The Difference Between Texas and Iowa

I’m a bonafide expert in the differences between Iowa and Texas.

I was born and raised near Fort Worth. I’ve also lived in Waco and Lubbock. I say “y’all.” I know people who wear boots with suits. I’ve taken dates to Billy Bob’s. I’ve vacationed in South Padre. I’ve made bad decisions in San Antonio that led to worse decisions in Laredo. To this day, when I see the numbers 12, 33 and 88 I think Staubach, Dorsett and Pearson. If someone says they “tumped” something over, I know exactly what they mean. I’m a proud Texan.

While living in Cedar Rapids the past 16 years, I’ve experienced the coldest winter in Iowa’s recorded history, a 500-year flood and some of the most beautiful springs that have ever sprung. Part of my time here has been spent as a journalist, so I’ve logged a few years trapsing across this Grant Wood-esque landscape in search of the people, politics and quirks that make Iowa what it is. I’ve learned to appreciate a good tenderloin sandwich with three times more meat than bun. I’ve met the Butter Cow Lady. I look forward to caucusing every four years. I can make a meal out of sweet corn. I’ve felt the intensity of Dan Gable’s presence in a room. If someone says their Maid-Rites are better than Maid-Rite’s, I know exactly what they mean. I’m a proud resident of the state of Iowa.

Here are my observations on the many things that differentiate these two great states.

