Q: My twelve-year-old daughter is a complete and unashamed tomboy. She hunts with me, fishes with me, and throws the football with me. Wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. I love every second of it, but her mother thinks it’s come time for her to drop some of these boyish pursuits and start acting and dressing more like a “lady.” I hate to lose my little pardner, but is the girl’s mom right? Could all these manly endeavors leave a permanent mark as she develops into womanhood?
A: The Texanist comes from a long line of hardy Texas women. He also married a hardy Texas woman and, in time, begot a small Texas woman just as hardy as the one you have described. Football? Check. Fishing? Check. Dirty fingernails, perpetually scabby knees, good horsemanship? Check. Handy with a bow and arrow, unflappable in the face of weird bugs, vehemently opposed to skirts? Checks all around. Needless to say, this sweet little hellion is the apple (sometimes the crab apple) of the Texanist’s eye and a shining example of the trademark sturdiness for which Texas women are known all over the world. Where does it come from? As determined by a pseudoscientific study commissioned long ago by the Texanist, there is simply something in the water (subsequent attempts, however, to bottle and sell this clear elixir across state lines were unsuccessful). Not only is your daughter’s tomboyishness nothing for you or her mother to fret over, it is her birthright. That joie de vivre, effervescence, bumptiousness, and even, please pardon the Texanist, ballsiness that you’ve come to love in her are merely the traits of a full-grown Texas woman in the making. Besides, the peer pressure, social mores, and discovery of boys that come with adolescence will soon serve to smooth out the rougher edges. This is when the Texanist would advise you to commence the real worrying.
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
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 recently found out that our firstborn is to be a boy, and we’ve been discussing names. I’m dead set on Tex. He’s going to be a son of proud Texan parents and ought to have a name that reflects this. My wife’s not so sure. Any suggestion on how I can sell it to her?
A: The practice of handing out nicknames or pre-truncated proper names in lieu of traditional full names to the newly born is a growing trend to which the Texanist stands in firm opposition. Nicknames, like badges of honor and honest wages, ought to be earned and not simply bestowed willy-nilly at the drop of a hat, or infant. The consequences of premature nicknaming by impatient parents are more serious than you might think—right-handed Leftys, blond-headed Reds, off-target Aces, slender Pudges, pudgy Slims, and two-eyed One-eyes. We’re doomed! Or at least in for some confusion. However, “Tex” allows for an exception to the rule. For one thing, you won’t have to sweat his formative years. Unlike that Lefty who turns out to be a righty, Tex, even if he ends up in, God help him, Oklahoma, will still be undeniably Texan. Wherever he goes, all over the world, he’ll carry his birthplace with him. In fact, it’s when traveling in the strange country beyond the Red, Sabine, or Rio Grande rivers that most Texans are first called by this appellation. Your boy will also be in good company with these notable precedents: country artist Tex Ritter, animator Tex Avery, bandleader and saxophonist Tex Beneke, gambler Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, inventor of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Tex Schramm (a California native, oddly), and State Fair icon Big Tex. Explain this to the boy’s mother and tell her that the name also comes with the Texanist seal of approval and all the rights and benefits included therein. She’ll likely see the light.
Q: My fourteen-year-old daughter and her mother are already planning on having a big quinceañera next year. This is going to be very expensive nowadays, with the DJ and the dresses and everything. I’m Mexican American and my wife is not, and so I’m wondering if I can make the argument that the quinceañera tradition has been Americanized away. This would save me a lot of money. What do you think?
A: The Texanist has some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you have a wife and daughter. The bad news is that the two of them are going to cost you, dearly, and the sooner you accept that fact the better off you’ll be. The Texanist speaks from experience. Listen to him: There are no familial combinations more lethal to a pocketbook than a mother and daughter. None. The line of reasoning you have formulated in hopes of dodging the bill for an extravagant fifteenth-birthday fiesta for your beloved daughter is almost touching in its futility. But the two of them will destroy it. “Americanized away”? This is so preposterous that the Texanist can only admire its creativity. Face it: The girl and her mother are on solid ground, clearly recognizing this landmark birthday as both an opportunity to throw the most awesome quince ever as well as a bona fide birthright. But don’t be too hard on your heritage. The truth is that every culture has a ritualized means of draining the parental bank account. Mexicans have their quinceañeras, Jews have bar and bat mitzvahs, and as for the Texanist’s own people, the Scots-Irish, well, let’s just say that you can spend a lot of money banging dents out of pickup trucks that have been piloted into stationary objects along Highway 36. Just be glad that at your ceremonial fleecing, you’ll be able to get a good meal. And then it’s back to work. You need to start saving up for the wedding.
