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The Texanist: Can Self-Respecting West Texans Use Umbrellas?

A West Texas native wonders if umbrellas are for sissies.

By January 2018Comments

Illustration by Tim Bower

Q: I am a native Texan and was born and raised in West Texas. I lived there most of my life. Now, I live in Austin. I once read that self-respecting West Texans don’t use umbrellas when it rains and I actually find it very difficult to use an umbrella, even in Austin during rain, because of my West Texas upbringing. I think umbrellas are for sissies. Do you agree?

Lanie Tobin Hill, Austin

A: The Texanist will admit, right off the bat, that he’s never in all of his fifty-plus years ever heard the claim that West Texans are reared to have a disdain for umbrellas. Of course, the Texanist does hail from Central Texas, a place, by the way, that is peopled with a breed of Texan that is neither umbrella averse nor particularly sissified. But the Texanist’s mother was a native Abilenian and, additionally, he has a number of West Texan kinfolk. The Texanist also counts a good many West Texans among his numerous friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. Still, he’s never heard this before. The Texanist is also the Texanist, a man who makes a living by observing, researching, and commenting on the behaviors of Texans, including but not limited to North Texans, South Texans, East Texans, Central Texans, West Texans, expat Texans, and dime-store Texans. He doesn’t know it all, but over the years he has accumulated a trove of obscure tidbits about his fellow countrymen. He has racked his brain to trying to summon up anything about West Texans and umbrellas, to no avail. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

The Texanist knows for a fact that his mother, a tough but elegant woman who visited the beauty shop regularly, would not hesitate for a minute to open up an umbrella in the case of rain. And neither did she ever impart to her youngest son anything about umbrellas or umbrella etiquette—other than you don’t open ‘em up indoors. Searching for any evidence at all to prove out your assertion, the Texanist ran it by one of his coworkers, a nice fellow from Andrews—way, way out there in West Texas. He had not heard this either and even took it upon himself to poll his family—lifelong West Texans, all. The Texanist’s associate’s mom has two umbrellas, one in the house and another in the car. His Mama Joyce and Granddad have one, and his Granny and Papa Carl have two between them. He also recalls bleachers full of spectators at drizzly outdoor sporting events popping open umbrellas without shame.

West Texas is an arid windswept, sunbaked, sandblasted landscape full of dust devils and tumbling tumbleweeds, but it is also prone to occasional gully-washing torrents, which can spring up out of nowhere. There are definitely times when an umbrella would come in handy. Now, there are, the Texanist recognizes, a couple of aspects of West Texas life that render umbrella usage pretty infrequent. For one, it doesn’t rain a whole lot. For two, it can be windy as hell, making the unfurling of an umbrella a dicey proposition. For three, the distances between point A and point B can be hundreds of miles, which means that people don’t walk much—especially when it’s raining.

But when West Texans do find themselves out in a storm, they know what to do. The region is full of proud and hardy people, but they are also a decidedly unfoolish lot and would not purposefully stand out in a downpour unprotected like some sort of rain-doused dolt.

To sum up, the Texanist, speaking from both his personal and non-sissified experience and an excessive (given the subject matter) amount to research, is of the opinion that umbrellas are more often found in the hands of normal, right-thinking people who don’t want to get soaked in the rain than in the hands of sissies. This goes for West Texas and everywhere else in the world. Is it possible that your whole damp approach to getting around in the rain is based not on something you “once read” but on something you once dreamed you read? Or—and the Texanist hates to raise this possibility, but if honesty is the best policy, he feels compelled to do so—is it possible that you made up this whole thing, just to get a rise out of us Central Texans?

Also, the Texanist is just curious: Where do you stand on parasols?

The Texanist’s How-to Guide: Not Winning a Bum Steer Award

In reviewing the numerous Bum Steer recipients that appear in this year’s assemblage of asinine actors, the Texanist has concluded that most of the misdeeds, misadventures, and malfeasances that earned them such indecorous decoration were entirely preventable. All Texans have at their disposal a resource intended to prevent such unwelcome notoriety. Before involving themselves in the types of bad behavior for which these awards are granted, all a would-be doer of dishonorable, degrading, or despicable deeds need do is simply stop, step away, take a breath, consider the wise words of the early American advice purveyor Benjamin Franklin, who penned the familiar maxim “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and then procure pen and paper, a computer keyboard, or a smartphone, and reach out to yours truly. Fine advice is not only how the Texanist butters his bread, it’s the means by which a self-respecting Texan can keep him- or herself out of a self-inflicted pickle.

