Q: I grew up on a ranch in West Texas, and my dad is a pretty serious trophy hunter. Currently I’m a student at TCU, and my girlfriend, who’s from Boston, is not that into hunting. She’s okay with me going bird hunting, and she knows that I like to hunt deer about once a year. But I’m planning to take her home for the first time, and I’m worried about what will happen when she sees my parents’ house. It’s packed with trophies. Anything you can think of—black bear, deer, elk, mountain lion, all kinds of exotics. I’ve never told her about all that because I knew it would turn her off, and so I know she’s going to be shocked. I’m afraid that either she or my dad will say the wrong thing and get off to a bad start. What should I do?
Name Withheld, Fort Worth
A: The Texanist cannot help but observe that though you may not consider yourself half the hunter that your father is, it is you who has opted to stalk the more exotic game. A girlfriend from Boston? For a West Texan at TCU, this is the romantic equivalent of an African kudu or a scimitar-horned oryx. Anyone can kill and stuff a bobcat and keep it poised forever beside the La-Z-Boy, but it takes the skill of a true predator to lure a Beantown beauty back to your dorm room—and keep her there. Yet your success is at risk, as you rightly note. One false step and the quarry may bolt. This is why you must warn her, with gradually intensifying natural intrusions, like the soft squawks of a wooden duck call. The time for disclosure is nigh, yet you must ramp up these signals until you have reached a calculated high pitch, designed to overprepare her for the spectacle. Build up to it during the drive such that by the time the front door to your ranchito opens, she half expects to find your father roaming the floor of a rank and sticky abattoir, clad only in a blood-spattered apron, blithely flossing his teeth with the sinew of a freshly butchered hog tendon. When all she sees are a couple stuffed animals, she’ll be fine. Then you must take her out for a little shooting lesson. Once she’s comfortable blasting beer cans to kingdom come, maybe try taking her out for a little hunt. Snipe can provide an excellent entrée into the great outdoors; they’re always in season and require no hunting license. If the relationship survives a night of snipe hunting, you may have bagged yourself a keeper. Happy hunting.
Q: I am a native Texan sojourning in Wisconsin. I am also an avid supporter of one of Texas’s finest institutions of higher learning. Even in Wisconsin it is not too uncommon to see people wearing apparel with said university’s name and logo. While in Texas I would not give much thought to such an occurrence; here I can’t help but think the person must also be a stranger in a strange land. So I generally feel compelled to flash a school-appropriate hand signal and phrase. When I do, my zeal is often met with confused facial expressions and rolling eyes. Do you have any recommendations regarding etiquette in such a situation? Should I continue in my hope that I might have a passing encounter with a kindred spirit or just keep walking?
Josh Fite , Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin (formerly Tyler, Texas)
A: The colors, emblems, and slogans of a particular school are usually found on the backs of its supporters for the very purpose of making themselves identifiable as a fan of that institution and its sports teams. When these folks run into one another on the sidewalk, no matter where in the world the sidewalk lies, it is customary for them to acknowledge each other in some form or another. These encounters can range from a simple nod to an all-out screaming, foamy-mouthed dog pile. The Texanist has never been to the Badger State, but he imagines it to be a weird place, what with all the badgers. Still, what you have described here sounds more like a lost episode of The Twilight Zone. Did a large radioactive meteoroid recently land in the vicinity of Wisconsin Rapids, affecting the visible color spectrum in such a way as to have made burnt orange appear maroon? The Texanist didn’t think so. Unfortunately, this is the only explanation for the lack of “love” being returned to you by your fellow Midwesterner Longhorns. But regardless of what’s really behind this most unusual phenomenon, you are hereby advised to carry on with what you were doing, maybe even casting a larger net by greeting everyone you pass with an extra-hearty “Hook ’em, Horns!” Besides, if you truly do bleed maroon (dramatic pause), these gestures are like a built-in reflex over which you have little control.
Q: Last fall we purchased a piece of property between Flatonia and Smithville. The parcel is clearly not a ranch, as it is fewer than ten acres and the only animal life is whitetail and some errant hogs. Nor is it a farm, as everything from the hydrilla in the drought remnants of the pond/stock tank (another discussion) to the sidewall-piercing mesquite flourishes without the tending of man’s hand. Calling it a “camp” requires a rope swing or religious fervor, neither of which is evident from my walks of the property. And “the property” lacks the true emotion that our own piece of heaven embodies. What is the Texas-proper nomenclature for our version of Hard Scrabble (the book, not the game)?
Bill Penczak , Sugar Land
A: Much confusion exists in the area of noms de terre, and your desire for accuracy with regard to a proper designation for your acreage is admirable. The Texanist has visited “ranchettes” composed of thousands upon thousands of acres and at least a dozen plots amounting to not much more than fairly big lots that go by misleading names like “Rancho Grande.” In addition to “The Ranch,” “The Farm,” and “The Property,” he’s also been to “The Land,” “The Lease,” a few “Mi Tierras,” and a beautiful spread outside Blanco called “The Dirt.” The rest of the title of that fine John Graves book you reference is Observations on a Patch of Land, and, aided by your own observations of your bit of Texas soil, the Texanist has determined that you, coincidentally, are the owner of what is referred to as a “patch.” Congratulations.