Texas for Dummies

If you're new to the state, then you don't know your Amarillo from your armadillo. Here's my advice for getting your ox out of the ditch.

All my adult life I've been in the practice of giving advice to people who are happier than I am. I'm sure, like most born-again Texans, you're probably thrilled right now about moving here. Oh, you've no doubt heard stories about the wide-open spaces being mostly between people's ears, but you didn't believe them. Now, the prospect of being a Texan may make you happier than 95 percent of all dentists in America, but that doesn't mean you're going to fit in. Remember, happiness, like Texas, is a highly transitory state. So my first advice to you is the same admonition I shout every time I pass a wedding in progress: "Stop before it's too late!"

But maybe you've really set your ears back, and you're hell-bent on becoming a real Texan like John Wayne, who was from Iowa, or George Walker Bush, who is from Connecticut, or Molly Ivins, who is from California, or Jerry Jeff Walker, who is from New York. In that case, the least you can do is follow these few simple rules of the road for all modern Bubbas and Bubbettes. This, my fine-feathered foreign friend, is friendly advice, freely given. Follow it—or get the death penalty.

1. Get you some brontosaurus-foreskin boots and a big ol' cowboy hat. Always remember, only two kinds of people can get away with wearing their hats indoors: cowboys and Jews. Try to be one of them.

2. Get your hair fixed right. If you're male, cut it into a "mullet" (short on the sides and top, long in the back—think Billy Ray Cyrus). Or you can leave it long on top and cut it short on the sides and back. When you take off your cowboy hat, you'll have what I like to refer to as the Lyle Lovett Starter Kit. If you're female, make it as big as possible, with lots of teasing and hair spray. If you can hide a buck knife in there, you're ready. Grooming tip: If you can't find curlers big enough, use empty Dr Pepper cans.

3. Don't make the most common mistake all non-Texans make when they come down here—confusing Amarillo with the armadillo. Amarillo is a town in the Panhandle full of people who don't like being mistaken for armadillos. They're very conservative politically. The armadillo is a gentle creature. It tends to be much more middle of the road.

4. Buy you a big ol' pickup truck or a Cadillac. I myself drive a Yom Kippur Clipper. That's a Jewish Cadillac—stops on a dime and picks it up.

5. Just because you can drive on snow and ice where you come from does not mean you can drive in a Texas downpour. When it rains hard, stay home. If you have to drive, get on the highway, move into the fast lane, and go no faster than 35 miles per hour. If you have to drive at night, watch out for the deer. Only hit the ones with huge antlers because they make the best wall hangings. Christmas gift tip: Make you a nice fur coat with antlers and give it to your mother-in-law.

6. Don't be surprised to find small plastic bags of giant dill pickles in local convenience stores.

7. If you hear a redneck exclaim, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will ever say.

8. Remember: "Y'all" is singular, "all y'all" is plural, and "all y'all's" is plural possessive.

9. Texans have a strange way of talking. Get used to it. In my experience, I've always heard the word "Jewish" pronounced with only one syllable, such as, "He's Juush." When they pronounce the word "Jew," of course, it's invariably with about eleven syllables. An example of this would be: "She married a Jeeeeeeewwwww!"

10. Don't call it "soda" or "pop." It's all Coke unless it's Dr Pepper.

11. Don't pet the dog standing in the back of the pickup no matter how small or how cute. All truck dogs are dangerous weapons. But a dog that is not in the back of a pickup is another story. We Texans love our dogs. Like we always say: "Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail."

12. It is now legal to carry a concealed weapon in Texas. As a result, crime has gone down. An unfortunate side effect, however, is that there are now about 18 million ambulatory time bombs any place you go just waiting for Dustin Hoffman to pound on the hood and shout, "I'm walkin' here!" As for myself, I don't carry a weapon. If anybody wants to kill me, he's going to have to remember to bring his own gun.

13. Everything goes better with picante sauce. No exceptions.

14. Be sure you have a favorite football team. Be sure it is the Dallas Cowboys.

15. Don't tell us how you did it up there. Nobody cares.

From KINKY FRIEDMAN'S GUIDE TO TEXAS ETIQUETTE, by Kinky Friedman, to be published in October by Cliff Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2001 by Kinky Friedman. All Rights Reserved.

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