  • Both states have significant Czech populations that take pride in making awesome kolaches. Czech Texans call the fruit-dolloped, yeast dough pastry a ko-LAH-chee. Czech Iowans call it a KO-lahch. Both camps swear their preferred pronunciation is correct.
  • In Texas, stepping into a line midway instead of going to the back is called “cutting.” Iowans call that “budging.”
  • In Iowa, some of our gnats wear tutus.
  • In Iowa, people say “soda” and “pop” when referring to fizzy soft drinks. In Texas, you say “I’ll have a coke,” wait for the server to ask you which kind, and then say, “Dr. Pepper, please.”
  • In Iowa, most of the Dairy Queens only serve ice cream. Many of them close for the winter.
  • In Texas, the Dairy Queens have something called a Frito Pie on the menu. It’s basically chili & fixins on top of Fritos.
  • In Iowa, it’s no big deal when a presidential candidate comes to town. They ALL come to town. Over and over again.
  • In Texas, schools close when it gets a little icy. Hilarity and 20-car pileups ensue. In Iowa, schools close when it gets hot because some don’t have air conditioning. Iowa schools also close when it’s cold, but it’s got to be ridiculously cold — we’re talking wind chills of -30 degrees. Not the U of I, though. The U of I takes pride in never cancelling classes, no matter what.
  • In Texas, companies rebrand their products with Texasness in order to increase sales.
  • In Iowa, we fill our tanks with gas made from corn. Some of us feel terrible for participating in such a bad idea — ethanol production is highly unsustainable and growing corn to make gas is a terrible use of our land, especially when you consider that we have the best soil in the country but get 90% of our food from out of state. Ethanol is cheaper at the pump because it’s subsidized.
  • In Iowa, homes are usually two stories and have basements. You’ll sometimes see something called a split-level. Full brick exteriors are rare. Older homes have detached garages. Backyards sometimes have fences. Proximity to the Missouri border increases the likelihood of fake deer in the front yard.
  • In Texas, there are no basements. Most homes have a ranch layout with a brick exterior. Backyards always have fences. Proximity to El Paso increases the likelihood of a DIY bathtub Mary in the front yard.
  • In Iowa, (real) wrestling is a very big deal. In Texas, most high schools and colleges still don’t have programs.
  • In Iowa, it’s not uncommon for a place of work to put zero effort into interior decorating. This is a pride thing. People here believe in the Midwest work ethic, which is an ideology that prioritizes hard work over high falutin decorations.
  • In Texas, most people work the Lone Star, the state flag and the state shape into their interior and exterior design efforts.
  • In Iowa, people think of Texas as part of the South. In Texas, people think of Texas as Texas.
  • In Texas, there are outside dogs that have never stepped foot inside the house and the owners are not bad people. In Iowa, all dogs are inside dogs and some have as many sweaters as you do.
  • In Iowa, people tell stories of detasselling corn — a rite of passage summer job for teens. It involves walking through fields of seed corn and removing the tassels from one row of plants so that another species planted in the next row can pollenate the other row and create a hybrid that is more sturdy and has a better yield. According to these stories, all kinds of rites of passage are achieved in Iowa corn fields.
  • In Texas, Blue Bell Ice Cream is sacred. Texans rallied for the company’s return after being shut down by the FDA when three people died and ten were hospitalized from listeria directly linked to the ice cream.
  • In Texas, 7th graders are required to take a year-long stand-alone course in Texas history. In Iowa, a semester of Iowa history is woven into 5th grade social studies curriculum.
  • In Texas, people listen to a lot of Texas-centric music created by guys with three names: Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, David Alan Coe, Michael Martin Murphey, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Arthur Martinez, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Larry Joe Taylor, Jason Michael Carroll and Thomas Michael Riley come to mind.
  • In Iowa, if you drive a truck there’s a good chance you need one. In Texas, driving a truck has nothing to do with needing one.
  • In Iowa, you’ll drive by a lot of barns with paintings of quilt patterns on them. The barn owners are participating in a nation-wide quilt trail thing. Sometimes the patterns have connections to the barn owners’ families.
  • In Iowa, there’s a convenience store chain called Kum and Go.
  • In Texas, you say “yes sir/ma’am” and “Mr./Ms. (insert last name)” to show respect to people. Try that in Iowa and you’ll get shot down with a response that comes from a good place but is strangely unsettling for a Texan. It sounds like this: “Mr. Smith? That’s my dad’s name, not mine. You can call me Ron.”
  • In Texas, college rings are a big deal. People wear them, too.
  • In Iowa, who you root for is a choice, not a default predetermined thing you accept like it is in Texas. Iowans are constantly defending their teams to other Iowans who choose to root for different teams.
  • In Texas, colleges have unique hand signs. In Iowa, colleges appropriate other teams’ stuff, like the Florida Gator Chomp, Nebraska’s tunnel walk, Nebraska’s foam cornhead hats, the Florida State Tomahawk Chop and the Pittsburg Steelers uniform motif.
  • In Texas, people play Rummy, Hearts or Spades. In Iowa, people play Euchre.
  • In Iowa, people get somewhat excited about high school football. They sometimes call it prep football. In Texas, people go absolutely nuts for high school football. It is only referred to as high school football.
  • In Texas, the homecoming mum tradition is out of control. Surrounding states need to organize some kind of intervention.
  • In Texas, highways and freeways have access roads on both sides, which are also known as frontage roads. These are for accessing businesses along the highway/freeway without having to mess with the highway/freeway.
  • In Texas, they also have something called a Texas turnaround at highway/freeway underpasses. This is when a frontage road has a dedicated turnaround path to the frontage road going the opposite direction on the other side, meaning you won’t have to stop at the stop sign or stop light at the underpass.
  • In Iowa, some rural roads have mini traffic signs along the side ditches. These are for snowmobiles.
  • In Iowa, people at a 4-way stop will wave for you to go even if you clearly stopped last and it’s their turn to go. If you wave off this polite gesture and signal that they should indeed go, they will wave off your wave off. Just go. You cannot win.
  • In Iowa, the roads take a major beating from winter weather. There’s a constant cycle of snow plowing, crack seepage and expansion damage from melting and refreezing that leads to constant pot holes and pothole repairs. This is why we can’t have nice roads.
  • In Texas, they never have to plow the roads, so you’ll see all manner of raised pavement markers, including funky blue reflectors that help fire fighters identify nearby fire hydrants. In Iowa, fire fighters looking for hydrants keep an eye out for the big plastic tubes attached to them — this increaseses their visibility when the snow piles up.
  • In Texas, folks are fond of a burger joint called Whataburger, which is known for no-nonsense grub. Fun fact: stand-alone Whataburger locations were once housed in triangle-shaped buildings with steep, orange- and white-striped metal roofs. Look closely as you drive through Texas and you’ll see these buildings repurposed as anything from car lot offices to churches.
  • In Iowa, folks trust and enjoy pizza from gas stations.
  • In Texas, there are honky tonks where people two-step counterclockwise on a big sawdust-covered dance floor all night. At some point in the evening, the entire joint will hit the dance floor to do the “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” which is always followed by “The Shoddish.”
  • Iowans of a certain age love their Sterzings chips and Twin Bing chocolate clusters.
  • Driving through Iowa, you’ll notice that any land not used for residential or business purposes is pretty much a field of corn or soybeans. In Texas, that land could be prairie, cattle pasture, cotton fields, oil fields, swamps, beach or desert, depending on where you’re at.
  • In Iowa, people will tell you what they just told you. They’ll say “Like I said…” or “Like I was saying…” and then repeat what they told you 30 seconds ago. In Texas, people will tell you that they’re about to tell you something. They preface what they’re going to tell you with the phrases, “I tell you what…” “Let me tell you somethin’…” “I mean to tell ya…” and “Look, I’m gonna let you in on a little somethin’…”
  • In Iowa, there was a big controversy over the state quarter design because people disagreed over what kind of imagery best represented the state. People clamored to put corn, hogs, eggs and the state capital on it. In the end, the winning design evoked Iowans’ pride in education, regionalist art and agriculture (represented by a schoolhouse and kids planting a tree, taken from a Grant Wood painting). In Texas, everyone assumed that some kind of Lone Star design would end up on the Texas quarter and that’s indeed what happened.
  • In Iowa, the annual wildcraft harvest of morel mushrooms is a big deal. Everyone has a secret spot to pick them or a hookup source but, due to supply and demand, no one shares this information. The Czech community calls the precious fungus a houby [HO-bee] and even hosts a big Houby Days Festival in Cedar Rapids which, due to supply and demand, rarely features a vendor selling houbies.
  • In Iowa, walking tacos are a thing. A walking taco is basically a loose taco in a Doritos bag.
  • In Texas, beef ribs are a thing.
  • In some parts of Texas, kids get a day off from school for the rodeo or the stock show.
  • In Iowa, roadkill consists of deer, raccoons and the occasional skunk. In Texas, 99% of roadkill is armadillo.
  • In Iowa, everyone knows someone who has hit a deer within the last year.
  • In Iowa, 75% of graduation parties are held in decorated garages. You’re allowed to go in the house if you have to pee.
  • In Texas, there are many communities that still don’t sort and recycle their trash, and there is no state-wide bottle deposit program. Texas did, however, have an awesome “Don’t Mess With Texas” anti-litter campaign in the ’80s that featured Stevie Ray Vaughan.
  • In Iowa, when you’re about to get your second beer at a party, you don’t just toss the first one in the trash. You ask, “What’s your system?” in order to learn where to put your empty so that the host can recycle & return it for the deposit.

Did I miss anything? Use the comments section below.