Got a hankering to live on Texas soil?
If you could get a 1.6-pound glass jar of Lone Star State dirt for $17.95 plus shipping and handling, would that scratch your itch? Would that keep you from moving here from, say, Cupertino, Keokuk or Rancho Cucamonga?
Jim Moore, and his business partner, Rod Taylor, are hoping so. To make the point that growth is messing with Texas, they’ve started up a business called True Texas Dirt, truetexasdirt.com.
Your “Sacred Texas Topsoil” comes with a red, white and blue outline of the Lone Star State on the top of the jar, along with a certificate of authenticity, emblazoned with a quote from Davy Crockett: “You all may go to hell. I will go to Texas.”
Ironically, Moore is hoping his dirt will keep you out-of-staters — make that us out-of-staters, since I was raised in Maine — from coming to Texas.
“This is one part political and one part business,” said Moore, a consultant and the Austin author of several books, including, “Adios Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush.”
“I thought if I could share Texas with people without them moving here, and make money, this would be a way to do it,” he said. “It’s a Texas version of a pet rock.”
It’s not that Moore has an ax to grind with Texas wannabes. He’s not pointing fingers and calling California “the land of fruits and nuts” and that sort of thing. He can understand why people would want to come to Texas. In fact, he grew up in Michigan, moved to Texas in 1975 and fell in love with the place. He figures he might have been to every small town in this state.
He just thinks Texas would do better if it had fewer U-Hauls headed this way. “Texas is a popular thing these days — too damn popular,” he said.
He has a point. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas added 427,400 folks from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, topping any other state. Not that the trend has slowed. Moore says 1,500 people move to Texas every day. Then there’s Austin, which grew from 674,000 to 830,000 in the last 10 years.
So, along with his souvenir dirt business, Moore is starting up a nonprofit political movement called Don’t Grow Texas, dontgrowtexas.org.
“Growth is not necessarily a good thing, and we’ve proved it in this state,” Moore said. “We can’t manage it. We’ve got horrible social services in this state, and people are coming here in unmanageable numbers.”
Moore knows this since it took him two hours to drive from Congress Avenue to his home just west of Leander. You could probably get there faster on a riding lawnmower. So he’s felt the sting of Austin’s ongoing Honkarama: “Rush hour now in Austin is apocalyptic, and it’s not going to get anything but worse, for God’s sake.”
Another factor that has set Moore to shoveling? The drought and water shortage.
“People are moving here from the north and the Midwest, and they get big houses with big lawns, and the lakes go lower and lower, and the Legislature doesn’t do something about it.”
Oh, yeah, and the schools. “The local property taxes go through the roof to pay for the schools, and our schools are in the middle of the pack,” Moore said. “And we have a governor who makes budget cuts so we can’t afford to pay teachers, and people keep coming here.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Perry tours the nation, recruiting for businesses to head this way, which brings more lawn watering, cars and long lines to get a seat at your favorite Tex-Mex joint. Then there’s the affordability problem. It’s getting to where you can’t live in downtown Austin unless you’re Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers or Mack Brown.
Your dirt will include the legend of mythical Texas oilman Joe Don Barnes, the “founder” of True Texas Dirt, and “exactly the man his fellow Texans would expect to turn topsoil into cash,” the blurb says.
Joe Don, the text continues, “has brought to the surface enough ‘dinosaur wine’ to keep America driving SUVs into the next millennium.”
“You have to have fun with this stuff, because if you think seriously about it it’ll drive you nuts,” Moore admits. “Who knows? We may have a Joe Don Barnes line of clothing. Maybe the brand image will be a rancher or a cowboy on a horse shooting the Polo horse with a polo mallet. I’m starting to sound like a cranky old guy, man.”
There are other marketing possibilities. “Maybe the next thing I’ll sell is little plastic squares with stones inside of them taken from the Chisholm Trail,” Moore said. “The longhorns may have stepped on these stones 160 years ago. And you can have them for the price of …”
“Just don’t move to Texas to get ‘em yourself,” Moore added.