texanist gravel road
Is there such a thing as gravel-road etiquette, and if so, how best can I teach it to the neighbors?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: I grew up on a gravel road and was always taught that it was good manners to drive slowly enough to avoid raising dust when around people’s houses. But folks today seem to just speed by going 90 miles an hour, not caring where the dust settles. Is there such a thing as gravel-road etiquette, and if so, how best can I teach it to the neighbors?
Peggy Mullard, McLennan County 

A: There is indeed such a thing as gravel-road etiquette, and congratulations to you for being familiar with it. The Texanist received such instruction before he was even of legal driving age (this was on the back routes of Bell County, where the Texanist’s father assumed that the impact on people and property would be limited). The rules are simple: don’t stir up too much dust around homes (or anywhere else for that matter); when running over rattlers, stomp on the brakes hard enough to rip them to shreds; and acknowledge oncoming vehicles (and anybody else for that matter) with a friendly wave. City folk, with whom the state of Texas seems more and more congested, may require some help grasping these particulars. Think of a waterway’s no-wake zones, which are intended to keep boat captains from creating bothersome chop that can lap too vigorously upon things that shouldn’t be lapped upon. A rural road’s no-dust zones are much the same, but swap the boat’s wake for a thick cloud of dust, which will blanket the surrounding area—cars, children, and pets included. The problem is that no-wake zones are designated by way of well-marked and easily visible buoys, while no-dust zones are demarcated by nothing more than common courtesy shared between good country folk. Maybe it’s time for the introduction of a few dry-land buoys, which when anchored along a roadside are sometimes called signs, to get your message across. Ruralites tend to be an industrious sort, and this should be an easy project for you. Here are a few ideas to help get your creative juices flowing: “Raise Children, Not Dust,” “Go Slow or Go to Hell,” “If I Eat Dust, You’ll Eat Lead,” “Raise Dust, Bite Dust,” and “Slow the Hell Down.” One or all of these displayed on the road near your house should have some effect. Keep the Texanist posted.

Q: My new girlfriend is trying to get me to start eating a strange breakfast meat she calls “turkey bacon.” Two questions for you: First, what’s turkey bacon? Second, should I eat it?
Tim Griese, Fort Worth

A: Your new girlfriend can put lipstick on a smoked, chopped, and reshaped turkey to her heart’s content, but it will never be a pig. Rather, it remains an odd culinary facsimile of the genuine, delicious, and crispy article—a marvel of modern engineering, to be sure, but no more suited to the breakfast table than rayon, Smart cars, or a multiblade men’s razor. The Texanist figures that the person who would willingly eat a plateful of turkey bacon would have to be either mighty smitten with his new female friend or mighty hungry. But it is you alone who can reach this conclusion. Good luck.

Q: Oftentimes, when my husband is contemplating fashion decisions, a regular necktie is just too much and can even seem somewhat pretentious here in East Texas. I recall Daddy and Paw wearing bolo ties to dress up their attire. The bolo can offer a bit of formality without overkill, is easy to use, and, more significantly, adds a bit of Texas cachet. I would like to enlist your sartorial influence to start a bolo tie revival in this great state. So can I count on you to be in the vanguard of this crusade?
Sandy Bartlett, Center

A: Nattiness, it’s been said, has never been the thing for which the Texanist is known. Nevertheless, he has been at the forefront of a number of campaigns—sometimes unknowingly—to “bring back” various garments and accessories. Not all of these undertakings have been met with universal enthusiasm, or acceptance, or, as in the case of the short-short cutoffs, anything other than open mouths, pointing fingers, and a charge of indecent exposure (which he is still paying a Fort Lauderdale attorney to have wiped from his record). Do you think the Texanist is kidding? He has taken similar stabs at the cavalry-bib Western shirt, the argyle sock, the nightshirt (“commando” style), buckskins, bow ties, woolly chaps (standard and “commando”), and the coonskin cap. Compared with woolly chaps, the bolo tie will be a cinch. You have not only the full backing of the Texanist on this but also that of the State of Texas herself, whose Eightieth Legislature, in 2007, made the bolo the official State Tie of Texas, declaring that “the selection of a bolo over a standard tie can suggest that the wearer refuses to be bound by convention and relishes the freedom to exhibit a distinctive sense of style even as they maintain a dignified, formal appearance.” Here’s to the bolo; long may it dangle.

Q: Please settle a $10 bet for me. I say “goat roper” is just another way of saying “cowboy,” but my friend says that a goat roper is more like a hick or a redneck. “Goat roper”: derogatory expression or term of endearment?
Name Withheld

A: The first time the Texanist ever remembers hearing the phrase “goat roper,” it was shouted from the window of a speeding car and directed at a group of boys hanging out in front of dear old Temple High School’s dear old ag barns. The lewd hand gestures and squealing rubber that accompanied this particular drive-by signaled to the Texanist very clearly that it was meant as more of a taunt than a show of support for the hardworking members of the THS 4-H and FFA clubs. Term of endearment? The Texanist thinks not. A goat roper is not a genuine cowboy, but rather a wannabe cowboy who is relegated to the care (and roping) of goats. You are hereby ordered to remit one ten-spot to your buddy. Don’t believe the Texanist? Go find a cowboy (he’ll be the one with the horse between his legs) and call him a goat roper.