Q: Texas has changed a bunch since Texas Monthly first hit the newsstands in 1973. I’m wondering: What does the Texanist foresee for the fifty years ahead?
Curious in Corsicana
A: Texas Monthly‘s fiftieth anniversary issue—of which this column is just one modest part—illustrates in brilliant detail the many transformations that Texas has undergone over the course of the past half century. It has been, for better (margaritas to go) and for worse (RIP Dublin Dr Pepper), a doozy of an evolution.
For one thing, there are many more Texans today than there were in 1973. The state’s population has gone from just over 12 million to 30 million. For another thing, back in 1973 some 80 percent of Texans were city dwellers, while 20 percent were country folk. In 2023 the split is closer to 90–10. That much growth and that much citification is bound to stir things up.
The notion that things change over time, though, is not a concept that the philosophers of ancient Greece or, really, anybody at all would find the least bit surprising. As Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys so jauntily sang, time changes everything. Well, not everything, actually; some things remain stubbornly the same, sometimes for the better (Big Red) and sometimes for the worse (cedar pollen).
So, what will change and what will stagnate in Texas over the next fifty years? What will get better? What will get worse? The truth is that no one can say with any real certainty. All the Texanist knows for sure is that fifty years from now, corny dogs will still taste better with mustard, not ketchup.
Yet even though the Texanist admits to possessing no special powers with regard to such prognostication, he will also admit that taking wild guesses about the future sounds like a whole lot of fun, and nice work if you can get it. So in that spirit, he will slip into his ceremonial bathrobe, don appropriate headgear, gaze intently into his bowling ball, and hazard a few postulations as to just what sort of world his 106-year-old future self might encounter.
The Magnificent Texanist, taking his cue from this special anniversary issue, will categorize his predictions similarly. To wit:
Food & Drink: The Texanist believes that in the year 2073 Texans will still be eating barbecue—though the meats we smoke may be grown in a lab, rather than a verdant pasture. And those lab-grown meats may be subject to an ever-increasing variety of spice rubs and sauces, as Texas’s population continues to diversify. It’s hazy, but the Texanist may see a link of Nepali-Texan-fusion yak sausage in his “crystal” ball. As for libations, Texas’s beer and booze scenes have become so accomplished in recent years that the Texanist can’t imagine how they could get any better. So on this matter he will simply pour himself another one and take a little breather.
Sports: The Texanist is going to go out on a limb here and estimate, with, let’s say, 99.9 percent certainty, that the Cowboys will make it to the postseason sometime between right now and 2073. But wait, could that be . . . ? Yes, the Texanist also sees a Super Bowl victory in the offing. And because there is justice in this world, the owner’s box at the time will be occupied not by Jerry Jones but by superfan Post Malone.
The Arts: When the Texanist received his Spotify year-end “wrapped” data in December, he was happy to see that his top five artists were Texans: cumbia deejay El Dusty, accordion king Ramon Ayala, ragtime piano master Scott Joplin, Willie Nelson, and, yes, Bob Wills. As that list makes clear, Texas’s musical genres are so varied that it’s difficult to imagine what the scene will sound like fifty years from now. The Texanist is sure, though, that a nonagenarian Beyoncé Knowles-Carter will absolutely kill it during a halftime performance at AT&T Stadium, a.k.a. “Post World.”
Style: Now here is a field in which the Texanist, a habitué of runways from Paris (Texas) to London (Texas) to Milano (southeast of Temple), is a bona fide authority. Though the country appears to be in for a few more revivals of the cowboy aesthetic over the next half century, he will reduce his most concrete prediction to two simple words: name belts. And maybe: pink guayaberas.
Business & Innovation: What will the state that gave the world the integrated circuit, the frozen-margarita machine, fake boobs, and the string trimmer have on tap for 2073? Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the taco bib.
Politics & History and, also, the Natural World: Okay, okay—the Texanist knows what you’re thinking: “Thanks for all the risk-free prognostications about food and sports and music and fashion and whatever the equivalent of the fake boob will be in 2073. But how about some meaty predictions with regard to things of actual consequence—like, say, politics or climate change?”
Fine, Cantankerous, er, Curious in Corsicana! But if there’s an arena where the Texanist’s eternal hopefulness is put to the test, it’s the political one, which right now is particularly full of ill will and a stubborn refusal to face the actual issues that are bedeviling our state. And if there’s another arena that has the Texanist profoundly consternated, it’s the condition of our great outdoors, which lately seems to have been plagued by invasive species, species extinctions, extreme heat, extreme flooding, and extreme drought. And earthquakes!
The Texanist, though, isn’t pessimistic when he looks toward the year 2073. Why? Well, he suspects it’s partly because he was sourced from two Texans who were so unfailingly optimistic that they always assumed the young Texanist would turn out okay, even though he gave them plenty of reasons to think otherwise. Their sunny natures seem to have rubbed off on him, a fact for which he’s always been grateful.
The Texanist’s optimism may be also partly due to his later life experiences; there were times, he’ll confess, during his early adulthood, when he was less sure than his folks that things would turn out okay. And yet here he is, all these decades later, happily married with a full-grown little Texanist of his own and a good job that compensates him semihandsomely for convincing tens of thousands of readers each month that his torrents of gibberish amount to some sort of homespun wisdom. Another thing for which the Texanist is grateful.
But, really, the main reason the Texanist feels optimistic is that he is a dedicated student of Texas history. And one thing he’s gleaned from that history is that the people who’ve inhabited this massive mass of land we call home have always had a knack for overcoming tribulations (even when, sometimes, the tribulations are self-inflicted). Think of the Alamo defenders, who, technically speaking, didn’t overcome their dire situation but triumphed nonetheless, in history’s eyes; or the enslaved Texans who feared liberation would never come; or the denizens of the Hill Country who wondered whether electrification would ever un-darken their doorsteps. Again and again, when the chips are down, Texans have managed to prevail.
That’s not an inevitability, of course. There is not, after all, some mystical essence called Texas that will save our bacon. It’s actual, living, breathing Texans, striving to preserve a mystical essence called Texas, who will save our bacon—even if that bacon happens to be lab grown.
Though the Magnificent Texanist has greatly enjoyed this exercise, predicting the future is a silly parlor game. Creating the future, by contrast, is the sacred work of every Texan alive today. We should get to it; time’s a-wasting.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.
This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Texanist.” Subscribe today.