To avail yourself of this invaluable service, use the contact information located in the box thingy over to your left. And in the meantime, here’s to a happy New Year, one hopefully free of Bum Steer–worthy buffoonery.

Send your own questions to [email protected] and don’t forget to tell him where you’re from.

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  • Jed

    the humor of repeatedly using the word “sissy” in the 21st century is lost on me.

    perhaps west texans (and texanists) should be concerned with the implications of using that word still before worrying about umbrellas.

  • eva_b

    West Texans don’t use umbrellas because the time between rains–usually about 364 days–is just about the time needed to lose the one they bought the last time it rained. It bangs around in the back seat of the car for several months until the realization hits that it’s not going to rain again for months, whereupon it is removed from the car. Then suddenly one day in March or April, while said West Texan is going on about their busy day, a bank of black clouds rolls in. All closets are duly ransacked, the trunk is searched, and out of desperation the WT runs into the friendly neighborhood department store, where he discovers that others in town have beaten him to the 20 odd umbrellas that were kept in stock, and there’s none to be had. As the WT, who is already soaked to the skin, leaves said department store, he notices that water is running in the streets, but the rain has stopped, and the sun is streaming from spaces between the clouds, which are drifting off to the south. After a few years of this, the realization dawns that umbrellas are unnecessary.

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    • Capkirk

      Excellent Point !! Been in WT all my life ( with the exception of 18 misplaced months in the “70s in the panhandle with my 1st Ex wife) and I as well as my current wife 0f 44 years, also a WT girl, use an umbrella on the day it rains if we can find it.

  • Jeronimo Dan

    Go back some sixty years and most all men in West Texas wore a western style hat and that was wore in any and all types of weather. Come into large cities and you’d find men wearing fedora’s and that also with suits and ties. Women, not sure, but bonnet’s just won’t stand up to a rain storm, even if heavily starched. I’d say umbrella’s were very common with women when shopping, even in West Texas. If they should have the cost of one.

    Parasols, only at garden parties and cemetery visits.

  • CrusaderAXE

    In the Army, it has been practice for a long time that soldiers do not carry umbrellas. They do not use umbrellas. Of course, a set of BDUs, a patrol cap and Goretex jacket with Danner or Goretex boots make it kind of redundant. After retiring and working in Seattle and Tacoma and Olympia where it does rain a lot, I discovered that if I was going to be out and was going to be so far away from my car that it was a problem, I needed to park closer. Also, I wore a lot of tweed. Now I live in southern California, which I despise. Don’t see a lot of umbrellas thanks to the drought we’re supposedly done with, and I suspect many Californians would find them…too complex by far. Having lived in Texas for a while back in the days when I dressed largely like a tree, I noticed that Texans have strong opinions on a lot of stuff; only if there is a handbook like at Texas A&M where anything that happened twice (stationed in Bryan, working with the reserves, so I have an anthropological acquaintance with the university) becomes a tradition is there uniformity. So, I’ll never carry an umbrella but I just see that as a residual effect, like PTSD.

  • GusMitchem

    Maybe you find no record cause this goes without saying, and definitely without writing down….the rain in West Texas is to be celebrated, not covered from and not even scurried about. I once even had a friend that celebrated such a rain in damm near his birthday suit.

    Takes a bit more than some rain to ruffle a West Texan, then again every time it rains it hails and no umbrella made will protect in that situation

  • JocelynCavanaugh

    I’m a West Texan who struggles to make myself use an umbrella. Never thought much about it, but the wind is probably a big factor. I’m also a Red Raider, and we wear flip-flops in the snow sometimes. Not sure why that is, either. We also throw tortillas on football fields. *West Texas shrug*

  • MEMD

    My father always said a West Texas 10 inch rain was when the rain drops fell 10 inches apart.

  • WD Smith

    That is what yer cowboy hat is fer! But they come in handy for shade, and to ward off skeeters!