Linda Provence has lived in the same neat brick ranch house in Bedford, Texas, just outside Fort Worth, for more than 50 years. On the wood-paneled walls of her living room hang black-and-white photos of her mother and father, who abandoned her as an infant, and of a company of Texas Rangers, circa 1887, in wide-brimmed hats with long guns. It’s said that Fort Worth is where the West begins, and these images—like the lasso hung decoratively over the couch and the bucking bronco sculpture on the mantle—speak to the ethos of self-reliance that’s especially cherished in this part of the state.
Provence was born in rural Paris, Texas. When she was 12, she came to live in Fort Worth with her aunt, a nurse, and uncle, a milkman. She married and raised two children. In 1992, after her husband ran off with a high school sweetheart, Provence was left with a lien on the house and crushing credit card debt. She took jobs at Dillard’s, as a cashier, and with Citigroup Inc., in customer service, where she worked for 18 years, paying off the house and her Honda. “I was proud of myself for that,” she tells me on a recent visit.