Q: How old need a boy be to receive the gift of a first gun?
A: Assuming that we are not speaking of some wild-assed hellion who will bury his relatives in a torrent of tiny steel balls the first time a firearm is laid in his hands, age is neither here nor there. The key to safely arming a young person is found in the guidance provided by the caretaker. If you are willing and able to teach your li’l shooter the finer points of gun use, you may start him early indeed. The Texanist knows whereof he speaks. He has been called a William Tell—cum—Lucas McCain, a modern-day Ad Toepperwein, Annie Oakley reincarnated in britches, and one heckuva shot. Once, he silenced revelers at a cocktail party by extinguishing a candle flame in the host’s living room with a Daisy Red Ryder from twenty paces. Many have surmised, as the nimbus of gun smoke cleared from yet another feat of marksmanship, that he must have been born with a gun in his hands. This was not the case. The Texanist, like many a tyke, climbed the firearms ladder— BB (Daisy), pellet (Crosman), .22 (Browning), 20-gauge (Browning)—under his father’s tutelage, and therefore has yet to shoot anything (or anybody) he didn’t aim to.
Q: I recently picked up my girlfriend to go out dancing and she laughed at me relentlessly just because I had my pants tucked into my boots. Did I really earn such ridicule by doing this? I thought it was cool. Is there a rule about tucking your pants into your boots?
Richard, via e-mail
A: The Texanist is unaware of any formal rule regarding the tucking of trousers into boots. But where he comes from, such an attempt at constructing a “honky-tonk look” for a Saturday night dance is likely to be regarded with harsh derision. The Texanist has seen men bullwhipped in parking lots for lesser transgressions. And since you brought it up, you should be forewarned that in some corners of the state tucking pants into boots may be construed as a preparation for the perpetration of an unholy act with a farm animal. Laws have been enacted to protect our livestock from despicable deeds such as these, and there should probably be a rule of fashion put in place to prevent a person from ever being misidentified as a farmyard Romeo. For the sake of your and your girl-friend’s reputations, as well as any sheep her father may own, the Texanist must vigorously warn against such outfits in the future.
Q: My colleague keeps trying to tell me that it is wrong to take extra sugar packets from a restaurant. Does doing so make me a thief?
A: The Texanist is afraid so. In his rule book, it is not right to walk out of a barbecue joint with bulging pockets of pickles, raw onion slices, and jalapeños, nor from a chili parlor with a bundle of Saltine crackers. Nor is it respectable to emerge from a watering hole with a stash of bar pretzels and mixed nuts, nor from a sushi bar with an armload of ginger and wasabi, nor from the proctologist’s with a box of latex gloves, a jar of petroleum jelly, and the latest waiting-room copy of Texas Monthly. Call the Texanist old-fashioned, but taking something for which you have not paid from a place of business sounds to him an awful lot like thievery.
Q: Did I miss the memo that said it is unsafe to give people a friendly wave in traffic these days? Why doesn’t anybody do it anymore?
A: Unfortunately, getting the lifted index finger, or the hi sign, as it is sometimes called, from an oncoming pickup driven by an old farmer in overalls and a slightly askew gimme cap who’s chewing on a piece of wheat straw has, as you point out, become a rarity. It is just another slice of a simpler time that is slowly falling victim to the ever-encroaching go-go hurly-burly of city life, with all the drive-through coffee shops, 24-hour Super Wal-Marts, and Wi-Fi-enabled gentlemen’s clubs. However, this is a practice the Texanist is unwilling to let go of. And so, when on the occasional foray to our state’s larger metropolitan areas, he treats his fellow drivers on the humming thruways no differently than he would back home. While Houston’s Loop 610 at drive time may not be as picturesque as Texas 118 through the Davis Mountains, the Texanist forgives it and simply relishes the chance to “Drive Friendly—The Texas Way” with so goddam many of his citified countrymen.
Q: When I’m at a crowded bar, what’s the best way to get the bartender’s attention?
Andy Krauss, Hillsboro
A: Here is what you do: Wedge yourself through the thirsty throng until you have a hand on the bar, preferably a hand that is clenching a bill of at least a Jacksonian denomination (this will act as a beacon to any barkeep worth his margarita salt). A common mistake at this point is to begin scanning the crowd for a comely lass with whom to make eyes while you wait. Do not succumb to this temptation! You must be vigilant, like a hawk! Maintain a fixed gaze on the mixologist. Ignore the girlish giggles coming from what you imagine to be a glistening Brazilian supermodel in a red leather miniskirt sizing you up for her dastardly erotic schemes. You do not want to miss the barman’s passing glance. Once the green guiding light of your bill is noticed, his attention will be undivided and yours. Libation in hand, turn and give the supermodel a—Holy Mother of God! It’s your old high school guidance counselor, the one whose sessions always left you feeling a little funny. What’s she doing here? And what is she doing with that maraschino cherry? The Texanist, sorry to say, has no advice to offer for this peculiar situation. You’re on your own.