It is a beautiful April evening in Hico, Texas. My wife and I are having dinner with my in-laws, and I am eyeballing a statue of Billy the Kid across the street from Lilly’s Restaurant. Hico, you see, was the home of “Brushy Bill” Roberts, widely believed around these parts to have been the notorious outlaw/folk hero, who, according to the “Hico Legend of Billy the Kid,” escaped the long arm of the law and lived out his golden years right here in Hico. Our waitress, a pretty, blue-eyed Hico native named Ann, says that Billy the Kid groupies flood the place for an annual Billy the Kid/Brushy Bill talkfest. My father-in-law, however, insists that Pat Garret sent The Kid to a Wild West version of Valhalla way back when. Personally, I favor the Brushy Bill story, having learned from John Ford that it’s better to print the legend. Ann says her father witnessed Brushy Bill’s passing (he apparently died of a heart attack on a Hico street). It’s a story she grew up with, and she tells it with a certain flair.

Ann turns out to have learned as much in her 21 years as I’ve managed to pick up in 42. Hearing that we are planning a return to the Lone Star state after a ten-year exile in occupied (Northern) Virginia, she tells us about her (brief) sojourn in the wilds of Manhattan, where she went to plan her wedding to a young man of Northern extraction. Her grandmother was scandalized (You’re gonna marry a Yankee?!”), but Ann, perhaps swayed by visions of the Great White Way, went ahead with the plans anyway. Dubbed “The Yankee” by Ann’s relations, the obtuse Manhattanite, according to his former fiancee, wasn’t the least bit perturbed by the obvious insult, which should have told her something about his upbringing. So Ann went to New York City and was promptly labeled “honky” and “cracker” by various “people of color” she encountered in the asphalt jungle. Being a girl of good character and knowing what she was about, Ann returned the engagement ring to His Yankeeness (who apparently saw nothing wrong with these obvious insults, either) and caught the next plane for Texas. Been there, done that.

I’m feeling good. The conversation is lively, the food tasty, the Shiner Bock (the real “National Beer of Texas”) ice cold, and a young Texan has returned home. Been there, done that. It’s almost enough to instill a little hope about our country’s future in my jaded mind. The countryside is prettier than I ever remember seeing it. The drought is over. Generous rains and a cool spring have filled the tanks (Texan for livestock watering holes); the creeks are flowing; and the wildflowers—the Indian Paintbrushes, Bluebonnets, and cacti—are in full bloom. The land is as green as it was in all of my visions of an ideal Texas landscape—even greener. I’m coming home.

It’s not something that’s easy to explain to my colleagues, much less to my supervisors at work. Some think I want to telecommute from Texas merely because real estate is cheaper here. Others think I’m looking for another job. From their point of view, it simply doesn’t make sense to forego promotion, possibly lose contact with my “consumers,” and ruin my “career” simply because I want to go home. The looks I’m getting are something like that deer-in-the-headlights stare you always hear about. They must be wondering, “What’s he really up to?”

I wonder that myself sometimes. In the end, all you can really leave your children is an example of how to live. Everything we have is in Texas: family, friends, an old house or two, and that feeling normal people have when they know they are home. It’s not the place it was when I was boy—much less when my father was a boy—but it is still home. People like Ann have helped keep it that way.