Q: My second grader thinks he’s being bullied at school, and my wife is about ready to pull him out and homeschool him. I think the boys are being boys and that the situation will work itself out. How can I convince them of this?
A: While your little one may or may not have fallen prey to a genuine bully, his mother appears to have fallen prey to a world gone ever more haywire when it comes to kids. There is much more at work (and play) in an elementary school than meets the eye. In addition to classroom instruction, there are important lessons being taught on the playground, and achievement in the former setting is, frankly, not as reliable an indicator of future success as adept survival in the latter. Knowing how to spell “apple” or find Madagascar on a globe is nice, but learning how to give a wide berth to the Ritalin-gobbling, hairy-armed hoods who extort lunch moneys and mete out atomic wedgies is a critical skill without which there’s little hope that your boy will be able to navigate the cruel world that lies ahead. Life itself will be your child’s most fearsome bully, and though the wedgies it threatens be metaphorical, they be no less uncomfortable. The Texanist’s own skills were honed on the hard blacktop at Cater Elementary, in Temple, at the hands of one Brutus McSwirlie (names have been changed), but back then there wasn’t any mollycoddling to interfere with the vital transfer of knowledge. It’s not easy these days, what with the no-score sports leagues (sporting contests are decided by scores), participation trophies (worthless to all but those who sell them), and hovering parents (Mrs. Name Withheld needs to ground the helicopter), but your boy, like you and the Texanist and most all boys and girls, will figure it out.
Q: On a recent family vacation my son asked from the backseat what was being cultivated in all the fields we were passing. I hadn’t the faintest idea, but I told him it was wheat. How bad was this lie? And what exactly is growing in those South Texas fields?
A: Welcome to the Texanist’s world. His keep is earned by way of handling inquiries such as these. In fact, he sometimes likes to imagine, when staring at another bulging mailbag, that he is merely driving down the highway of life while readers lob questions “from the backseat.” And though as a rule he responds to his inquisitors with the strictest fidelity to verifiable data, he is well aware that questions from the actual backseat of a moving car have been answered improvisationally and with only casual attention to the truth since before there was a backseat. Or a car. Or even a paved highway. As in your case, the inquisitors are more often than not hypercurious offspring bent on getting immediate answers to the obscurest of mysteries. “Who invented mustard?” “Can chocolate go to heaven?” “Do butterflies poop?” “Why is that policeman chasing us?” “Aren’t you going to stop?” “Will I be able to visit you at the penitentiary?” Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. The important thing to keep in mind is that when the subject matter concerns roadside attractions, there are very few recourses to which a skeptical child may turn, since by the time the question has been fielded and the reply considered, the curious crop or machinery or mime troupe has already been left far behind. So go ahead, have some fun. In truth, those fields might have been planted with anything. From alfalfa to zoysia, if it grows under the sun, it likely grows in Texas. Wheat? Why not? It could have been wheat. It could have also been gum stalks, doughnut vines, or orange juice grass. When the truth is available, it is generally advisable to use it, but in its absence there is little harm to be found in employing the improvisational arts, so long as you are doing 65 down an open road. Buckle up and drive friendly.
Q: My daughter, Kelsey, is a senior in high school this year, and she has never had a boyfriend. When I was in school, I was voted homecoming queen my senior year and received a triple mum. Kelsey has gone mumless to three homecomings, and I don’t want her to have to endure another. Would it be okay for me to buy her one and say it’s from a secret admirer?
A: Looking back on his years at dear old Temple High, the Texanist must confess that his efforts at the time were more often directed toward deflowering than beflowering the female Wildcats skipping past him in the halls. Upon reflection, had he applied himself to the latter, he might possibly have achieved greater success with the former. In those days of yore, the mum, a corsage on steroids, was a worry mainly of the sportarati. Geeks, freaks, tokers, bandos, motorheads, and the Texanist usually had occasion neither to give nor receive the floral trophies. But you have come to the Texanist not for a tale of woe but for affirmation of your plan. And while he is not usually one to abide deceit, he understands that yours is a scheme born of a mother’s love. Like a Hallmark card, a sappy made-for-TV movie, or the girls of Boys Town, you have touched the soft underbelly of the Texanist. Get Kelsey that mum! And make it a double! With all the streamers, teddy bears, bells, and whistles you can afford. As long as she doesn’t run with band nerds, goths, religionists, brains, greasers, stoners, goat ropers, skaters, rockers, or, God forbid, loners, she won’t be totally mortified.
