Roar of the Crowd
Readers respond to the June 2016 issue.
Texanness is often distilled into a dimension-less series of adjectives. “Independent.” “Friendly.” “Hardworking.” “Brash.” “Proud.” But in truth, a Texan doesn’t establish his bona fides simply by inhabiting a personality trait or two. Rather, he is more rightfully credentialed by the actions he undertakes: how he cooks, dresses, plays, and celebrates. How he navigates the harsh Texas elements. How he works the land and the creatures he shares it with.
The following series, aptly titled “The Manual” and penned by deputy web editor Andrea Valdez, ran in Texas Monthly from 2007 to 2012. Featuring 47 lessons—laid out in easy-to-follow steps and executable by both the native-born and the wannabe—it charts a bluebrint for how to live like an authentic Texan.
Readers respond to the June 2016 issue.
Tying a Texas rig. Buying custom boots. Making a no-frills margarita. In this excerpt from How to Be a Texan: The Manual, Andrea Valdez explains how to behave like a native.
On New Year’s Day superstitious Texans take out a symbolic insurance policy by helping themselves to a heap of black-eyed peas—a practice that, according to tradition, guarantees one lucky day for each pea consumed. No one knows for certain how this ritual started, but one theory is rooted in horticulture:
The SeasonFor many hunters, Labor Day weekend is synonymous with the soft coos of the mourning dove. Every year, roughly 350,000 people in Texas are seduced by this avian siren song and harvest about five million of the four-ounce birds—that’s about 30 percent of the total number shot in the
Rites of passage dot the path to becoming a true Texan—riding a horse, having your picture taken with Big Tex—but few are as iconic as learning to fire a rifle. Although there are a variety of types, beginners often train with a .22-caliber. “That’s because there’s minimal recoil, and the
A time-tested recipe that anyon who wants to learn how to make chili can use.
The rules for riding a one-ton bucking bull are deceptively simple. A cowboy must stay on the animal for eight seconds. If he’s thrown off before the time elapses or if he touches the bull, himself, or the equipment with his free hand, he’s disqualified. The maximum score is 100
Equipment1 turkey cooker with a propane burner (also called a catfish cooker or crawfish boiler) 1 36- to 40-quart stockpot and basket 1 large turkey injector with needle 1 deep-fryer thermometer or candy thermometer elbow-length oven mitts Cinnamon-Chile Rub 1/2 cup cinnamon 1/2 cup pasilla or other red chile powder
A few things to know before you drop a big bird into a bubbling vat of oil.
Texas women may not have invented big hair, but they realized long ago the allure of the coiffed crown. Just consider Ann Richards, who made it her trademark and once declared an official Big Hair Day, in 1993. The style is powerful yet elegant, bold but surprisingly down-home. As Gail
No mantel in Texas is complete without a bluebonnet photograph. But as any amateur roadside shutterbug will tell you, it’s notoriously difficult to capture the stately flower on film. The bloom’s vibrant colors look washed-out; the petal’s delicate details are lost in a blur. “The flowers are small,” says
Modern-day bass fishing owes its enormous popularity to two game-changing events. First, in 1949, Nick Creme rocked the angler community with the creation of the plastic bait worm. Roughly ten years later a fisherman on Lake Tyler, weary of snagging his hooks on submerged timber and vegetation, speared a plastic
Before tossing a jar of name-brand preserves into your shopping cart, read its label. Made from fruit concentrate? High-fructose corn syrup a main ingredient? Canned in Alaska? “These days, people don’t generally make their own preserves,” says Lynette Gold, the co-owner of Stonewall-based Gold Orchards, which was established in 1940.
There’s no better way to showcase your pride than by flying the Lone Star flag in front of your house on state holidays, but the true Texan knows a thing or two about how to do it correctly. The guidelines for handling the flag were first adopted in 1933 by
After a harrowing skirmish with the Comanche in 1860, Charles Goodnight cut for sign to track down warriors who had escaped. That practice, in which a person searches for people or animals by “cutting,” or studying a section of land for clues, may seem like a lost art of the
According to an old wives’ tale, every animal has enough brain matter to tan its own hide. While the amateur tanner may not embrace that technique, rest assured there’s more than one way to tan a deer, so to speak. “Professionals often use harsh chemicals and acids,” says Durango-based master
Western-yoke, pearl-snap plaid shirts and straight-fit jeans may currently be trending, but custom-made belt buckles will never go out of style. “It’s an item you can wear every day for the rest of your life, then pass down to the next generation,” says Ingram’s Clint Orms, who has crafted buckles
Bud "the Pieman" Royer of Royers Round Top Cafe shares his pecan pie recipe.
