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.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available at [email protected] Write to him there and be sure to tell him where you’re from.