Q: I am a Texan of advanced age who is hearing all the clamor surrounding health care. I grew up in Mineral Wells, drinking the famed water they merchandise, and I enjoy great health in my senior years. Would you think that perhaps we have overlooked the secret to good health that was once marketed as “Crazy Water”?
Scott Brookshire, Temple
A: Texans, according to statistics on such matters, can expect to continue breathing the sweet-smelling Texas air until the ripe old age of 78.27 years. This is a smidge below the national average of 78.61 years, but consider that Texans must live out their days in a land chock-full of venomous snakes, poisonous spiders, angry fire ants (see Critter), bucking broncos, jagged rocks, wildfires, harsh weather, and rank bulls, not to mention outlaws, crooks, crummy politicians, bad cops, mean teachers, and naked drivers (see “2013 Bum Steer Awards”). The Texanist must congratulate you, Mr. Brookshire, for having survived so long in these sometimes less-than-hospitable environs. However, he is not ready to credit the world-renowned waters of Mineral Wells as the cause of your healthful longevity. While your particular experience does seem to suggest the salubrious properties of these fluids, such has not been uniformly the case. Though very few people “take the waters” anymore, notable past visitors to the purportedly curative health spas include Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, LBJ, and possibly even Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Famous folks, indeed, but what’s most impressive about this bunch is the fact that Welk is the only one who made it past 65. Dorsey died at 51, Gable at 59, Garland at 47, LBJ at 64, and Bonnie and Clyde at 23 and 25 (though with no one to blame for their grisly demise but themselves). Since the Crazy Well was dug, in the early 1880’s, there have been lots of claims made on its behalf, but the Texanist can find no reliable proof that Mineral Wells is, in fact, the Fountain of Youth. To answer your question, this H2O probably does not, unfortunately, constitute “the secret to good health” and will likely cure what ails you only if what ails you happens to be a case of parchedness. Note, though, that the Crazy Water of your youth is being marketed once again under that brand name and is the only mineral water bottled in Texas. Bottoms up!
Q: Square-toed cowboy boots? Oxymoron?
Larry Patterson, Alpine
A: The Texanist gathers from the last half of your short letter that you are agin the toes of boots being square. And possibly even agin the cowboys who would choose to slip their piggies into such footwear. Folks are particular about their cowboy accoutrement, be it boots, hats, belts, spurs, or saddles. It was once a fairly well-accepted rule that a pair of pointier roach-killers would, almost without exception, be found exclusively on honky-tonking rounders, while a less pointy, roper-like toe was considered appropriate for your more conservative gentleman-rancher type. But before that, it had been common for a gentleman rancher to sport a pointier-toed boot. Over time, styles change, and since cowboy boots can serve an actual purpose while also serving as a vehicle for a little self-expression (for a good laugh, Google “Mexican pointy boots”), they have come in all shapes and sizes. However, this is not the same as saying that all shapes and sizes of cowboy boots should be worn. Remember not too long ago, when some cowpokes were wearing those lace-up-style boots, those frilly flaplike things that always remind the Texanist of something you’d find on a gal? So, to get back to your questions, the answers are, respectively, “No” and “Not really.”
Q: My husband and I (Texas natives both) were driving through the Great State of Texas on our way home to beautiful Colorado when we spied a confusing sight: two very tall flagpoles, bearing the Texas and U.S. flags. The one on the left bore the U.S. flag, flying proudly and correctly with the stars on the top left. The one on the right, however, was flying the Texas flag with the red on top. Although we’ve been away from Texas for a number of years, we are quite certain that the white goes on top. Other than a lack of knowledge as to proper flag protocol, could there be a significance to this upside-down flag-flying? Or is it acceptable, if unusual, to fly our Lone Star flag “red on top”?
Dawn James and John Staten, Durango, Colorado
A: This reminds the Texanist of a similar scenario that played out a few months ago near his office in downtown Austin in which, upon gazing out a window, he spied a Texas flag flying upside down atop the Ernest O. Thompson State Office Building, next door to the Governor’s Mansion. Being familiar with the particular Texas government code that deals with proper flag orientation (specifically Section 3100.053 of Subchapter A of Title 11; State Symbols and Honors, which says that “if the state flag is displayed on a flagpole or flagstaff, the white stripe should be at the top of the flag, except as a signal of dire distress in an instance of extreme danger to life or property”), the Texanist was worried. Imagining that a Die Hard–like tower heist was in progress, the Texanist took his concerns straight to the top. He tweeted at Governor Perry to go check on his neighbors, which the governor must have done, as the flag was quickly righted and the state workers went home like normal at the usual four o’clock hour. The Texanist only hopes that the custodians of the pole you and your husband sped past are not being held against their will by a group of devious European villains. Unless something is seriously amiss, the white stripe of the Lone Star flag should go on top.
Q: May I eat barbecue from a chain restaurant?
A: Oftentimes when the Texanist is struck with a hankering for a meal of smoked brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, sausage, pork chops, chicken, and beans, and slaw, and tater salad, and a fruit-filled fried pie, he fulfills his needs on the commercial barbecue market. Generally he eschews the chains, preferring more independent, mom-and-pop joints. Sometimes, though, when the options are chain-smoked meat or no meat at all, well, he is not above donning a disguise and darkening the door of a stainless steel–clad barbecue chain. In the Texanist’s mind, there is barbecue and then there is barbecue. But additionally there is home-cooked barbecue, which, truth be told, the Texanist prefers above all others. There’s nothing quite like waking up at the crack of a new Texas dawn to rub down raw meats with salt and course-ground pepper, among a few other secret spices, and then firing up the old backyard pit and settling in for the interminably long day of pit-tending and meat-checking and beer-drinking and waiting and waiting . . . Geez, the Texanist is hungry. You think that place over by the Container Store is open?
THE TEXANIST’S LITTLE-KNOWN FACT OF THE MONTH:
The most celebrated feat in trick roping—the one in which the lassoist spins a big vertical loop and then proceeds to hop jauntily through it from one side to the other and back and forth—was made famous by Will Rogers and is known as the Texas Skip.