How do I confront a neighbor who let's his dog mess in my yard?
How do I confront a neighbor who let’s his dog mess in my yard?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: I have a so-called “neighbor” who lets his dogs relieve themselves, usually in the early morning hours, on lawns not his own. I find this incredibly offensive and have taken the “product” and thrown it back on his driveway, on his front porch, and on the hood of his SUV in hopes he will get the message. My wife says I am asking for trouble. What should my next step be?
Paul, Pearland

A: Texans do not take well to those who would trespass on private property, and they take even less well to those who would defecate on it. But they take least well to those who would trespass on it, defecate on it, and then leave without cleaning up. Although the lawns in your neighborhood are probably not surrounded with barbed-wire fences, they are no less private, and no less proudly held, than the acres upon acres of Texas pasture that constitute our state’s great ranches. When your neighbor’s canine craps on these lawns, he has not simply shat on the grass. He has pooped on our principles, and no self-respecting Texan can be expected to tolerate such a thing without retaliation. Yet seeing as how the imaginative tactics that you have already employed have been altogether ineffective, it is unlikely that even more drastic measures would bring about a different outcome. It appears that you have been drawn into a stinky contest of wills, but your wife is probably right in saying that a favorable resolution is not likely to be found by further escalating the friction. Fortunately (or unfortunately) this problem is so widespread that many communities, including Pearland, have enacted “pooper scooper” ordinances, which compel a pet’s owner to scoop and properly dispose of his animal’s waste. Reporting the offender to the proper authorities may not feel as good as, say, physically rubbing his nose in it, but then Pearland probably has an ordinance against that too, and the Texanist would rather not have you win the battle only to end up in the city doghouse for assault and battery.

Q: Please help settle an argument between me and a Yankee co-worker who claims that he hosted a July Fourth “barbecue.” I asked him if he served sausage and brisket and he said, “No, hamburgers and hot dogs.” I told him that he had “grilled.” He argues that barbecuing and grilling are synonymous. I say he’s crazy. He is, right?
Brittney Bain, Washington, D.C.

A: There is no contest here; grilling is apples and barbecuing is oranges. Or, as you are correctly trying to impart to your colleague, grilling is hamburgers and hot dogs, barbecuing is brisket and sausage. Whatever it was that he hosted on Independence Day, it was no “barbecue.” That said, you would be wise to prepare yourself for a rebuttal from him that will no doubt involve the reading of a few dictionary entries. Oddly, if one turns to Merriam-Webster, your friend appears to be more right than wrong. But then, the Merriam brothers and Webster were also of the Northern persuasion. Nevertheless, these facts amount to nothing more than a pesky referential technicality and in no way allow this Yankee fool to don the victor’s crown in this particular backyard beef. You win. Congratulations.

Q: The Texas flag, in my mind at least, is as revered a symbol as there is. But it causes a great rankling in me when I see it plastered on beer koozies, bikinis, and everything in between. Is it just me, or is treating our state flag this way okay these days?
Justin Tomlinson, Brownsville

A: The desecration of our banner by gewgaw peddlers is lamentably nothing new, but the examples you cite do seem to indicate that the situation is worsening, and in addition to the great rankling you describe, they also cause the Texanist to feel a great perturbation, a major vexing, and a terrible chapping of the ass. A combination of misplaced pride and ignorance of the codes that govern the proper treatment of our state’s flag are likely responsible. Consider Section 3100.070 (under title 11, subtitle A, chapter 3100, subchapter A), “Limitations on Display,” which outlines the proper scenarios and conditions in which our banner should be displayed. You will find nary a recommendation to have it emblazoned on koozies, bikinis, or urinal cakes. These are improper displays, all. Were the Texanist you, the next time he came upon such flagrant abuse, he would empty the objectionable items of their contents and perform a public ceremony of retirement for them.

Q: My husband has put on more than thirty pounds since we were married, just five years ago. I’ve had two kids and gained next to nothing. Now he’s so sensitive about his weight that it’s not even up for discussion. How can I get him to start exercising and watching what and how much he eats if he won’t even talk about it?
Name Withheld

A: A man the Texanist once knew (not the Texanist) went through a similar though not quite so severe postmarital transformation. He too was affected in such a way as to not want to be mercilessly ridiculed by his beloved and then forced to talk about it. If memory serves, the Texanist seems to recall the helpmate in that case holding certain “favors” in a sort of “escrow” until a time when the man (again, not the Texanist) was able to hit an agreed-upon poundage. The Texanist does remember very clearly thinking at the time that this was as low-down and underhanded a technique as he’d ever come across. And although he does seem to recall that it worked like a charm for that guy’s wife, he in no way would ever in a million years recommend it. Simply try having your husband, the man you love, the man who helped bring about your two children, cut back on the butter and drink a lighter brand of beer. He’ll be in shipshape soon enough.