Big Tex passed away Friday after being burned alive. He was 60. He was preceded in death by his father, Jack Bridges. His tragic demise proved that “Texas tough” is not synonymous with “fire retardant.”
“We’ve got a rather tall cowboy with all his clothes burned off,” the dispatcher said on the 911 tape. “Engine six out, Big Tex on fire.” The fault could be blamed on an Achilles’ Heel, of sorts: an electrical short in his boot sparked the blaze that took him down.
But fair and city officials have promised that, like a phoenix, Big Texas will rise again next year. “Big things happen in Dallas, and Big Tex was a symbol of that. I’m sure we’ll rebuild him and make him better than ever for the 21st century,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told the Dallas Morning News.
Many on the Internet remarked how eerie the footage was. The headline on Caity Weaver’s post at Gawker perhaps said it best: “Friendly Texas Icon Turns Into Terrifying Colossal Flame Monster As It Is Destroyed”
The Texanist left his condolences on Big Tex’s online obituary (yes, this exists) at the Dallas Morning News: “Some will say that you’re in a better place now, but deep down we all know that’s impossible. RIP, Big Tex, and see ya next year at the State Fair of Texas!” he wrote.
Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd penned this touching (and hilarious) farewell:
Vaya con Dios, Big Tex. It was truly the cowboy way to keep your tragic combustibility hidden behind your genial demeanor to the very end. …
Looking back, there were signs we missed: The gradual aging of your enormous fiberglass head, your arthritic hand that had ceased to wave with its characteristic peppiness. …
In truth, 60 seems a kind of early age for the big exit — your Medicare eligibility was still years away — but perhaps we cannot expect 52-foot-tall cowboys to live forever.
We have found solace for Cotton Bowl football defeats in your booming baritone folksiness; we have devoured corny dogs in your generous shadow; we have posed for silly pictures at your feet for generations.
Big Tex, without you, it’s a big car show, a carnival, a cow pageant and a deep-fried chowfest — but it’s just not the fair.
The Dallas Observer has a slideshow of Big Tex in happier times.
WATCH this (strangely narrated) video of Big Tex in flames: