Reflections Of A ‘Born-Again’ Texan

As a teenager, Dina Gachman couldn’t wait to get out of Houston, where the song “Cotton Eye Joe” seemed to play on repeat. But today, she feels different.

By Joy DiazSeptember 10, 2019 11:13 am,

Many people fall in love with Texas automatically. But not everyone. And being born here doesn’t guarantee an immediate fondness. Dina Gachman can attest to that.

Gachman grew up in Houston, and says she couldn’t wait to leave after high school. That’s because teenage culture was predictable.

“[We were] forced to endure the ‘Cotton-Eye Joe’ at every single school function,” she says. “That’s a cornball country song that doesn’t exactly inspire a Smiths-loving teenager to get up and dance.”

Gachman fantasized about leaving Texas for Paris – a place she thought had “real culture.” She didn’t make it there, but did move to California and lived there for 20 years.

But now she’s back, living in Round Rock. Her teenage self would be shocked at her return, she says. But after so many years being away, she says she feels a sense of pride returning to her home state. She even makes sure to tell people that she was born here.

“So they don’t give us the evil eye for being one of those outsiders that’s flooding the state with traffic and high home prices,” Gachman says.

She also has a new appreciation for things she paid little attention to before: the sound of trains in the distance, flying roaches. For her, these mundane things are what excite her most.

“Maybe people who are moving to Texas for the first time … get excited about Marfa, or migas or South By. I get excited about giant ground hornets that burrow in the grass,” she says. “I also get a pang of nostalgia and pride when I see dried locust shells stuck to a tree.”

Food is also nostalgic for her, like creamed corn and hushpuppies, and tiny mini-cartons of Blue Bell ice cream.

Gachman considers herself a “born-again” Texan these days. That means participating in parts of Texas culture that might be less obvious to outsiders, but nonetheless core to the Texas way of life.

“It’s taking a berry crumble to your neighbor as a thank you for the pulled pork and beer – or many beers – that they shared with you,” she says. “It’s feeling like a granny if you’re driving 75 mph down the road.”

It’s even about embracing the hackneyed “Cotton Eye Joe.” Giving it another listen, she says the older fiddle version isn’t that bad.

“It might not be as romantic as listening to Edith Piaf in Paris, but, in a way, maybe it’s better. Maybe that’s cause it feels like home,” Gachman says.


Written by Caroline Covington.