texanist armadillo
Can you explain some armadillo lore?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: I was born and raised in Nacogdoches back in the good old days before cable TV, computers, and cellphones. Part of the fun back then was “diller” hunting. Many an hour was spent with friends rampaging through the woods of East Texas hunting these remnants from ancient times. The lore surrounding armadillos was wonderful, but one thing puzzled me. We were told that when you drove over one, it would jump up and hit the bottom of the vehicle. Since it’s obvious that most cars and trucks have enough clearance to pass over an armadillo, can you explain if this is fact or fiction? 
Jesse Wallace, Paducah, Kentucky

A: The nine-banded armadillo’s Latin name is Dasypus novemcinctus, which roughly translates to “Roadkill McGillicuddy.” The Texanist is pulling your leg. Really it means nine-banded rabbit. And just like a rabbit, the official small mammal of Texas is a prodigious hopper, able to hit an impressive vertical height of some three to four feet. There are two unfortunate things about this trait that relate directly to your query, the first being that armadillos really get jumpy only when they are startled and the second being that they are startled by cars and trucks driving over them. The jumping is an innate defense mechanism of sorts that is better suited for curious coyotes than speeding Chryslers. What you heard as a little one is a true fact and is precisely why the roadways across Texas are topcoated from end to end with flattened armadillo carcasses. Interestingly, December 5, 1982, was officially recognized as Armadillo Safety Day by then-governor Bill Clements. The proclamation was related to a celebration in Fredericksburg honoring the critter’s three-hundred-millionth birthday, and Clements cracked wise at the time, saying, “It is especially fitting to declare this day Armadillo Safety Day in view of the numbers of the beasts who may be on the roads trying to get to the party.” The Texanist has digressed, but the fact is that neither this one-off honorific nor the lofty “official small mammal” designation even pretends to offer any sort of real protection for the armadillo, which it could use considering the ill-fated intersection that is its under-protective protective armoring and that suicidal defense mechanism.

Q: While having dinner out with my family recently, we noticed a famous Dallas Cowboy seated a few tables over from us. My two sons debated whether or not to approach him and finally decided to do so while his party seemed to be waiting for their desserts. He was nice but maybe a little curt when they walked up to his table, which I guess I can understand as this likely happens every time he’s out in public. I kind of feel bad for allowing my boys to interrupt his dinner, but I figured he’d be okay with it. What is the proper thing to do when you run into a Dallas Cowboy in a public setting?
Name Withheld, Dallas

A: Who was it? Was it Staubach? Walt Garrison? Too Tall? Was it Too Tall? You’re killing the Texanist! Was it Randy White? The Manster sure could be curt back in the day. Remember that 1980 game against the Eagles when he demolished Ron Jaworski on that one play? The Texanist bets that when the conditions are right, he can be curt still. You are one lucky old so-and-so. Man, oh, man. As it appears that you and your boys somehow managed to keep y’all’s cool in the presence of whomever it may have been (Bob Lilly? Goddamn, was it Bob Lilly?!) and didn’t end up sidled all the way into his booth, blathering on in great detail about, say, that game against the Eagles when the Manster sacked the crap out of Jaworski, the Texanist would say y’all handled the situation about as well as could have been expected—all things considered. Be sure and write the Texanist back and let him know who it was.

Q: My ten-year-old son will only eat barbecue if it is in the form of chopped beef on white bread or a bun without sesame seeds. He won’t try sliced brisket or pork ribs, and he even turns his nose up to chicken and turkey. I find it more embarrassing than I probably should. Do I need to get over it? Or does he need to start eating a more normal diet for a young man his age?
Kelly Williams, San Antonio

A: Hey, if he dares to go with pickles or onions, he’s got three of five food groups covered. But really, this is a problem easily solved. The next time you and the boy have plans to be in or around Austin, just give the Texanist a heads-up and he would be happy to arrange a barbecue lunch over which he can educate your son as to the subtle differences between sliced and chopped brisket—and, while he’s at it, the great joys to be found amongst the rest of a barbecue pit’s offerings too. Done and done. The Texanist looks forward to being able to help your son at this lunch, which he is sure will be a most satisfying experience for us all.

Q: I just moved to Houston from Washington, D.C., and I like it a lot so far. My girlfriend will be joining me—somewhat reluctantly—later this summer, and I’ll need to sell her on Texas before she gets homesick and moves back. I’m trying to put together a playlist of some quality Texas music to help in this endeavor, but as I know very little about the genre, I need some assistance. So please, a little help? My future happiness may depend on it. 
Thomas Darber, Houston

A: There is simply not enough space (or beer) here for the Texanist to get into one of his exhaustive lessons on the rich and wide-ranging catalog that is the music of Texas. But as the breadth and depth of the offerings can be overwhelming for the neophyte, the Texanist can help by advising that you ease in. Baby steps, as they say. With this in mind, maybe start off with a little compulsory Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. And some George Jones and Buddy Holly and Ray Price and George Strait and Little Joe y la Familia (de Temple, Texas). And maybe some Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Flaco Jiménez, Janis Joplin, Mance Lipscomb, T-Bone Walker, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Hot Lips Page, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sly and the Family Stone, B. W. Stevenson, Shinyribs (backed by the Texanist’s brother-in-law and fronted by the Texanist’s brother-in-law’s brother-in-law), and Bongo Joe. And a little Don Williams, Big Mama Thornton, Roy Orbison, Ernest Tubb, Scott Joplin, Sunny and the Sunliners, Guy Clark, Ornette Coleman, Esteban “Steve” Jordan, Roger Miller, and ZZ Top. Oh, and some Archie Bell and the Drells and Selena and Freddy Fender and 13th Floor Elevators and Joe “King” Carrasco (who played the Texanist’s wedding) and Albert Collins. And Townes Van Zandt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brave Combo, the Butthole Surfers, Spoon, Hot Club of Cowtown, Daniel Johnston, the Gourds, Amanda Shires, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, Charlie Robison, Robyn Ludwick, Tex Thomas and the Danglin’ Wranglers, Johnny Lee, Ramón Ayala, and the Kashmere Stage Band. And definitely some Doug Sahm. You’ve got to have some Doug Sahm. After you’ve loaded this starter set onto your device, the Texanist suggests employing the all-song shuffle function, turning up the volume a notch or two, and then kicking back with your good gal as y’all enjoy the sound track to your new lives.

The Texanist’s Little-Known Fact of the Month: Famed Texas Ranger William Alexander Anderson “Bigfoot” Wallace apparently wore a size ten shoe, same as the Texanist and not that big for a man with a six-foot-two-inch, 240-pound (without guns) frame answering to the name of Bigfoot.