I recently returned from a trip to an exotic foreign country. A land full of strange customs, untamed wilderness, and people with an affinity for beef smothered in barbeque sauce. Yep, I was in the great country of Texas!* As a New Yorker who has never been to Texas, I was completely blindsided by many traditions that Texas hold so dear. So, in an effort to protect and inform any foreigners traveling through the vast nation-state of Texas in the future, I compiled a must-do list.
*Note: I know Texas is a state, but I don’t want to be sent to the stockades for failing to recognize the “Lone Star Republic’s” independence from the “Yankee Devils.”
Go Bull Riding: One way to win over the locals is to ride a bull. In Texas, riding a bull is a rite of passage and a way to instantly be accepted by the locals. If you’re unclear as to how it works, I’ll explain: First, a gigantic bull with horns as sharp as the murder knife from Scream and long as the Hulk’s shlong is led into a tiny starting pen. As if drunk Texans yelling and screaming isn’t enough to anger this remnant from the Jurassic era, the rider (wearing a cowboy hat to protect his skull from injury, of course) hops onto it’s back. Finally, the pen door is opened, and the bull runs out, kicking and jumping to throw the rider, whose goal is to stay on as long as possible. In my mind, the real goal is to avoid death by horn-through-the-eye-socket or trampling by the bull’s piston-esqe legs that continue to kick after the rider’s body, limp from whiplash, has been launched like a water rocket.
Attend a Barbeque: The best part about bull riding in Texas is that even if the bull wins in the arena, you can get the last laugh. After a short trip to the hospital, you can exact your revenge by devouring the hell-beast in the form of a Texas barbeque brisket sandwich! Texas barbeques are also a great way to unleash your inner savage. At these events, people pile their plates high with all kinds of foods smothered in grease and meant to be eaten by hand – corn on the cob dipped in butter, deep-fried pickles, and baked beans, stewed in beef fat and served without a fork or spoon. At the center of the plate, sitting in a lake of oil fed by rivers of grease is the brisket sandwich, oozing with cholesterol. Barbeques are also a great way to meet locals. Nothing says “Welcome to Texas!” like a barbeque-sauce slathered handshake and a kiss on the cheek from a woman that smells like pickles and cattle.
Buy a Cowboy Hat: At the barbeque you may feel a bit out of place when you notice that everyone around you is wearing a cowboy hat. These hats are a symbol of Texas pride and serve little to no practical purpose. They used to protect ranchers and cattle drivers from the sun, but modern-day inventions like sunscreen, trucks, and automated farming tools make them completely useless. These days, people wear hats to make it acceptable to ride bulls, attend barbeques, and drink beer at 10:00am.
Listen to Country Music: Once you have a hat, you’ll fit in as a Texan until you hear a strange sound coming from the radio. Don’t be alarmed – it’s probably just country music. To confirm your suspicions, listen for any sexual innuendos regarding farming – those are dead giveaways. Anyway, just try to hum along to the tune and repeat some country music buzz-words, like “pickup truck,” “’Merica,” and “confederacy.” Most country songs are about these topics, so you should be all set. In the off-chance that the country song you’re hearing is not about these topics, just stuff your face full of brisket and lay low for a while – not knowing the lyrics to certain songs is a crime in the great country of Texas.