Q: I have been receiving Texas Monthly as a gift subscription for about four years now. When a new issue arrives, I turn to the back to read your column first. There are usually several laughing matters contained therein. But my son and I often discuss the picture of your little friend, the one with the multicolored sombrero and chicken feet—the little guy always at your side, the one out on a limb for you, carrying the load. Pray, after all this time, tell us more about your miniature sidekick.
Debby Holt, Grapevine
A: The Texanist typically advises against seeing how the “sausage” is made. And the assembly of advice sausage can be particularly messy. But as the focus of your inquiry is this most-unsung creature, a tip of the hat to him by way of a quick peek behind the curtain is, after all these years, probably warranted. Ever since this column made its debut, way back in the summer of 2007, it has been accompanied by the colorfully illustrative creations of Dallasite Jack Unruh, an artiste nonpareil in yours truly’s humble opinion. And there, in the very first installment that July, like a fluttering spirit guide summoned by the Texanist in the balmy, smoky, and peyote-fueled weirdness of a medicinal sweat lodge, was the man-handed, chicken-footed, big-nosed, sometimes-winged, oft-bedraggled one known around the office as Li’l Bubba, or sometimes, “that strange wizard-lizard thing in the leopard-print tights with the creepy facial expressions.” From that point forward, the little fella has appeared in these many, many columns as half of a dynamic duo charged with bettering our countrymen and countrywomen via the signature fine advice found on these pages each month. When that guy from Mabank wanted to know, in April 2012, what was the deal with “truck balls,” it was Li’l Bubba who offered his trademark rainbow-colored chapeau as a receptacle while the Texanist, in a demonstration of his disapproval of such automotive accoutrements, castrated a truck. And that one time last January, when a certain “Name Withheld” wondered whether it was a good idea to let a teenage son attend a coed camp-out, it was the same Li’l B who could be seen fencing off a young Texanist from his female camping companion. In short, Li’l Bubba is Deputy Fife to the Texanist’s Sheriff Taylor, Cato Fong to his Inspector Clouseau, Trigger to his Roy Rogers, and Babilonia to his Gardner. Simply put, this column would have a much harder time serving its intended purpose without him. So let us now raise a glass to Li’l Bubba and, by extension, to the inimitable Jack Unruh. Hear, hear! Thanks for the question. And thanks, too, to the generous soul who has supplied you with the long-renewed gift subscription.
Q: Is a deer blind any place for a smartphone? My father insists that it is not. I disagree. Thoughts?
Terrell Crowley, Brownsville
A: Time was when a deer blind was a place for a man to be alone, shivering with his rifle, his thoughts, and very little else. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for a hunter to bring all sorts of superfluous items up into the blind. The Texanist has known some ol’ boys who have gone so far as to bring along one of those really heavy Yeti coolers, a propane grill, a battery-operated foot massager, and even, on at least one occasion that he is aware of, a wife. But the smartphone is surely the most pervasive and insidious of these unnecessary distractions. Yes, Candy Crush would probably help with the mind-numbing monotony of sitting there waiting for a majestic beast to unwittingly traipse into the crosshairs, and, yes, a telephone would be handy for communication with the outside world and such, but the Texanist is going to side with your old man on this one. The modern world, with its increasing hurly-burliness, is constantly degrading the time we get to spend in unspoiled, or mostly unspoiled, natural settings, and any opportunity a person has to untether himself for a while ought to be taken advantage of fully. Until they come up with a really good space heater app, there is just no good reason to sully the peace and quiet (gunfire notwithstanding).
Q: It has recently come to my attention that my college-age daughter is occasionally mortified by my drawl. I grew up a poor West Texas boy around the middle of the last century and am not unaware that my speech pattern can sometimes come off sounding a little “country.” But despite my background and my accent, I ended up doing pretty well for myself (as has my private-university-educated daughter), and I’m a little hurt that she’s embarrassed by me. In fact, I think she’s made me a little self-conscious. Is it time for speech therapy?
A: The Texanist has been known to liken the accents carried by so many Texans to the striking tail plumage of the male peafowl. He once advised that such brogues are things of beauty, to be appreciated by their owners as well as by those lucky enough to find themselves within earshot. Your accent serves to remind you where you’ve come from, and you are right to wear it proudly. The Texanist, without knowing your daughter, can only assume that she’s experiencing some sort of weird new stage in her life and that she’ll soon come to her senses, realizing that her daddy, no matter how much he sounds like a clodhopping rube when he speaks, is the only daddy she’s got. Before you seek out a modern-day Henry Higgins to help rid you of what sounds like a fine specimen of a classic Texas twang, the Texanist would remind you, as he did that letter writer of long ago, that this accent is your birthright and that you should continue to strut unabashedly about with it—like the male peafowl does with his own brilliant feathers. To lose it, or even dial it back, would be a shame.
Q: I grew up in Illinois, went to school in Illinois, and worked in customer service in Chicago for seventeen years. For the past six years, though, I’ve lived in the Dallas area. I’d never lived outside of Illinois before this. I had always heard that Texans were really friendly, but it took only a short while before I realized just how true it is. So why are we Texans so darn nice?
Pamela Blackmon, Plano
A: Listen here, lady, the Texanist doesn’t have any more damn time for any more damn questions. Especially from the likes of an overly curious interloping Illinoisan such as yourself. Can’t the Texanist just enjoy a little peace and quiet every now and then?! Sheesh! Ha-ha, the Texanist had you there for a second, didn’t he? Apologies, but he couldn’t help himself. Thanks for the excellent question. Generally speaking, it is true that Texans are quite a friendly lot. As even the youngest of Texans could tell you, our official state motto is “Friendship,” which, as any slightly older Texan could tell you, is derived from the name “Texas” (or “Tejas,” “Tayshas,” “Techas,” “Teysas,” “Thecas,” or possibly “Texias”) itself, which has its centuries-old origins in the dialect of the native peoples of East Texas and is generally thought to have meant “friends.” The Texanist wonders what would have happened had the word carried a different meaning. What if it had meant, say, “jerks”? Maybe you’d be asking a very different question of the Texanist. So why are Texans so darn nice? The short answer is, because Texans are, well, Texans. Or perhaps there’s just something in the barbecue sauce. Either way, welcome to Texas.