Q: Texans who live outside Texas always talk about how much they miss the “big Texas sky.” But what makes the sky in Texas bigger than the sky anyplace else? Is our sky any bigger than the one people in, say, Iowa gawk at? I don’t think so. And yet I’m pretty sure that Iowans don’t go on and on about the “big Iowa sky.” The same goes for folks from other states as well. So what’s the deal? Why do Texans think the sky in Texas is so darn big?
Andrew Belur, Austin
A: Thanks for all the questions, Mr. Belur. The Texanist appreciates your inquisitiveness, and although he usually tries to limit the maximum number of queries per submission to two or three, he understands well your desire for answers and is willing to make an exception and allow all four of yours. This time. (Should the Texanist, at this juncture, reveal that the original, unexpurgated version of your missive consisted of eight interlocked questions? The Texanist believes he probably should not, lest you be judged by your fellow Texans.)
As a fairly well-traveled man who enjoys the occasional skygazing session, the Texanist has had the opportunity to look up at both the daytime and nighttime skies in a number of disparate locales. For example, the Texanist has seen the sky out on the West Coast, where brilliant crepuscular rays shoot from the bright California sun as it lays low out across the Pacific Ocean, and also on the East Coast, where the high walls of New York’s concrete canyons can limit one’s sky view to a span of a few degrees straight overhead. The Texanist has also witnessed the sky during the slow-coming summertime dusk of Northern Europe and the beauty of a Christmastime sunrise from a volcano situated in a Central American lake. The Texanist has even had the chance to observe the sky in Montana, which, since 1962, has proclaimed itself “Big Sky Country,” a fact that has the Texanist wondering why your beef lies with Texans and not, instead, Montanans.
And the Texanist has been to Iowa too, although that was a short trip that took place a long time ago. It was for the funeral of one of his dad’s old World War II buddies, and the occasion dictated that his head be bowed more than it was raised. The Texanist doesn’t recall taking much notice of the Iowa sky. He does, though, remember fairly clearly that the day was overcast and as cold as old Billy, which is how the Texanist’s dad used to describe the winter temperature in war-torn Italy.
Alas, the Texanist has digressed, perhaps in order to avoid the Herculean task of answering your many queries. But though the Texanist admits to having an occasional tendency to procrastinate, he remembers hearing once that a surefire way to put off putting things off is to break a daunting task down into a series of discrete and somewhat less daunting tasks. In that spirit, the Texanist, just as he does with jalapeños in jalapeño-eating contests, is going to tackle your questions one by one. Let’s proceed, shall we?
Question #1: “But what makes the sky in Texas bigger than the sky anyplace else?”
A: There’s an old adage that’s popular around these parts that goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas!” And this may be what you thought the Texanist would say in response to this first question. Well, surprise! While it’s true that many things are outsized here (hair and pride come to mind), not everything is bigger. And that’s okay. Remember that other old maxim that says, “Size doesn’t matter”? Plus, who, exactly, said that the sky was “bigger” in Texas? You don’t even say that anybody said this, though you do slyly insinuate it without offering any dispositive evidence. The dogged journalist in the Texanist is feeling somewhat affronted.
Question #2: “Is our sky any bigger than the one people in, say, Iowa gawk at?”
A: As the Texanist stated in the course of digressing, he has been to Iowa, although he doesn’t really recall the sky there. But the Texanist has a rule about judging pissing matches anyway: Because he doesn’t like to get splashed with piss, he doesn’t do it. And, besides, again, who said the big Texas sky was “bigger” than the big sky anywhere else? People just say that it’s big, which it surely is—it’s the sky, for land’s sake!
Question #3: So what’s the deal?
A: The deal is that Texans think fondly of the sky over Texas and consider its size to be notable, which is perfectly okay.
Question #4: Why do Texans think the sky in Texas is so darn big?
A: The Texanist always tells himself that size is a relative thing and that the perceived bigness of a particular thing sometimes lies in the eye of the beholder. If a Texan goes outside and stretches out his or her arms and slowly surveys the span, from one hand to the other, looking out and overhead and out again, and then concludes that what he or she has just looked at is big and beautiful, well, what kind of person would argue with that?
Ultimately, the Texanist cannot say whether the big Texas sky is any bigger or, really, even any better than the skies found anyplace else on earth. The late afternoon sky in the south of France is pretty darn sweet, after all. But no matter where one is from or where one has been or even where one is going, it’s hard to deny that Texas is, indeed, blessed with a pretty fabulous firmament.
Does that answer your questions?
Have a question (or multiple questions) for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.