originally planned to go to Texas A&M to study something related to agriculture because that was my passion. It took a bear stealing a pumpkin from my front porch to give me the sign that Baylor was going to be my home. I am very thankful that the Lord led me in the right direction and I found my home at Baylor- even without agriculture.