People living here are either “insiders” who know what’s going on or “outsiders” who don’t. Most “insiders” are either members of one of the original white/European settling families that came here in the 1800s, people who have married into one of these families, or those who have certain business dealings with these families (usually shady). “Insiders” used to intermarry almost exclusively (my former father-in-law has multiple double cousins, for ex.), but rates of birth defects in the area are so high that the last few generations have been forced to try to marry from well outside.
Many of the people who came to settle along the frontier here did so because they were criminals not welcome elsewhere, so this area has a strong affinity for criminal undertakings and an inherent disregard for the law. “Insiders” are extremely clannish, banding together against “outsiders” with an “us against them” mentality filled with disdain. They believe in working together for the good of the group, even when individuals don’t agree. They actually have their own language—a special slang so highly developed that a U. of TX language professor is actively studying it and so difficult for “outsiders” to understand that it functions as secret code. (Local law enforcement officers use this a lot.)
Smuggling contraband has been a major part of life around here for generations; the dry climate makes farming and even ranching very marginal and difficult as ways to survive financially. During Prohibition, this area was a mecca for illegal alcohol, and the smuggling routes and connections made then translated easily into modern drug trafficking.
Many of the local families were severely persecuted during the Civil War when they sided with the North against the large Southern slave plantations that competed with their small farms. Since so many of the “insider” families here have German roots, persecution was even worse during the World Wars. As a result, “insiders” have a very strong hatred of the U.S. government—they despise any and all forms of outside interference in their affairs, especially federal taxes, which they consider particularly odious. During my marriage, I remember seeing radically anti-government literature laying out on the counter at my former in-laws’ home that I found shocking, but they said a “crazy friend” had left it there, so I wasn’t particularly concerned. My children and I also recall being shown hidden rooms built into area houses that contained large numbers of weapons and ammo. (we were told they were people’s “gun collections”). My ex- and his friends all got gun dealers’ licenses and started reloading large quantities of ammo. that we were told was for “target practice”.
You can move here, whether through business or marriage or family ties, and instantly be an “insider”, or you can live your entire life here as an “outsider” who hasn’t got a clue as to what really goes on (like me, although I’m gradually figuring things out). It’s who and what you know, not how long you’ve been here, that matters.
This evening when I walked my dog, an “insider” woman drove by me repeatedly with her window down and waved, yelled things I couldn’t understand, made various faces and gestures at me, and just generally acted goofy. [How did she know I’d be out walking then?] It was all very “high school”—except that she’s in her 50s and is married to a local bank president!