Mack’s Last Stand
The Texas Longhorns are learning a clichéd-but-true lesson: Be careful what you wish for. Recent grumblings about several underachieving seasons for the football team led the head coach, Mack Brown, to retire. Now fans are uneasy, in part because the University of Alabama coach, Nick Saban, is not, as rumored, coming to save the day, and there are no clear prospects. There is also no schadenfreude, as Longhorns devotees believe Coach Brown is a good guy, a maker of men, who, when he arrived 16 seasons ago, revitalized a struggling program and helped transform it into Forbes magazine’s “most valuable” college football team, worth $139 million.

Longhorn fans who appreciate what Coach Brown has done for the university, and for football, may want to buy a ticket to the Alamo Bowl to cheer him on in one last game. True, the Longhorns have a seemingly impossible task: stopping Oregon, which can score in a flash, with a sieve for a defense. But as Coach Brown showed earlier this year when his Longhorns beat Oklahoma in the Red River rivalry, a largely unthinkable achievement, he can still rally the troops.
Alamodome, December 30, 5:45 p.m., 


Bottoms Up
Turning to more alcohol to cure a New Year’s Day hangover is just what the doctor ordered for Hair of the Dog Day at Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.

The musical festivities will begin with Guy Forsyth, a ball of blues-rock energy who will hoot and holler and stomp his feet to help guests assess their sensitivity to noise and move on to the next round. Once a designated driver has been chosen or a taxi has been booked, Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros will serve up a hazy afternoon of casual country. If, by nightfall, your cup runneth over (or even if it doth not), guests can immerse themselves in the crackerjack lyrics and lowdown vibe of Shinyribs, a new group fronted by Kevin Russell of the Gourds. After twelve hours of free music from some of Austin’s finest—and then some—it may be time for a do-over on your resolutions.
Gruene Hall, January 1, 12 p.m.,


Regardless of your position on guns, it would be hard not to take a shine to the silver Colt .41 double-action revolver, model 1877, serial number 73,728, on display at the new Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum. The handgun once belonged to the outlaw John Wesley Hardin, one of the baddest dudes to roam late-nineteenth-century Texas. The gun was confiscated shortly before Hardin was murdered while reportedly living a peaceful life in El Paso after serving time for one of the 42 killings he claimed to have  committed.

The Colt, which was supposed to be on display through this weekend only, had its stay extended through the spring, and it will join items from the Horsemen of the Americas—Tinker Collection, a permanent loan from the University of Texas made up of early-twentieth-century North American and South American cowboy- and horse-related artifacts. These items help tell the story of the museum, which is dedicated to the popular cattle thoroughfare memorialized in Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove.
The Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, December 27-28,


Just Like Heaven
Musical performances in churches deserve only the most pristine voices and delicately played instruments. When Mother Falcon, the N.P.R.-endorsed Austin indie-pop symphony, plays the Central Presbyterian Church on Saturday, the audience will hear fourteen choir voices overlaid on five violinists, four cellists, some horns and percussion players, a guitarist, and — perhaps to identify the collective as wholly Texas—an accordionist. These are not religious songs, but when this fragile army delivers salvos from its new album, “You Knew,” it is bound to incite a hallelujah.
Central Presbyterian Church, December 28, 9 p.m.,


All Aboard
Of all the distractions hatched by malls during the holidays to occupy the attention of visiting relatives, the fifteenth annual Trains at NorthPark Center is one of the grandest, both figuratively (it’s a fund-raiser for Ronald McDonald House) and literally (1,600 feet of track represent the entirety of the United States).
NorthPark Center, December 27-January 5, 


The Luck of the Legume
In the South, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is said to be good luck, but even if you do not believe it, you may still want to attend the eighth annual Black-Eyed Pea and Cornbread Cook-Off, where you could have the good fortune to sample Texas caviar.
Torre di Pietra Vineyards, January 1,