As a young Texan who moved to Norway, I faced a lot of challenges; learning a new language, acclimating to a new culture and four-season climate, trying to fit in with my new blonde-haired blue-eyed peers, and also trying not to roll my eyes every time someone asked if I used to ride my horse to school back home in the wild west. To which I would reply “Do you ski to school?” and was disappointed when sometimes the answer was yes.
But, the thing that took the most getting used to was witnessing my beloved homeland become synonymous with adjectives like wild, chaos, and crazy.
“Det var helt Texas” or in plain English: “It was completely Texas.”
Apparently, someone didn't tell these descendants of Vikings that you don't mess with Texas. Or, that Texans are a hot-headed proud people.
The first time I heard the phrase was at school in 2002, my first year in Norway. When one of my classmates described a party he had been to the weekend before as “Texas” with loads of beer and “Jackass” style pranks (and to be honest, he was probably exaggerating, seeing as we were only in the 8th grade), I jumped up out of my seat and yelled, “What did you just say about Texas?!”
This lanky little Texan of a thing was ready to fight with both fists up and the spirit of a sixth-generation cowboy ancestry just vying for a brawl to defend my homeland's honor. When I saw that my Norwegian classmate, shocked at my sudden outburst with wide eyes and a stammer trying to explain, I realized that maybe I was proving the stereotype that Texans and, therefore, Texas, did indeed mean crazy.
I sat back down at my desk, swallowed my pride, and moved on with my day, seething with contempt that the name of Texas was taken in vain. It was only when my Norwegian stepdad explained to me the association behind the expression that I took a chill pill and began to calm down.
Back in the day, anything with a wild west theme was all the hype in Norway. Stories about cowboys and their crazy adventures filled national airways at a time when there were only a handful of channels. Wild West-themed comic books and novels were all the rage, and little kids everywhere played cowboys with their friends any chance they could.
My stepdad often speaks of those times when recounting his childhood in the 60s. Before he could even properly speak English, he would imitate the cowboys he saw on TV with their impressive Texas drawls, making sounds that were effectively nonsense. “Kooow bah jow” was one of his go-to attempts at speaking Texan.
To this day, Norway's fascination with cowboy culture lives on. “Bonanza” faithfully and routinely graces Norwegian TV every Saturday morning, resulting in what must be nearing a thousand total reshowings of all 431 episodes from its debut in 1960 to the present. Most Norwegians are shocked to learn that the show wasn’t even based in Texas.
Simply put, for Norwegians: cowboys = the wild west=Texas= an unpredictable lawless land filled with excitement and adventure.
The expression, as it turns out, is harmless. It refers to the days of yore when people did, in fact, ride horses to school. I suppose in the present day, some parts of Texas can seem a bit lawless to outsiders, but not in the sense that warrants an expression meaning “crazy.”
Nowadays, after eighteen years in this country, while twinges of irritation still pop up when I hear the expression, it mostly invokes a sense of special pride that only a Texan could know. It's fascinating to me that my state is so well known out in the world, especially considering we have forty-nine other states, some of which have the personality of a potato (don't come at me). It's not like people say “Det var helt Ohio” or “Det var helt New Hampshire!”.
No. The legend of Texas and its wild west roots has reached far beyond its own borders and worked its way into other countries’ cultures. And in my “humble” opinion, it takes a special kind of crazy to be able to do just that.