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Correspondence

More Human and More Tragic

An associate and I were waiting for a flight to Washington, D.C., flying out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, in the fall of 1996.  I spotted another waiting passenger in the lounge and made a bet with my partner, a native New Yorker, that the man was a fellow Texan.  My partner took the bet, and now it was time to fish or cut bait.  I walked over to the man, offered him my hand, and struck up a conversation.  This young fellow was working for an oil company out of Midland/Odessa.  My astonished friend, a perplexed look on his face, asked me how I knew he was from Texas.  It wasn’t terribly complicated—not at all.  First, he was wearing Wrangler jeans and Justin Ropers.  The way he shaped the bill of his cap helped, too.  Then there was the cut of his thick mustache, as well as more subtle things like the way he carried himself.  He could have been from Oklahoma—maybe.  But chances were, he was a Texan.  I felt like Sherlock Holmes explaining to Watson why my deduction was elementary.

I also remember feeling a little sad, as I knew that there were fewer and fewer of his—of our—kind.  Being a Texan has been a benefit to me on more than one occasion, from Vladivostok to Normandy; when I told the locals I was from Texas, it rang a bell, even if it was only through association with a character named...

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