Deep in the heart of Texas in downtown St. Paul

Erin Carlyle co-wrote this piece

Khaki cowboy hats, denim shirts, and boots crowded the lobby at the Crown Plaza hotel Monday as members of the Texas delegation found themselves all dressed up with no place to go.

"It seems like there are more media here than delegates," says alternate delegate Stephen Thompson from Del Rio. Thompson was peeved that prior to entering the convention hall, he had to get rid of his fanny pack, finish his granola bar, and dump his can of Coca Cola.

The 400-500 Texans in St. Paul plan to dress alike every day of the week. "We are pre-coordinated right down to the slacks," says Larry Jones of McKinny, Texas. He assured us that throughout the week we could find Texans in red polos with the Lone Star on the shoulder, delegation neckties and scarves, and Texas flag shirts.

Joshua Kemps, a 22-year-old Texas delegate, wore a stuffed elephant on top of his cowboy hat. He purchased the accessory online for $25 just for the convention. "This way I can show both sides of my nature, my Republican side and my Texas side, all at once," he said.

The cowboy hats are not just a symbol of Texas, though. And Thompson says they serve a practical purpose: to keep the sun out of their faces. "There will be no red necks here this week," says Thompson. Jones can't wait to show off his state. "People will know the Republicans are in town," he said of the delegation attire.

"[Texas] is its own nation," he added, explaining how the state joined the federation through a treaty. "It's the only state that can fly its flag at the same height as the nation's flag."

Despite his tragic record, Jones says Texas is proud of President Bush. "He took the country to a new level, and the world too...we are kind of looking forward for him to come back."

Though convention activity thus far has been lackluster, the Texans are enjoying their time in St. Paul. Second-time delegate Rex Peter, 51, from Pasadena, says Minnesotans and Texans have a lot in common; both have unique speech patterns and are gracious, hard-working people. One local even offered to give Peter a ride home from Southeast Christian Church on Sunday.

The bar in the Crown Plaza caters to its guests, playing country music instead of its usual oldies for the first time the bartender can remember.

Alternate delegate Polly Guthrie is thrilled with the weather. "Last time I was here there were inches of snow," she says, remembering the time in 1999 when she played in the Minnesota snow with her relatives. Guthrie turns 70 next week. "It had been a long time since I had been sledding."

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