This blistering summer has left Texas drier than a piece of gas station jerky. It was so hot that planes couldn’t take off from airports and train tracks were bent out of shape. And while Governor Rick Perry prayed for a downpour to end the drought, officials in Llano turned
Hauling Herefords isn’t like towing a sailboat. A loaded stock trailer can weigh up to 30,000 pounds, and if you hook something that heavy to a bumper, you’ll drive away without your back end. “Gooseneck hitches are common in livestock operations,” says Joe Lewis, who has worked at Rosenberg-based Discount
Catching a catfish with your bare hands has been a tradition passed down for generations, but it has only been legal in Texas since June 17. That’s when Governor Rick Perry signed a bill that officially permits noodling. “No one knows why it was illegal,” said Houston representative Gary Elkins,
When Sam Graves and his 22-year-old bay gelding, Old Hub, beat ten other cowboys to win $150 in the first advertised cutting competition, in Haskell in 1898, he could not have imagined how the sport would evolve. Today the National Cutting Horse Association, which hosts the World Championship Futurity, in
Any rodeo fan can don a Stetson, Wranglers, and a pair of Tony Lamas, but the cowboys in the arena are the ones who wear the spurs. “It’s like a knight in his armor,” says Joe Spiller, who’s been handcrafting them for 27 years and owns Spiller Spurs and Bits,
Watching lawmakers bicker over the state budget in Austin reminds us of the old adage about what politics and sausage have in common. Fortunately for sausage, its approval ratings are through the roof. “It’s become easier to stuff sausage at home, since more places are selling small grinders and stuffers,”
The event The square-dance social may seem like an antiquated notion, but dozens of clubs in Texas still preserve this pastime. “Square dancing persists because people enjoy the fellowship, the wholesome entertainment, and the exercise,” says Wayne Morvent, who’s been a caller for more than fifty years and currently works
Wild horses, which can cover up to twenty miles a day, wouldn’t think of having their hooves done, but leave it to humans to change all that. “When we domesticated the animal, ten thousand years ago, we restricted its movement,” says John Burgin, the owner of the Texas Horse-shoeing School,
“The kernel of South Texas cuisine is economy,” says Melissa Guerra, a South Texas native and the author of Dishes From the Wild Horse Desert: Norteño Cooking of South Texas. “Barbacoa, made from the meat of a cow’s head, is cheap yet rich in flavor.” Customarily served at weekend breakfasts,
When Theodore Roosevelt visited Texas in 1892, he insisted on booking a six-day javelina hunt. He shot two but later opined that the best way to dispatch the animal would be by spear. Teddy was on to something. “Because of their poor eyesight, it’s easy to close in on javelinas,”
The Laguna Madre, near Corpus Christi’s Padre Island National Seashore, is known as one of the nation’s best windsurfing sites because of its shallow waters and consistent breeze. It’s also a perfect spot for beginners, says Angela Hurley, an instructor for Worldwinds, a local windsurf shop. “With good instruction, the
Wayne Mueller on how to smoke the perfect brisket.
