There are a lot of stories, memes and jokes about Texas being “God’s country.” There’s the famous sign outside of Hondo that pleads with lead-footed drivers to remember that “This is God’s Country. Please don’t drive through it like hell.” That message has been there for nearly 100 years now, since the 1930’s.
Another tip of the hat to Texas as God’s country came shortly after the Dallas Cowboys’ old Texas Stadium was opened in 1971 with that huge hole in the roof. Some mocked it as the “half-Astrodome.” But linebacker D.D. Lewis came to the rescue of Clint Murchison’s PR team. He said that the new stadium had a hole in it so “God could watch his favorite team play.”
I got to thinking about all this last week when some friends asked me what I thought was the most-told Texas story in Texas history. I said, “Well, the Alamo, of course.” They said, “no, what’s the most told funny story – not a one liner, but a story.” I thought about it for a minute and said, “Of course no one knows the answer to that for sure, but I’d guess this one would be pretty near the top of such a list, though likely not fully appreciated if you’re under 25. Goes like this:
A young man fresh out of an Eastern theological college wanted to look at religion in the real world. He decided he’d travel the U.S. and visit churches all over to see how each one preferred to worship, to see their rituals and customs first-hand.
He visited a large church in Philadelphia. He loved the singing amplified in the old cathedral. As he walked the back hallways with the minister after the service, he saw a golden telephone with a sign that said, “Ten Thousand Dollars a Minute.” He asked the minister about that and the minister informed him proudly that it was a direct line to heaven. If he was willing to pay, he could perhaps talk to the big man himself.
The young student of theology had never heard of such a thing, but he was not here to judge, just to learn. He made a note of it and moved on across America to study other churches.
He went west, visiting many churches of all denominations and faiths – in Detroit and Chicago and Boise and Seattle and San Francisco. He circled back through Phoenix. Everywhere he went he’d see a version of that same golden phone with a sign that said “10,000 dollars a minute.” Every time he inquired, he got the same answer. Through that phone, he could talk to the big man upstairs.
In Texas, he stopped in Fort Worth. He saw the same golden telephone there, too, but there was something startlingly different about it. Over this phone was a simple sign that said, “Calls 25 cents.”
Well this certainly peaked his interest. He sought out the minister and said, “I’m studying churches across the country and I have seen that same gold telephone everywhere I’ve been, from New York to San Francisco. Even in Phoenix. They all say the cost for a call to heaven is 10,000 dollars a minute. But your sign says it’s only 25 cents. Not even per minute. Per Call! How can this be?”
With a big grin, the minister leaned in and said, “Son, you’re in Texas now. This is God’s Country. It’s just a local call.”
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Stories From Texas, UTRGV Digital Library, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley. Accessed via https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/storiesfromtexas/