texanist discipline
Is disciplining my niece over spilt Dr Pepper okay?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: Recently, my sister’s family visited for a weekend. My seven-year-old niece, who is constantly out of control and never disciplined, was flying around like a banshee, and she crashed into a bureau and knocked over four bottles of Dublin Dr Pepper that my husband bought on eBay. They all smashed on the tile floor. My sister didn’t do anything, so I disciplined my niece myself. She started crying, and they left in a huff. My sister says I overreacted. I say she underreacted. What do you say?
Name Withheld

A: The Texanist is sorry for your loss and would begin with a simple observation. He finds it telling that after many long years of your niece’s unregulated misbehavior, the act that finally caused you to ferociously erupt in righteous anger like a roaring volcano of justice was not the tracking of mud across a Persian carpet or the thwacking of buds off an heirloom rosebush but the wanton destruction of four eternally nonreturnable eight-ounce bottles of Imperial Sugar–sweetened Texas history. You are, very clearly, a person after the Texanist’s own heart. And so was your response to this unfortunate incident in keeping with what the Texanist’s would have been, more or less. Parents should be able to control their children, plain and simple. Your niece should not have been tearing through the house like a wrecking ball, and her mother should not have let it all go down without applying a dose of parental correction. Were this the first time such a scene had been witnessed, the Texanist might advise restraint, but when a problem is chronic, as this seems to be, there is no better remedy than the smart snap of a good tongue-lashing. Some of what you rained down has probably soaked in by now, with the rest running off and flowing beneath the proverbial bridge, so the Texanist suggests that you follow up with your sis. Give her a call, and don’t let her off the hook until the disagreement is sorted out. Like it or not, blood is thicker than even discontinued Dublin Dr Pepper, delicious though it may be.

Q: My wife and I are currently separated due to nothing I did: she is deployed to Afghanistan. I am preparing boxes to send her, but I’m running out of ideas. I’ve packed pecans, salsa, homemade chips, pickled okra, and magazines, TEXAS MONTHLY included. I’ve been deployed twice myself and I know what I wanted, but I’m running out of Texas ideas. Any suggestions?
Justin Maye, Forney

A: Does your wife have a Texas flag? One that has been flown over the state capitol? With a certificate that says so? Such a banner can be easily procured by contacting your state senator, representative, or the office of the sergeant at arms (512-463-0910). You can even request that the flag be flown on a specific day—say, a wedding anniversary, a birth date, or even Texas Independence Day, which is upon us again. There is nothing more emblematic of her Texas home than this noble pennant, and she’d be sure to love it. Additionally, please throw in a big “Howdy” from yours truly and wish her a safe return home.

Q: My daughter is a senior in high school and has been begging to go to South Padre Island for spring break. Her father and I have misgivings, even though we both went when we were in high school. Is it as wild as it used to be?
Name Withheld

A: Ah, South Padre. During the long hours that the Texanist spent in consideration of your dilemma, his thoughts were repeatedly cast back to that balmy isle, to the moist Gulf breeze ruffling the palm leaves and the salty air filled with the buoyant sound of youthful merriment and the evocative aroma of Halston Z-14, Boone’s Farm Country Quencher, and vomit. Decades ago, these temperate breezes, sounds, and smells greeted the Texanist when, but a seventeen-year-old lad unschooled in the hedonistic arts, he stormed the paradisiacal sandpile for a spring sojourn. The next 72 hours would prove pivotal to his development, as he was able to cram into that narrow window several years’ worth of experience. Never before had he pitched drunkenly off a second-story balcony, eaten half a jellyfish, streaked nude through a restaurant’s patio on his way to a midnight swim, jumped over a bonfire, slept in a city park, arranged for the purchase and transport of a margarita machine using a false name and mustache, driven a friend’s mom’s car straight into the ocean, sneaked into and gotten kicked out of Blanca White’s Matamoros Long Bar (and, later that night, a seedier place in Ciudad Victoria), “surfed” on the hood of a Mexican cab, and made time with a dozen beautiful girls just like your daughter. (Editors’ note: The magazine’s fact-checkers argue that “made time with” should be changed to “talked to.”) Now, turning back to your letter, the answer to your question, if you happen to still be reading this, should be a sincere-sounding “Maybe next year, sweetheart.” Additionally, the Texanist would have you watch out for church-sponsored ski trips, which can also be quite lively.

Q: What on God’s green earth is a “Texas toothpick”? My father-in-law carries one in his pocket and told me that it is made from a raccoon penis bone. If you confirm this, I’m going to scream.
Belinda Stinler, Fort Worth

A: The Texanist is embarrassed to tell you that your father-in-law is, in this case at least, not a liar. You may now take a moment to scream. Are you done? Perhaps a little background will help restore your composure. The raccoon part in question has been referred to by a number of monikers, including the Texas toothpick, the mountain-man toothpick, and a few others so crude that the Texanist dare not utter them. Initially, the appendages of these unfortunate varmints were carried as amulets purported to bring good luck, usually with gambling or women. Sort of like a rabbit’s foot. Sort of. Dental hygiene appears to be a later usage, though there is also a strong possibility that its suggestion is used almost exclusively to make daughters-in-law scream. Just FYI, there is also a pocketknife made by W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery and sold under the name Texas Toothpick. Maybe your father-in-law is ready for an upgrade.