Over 30 years ago I began my first day as publisher of the Star-Telegram with a most glorious welcome.
It occurred before I ever set foot in the newspaper’s former offices at the corner of West 7th and Taylor.
Rain was pelting the city that July morning as I emerged from a parking garage. I hesitated, not wanting to arrive at the office soaking wet. Out of what seemed nowhere a man emerged on the corner with an umbrella over his head.
“Get under this,” he said, “and I’ll walk with you to wherever you are going.”
I was dumbfounded. Never before had I seen such courtesy and kindness, especially to a stranger.
We walked a block to my office and off went the stranger. I know I thanked him but probably not enough.
At the end of the first week on the job I went to the Stockyards for a beer and while sitting in the bar a man rode up on horseback, tied his horse to a hitching rail out front, and came into the bar to have a canteen filled.
Literally, at that point and after these two occurrences, I vowed I was ending my peripatetic lifestyle and staying put in one job for several years. This was my fifth newspaper job. My plan on arriving here was to continue to chase new opportunities wherever they might be.
Friendly and welcoming people in a cowboy town. Wonderful lifestyle and job. Seemed like a great elixir for a wandering soul.
That weekend I drove to Dallas to the downtown Neiman Marcus just to see the famous and iconic store. At a checkout counter, I told the clerk where I lived and he shocked me.
“Love Fort Worth,” he said. “My wife and I go there several weekends a year to visit the museums, which are better than anything in Dallas.”
Needless to say, I never again saw a cowboy ride up North Main Street in the Stockyards and tie his horse to a rail in front of a bar. But these memories flooded my mind last week when I received a thoughtful note responding to my column about the effort of Visit Fort Worth to throw a wider net and bring more visitors to the city.
The column drew a number of responses but one was more telling than the rest. The writer agreed, as did everyone I spoke with, that the term “Cowtown” has no appeal these days and we need a new description for this growing and exciting city.
What stood out is that the writer’s livelihood is based on the livestock and equine events linked to the city’s cowboy image.
He nonetheless agreed that we need to find a way to better describe what makes us special. Among the attributes, he said, is that this is a city of civility. Folks still say “sir” and “ma’am.” Cowboys doff their hats at “hello and howdy.”
It may sound simplistic but he’s right.
We are a big city with incredible venues such as our world-famous zoo, the Bass Performance Hall, our museums, our universities, big-time college football at TCU, our stock show and rodeo, and, yes, the Stockyards, which is undergoing renovation and rejuvenation. The University of North Texas Health Science Center is one of our best kept secrets, even in our own city. We have a new medical school that will be housed there in partnership with TCU.
But, we are more than that. We are a big city with small town values and manners. We help one another as individuals, and businesses still band together for philanthropy and the public good.
There is a sense of charm that is absent in, let’s say, Dallas.
And I’ll bet there’s still a man or woman on a street corner who on a rainy day would welcome a stranger under their umbrella.
Let’s build on that.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org