texanist livestock pets

How does a parent break it to his children that they ate the livestock “pets”?

Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: I grew up north of San Antonio, and it was a proud day when Dad brought home my first calf to raise. I was twelve years old and I fell in love with Brownie, but eventually the time came when he needed to venture off to be with his friends. A few years later, I asked aloud, “Wonder where Brownie is now?” to which Dad answered, “We ate him.” I ran away screaming, tears in my eyes. I appreciate my father’s honesty, but was it the best policy for that situation? Should he have let his little cowpoke go on thinking Brownie was still grazing somewhere out in the pasture?   
Jack Haydon, Germantown, Tennessee

A: Schools of thought vary as to how exactly a parent ought to properly introduce a child to the harsher realities of this cruel, cruel world. Some moms and dads try to protect their offspring for as long as possible from the true nature of this vale of sorrows we call home. But although such protection may come from a good place, it can quickly turn into overprotection, which can lead to mollycoddling. The Texanist is against mollycoddling. Like your father, who appears to have been cut from a similarly tough cloth, he favors the direct style. There is much to recommend in this approach, and much that can be learned from the earthy truths of farm life. Children who have some experience with the care and keeping of edible pets are, generally speaking, better equipped to handle the nasty, brutish, and short existence that awaits them once they leave for college and/or a job in the fields. Your dad’s reply was likely meant to teach you two important lessons: number one, that death waits for no man (or cow), and number two, that if you want to dance (i.e., eat a steak), you have to pay the fiddler (i.e., kill a cow). His forthrightness showed that he respected you and that he believed you were mature enough to calmly handle the news that ol’ Brownie had been fattened up, slaughtered, and sliced into thick steaks and other delicious cuts, which had then been seasoned, seared on a hot grill, and eaten—by you! Could he have exercised a little restraint, maybe a touch of “what he don’t know won’t hurt him”? Perhaps. But think about what sort of knock-kneed, dewy-eyed clod you may have grown into had he done so. The Texanist believes your father did right by you. And Brownie.

Q: My ex-wife recently moved with my daughter from Montana to Plano, Texas. I have been to Plano, Texas, and there are McMansions packed tight in subdivisions and many roads, but few trees. It is women with big hair driving SUVs. Coming from a rural environment, I find Plano to be pretentious. Is it possible for a little girl to grow up in that city without becoming pretentious?  
Name Withheld

A: The jolt of severe culture shock brought on by a visit to Plano from the wilds of rural Montana is certainly understandable, as the two places are polar opposites. Your thumbnail sketch of the biggest of Big D’s suburbs is not completely inaccurate, although some locals might take issue with a couple of your broader strokes. As to whether any of this will cause your daughter to develop a showboaty, ostentatious demeanor, the Texanist cannot say for sure. He is an eternally optimistic person—which is another quality your daughter may well pick up from living in Texas—and he likes to believe that all things are possible, even though deep down inside he knows that there are some things that are not.

Q: My claim to fame is that I’ve lived in every major city in Texas. I grew up in El Paso, went to college in San Antonio, moved to H-town for my first job and then Austin for more school (Hook ’em!), and ended up in Big D with a wife and kids. Some people try to burst my bubble, throwing Fort Worth in my face (lumps into DFW, right?) and, on occasion, even Corpus (population <500k)! Question is: Have I, or have I not, lived in every major Texas city? 
Dale Shover, Dallas (most recently)

A: Wow. El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and Dallas. That is some feat indeed. You move more than a fugitive from justice. Assuming you are not in fact currently on the lam, hearty congratulations are due you, sir. Way to go. However, the cities in which you have resided constitute five of Texas’ six most populated. As Fort Worth is fifth on this list, ahead of El Paso, logic would require you to include it among the state’s “major cities.” (Corpus Christi actually has more than a quarter million residents, but it’s still only the state’s eighth-largest city, and in case you’re wondering, Temple, the Texanist’s hometown, is forty-eighth-largest, ahead of Missouri City and Flower Mound.) Can you claim to have lived there because of your Dallas address? The Texanist would advise against it. For while the conjoining of Dallas and Fort Worth is not at all uncommon (see Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport and the Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area, among many other examples), if you ask actual everyday Dallasites and Fort Worthians for their thoughts on the matter, you are likely to see some raised hackles. The Texanist thinks you’d be on more solid ground (recent earthquakes notwithstanding) if you contrived a way to throw down some stakes in Cowtown proper for a stint. Perhaps you’ll like it there. From its Western heritage and cowboy culture to its fine arts, the city has a lot to offer. Think about it. Otherwise, your claim to fame shall simply be having lived in all of Texas’s major cities except Fort Worth.

Q: I was in Austin for business this past January and feel extremely lucky to have survived “Snowpocalypse 2014,” which caused my flight to be canceled and forced an extra night’s stay in your fair capital. After watching the local news and overhearing endless conversation among “snowbound” Austinites, I couldn’t help but think that this weather event was blown a little out of proportion. There was really no discernible snow on the ground, and yet all of Texas seemed to be thrown into a complete state of immobility. I was always under the impression that Texans were hardy people. I guess there’s an exception during wintertime. What gives?
Tameka Simson, Albany, New York

A: According to the most recent meteorological data, the average high and low January temperatures for Austin are 62 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit. The average highs and lows in Albany, New York, for the same month are 31 and 15. Do you understand that the highest average level your January mercury hits is below the temperature at which liquids freeze!?! And your lowest is a few degrees warmer, even, than old Billy! In Austin, unlike the ice-covered death trap you call home, really cold and nasty winter days are few and far between. For this reason, the locals can, admittedly, have a bit of a hard time navigating roadways upon which there might possibly be a tiny but relatively treacherous amount of frozen, freezing, near-frozen, or very, very cold precipitation. But the Texanist, on behalf of all Texans, must take issue with your appraisal of our sturdiness. The hundreds of Austin-area crashes that occurred during the arctic blast you brought to town with you are a testament to the think-you-can-do spirit that has made this state great (and slightly dangerous). The Texanist wonders how New York drivers would fare if their roads were suddenly blanketed with triple-digit temperatures, blowing dust, tumbling tumbleweed, and a wide array of darting wild animals.

THE TEXANIST’S LITTLE-KNOWN FACT OF THE MONTH:

Texas Ranger Hall of Famer Samuel Walker, the namesake of the famous Walker Colt revolver and a survivor of the infamous Black Bean Episode, died during the Mexican War and was interred at Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico, then later disinterred and eventually reinterred at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, in San Antonio, where he rests eternally ’neath a weathered limestone obelisk.