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A Man of Letters

It isn’t easy being the Texanist, but somebody has to do it.

By August 2016Comments

I  never expected to be the Texanist. In fact, when the assignment came up back in 2007, the only advice I was accustomed to giving was for the benefit of my dear wife, my preschool daughter, and the family dog, all of whom, as I recall, typically responded with little more than a skeptical glance before going on about their business. Looking back, though, my bona fides—Texas-born, Texas-raised, Texas-schooled, and Texas-traveled, with a fluency in the language and culture of Texas—were, if I may say so myself, unassailable. Or at least made enough sense that the new job and I turned out to be perfectly suited for each other.

And so, for the past nine years, I have had the estimable pleasure of serving the citizens of Texas (and California and New York and Oklahoma) as a giver of good guidance and the arbiter of what passes for proper conduct in this part of the world—and what does not. Over that time, I’m happy to have advised those who have found their way to me with all manner of conundrums; the range of topics I’ve covered is really quite mind-boggling. But then Texans (and Californians) are a unique people, and as such bring with them some unique predicaments.

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Photograph by LeAnn Mueller

For instance, I’ve chimed in on matters concerning the home and garden, sartorial subjects of every shape and size, and etiquette related to scenarios as disparate as sidling down a long row at a football stadium and parking on a person’s lawn. I’ve handled more than a few questions regarding the propriety of outdoor urination, which, owing to the lack of an overarching “golden rule” dictating when and where it is okay to relieve oneself alfresco, must always be determined on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, I’ve helped sort through numerous issues with guns and other types of weaponry, aided desperate souls with a variety of varmint-related matters, and offered heaping helpings of culinary counsel (no beans in the chili! Ever! No matter what!). I have also happily doled out a lot of relationship advice and consequently, as a side effect of those efforts, a fair amount of sex advice to boot. Who could forget that May 2014 letter from one Name Withheld, of Amarillo, having to do with the ins and outs of rolling in the hay: “The simple facts of life, in fact, inform us that for as long as humans have been cultivating, harvesting, and storing grasses for the purpose of nourishing their livestock, men and women have ‘rolled’ in those stored grasses for the purpose of feeding the innate sexual appetites that roil within. An attraction to ‘the hay’ is, for this reason, ingrained.” Hiyo!

I’m often asked about the most memorable bit of advice I’ve ever given, but to be honest there are so many that it’s impossible for me to single one out. I did get a letter once from a cowboy in Thurber who wanted to know if, during the summer months, it would be okay for him to work cattle in shorts and flip-flops. “Short answer: No! Long answer: Hell no,” I responded. “What’s next, a bandanna full of dreadlocks, a commemorative Margaritaville hacky sack, and a nimbus of dope smoke?” And then there was the time a young man came seeking advice about whether he should add the “Come and Take It” flag to his already impressive collection of Texas-themed tattoos. “The Texanist has mined his ample memory banks and concluded that he has yet to encounter the person with too many Texas-themed tattoos. And not being your poor mother, he actually finds the exuberance with which you display your pride in our great state commendable.” Something tells me that this fellow was going to get that tattoo no matter what the Texanist said.

Giving advice for a living sounds easy enough, and it’s probably a lot easier than roughnecking, but it can be a nerve-racking undertaking. Just ponder for a moment the potentially disastrous result of a young cowboy working cattle in a getup more suited for a Jimmy Buffett concert than a Big Country pasture. But now that I’m thinking about it, any perils that come with being the Texanist are easily offset by the perks the position has afforded. As my sagaciousness has been honed with time and experience, I’ve been called upon to lend my expertise on the radio (where I inadvertently belched on-air), on national cable news (where, in response to a question about then Governor Perry’s pre-“oops”-moment bluster, I nervously mumbled something about a can of whup-ass to CNN’s John King), and to an elementary school audience full of sleepy and confused third-graders. I’ve had the opportunity to judge weird food at the rodeo in Houston and barbecue at a cook-off at a state agency a few floors down from the Texas Monthly offices. And, for better or worse, I have become a trusted adviser to the current governor, the former governor, and the former first lady (Hi, Anita!) of Texas—or, at least, they follow me on Twitter. And I’m proud to provide the same services for a number of other politicos, as well as the State Fair of Texas, Whataburger, the Houston Texans cheerleading squad, and both Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. I’ve received a pat on the back for my work from Dan Rather, had a grown man kneel and kiss my ring (this actually happened), and have been screeched at (in a good way) by women at bars.

In the immortal words of Texas Ranger Captain Augustus McCrae, “It’s been one hell of a party.” And such a fun one that the Texanist is looking forward to a new era, in which I’ll be writing about such things as football, old stomping grounds, and raising a teenage Texan (or whatever else the fear of deadline inspires). So while changes are afoot, I’ll be right here, still putting those same impeccable credentials to use, only in a new and enhanced format.

The Texanist’s Rant of the Month: Hey, meteorologists! Enough with the damn heat index! “And we’re looking at a high of 101 degrees, but with the heat index it will feel more like 118.” That’s like saying, “It’s going to be hotter than two rats making whoopee in a wool sock, but it will feel hotter than the devil’s nether regions.” Or the other way around. Either way, it’s completely unnecessary. It’s hot. Can we just leave it at that?

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