There are few things that scream “Texas” more than the image of a lone rider on a long and dusty road. Tacos, maybe. But combine those things in the North Dallas suburb of Allen, and you’re in for some trouble.
That’s something that Taco Bell enthusiast Rick Braun learned after he picked up his order at the Allen location of the restaurant chain.
According to Fox2Now, the regular customer of the store was ticketed (with a fine amount of $226) for visiting the drive-thru on horseback:
ALLEN, TX– Yo quiero…out of this ticket. That’s what a Texas man is saying after cops cited him for riding his horse to Taco Bell. Allen, TX Police say it’s illegal to ride an animal on a public street. But Rick Braun argues he’s been going to the fast food chain by horse for years, often two to three nights a week.
Police say they’ve received complaints about horse droppings, but Braun says he never got those messages. The city of Allen, Texas, considers it a safety issue. There are concerns drivers won’t see the horse in the dark.
Leaving aside for the moment that two to three visits to Taco Bell a week for years is a lot of Taco Bell for a person to eat, the story is interesting in what it says about the culture of Allen and some of the other fast-developing North Texas suburbs. Braun claims that he’s been riding his horse to the Taco Bell in Allen since he moved to the area eleven years ago, and the population of the suburb has ballooned in that time. As Texas Monthly reported last fall, Allen in particular is a vivid example of a suburb that very quickly transitioned from “rural” to “suburban”:
Between 2000 and 2010 the town’s population nearly doubled, from 43,000 to 84,000. Median household income is $95,000 (almost double the national average), and the school isn’t the only place where people like to spend money: the Village at Allen and the Village at Fairview combine for a massive outdoor mall a few blocks away from the high school, with over 150 shops, including a Whole Foods, a Cabela’s, and an iPic Theaters cinema (ticket prices start at $17.50). There are two apartment complexes in the compound, where a seven-hundred-square-foot one-bedroom can run as much as $1,100 a month. There are two dog parks, a hedge maze, and an events center that hosts the Allen Americans minor league hockey team, the Texas Revolution indoor football team, and the North Texas Gun and Knife Show.
The one-stoplight town that Allen was stands in sharp contrast with the booming suburb with a median household income that pushes $100,000 a year. In a one-stoplight town, riding your horse to the restaurant to grab a taco isn’t a big deal—is there even anybody there who might mind? But if you’ve got people driving in from all over North Texas and Oklahoma to get to the Cabela’s, it’s a different story.
Braun brought up the difference between how he sees the area and how the area sees itself when speaking about the incident to WFAA:
“It’s horse country!” he said. “Everywhere you go, there’s horses everywhere.”
But that argument didn’t register with Allen authorities after he and friends rode into that city from Lucas two weeks ago. They had stopped over at a Taco Bell on Stacy Road. Braun said he’s been going there by horse for years, often two to three nights a week.
Allen police spokesman Jon Felty said officers had warned Braun repeatedly. “We’ve asked them, please don’t do this,” he said.
Allen’s city code is clear on riding horses through heavily trafficked streets (and Felty noted to WFAA that every street in Allen, these days, is heavily trafficked): it doesn’t allow it. But Braun and his friends indicated to the station that they intend to continue doing it.
It’s a fascinating culture clash, to say the least. Braun lives in Lucas, the town just east of Allen, and it has a population of just over 6,000, or roughly what Allen had around the late seventies. But with the growth rate in Allen booming, even a town as small as Lucas isn’t immune to changes. Its population, too, has doubled since 2000, and growth like that tends to be exponential.
All of which is to say that the landscape of North Texas and the northern Dallas suburbs is changing rapidly, and it shows the two competing faces of the region: one rural and full of ranches and, sure, horses, and one affluent and suburban, packed with everything from Whole Foods to Taco Bells. And, as Braun learned, the two aren’t necessarily meant to mix.