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On the Great Outdoors

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Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q. I am an avid South Texas hunter. A while back, I was en route to Concan and stopped to get gas when I saw a group of grown men shamelessly flaunting their pink camouflage hats and shirts. In almost three decades of hunting I have never seen a pink tree. Please tell me why this is happening.
David Travis
South Padre Island
January 2010

A: Several explanations come to mind. As an avid enthusiast of the outdoors, you know well that when a person (like, for example, Harry Whittington) wishes to ensure that he will remain visible at all times to his fellow hunters (like, for example, Dick Cheney), he will accent his camouflage with a splash of blaze-orange. And if that person (again, Whittington) feels that circumstances call for him to take an extra step for safety’s sake, he might easily conclude that head-to-toe pink camo would not only get him noticed but possibly so confuse and dismay his companions as to cause them to lay down their firearms entirely and just sit on a stump feeling funny. Then again, based on your description, the Texanist wonders if you might have crossed paths with the elusive creature known as the Fabulous Ol’ Boy. If so, congratulations. This is a rare and thrilling encounter for any outdoorsman. The Fabulous Ol’ Boy—not to be confused with his less colorful cousin, the Good Ol’ Boy—is identifiable by his habit of vivid self-expression, eschewing the gender-specific color palettes prescribed by his upbringing while still clinging tightly to his gun and truck. Theories abound as to where the Fabulous Ol’ Boy comes from, but seeing one is always a treat. As for the existence of pink trees, the Texanist recalls once finding himself taking cover in a grove of pulsating pink foliage while waiting out a disturbance brought on by the ingestion of a hallucinogenic mushroom tea that was surreptitiously served to him at an otherwise pleasant afternoon yard party outside Blanco. In trying to go unnoticed by fellow partygoers and the frighteningly grotesque creatures that tormented him that day, an outfit of pink camouflage would have suited him just fine.

 

Q: What are the guidelines for male friends helping each other apply sunscreen? I was recently down at the coast with a buddy of mine. My girlfriend wasn’t there, so when I was putting on some sunscreen, I asked him if he’d mind doing my back. He nearly had a conniption fit and acted like I had made some sort of depraved request. Did I err?
Name withheld
August 2008

A: Blessed with a preternaturally bronzed (the fact-checkers say orange) and perpetually glistening (the fact-checkers say unwashed) beach-friendly physique, like that of Hercules film series star Reg Park (who, the fact-checkers say, succumbed to skin cancer in 2007), the Texanist has never himself had much use for sunscreen. His position vis-à-vis ultraviolet radiation shares much with the president’s onetime stance toward Islamic extremism: Bring it on. But he is keenly aware of the medical establishment’s point of view regarding the harmful effects of the sun’s rays and knows well the strong bonds, but equally strong boundaries, of male friendship. It would be nice if these forces never collided, but male-on-male sunblock application is hardly the only case of fellowship’s leading to manly activities that can be misconstrued. Has your friend never hugged a man after a victory in sport? Slapped a man on the buttocks for a job well-done? Pinned a man to the floor during a night of drunken Indian leg wrestling that gets a little out of hand? As long as the summer sun shines on Texas’s beautiful beaches, men will share shirtless moments frolicking beneath it. If your friend is resolute in his reluctance to “do your back,” maybe next time you should bring the girls.

Q: Is noodling an advisable catfishing technique?
Ken Cluley
Wichita Falls
June 2008

A: Noodling, also known by such regionalisms as hogging, dogging, tickling, or grabbling, is a rudimentary method in which the “angler” submerges himself in a body of water, uses his hand as both lure and hook, and after getting a bite, grapples with behemoth channel, blue, or flathead catfish like a sort of Jacques Cousteau—cum—Fritz Von Erich. Noodling is legal and acceptable behavior in such lawless wastelands as Oklahoma and Arkansas, but around here it is apt to net you a handsome fine, as will the taking by hand of any fish, game or not. When the Texanist hankers for a physical encounter with a lunker, he prefers to laze about on the end of a dock with a well-stocked cooler and a can of night crawlers rather than go three Tarzanian rounds with a Moby Dick of the mud.

Q: I’m heading down to the beach this Labor Day for the first time ever, and I have heard that the jellyfish can be really bad on the Texas coast. How do you avoid them, and what do you do if you are stung by one?
Justin Torres
Arlington
May 2009

A: The Texanist, thank God, has never tangled with any of the three jellyfish most common to the Texas coast. Nor has he endured the venomous lash of the hated Portuguese man-of-war. He does, however, harbor vivid memories of a bloody childhood incident that involved having his bare foot impaled to the hilt by the barbed dorsal spine of a washed up hardhead catfish, but that is a fish tale he’ll save for his fish therapist’s couch. When beachgoing, the Texanist is always coated with a liberal slathering of cocoa butter and always has his full, uncut chest, leg, and back plumage on display (no manscaper he). Perhaps the ample vegetable fat and body hair, like armor, have unintentionally protected him from the medusa’s torturous tentacles, or maybe, somehow, it has something to do with his sure-footed swagger. The Texanist can’t be certain.

