Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/66

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Bohemians in Texas.

By Rev. Kenneth D. Miller, Jan Hus Bohemian Church, New York City.

Not since my trip to Bohemia have I had such a delightful experience as was afforded me during my recent visit to the Bohemian sections of the State of Texas. Having previously visited all sections of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovak-land, and having already acquainted myself with the conditions prevailing amongst the Bohemians in such American centres as New York, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and the farming regions of the central west, it was intensely interesting by way of comparison and of completion of my knowledge of the Bohemian people, to observe the conditions of life prevailing amongst the Bohemian population of 100,000 in our great Lone-Star state.

The first impression that I bring away with me is that in Texas more than in any other part of the United States, the conditions of life, the habits of mind and thought of the Czechs resemble those prevailing in the old country. The mere fact that the vast majority of the people are engaged in farming is sufficient to give this impression. For, somehow, when one conjures to one’s mind a picture of a typical Bohemian, there comes before his mind’s eye the picture of the tiller of the soil. Certainly it is true that out on the farms, under God’s open sky, surrounded by fields and meadows, forests and hills, the Bohemian seems to be in his proper element. Even the Bohemian national anthemKde Domov Můj” describes the homeland in the following words:

Streams are rushing through thy meadows,
Mid thy rocks sigh fragrant pine groves,
Orchards decked in spring’s array
Scenes of Paradise portray.
And this land of wondrous beauty
Is the Čech land, Homeland mine.

The Bohemians of Texas have not as much cause for sighs of longing as they sing this anthem as have those living in New York or Chicago where the sight of a bit of green is a rare treat.

And as in the old country, the Bohemians of Texas are good farmers. Never will I forget the sight of the peasants up in the hill country of Bohemia and Moravia making use of every available inch of land, and producing good crops from soil which an American would despise as good for nothing. In Texas, the Bohemian farmers have not had to contend against those natural disadvantages. They are settled, for the most part, in the most fertile regions of the state. The great black belt, famous for its productiveness, is largely taken up by Bohemians. But, even here, they have not found life a bed of roses. The Bohemian farmers are prosperous today because they faced and overcame obstacles that frightened away the natives. They found there unbroken prairies used only as grazing ground by the Texas ranchers, who were too lazy or timorous to undertake the cultivation of it. They were not afraid to undertake the cultivation of bad lands, and many a hundred acres which are now bearing good crops were once wild forests, which were cleared only by diet of persevering and painstaking toil. I know of no more heroic work than that performed by the pioneer farmers of Texas. All honor to them! It is largely due to their efforts that Texas is now one of the richest states in the Union.

And the Bohemians are held in very wholesome respect by their American neighbors. I took advantage of every opportunity to learn how the natives regarded their new neighbors, and was gratified, though not surprised, to hear such expressions of opinion as the following: “The Bohemians are the best farmers in all Texas”; “They make the very best American citizens”; “I have never lost a cent of money through bad debts of Bohemians”; I am proud to have them as my neighbors and friends.”

And this good opinion has been won in spite of conditions which might well have aroused in the natives a feeling of jealousy and resentment. One of the besetting sins of native-born Americans is the tendency to regard all foreigners as inferior to themselves. And when these “foreigners” come into a community and proceed to demonstrate their superiority as workmen and as farmers, a feeling of jealous resentment might easily be provoked. The Bohemians, however, have gone about their work in such a quiet, unassuming manner, with such an entire absence of domineering braggadocio, and have withal been so kindly and neighborly in their relations