The tagline that accompanies the Texanist column in print each month reads, “Offering Fine Advice and Keen Observations Since 2007.” It wasn’t always this way. Prior to the August 2016 edition, this piece of text simply read, “Offering Fine Advice Since 2007.”
The modification signaled a change for a column that had for some nine years been a fairly straight rendition of a semi-spoof of a traditional advice column, the type for which the author takes letters from readers and provides answers to questions or some sort of guidance for a wide array of situations. In its original form, the Texanist, authored by me, David Courtney, covered all manner of tex-centric material. Charcoal or propane? When out at a dance hall, do you really need to “stick with the one that brung ya?” Is it wrong to wear your team’s football jersey to church? Can a person have too many Texas-themed tattoos? Is it real Tex-Mex if it’s served with black beans? You get the idea.
The column that appeared in the May 2016 issue included a special “From the Desk of the Texanist” note. The short postscript explained why the illustration that accompanied that month’s edition was a repeat, having originally appeared in the July 2009 issue. The reason was that Jack Unruh, the hall-of-fame illustrator who had lent his unique perspective to the Texanist since the column’s debut, in July 2007, had fallen ill with cancer and was unable to make his usual contribution. Before he died in May, he rallied for the next issue and provided a stunning image for the June 2016 column’s lead topic, which had to do with the propriety of making a wedding gift of a Vietnamese potbellied pig. Alas, Jack, who was eighty, succumbed to the disease and the column that appeared in the July issue served as a memorial to him. He had been such an integral part of the Texanist, bringing the column and the Texanist character to life in more than a hundred illustrations over the years, that he deserved every one of the words dedicated to him and more.
With Jack gone and nine years of doling out “advice” in the Texanist’s inimitable third-person voice in the rearview mirror, it was, I felt, time for a change. So, in August of 2016, a column under the headline “A Man of Letters” filled the back page, along with the updated tagline. In lieu of the “Fine Advice,” I would focus on writing essays in the Texanist’s voice. This would be the kickoff of “a new era” for the Texanist, featuring an “enhanced format.” The ensuing year was filled with such subjects as my daughter’s Hill Country summer camp, which was also her mother’s summer camp, and, oddly, her mother’s mother’s summer camp, as well as perhaps even more oddly, my own mother’s summer camp; a longstanding University of Texas at Austin football tailgate party that I’m involved with; my dad’s late-seventies stint as the mayor of Temple; cooking chili (with beans!); legal casino gambling on a rickety vessel off of Port Aransas; and the mysterious origins of Lubbock’s Chilton cocktail.
And then the August 2017 column included yet another “From the Desk of the Texanist” memo. The gist of this special note was that “after a much-too-long hiatus from taking letters and doling out his signature fine advice, the Texanist, in response to what he perceives to be popular demand, has dusted off his consultative lid, peeked into the old mailbag, and has, for the first time in a long time, made himself of some actual use.” Since then, the Texanist has continued his tradition of offering fine advice coupled with his keen observations.
In the summer of 2022, the Texanist celebrated its fifteenth anniversary. Both he and I are grateful for the longevity and are looking forward to the future.