The point is that while blooms of jellies can be abundant along the Texas Riviera, a skin-scalding encounter with one of the stinging gobs of goo need not ruin your getaway. The most important thing is to disregard any “100 percent guaranteed remedy” that involves a list of cockamamy ingredients including but not limited to shaving cream, beer, mayonnaise, tomato juice, buttermilk, or butter. Especially avoid the person insisting on the most persistent of old-wives’-tale-jellyfish-sting remedies: human urine. Even in the face of a red and throbbing leg engulfed from toe to knee in nematocysts, the Texanist would sooner have it sawed off than be peed upon by a chuckling chum. Experts recommend splashing (avoid rubbing) a bit of vinegar on the wound, applying a paste of baking soda or sand, scraping the area clean with a straight edge, and then going back to the vinegar. The Texanist would add that two jiggers of gin, some tonic water, and one quarter of a Mexican lime over ice wouldn’t hurt either.

Q: I was in Austin visiting my brother recently, and he took me and my kids, a nine-year-old girl and a ten-year-old boy, to Barton Springs Pool to go swimming. Right after we laid our towels down, my kids noticed that two women behind us weren’t wearing tops or trying to cover themselves at all. I’ve never seen anything like that, not even on South Padre. I didn’t know what to say to my children, so I asked the women to cover up. They  refused, and they were very rude about it too. We ended up moving, but now I’m wondering: Should I have pressed the matter?
Felicia Thompson

Brownsville
October 2011

A: Among the numerous things for which the capital city of Texas has become known—state government, live music, Mexican martinis—its conspicuous liberalism, a lifestyle that includes casual nudism, rests at or near the top of the list. The blueberry in the tomato soup, as they say, is not only organic but also free-range. The Texanist knows this from long experience, having made his home in Austin since the eighties, when as a raw and callow youth, incapable of taking good advice let alone doling it out, he arrived in the capital to further his book-learning and to expand his horizons. It did not take long for the loose attitudes of the place to inflame the small-town sensibilities he had brought with him, like so many pairs of carefully labeled white undershorts, from his boyhood home of Temple. Like a choirboy in darkest Sodom, he wandered the streets bug-eyed, stammering red-faced replies when encountering the sorts of behaviors that you and your children witnessed. There was, in particular, a certain neighbor who liked to tend to the small plot of vegetables in her front yard without the encumbrance of a shirt. Was it the Texanist’s fault that the route to the bus stop took him back and forth past her garden, where she would sometimes rise from her summer squashes and address him directly, inquiring about his classes or disserting on the weather? Even these many years later, the Texanist can recall those squashes in vivid detail . . . Now then, where was he? Ah, yes. The truth is that the indecent-exposure laws of the state of Texas permit women like the Texanist’s old neighbor to remain top-free unless a local statute prohibits it or a local citizen complains. So the women in question were breaking no laws. But should you have complained? Well, the Texanist believes, after years of study, that the citizenry of Austin are themselves one of the town’s main tourist attractions, much like a zoo’s silverback gorillas. And just as it’s unwise—and sort of beside the point—to harangue a gorilla, it is also not recommended for out-of-towners to complain about the conduct of the locals. No, for all parties involved, this was, in fact, a matter best left unpressed.

Q: After a recent fishing trip with some buddies down in Rockport, I have been bothered by something that occurred. We hired a pricey guide, and while he earned his fee, quickly putting us onto some fish and limiting us out before lunch, we all saw him fudge some redfish measurements. As you know, redfish have to be between 20 and 28 inches long to keep without the proper tag. That night, as we sat around the dinner table (yes, we had redfish), we wondered if he was being careless or if the length requirements are a figure that can be ballparked. We also wondered what the penalty would have been had we been found out.
Name Withheld
September 2012

A: Ever since that critical point in the long and winding course of human history when fishing evolved from an exercise in survival to a means of whiling away half the day with a line in the water and a beer in the koozie, man has been inclined to fudge the numbers. There is a humongous difference, however, between the honorable tradition of grossly exaggerating one’s own angling exploits for the purposes of self-aggrandizement and the sort of trickery perpetrated by your guide. This man, licensed by the State of Texas, appears to have drifted into the dangerous waters of corner-cutting. Haphazard fish measurement aimed at evading the official rules is no joke. The Texanist is not laughing and doubts that the local game warden is either. The reality is that taking redfish that ought not be taken could land you an 1120 (undersized fish) or 1121 (oversized fish) citation. And that would be nothing to brag about.

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