Q: I was recently presented with one of those window stickers for your car that advertises your child’s name, school, sport, and position. I am very proud of my son (even though he doesn’t get much playing time), but I don’t want to put this sticker on my car. Am I going to hell?
A: The Texanist is not responsible for determining whether or not you spend your hereafter roasting in the hot fires of eternal damnation, but if he were, this would not meet his threshold of a condemnable offense. Maybe if your son was QB.
Q: I recently moved to Minneapolis to work on a Ph.D. My wife is due to deliver our first child in January. Should I send her back to the homeland to give birth?
Justin D. Baxley
A: Congratulations. But driving the entire length of Interstate 35 with a woman so close to her gestational expiration date is the only thing less advisable than denying the child his or her Texas debut. The Texanist, however, would be happy to arrange for shipment of a yard or two of local soil, to be spread on the hospital’s delivery room floor beneath the action. Just remember him when it comes time to fill in the name line on the birth certificate. Not only does The Texanist Baxley have a nice ring, it’s unisex.
Q: My daughter has decided that she wants to try out for the drill team at her high school this spring, but her father has expressed apprehension, believing that drill teams have become “too racy.” I think he’s being a little prudish. Please tell me I’m right.
A: As you know, the drill team was born at Kilgore College, in East Texas, in 1940 with that school’s squad, the world-famous Rangerettes, and has since become a huge to-do in Texas, bringing a unique combination of youthful exuberance, ratcheted-up school spirit, wide smiles, good posture, and shiny satin-and-sequin uniforms to stadiums across the state. Drill teams are now an integral part of our Friday night (and Saturday and Sunday) football culture. Not only is it perfectly understandable that school-age girls such as your daughter would want to try out for the squad but entirely appropriate for her to do so. She has God-given gifts for precision dance, leaping, and enthusiastic pom-pom work. It’s natural for her to want to take these gifts and parade them across the field at halftime, before stands full of her schoolmates and all of the team’s boosters. It’s also natural for her father to want to keep these gifts wrapped tight and locked up safe in her bedroom. His sudden turn to puritanism comes from the deep-seated memories he has of his own youthful reaction to seeing long lines of his high school’s short-skirted high kickers. The appearance of a miniskirt in his daughter’s wardrobe—even when it is school-issued—will often prompt a father into a protectionist mode. And this too is perfectly natural. But he will soon learn that nothing can be done, and once he does, it will all begin (aided by three nightly scotches) to smooth itself out. Before you know it, he’ll be just as proud and supportive (and privately horrified) as all the drill team dads who came before him.
Q: Is it okay to take your children to a bar?
A: No. The Texanist prefers his watering holes to be peopled with legal barflys of questionable intent rather than junior barflys of questionable parentage.
Q: I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who has recently learned the cotton-eyed Joe at her school, complete with the traditional cussing! What is a mother to do?
A:The Texanist’s introduction to the cotton-eyed Joe was also complete, as you say. It occurred in sixth grade at James B. Bonham Middle School in Temple at the hands of a fun-loving language arts teacher whose name has been lost to time. The Texanist is almost certain that this is not uncommon. It may, in fact, be a mandatory component of accepted curricula across the state. Your daughter will soon be of dance hall age, and it is important that she be properly equipped to handle a standard fiddle breakdown. We must leave no child behind.
Q: I have recently found myself in a bit of a predicament. I am a third-generation Aggie, and my wife and I have taught our three-year-old son, Jake, the complete lyrics to the “Aggie War Hymn.” Some observers have commented that a three-year-old should not be taught the words “sounds like hell.” You probably have a unique perspective on this dilemma.
John M. Davidson
A: Perhaps the age appropriateness of the lyrics is not the actual pickle. Perhaps, and the Texanist is merely wondering aloud, of course, the real conundrum is whether, as one of the boy’s primary caretakers, it is proper for you to still be squeezing into musty-smelling all-white garb that hasn’t fit in years and roaming the house (not just on game days, either) hollering nonsensical utterances like “hullabaloo caneck caneck” and “chig-gar-roo-gar-rem chig-gar-roo-gar-rem” while making strange gestures, assuming odd postures, and kissing Mrs. Davidson frequently. What the h-e-double-toothpicks is a three-year-old to make of all that?
