The first time I saw a New Hampshire license plate, I did a double take.
Not unlike “The Texas Classic” plate introduced in July 2012, the basic “Passenger Design” emphasizes minimalism with single-color lettering atop an off-white background. Whereas Texas has its signature star, New Hampshire's coveted “Old Man of the Mountain” provides poignant decoration.
What made me look twice wasn't the letters and the ornaments. Rather, it was the state's motto, emblazoned across the top in all caps: “LIVE FREE OR DIE.”
Turns out, New Hampshire and Texas have a lot in common. Dig deeper and you'll find Boston, a major hub for southern New Hampshire, and Houston share a few characteristics, too. Sure, there's the matter of something locals call “winter,” but pay no mind to it.
Center of Attention
Since 1967, Houston's been known as “Space City” for its affiliation with NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. How appropriate then, that Boston's “Hub City” nickname comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes's The Autocrat at the Breakfast-Table, in which a man calls the city the “Hub of the Solar System.”
Yes, Houston resides in Texas, whereas Boston is in Massachusetts an hour south of New Hampshire — depending on traffic, something Houstonians can certainly relate to. But that's not the point. Just as most of the Texas Gulf Coast flocks to Houston, so too does southern New Hampshire gravitate toward Boston.
What Houston and Boston share is centrality. That is, both are their respective regions' center of attention. They are, in a sense, urban black holes in the best way possible.
Texas and New Hampshire hate taxes, but New Hampshire really hates taxes. Grab a drink at any local bar and you're sure to hear talk of taxes, how there's too many of 'em and what can be done about it.
Both have no income tax. This earns them membership in a group of seven states that add no income tax to the federally-mandated one all taxpayers annually gripe about. It's nice not to have, but like any institution, Texas and New Hampshire need to make money. Legally, that is.
Our fair state collects revenue via sales and property taxes. New Hampshire? No sales tax to speak of, as proven by the daily influx of Bostonians to its Walmart-sized liquor stores just across the border. However, they boast the third highest property tax in the country. No wonder they're pissed.
Whenever Houstonians need a break from life's urbanities, they head just outside the city limits. Perhaps a drive out to Galveston for a day at the beach, especially if it's a little further down the island and away from the crowds. Or maybe Huntsville, where nature enthusiasts hit the trails of Huntsville State Park and Sam Houston National Forest.
You don't have to go far in Houston, or in Texas for that matter, to find outdoor activities. Same goes for New Hampshire and the thousands of New Englanders who flock to its state parks and national forests. Sure, it's a lot greener and more mountainous than its southwestern sibling, but locals don't call it “The Granite State” for nothing. Plus, there's that “winter” thing I mentioned earlier.
Minus ski season and a silly little thing called snow, Texas and New Hampshire are practically peas in a pod. They're like fraternal twins separated at birth who, when they meet as adults, don't quite recognize each other but still feel a connection. It might be the narcissism of two major urban centers, the taxes (or lack thereof), or the outdoors, but the real comparative weight comes from two recycled quotations.
When poor health prevented him from attending a military reunion in 1809, New Hampshire's General John Stark, a famous soldier of the American Revolutionary War, wrote, “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” Almost 200 years later, the “Don't Mess with Texas” campaign tackled persistent problems with littering in the Lone Star State. All this is to say that the two states are kindred spirits — size excepted.
Today, the aforementioned quotes have taken on cultural significance far beyond their original intent. Both are synonymous with their states of origin, and since no one can mess with either, they'll likely never die.