The news we heard yesterday was shocking. Big Tex burned to the ground. How could that be? Big Tex was immortal! Big Tex couldn’t die! He just couldn’t. But he did. And, today, millions of Texans, and some stray Oklahomans, are mourning the passing of Big Tex, the world’s largest cowboy.
For the past sixty years, Big Tex has greeted visitors at the main entrance to the annual State Fair of Texas. For many people, he was a bright childhood memory, and the experience of his big booming voice cheerfully shouting, “Howdy, Folks!”, was joyously passed on from generation to generation.
How often have you heard a celebrity referred to as “larger than life”? In the case of Big Tex, that was not just a metaphor! Not since Paul Bunyan roamed the countryside with Babe the Blue Ox has there been such a large and legendary man. Weighing in at 6,000 pounds and standing fifty-two feet high, Big Tex earned his name. And like a true citizen of the West, he was never without his seventy-five gallon cowboy hat and his Western boots, size 116 EEEEEE. He was a man’s man.
Unlike so many other celebrities, Big Tex never let fame go to his (oversized) head. There were no scandals. There was no illicit love affair with oh, say, the Statue of Liberty. There was no joyriding in stolen earth movers or indulging in cisterns of alcoholic beverages. In fact, aside from his apparent love of fried food and barbeque, Big Tex didn’t have any vices at all. He was just a good ol’ boy that lived a clean life, and made good.
Less than a month ago, Big Tex celebrated his sixtieth birthday with thousands of his adoring fans. There was a six-foot-high birthday cake to mark the occasion, cheers, applause and a whole lot of love passed around. At least at the end, Big Tex knew how much folks cared about him. He knew.
The State Fair of Texas will close this weekend. It was almost time for Big Tex to go back into, well, back into wherever Big Tex lived the rest of the year. But, this year, he won’t go there. Instead, he’ll go to loving artists and craftsmen who will begin the process of building a new Big Tex. Like Frosty the Snowman, he’ll be back again someday.
For now, fair goers will have to be content with visiting the spot where Big Tex stood for so many years. . .the spot marked by his ashes and his Dickies belt buckle, which is roughly the size of a Toyota Prius. Or folks can just step over to the Creative Arts Pavillion, where they can visit that wonderful butter sculpture of Big Tex riding in a Cadillac, just inside the door.
Today, we remember. And, maybe, just maybe, we can hear Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Ring of Fire” playing in our heads, as we do. We can be thankful that for Big Tex, at least, death came swiftly. And, we can take comfort in the fact that he did, indeed, die with his boots on.