Before waltzing into a Tejano nightclub—or into any big party in South Texas, for that matter—you should know how to dance cumbia. Originally a folk dance from Colombia, the cumbia shuffled across Latin America, picking up small changes along the way, and has comfortably settled here with a distinct Tejano
HistoryAs with most rodeo events, pinpointing barrel racing’s exact origin is near impossible. “It probably started out as pretty women on fast horses, but now it’s a competitive sport for serious athletes,” says Martha Josey, a world-champion barrel racer, Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Famer, and co-owner of Josey Ranch,
Every November 2, known as the Day of the Dead or All Souls’ Day, Hispanics across the Southwest transform grave sites, offices, and corners of their homes into vibrant memorials for their deceased loved ones by assembling multitiered ofrendas, or altars. “The day is devoted to the departed, and an
The HISTORYIn 1876 salesman John W. Gates brought barbed wire to Texas when he wagered $1 million that he could build a fence that would capably contain cattle. Some incredulous gambler took the bet. Gates erected a fence in San Antonio’s Military Plaza and shocked a gathered crowd as a
It seems simple enough—make tea, add sugar—but brewing a high-class glass of Southern champagne is “all about time, temperature, and quality,” according to Clayton Christopher, the founder of Austin-based Sweet Leaf Tea Company. He should know: In just over ten years, he’s gone from making batches of the stuff at
Some things never change, like the irrepressible desire to float a Hill Country river on a 100-degree day—with, most naturally, a cooler of beer. And while the basic art of loading one’s booze boat also remains the same (use a separate inner tube with a bottom, pump it with extra
Emily Post may have deplored any sort of public spitting as “disgusting” and “too nauseating to comment on,” but such notions of etiquette have never stuck with the patrons of Luling’s annual Watermelon Thump. Every June, the World Championship Seed Spitting Contest draws hundreds of spectators who hope to witness
The RationaleTexas soil is arguably Mother Nature’s favorite dance floor: More twisters touch down here annually than in any other state (132 on average). As a result, storm chasers consider the Panhandle and Red River Valley requisite destinations during tornado season (April through June). This activity won’t suit the lily-livered
The pecan may be our state tree, but the Magnolia grandiflora, or Southern magnolia, has long been the belle of our arboreal ball. With its dramatic canopy, glossy leaves, and creamy blooms, this elegant evergreen is the centerpiece of many Texas gardens. Where does it thrive? “Magnolias prefer warm, rainy
Watching couples coast around at the honky-tonk may intimidate the double-left-footed, but heck, if a cowboy can dance, how tough is it, really? “Two-stepping is just walking to a beat,” says Austin-based Rowdy DuFrene, a two-time United Country Western Dance Council World Champion. “While many variations exist, the true
The RationaleAsk a ranch hand how to tell if someone’s a good cowboy and he’ll say the proof is in his lassoing. The rope has always been “the long arm of the cowboy,” writes Midland native John R. Erickson in Catch Rope. Though roping began on the ranch as a
The PartyAs at most holiday functions, there’s no escaping your kin at a tamalada, or tamale-making party. For generations, Latinos have gathered at Christmastime to cook, assemble, and eat the age-old dish (tamales date back to pre-Columbian times). “A tamalada is a multifamily, multigenerational event,” says Sylvia Cásares, who owns
THE RATIONALEWith eleven species of rattlesnakes calling our state home, chances are you’ll find yourself face-to-fang sooner or later. Most common to West Texas, rattlers like to den up in dry, rocky crevices, but you’ll also find them slithering through grass or slumbering under woodpiles. “Essentially, if you’re in West
The MaterialA cowboy hat is a beloved possession: It fans fires, it blocks the rain, it gives shade—and it lends authenticity at any honky-tonk or greased-pig contest. But it’s also an extension of one’s personality, so commissioning one takes serious thought (and serious dough: from $300 to $1,500). The first
About 120 years ago, two boys from Trapps Springs (now Garner) were caught in a forbidden pastime: playing cards. Their parents burned the offending deck and whipped the disobedient youngsters, but this led William Thomas and Walter Earl to find a loophole in the rules. “In those days Baptists considered
So you’ve downed your first twelve-point buck of the season. But don’t break out the brewskis just yet: You’ve got some dirty work to do. “The minute the animal dies, it’s starting to decay,” says James C. Kroll, a.k.a. Dr. Deer from the Outdoor Channel (and whose formal job is
The corn dog’s birthplace may be disputed among gastronomists, but there is no denying that the corny dog, as the fried delicacy is known in these parts, made its first appearance at the State Fair of Texas. Dallas native Neil Fletcher formulated the recipe in 1942, set up a
THE SPIRITIt’s the season to abandon reason, so make your fanaticism count. Don all that team paraphernalia, yes, but distinguish yourself from a couch potato with shows of true commitment: face decals, dye jobs, strategic shaving, and, of course, body paint. Also imperative are your ride’s trimmings (bumper stickers, hitch
The RationaleWhy make a lasting impression on your cattle? To fend off cattle rustlers, whose pilfering of literal cash cows is hardly a defunct business (ranchers in the Southwest lost $6.2 million in livestock in 2005). “Think of branding as a license plate on your car, a means of identification,”
1. Your quest for inimitable footwear begins with the leather, so first give thought to your stomping grounds (cattle pen or cubicle?) and your image (rhinestone cowboy ?). Your basic, most traditional option is calfskin. Need extra-tough work boots? Elephant, shark, or bull offers durability. Dress boots? Go with lizard,