Q: When I’m in the car with my daughter, she prefers to listen to my wife’s radio station, which often features songs with inappropriate language or morning talk shows with inappropriate topics of conversation. Is there anything I can do to change her radio dial preferences?
A: The Texanist has recently found himself in this very situation. While ferrying his six-going-on-sixteen-year-old daughter around town, he was suddenly treated to the sound of Lady Gaga announcing her desire to take a ride on a “disco stick.” He immediately skipped to the next preset, only to be met with Katy Perry singing about tasting another girl’s “cherry ChapStick.” Good God! Did he dare listen further? His knuckles were white and his brow was drenched with sweat. He glanced in the rearview mirror, only to see his sweet little girl nodding her head innocently to the rancid beats. Unable to take it any longer, he jumped to the next preset. Never before had he been so happy to hear Celine Dion’s irritating “My Heart Will Go On” (theme from the movie Titanic). Severely addled, the Texanist has thenceforth adhered to a strict drive time diet of wholesome classic country. Now it’s “Chug-A-Lug,” by Roger Miller; “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” by the incomparable Tex Williams; Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”; and plenty of Conway “I’d Love to Lay You Down” Twitty. The protestations from the backseat are loud and plaintive, but beneath the sound of the Texanist’s own singing, they are barely noticeable. Happy trails.
Q: My fifteen-year-old daughter has been dressing more and more provocatively this summer, and her mother doesn’t seem to give a hoot. When I say something, I’m either mocked or ignored. What’s a caring father to do?
A: It is not unusual for a girl on the precipice of young womanhood to adopt a style of dress that causes her father to have deep reservations. As well as feelings of discomfort. And worry. And appointments with real estate agents in remote and uninhabited corners of Saskatchewan. The Texanist doesn’t know if it will make you feel any better, but the important thing to remember here is that it doesn’t matter what you do or say. Right around the time that she acquires her first halter top, a girl begins to develop an inability to hear her father’s or her mother’s voice. This has been scientifically proved, though its evolutionary advantage is unclear. The Texanist must therefore advise you to retire to the garage for a cold beer, a good head-scratching, and a long, long prayer.
Q: I recently caught my twelve-year-old son and a friend of his smoking grapevine behind our garage, and I came down on him pretty hard. When I told the friend’s mother, she just laughed it off, and her boy received no punishment. I think this is wrong. What is a good punishment for smoking grapevine?
A: The Texanist spent a fair share of his formative years on the grapevine-rich banks of Temple’s Bird Creek, puffing away the afternoons with his friends, but he doesn’t recall ever being come upon by any adults. And if he had been, they most likely would’ve asked for a sprig themselves. At that place and in that time, children were allowed to roam with a much looser rein than they are today. And yet, those same children grew up to be people like, well, the Texanist (i.e., stand-up citizens, taxpayers, moderate drinkers, Sunday golfers, etc.). Considering the alarming array of intoxicants your son could be ingesting (glue, cough syrup, salvia, ecstasy, Four Loko, laughing gas, PCP, tequila, crack cocaine, GHB, paint fumes, Jägermeister, hallucinogenic mushrooms, horse tranquilizers, crank, bennies, black-tar heroin mixed with Tylenol PM, roofies, LSD, malt liquor, OxyContin, and pure Mexican peyote), a little grapevine should be the least of your concerns. Instead of punishing it, you ought to do your best to encourage the habit, relatively harmless as it is. Buy your son a nice lighter and point him to the nearest thicket. Trust the Texanist when he tells you that a few hits off of a dry twig of grapevine won’t kill him, stunt his growth, or even lead to the use of harder vegetation—at least not directly.
Q: My daughter acts completely repulsed when presented with meat on the bone. She won’t eat it. Grosses her out. She’ll eat meat (she loves burgers and hot dogs), just not when it’s on the bone. No chicken, no ribs. How can I coax her along, or should I even bother?
