There’s no better way to showcase your pride than by flying the Lone Star flag in front of your house on state holidays, but the true Texan knows a thing or two about how to do it correctly. The guidelines for handling the flag were first adopted in 1933 by the Legislature, and they are similar to those for the U.S. flag: it should be flown at night only if it is clearly illuminated; it should never touch the ground; and a tattered flag should be destroyed, preferably by burning.
After a harrowing skirmish with the Comanche in 1860, Charles Goodnight cut for sign to track down warriors who had escaped. That practice, in which a person searches for people or animals by “cutting,” or studying a section of land for clues, may seem like a lost art of the Old West, but it is still used today. “Ranchers cut for sign to find lost dogs and cattle or to find trespassing animals that could damage their property,” says Brad Guile, who lives near El Paso and used the technique when he was stationed at Fort Bliss.
According to an old wives’ tale, every animal has enough brain matter to tan its own hide. While the amateur tanner may not embrace that technique, rest assured there’s more than one way to tan a deer, so to speak. “Professionals often use harsh chemicals and acids,” says Durango-based master taxidermist Clay Wagner, who has been working with skins for 26 years.
Western-yoke, pearl-snap plaid shirts and straight-fit jeans may currently be trending, but custom-made belt buckles will never go out of style. “It’s an item you can wear every day for the rest of your life, then pass down to the next generation,” says Ingram’s Clint Orms, who has crafted buckles for clients ranging from ranch hands to Ralph Lauren during his 36-year career as a silversmith. But the style befitting a cowgirl in Alpine might not be best for a bank president in Dallas.
In Texas, a Thanksgiving spread without pecan pie is like Willie without Trigger. “People just expect it,” says Bud “the Pieman” Royer, whose restaurant, Royers Round Top Cafe, in Round Top, ships thousands of pies across the nation during the holidays. “It brings back memories of Grandma baking pecan pie in her kitchen.” But more important than nostalgia, serving the dessert is a matter of Texas pride—the pecan is, after all, our state tree.
This blistering summer has left Texas drier than a piece of gas station jerky. It was so hot that planes couldn’t take off from airports and train tracks were bent out of shape. And while Governor Rick Perry prayed for a downpour to end the drought, officials in Llano turned to water dowsing (also known as divining), which uses simple items such as sticks or rods to find water. “Some urban dwellers may think it sounds like magic beans, but it’s common practice around here,” says city manager Finley deGraffenried.
Hauling Herefords isn’t like towing a sailboat. A loaded stock trailer can weigh up to 30,000 pounds, and if you hook something that heavy to a bumper, you’ll drive away without your back end. “Gooseneck hitches are common in livestock operations,” says Joe Lewis, who has worked at Rosenberg-based Discount Hitch and Truck Accessories since 1996.
Catching a catfish with your bare hands has been a tradition passed down for generations, but it has only been legal in Texas since June 17. That’s when Governor Rick Perry signed a bill that officially permits noodling. “No one knows why it was illegal,” said Houston representative Gary Elkins, the author of the legislation, though some critics worry that the practice hurts the catfish population, because it occurs during the spring and summer spawning seasons.
When Sam Graves and his 22-year-old bay gelding, Old Hub, beat ten other cowboys to win $150 in the first advertised cutting competition, in Haskell in 1898, he could not have imagined how the sport would evolve. Today the National Cutting Horse Association, which hosts the World Championship Futurity, in Fort Worth, has more than 20,000 members and pays out more than $40 million to its champions. “Cutting is addictive,” says NCHA president Chris Benedict.
Any rodeo fan can don a Stetson, Wranglers, and a pair of Tony Lamas, but the cowboys in the arena are the ones who wear the spurs. “It’s like a knight in his armor,” says Joe Spiller, who’s been handcrafting them for 27 years and owns Spiller Spurs and Bits, in Wingate. The jangling accessories started out as a utilitarian training tool—riders use them to give movement cues to an animal by applying pressure to its sides—but they have also become a sort of social statement.