texanist teaching

Can a non-native Texan teach Texas history?

Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q:It recently came to my attention that my daughter’s seventh-grade Texas history teacher is a California native who received her college education in Utah. Is this legal?
Name Withheld   

A: The Texanist’s seventh-grade Texas history lessons were delivered to him at Temple’s James B. Bonham Middle School, an institute of learning with whose namesake your poor daughter is likely unfamiliar. This saddens the Texanist, but it turns out that no official laws were broken with regard to her teacher’s bona fides, or lack thereof. Still, your fretfulness is warranted. Consider, for example, the country miles between your daughter’s instructor and E. A. “Boots” Simmons, who educated the Texanist on the same subject. If it were left up to the Texanist, all the state’s seventh-grade Texas history teachers would be cut from this man’s mold. Coach Simmons (he also coached football, of course) was an imposing figure at the front of the classroom, much as he had been on the gridiron in the early forties, when he was a star at Texas A&M, playing alongside Aggie legend Jarrin’ John Kimbrough, before being drafted by the Chicago Cardinals, in 1943, and then going on to serve in World War II. A native of Somerville, Coach Simmons was passionate about Texas history, and any student who disregarded this passion was quickly reminded of it, courtesy of the big stick Coach Simmons toted around to thwack daydreamers’ desks. The Texanist was shaped by his time in that classroom—and also, to some degree, by that stick. Had he been placed in the hands of a lesser teacher, like the Utah-educated Californian your daughter is being subjected to, it’s quite possible that the Texanist would not be dispensing his signature fine advice today, or if he was, that it would concern another subject altogether, such as ductwork or vacuums or checking accounts. Not having our state’s rich and colorful history taught by the likes of an E. A. “Boots” Simmons is not a crime, but it is a real shame, and one that should be remedied immediately.

Q: I am a resident assistant at a University of Texas at Austin dorm, and I am putting together some student activity options for the summer. Last year, tubing on the Guadalupe River, in New Braunfels, was very popular, and I’m going to suggest it again this year. In writing the “Trip Tips,” however, I’m not sure how to address the current alcohol policy down there, because I’m not sure what the current policy is. What are the latest rules regarding alcohol consumption on the river?
Terry Brown, Austin

A: Tubing the Guadalupe or Comal rivers on a hot summer day has been a rite of passage for many of our state’s young folk for as long as those two chilly crystalline ribbons have flowed from their Hill Country headwaters. And wherever there are young folk enjoying a respite from the Texas heat, there is also likely to be a fair amount of ice-cold cans of alcohol in the vicinity. But in 2011 the citizens of New Braunfels grew tired of the flotsam being tossed into their rivers by knuckleheaded tubers and approved an ordinance that became known as the “can ban.” In addition to banning aluminum cans, the law also restricted cooler sizes. Alcohol itself was never banned, but the most convenient container for it was. So for the past two floating seasons, it has been more difficult, though not impossible, to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while tubing in New Braunfels. Early this year, however, a judge deemed both the can ban and the cooler size restrictions unconstitutional and threw down a permanent injunction. The City of New Braunfels is appealing the judge’s decision, but in the meantime, the ban on the can ban stands (which has made the original measure more of a “can’t ban,” if you will). Large coolers full of ice-cold beer on the river are once again de rigueur for the floating public. Glass, Styrofoam, and a few other items and activities remain no-no’s, but alcohol consumption is, as it ought to be, allowed. Just make sure your charges pack out what they pack in.

Q: My husband will sometimes wear a denim Western shirt with his blue jeans when we go out on the weekends, and when he does this, I always make fun of him for it. But now I’m seeing that this has become a fashion trend. Is denim on denim okay now?  
Elise Barker, Houston

A: The Texanist has never been a patrolman for the Fashion Police, and in fact, he has a somewhat checkered past with this unit. It is possible, even, that he is on some kind of Most Wanted list, if such a thing exists. One of the prized workhorses in his sartorial stable, for example, is a shirt-jac, a garment with a jacket’s general make and a shirt’s sleeves, that was purchased for him by his dear deceased mother at Cochran, Blair & Potts, in Belton (the state’s oldest department store), more than a quarter century ago. Fashionably criminal, according to some. Still, the Texanist is not blind. Though he declines to clad his own form in finery, he can still spot a snappy dresser or a burgeoning trend when he sees one. And sometimes when he does see one, he’ll make a mental note to incorporate that “look” into his own wardrobe. Such was the case with the incomparable stylings of Otis, a man who used to help out on the Texanist’s dad’s little spread and who was also a daily practitioner of the denim-on-denim effect you describe, which frankly the Texanist has always admired. If you find something that works and then stay that course, you’ll eventually wind up on the cutting edge. Congratulations to your husband. As for you, the Texanist advises jumping on the blue-jean bandwagon before it’s too late.

Q: I am a subscriber who lives in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois. My daughter and grandkids live in Coppell. I am a frequent visitor and make it a point to visit the state fair every year. There is one food vendor by the Cotton Bowl that serves Polish sausage on a stick. It’s Hans Mueller Sausage. In all my sixty years of consuming encased meat and declaring myself an encased-meat expert, this stands out as the best I have ever had. I crave it but have not had any luck finding a website for this company. Can you help?
Bob Miller, Winthrop Harbor, Illinois

A:Once upon a time, Hans Mueller’s sausages, which date back to 1897, were available year-round in Dallas, New Braunfels, and Kaiserslautern, Germany. They were even advertised in the pages of this magazine. That was then, though. Now, Hans Mueller Sausage is found only at the state fair and one or two other Dallas-area events. The original business folded back in the late eighties, but the Hans Mueller name and, more importantly, the sausage recipes were assumed by the Yoakum Packing Company, out of Yoakum, an outfit with a robust website that offers Polish sausages on sticks. A word of warning, however, as this is not the Hans Mueller stick sausage you’re after. But cheer up. They tell the Texanist that if you contact them the old-fashioned way, by mail (500 Front St., Yoakum, TX 77995) or by telephone (361-293-3541), they will hook you up. How about that? If only the fair’s most popular stick food, Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dogs, were so readily available.

The Texanist’s Little-Known Fact of the Month:
The paper wrappers on Dairy Queen’s dipped (or undipped, if that’s the way you like it) ice cream cones are affixed to the cones with a sweet dab of corn syrup, and not a dollop of toxic glue. The Texanist usually gets his Brown Derby “with legs” (i.e. to go) and “loafers” (i.e. a squirt of chocolate in the bottom of the cone.

A note from the Texanist: Since the Texanist’s debut, in July 2007, every one of his columns has been skillfully edited by Texas Monthly editor in chief Jake Silverstein. Alas, this will be the last column edited by Mr. Silverstein, as he has abandoned the Texanist to take a job as editor in chief of the New York Times Magazine, in New York City. The Texanist will never forgive him for this and cannot fathom why anyone would elect to leave the great state of Texas for that den of vice, corruption, delicious pizza, and abundant hot dogs. Nonetheless, on behalf of his colleagues, he wishes Mr. Silverstein and his family all the best.