A: You have two options, but first, an examination of your daughter’s reluctance to gnaw on bones is in order. The root of this particular problem, which the Texanist usually encounters in small children and people from California, is an overactive imagination. Connecting the dots, or in this case the bones, the imaginative child (or Californian) is able to reconstruct, from the sight of the comestible object with the bone still in it, an anatomically complete creature with big brown eyes. It plays out very much like, and to the exact tune of, the old spiritual “Dem Bones”: This rib bone was connected to a—backbone; that backbone was connected to a—neck bone; that neck bone was connected to a—head bone; that head bone contained two—eyeballs; those eyeballs remind me of a—puppy. Which brings us to your options. You can try to convince her that the boneless item is no less related to the living animal than its bone-in counterpart, but then you run the risk of pushing her into vegetarianism. So the Texanist would recommend that you just keep putting out the nuggets. If you do choose the first option, what you don’t want to do is ever explain to her in any amount of detail, or with any sort of visual aids, the process by which her favorite boneless meats came to be that way. Then she may never eat again, period.
Q: I have a ten-year-old daughter whose two best friends are going to camp in Hunt for four weeks this summer, and she’s expressed some interest in joining them. I didn’t go to camp myself. Fact is, I was under the impression that only bad kids got shipped off to camp. Am I missing something? Is packing my girl off for a month this summer a bad idea?
A: The Texas tradition of sending kids to the Hill Country for summer camp is not just for juvenile delinquents. The Texanist’s own daughter—who is not, to the Texanist’s knowledge, a criminal—is a third-generation Kickapoo at Camp Honey Creek for Girls, in Hunt. In what is either a strange coincidence or something the Texanist needs to speak to his psychiatrist about, his mother, mother-in-law, and wife were Kickapoos all. And while the camp experience is a wonderful thing for the young camper, so too can it be great for the parents, who are able, with the children gone, to unleash their own inner bad kid. That’s right, while memories of camp time for the child are filled with swimming, horseback riding, archery, new friends, s’mores, and unair-conditioned cabins with bunks full of oversharing peers, memories of camp time for the parents ought rightly to be filled with tequila-fueled bouts of naked Crisco Twister and Bloody Mary mornings. Go ahead and ship your good girl off. She’ll have a blast. And so will you.
Q: I recently gave my grandson a bullwhip for his ninth birthday, and the last time I visited he told me that his mom, my daughter, wouldn’t let him play with it. I asked her about it, and she explained to me that a whip wasn’t a good toy for a kid these days. End of bullwhip and end of story. I had a bullwhip as a boy and had lots of fun with it. When did whips go out of style?
A: According to recent studies, it’s not bullwhips that have gone out of style, it’s mothers who endorse bullwhips as appropriate childhood toys. The Texanist was lucky enough to have his entrée into the world of boyhood whippery come about when mothers still permitted that sort of thing. The occasion was a visit to Temple by screen legend Lash LaRue, who stopped off one summer for a cracking exhibition and a showing of one of his classic westerns. Whether the film was Law of the Lash, Mark of the Lash, Return of the Lash, or another of Mr. LaRue’s innumerable whip-centric movies the Texanist can’t be sure, but what he knows with certitude is that he was totally enamored of the man’s skills. For months after Mr. LaRue’s visit, the Texanist could be found roaming the streets with a succession of belts, rawhides, razor straps, ropes, quirts, and bullwhacks, terrorizing the insect and chrysanthemum population and making sticks dance. You can tell your daughter that this love affair with the lash left no permanent scars and that, with some help from the occupational therapist, both of his eyes have been restored to good working order. This old whippersnapper respectfully disagrees with the tendency, highly prevalent nowadays, to keep potentially dangerous toys away from children. A whip, with a little guidance, is a fine gift for a boy. So is a .22, a bowie knife, and certain small explosives. Try again next year.
Q: My husband usually takes our eleven-year-old son to get his hair cut at the local barbershop, but recently, my husband was out of town, and I took our son in myself. I was shocked to see the place littered with girlie magazines. Granted, all the barbers and clients are male, but is it okay for an eleven-year-old to be subjected to such material?
A: The Texanist understands your concern but cautions against taking your son to the mall for his haircuts. This would be a disservice to the boy, who, whether he knows it or not, is getting more than a fairly priced trim. The air in a barbershop is thick not just with the smell of manly tonics but also with spirited male conversation, the ins and outs of which your son will be well served to master. Why don’t you simply ask your husband to keep an eye on the boy during the next cut? If he happens to spy a portion of a cover of an age-inappropriate glossy, perhaps it can be used as a pretext for a conversation that is lurking in your husband’s near future anyway. Of course, you could also buy the shop a dozen subscriptions to TEXAS MONTHLY to help dilute the less suitable material.
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?
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: My son, who will start high school next year, plans to pursue lacrosse full-time, forgoing football altogether. He’ll be attending the same school where I was the starting quarterback for two years. Should I try to change his mind, or do I have to get on board the lacrosse train?
