texanist rattlesnakes
Can I shoot a rattlesnake in my suburban backyard?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: I live in a subdivision on the western edge of San Antonio, and recently I found a fairly large rattlesnake in my backyard. I reacted just as I was taught by my daddy to react in such a situation: with one blast from a 20-gauge. This alarmed my neighbors, and now I feel like they look down on me as some sort of rowdy hillbilly, which I can assure you I am not. I don’t see how I could have handled the encounter any differently. Do you?
Name Withheld

A: There was a time, about a century ago, when almost the entirety of the state’s citizenry made their homes outside our bustling urban centers. These were sturdy, self-reliant, God- (and snake-) fearing people. People like your father, who took care of many a perceived threat with a barrel or two of hot lead. But according to the last census figures, the state’s population of hearty country folk has dwindled to a paltry 15.3 percent. As ruralists pull up stakes and move to town with the newly arrived Californians, our metropolitan areas respond by expanding into the hitherto-rural hinterlands. What was Old Brown’s back four hundred yesterday is the brand-new Colinas de Serpientes de Cascabel subdivision today. But in the midst of our transition to a state full of urbanites and suburbanites, some Texans (the Texanist is looking at you) have managed to hold on to their rural roots just as firmly as they have clung to their scatterguns. The old saying, it seems, sometimes holds true: you can take the shotgun-toting boy out of the country, but you just can’t take the shotgun out of the country boy’s hands. The thing is, while a thunderous discharge—whether it be focused in the general direction of a dove, sporting clay, old rusty bucket, or supposed venomous trespasser—may be nothing to you, your less-countrified neighbors are sure to frown, as they have, on such a ruckus. So will your local law enforcers. Like it or not, the new realities of your changing environs would have you leave the gun under the bed and the snake to the professionals, who will “take care of it”—albeit in a slightly different manner than that of your daddy.

Q: I recently started dating a guy with a mustache, and now I’ve come to realize that I hate mustaches. I’ve tried to get him to shave it off, but he refuses because he thinks it makes him look tough. I keep telling him it just makes him look silly, but he keeps insisting that guys with mustaches are tough. What are your thoughts about mustaches and how they relate to a male Texan’s perceived toughness?
Name Withheld

A: Your beau’s toughness barometer is ridiculous and fatally flawed. Among the Texanist’s associates, there are at least as many effeminate milquetoasts who wear bushy horseshoes as there are tough cusses with faces as smooth as satin skivvies. There simply is no correlation between a man’s mettle, or lack thereof, and his mustache, or lack thereof. The Texanist provides the following list of mustachioed Texans (some fictional) for your boyfriend’s perusal.

Texas Ranger Cordell Walker 
(with beard)
Texas Ranger Woodrow F. Call 
(with Kenny Rogers beard)
Kenny Rogers 
(with Kenny Rogers beard)
Freddy Fender
Dr. Red Duke
Dr. Phil
Mean Joe Greene 
(sometimes with beard)
Randy White
Zachary Scott
O. Henry

A few minutes with this list will easily impress upon him that facial hair has nothing whatsoever to do with brawniness. The fact is, a mustache is as likely to make a man tough as it is to make him a barbershop quartet tenor, cowboy poet, cop, female Mexican painter, or soon-to-be-formerly-bewhiskered boyfriend.

Q: Recently I had some car trouble in the Dallas area. After standing by my vehicle with jumpers in my hand and watching cars drive by, I politely requested a jump from a passerby who I assumed to be a fellow Texan. The man refused outright because he “had children at home.” I was shocked that this staple courtesy was declined. If the man was a Texan, does this disqualify him from full Texan status?
Name Withheld

A: Texans are a driving people blessed with an abundance of wide-open spaces, and the various destinations that make up our daily comings and goings are often separated by miles and miles of blacktop. Everybody knows that just as sure as the state motto of Texas is “Friendship,” the number one mantra of automobiling Texans is “Drive Friendly—The Texas Way.” That’s just how we roll across this state. Or at least the Texanist thought it was. Thankfully, the discourteous galoot with whom you crossed paths is an exception to the rule, an outlier—a no-good, unmannerly outlier. Stripping this fool of his Texan credentials and deporting him to, say, Oklahoma seems a bit harsh, but the Texanist, a very friendly driver, is a believer in “car-ma.” This man will find himself in need of a jump one day, and that’s when he’ll get his, which is to say, he won’t get his at all. Happy motoring.

Q: What is the appropriate sock wear for boots? White athletic socks seem too thick, and dress socks can get too hot in the summer. Is it ever acceptable to “go commando” when wearing boots?
Kirk Farmer, Kansas City, Missouri

A: The Texanist has been known to offer strong opinions on the subject of outerwear, formal wear, footwear, and head wear, but he generally steers clear of undergarments. What a man wears beneath his pants or inside his boots is strictly the bailiwick of that man, and perhaps that man’s doctor. That said, the Texanist is reminded of a question he once received about how to break in boots. The foot-boot relationship, he postulated at the time, is akin to the union of man and woman. Time spent together is the key. Similarly, with regard to booting up commando-style, the Texanist would simply advise you to take it slow, be on the lookout for signs of resistance, and advance only when both you and your naked foot are comfortable with it.