A: All aboard! It seems the great Texas lacrosse revolution has no end in sight, although it remains unsanctioned by the University Interscholastic League, the organization that oversees interschool extracurricular athletic (as well as music and academic) competitions. Football, for now and probably evermore, still reigns. That said, your situation is unique, and the Texanist understands where you are coming from, having known some starting QBs himself. Still, he advises you not to intervene too strongly. It’s a proven fact that chips off the ol’ block are a naturally occurring phenomenon and cannot be manually sculpted. Your boy’s interest in the pigskin would be compelled, not natural, which would inevitably lead to an unsatisfactory 60 to 75 percent level of “giving”—far less, as you well know, than the required minimum of 110 percent.
Q: My son is eleven years old, and his career record against me in horseshoes has to stand at something like two thousand wins to one loss, with maybe a draw or two in there. How long must I carry on the charade? Up until what age is it healthy for a son to be allowed to continually “beat” his father in horseshoes?
A: There are few things in life as rewarding as spending time around the horseshoe pits with the young ones. And not just because they are easy marks. But even though children don’t usually have much worth wagering, save for the occasional stick of gum, there is still a payday to be had in the endeavor. Passing along the valuable lessons of sportsmanship—how to win, lose, and compete graciously—can be just as gratifying as the collection of one or two bucks or another cold beer. Intentionally throwing games by misapplying points for ringers and leaners is an age-old instructional tool, and it sounds as if you have done a whale of a job familiarizing your boy with the sweet taste of victory. Perhaps a little too good of a job. His competitive diet is out of balance, and it’s well past time to start supplementing this fraudulent winning streak with some bitter spoon-feedings of whup-ass. The Texanist prescribes the opening of several cans. Really let him have it. How to be a good loser will prove to be a much tougher lesson, but out in life’s horseshoe pits (both real and metaphorical), it’s one that will serve him well.
Q: My son recently visited a petting zoo and fell in love with one of the goats they had. It’s been more than two months, and he hasn’t stopped talking about that goat. He turns ten in July, and his father and I are considering surprising him—with a goat! One question, though: Do goats make good pets?
A: The Texanist has never kept goats and will admit that his experiences with them have been mostly passing encounters. Nonetheless, he has a well-formed opinion about them, which is that they are crazy. For example, the Texanist’s brother once had a pet goat named B.A. (short for Bad Attitude) that would greet guests by rearing menacingly back on his hind legs and assuming a very unwelcoming butting posture. The only defense against B.A.’s unprovoked aggressions was to meet his oncoming horned head with a boot, which he seemed to enjoy so much that everyone began to suspect it was the reason he reared back in the first place. The Texanist also had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of another goat, Clay Henry Jr., one of the famous beer-drinking goat mayors of Lajitas. As if the fact that Mayor Henry was a goat and an elected official and a prodigious beer drinker were not novelty enough, His Honor was also known to cycle the brew through his system and (cover the children’s eyes!) drink it again—straight from the, ahem, tap, if you catch the Texanist’s drift. Disgusting. And ingenious—in a goaty sort of way. So back to your question: Do goats make good pets? Well, they can be entertaining. For a little while. But a dog might be a better bet. You could always name him Billy.
Q: Our six-year-old daughter has just finished her first season of soccer and is going to play again this summer. With regard to cheering, is it out of line to root for a win in her “no-score” league? Where exactly does the line between parental supportiveness and overenthusiastic sideline parent from hell lie?
A: Amongst all of life’s curricula, there are few lessons more important than those imparted via peewee sports. It’s on these shortened fields where children first learn how to handle with dignity and poise both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And it’s on the sidelines of these fields where parents get a refresher course in the same. Here’s the CliffsNotes version: Supporting your own child with moderately enthusiastic encouragement is good; razzing, heckling, or in any way attempting to “get inside the head of” another child is bad. Punitive behavior (e.g., withholding orange slices, et cetera) toward the less athletic children on your own child’s team is also unacceptable, however tempting it may be. Even the coach is never to be verbally or otherwise abused, no matter how idiotic it was for him to put that nearsighted Stevens girl in at goalie with ten minutes left in the game. And as for these so-called no-score leagues, it is the Texanist’s experience that if the peewees are old enough to count, then the peewees keep score. Everyone may get a trophy in the end, but the peewees know, as sure as there will be juice boxes, in which team’s column to place the W and the L.