It has been almost a year since Big Tex, the larger than life cowboy that had presided over the State Fair of Texas, for sixty years, burned to the ground. Since that time, there’s been a lot of chatter about Big Tex coming back to the State Fair, like a Western Phoenix, rising from his (sizable) pile of ashes. Texans have been waiting and speculating. Would he be like the Big Tex everyone knew and loved? Or would he be so changed that he would seem like a stranger beckoning visitors to “The Land of Fried Foods”?
Hey, Texas! It’s a Boy!
Texans had been growing anxious as the date for the unveiling of the new Big Tex approached. He was supposed to make his grand appearance on September 27, the opening day of the State Fair of Texas. But, the weather had a different date in mind. Proving that the wind doesn’t just come sweeping down the plains of Oklahoma, the massive white draping that concealed the giant cowboy was whipping around like your grandma’s bloomers on a clothesline. Fair officials decided to take control of the situation by showing the world what was behind curtain #1, a day early.
Instead of swarms of fair goers, only fair workers and members of the media witnessed Big Tex’s grand entrance. Word of the unveiling soon spread to the masses, however, and people turned on their televisions and logged onto their computers to catch an early glimpse of the big guy. For many, it was an emotional moment. It felt like someone needed to pass out the world’s biggest cigars to commemorate the occasion.
Does Bigger Mean Better?
Even before most people could see him in person, reactions to the “new” cowboy icon were mixed. He’s new, but is he improved? It depends on whom you ask! Big Tex has had a growth spurt. He measures in at 55-feet tall, which is three feet taller than the previous Big Tex. He’s put on 19,000 pounds, causing him to tip the scales at 25,000 pounds. He also has a fire-suppression system, which does seem prudent, given last year’s unfortunate “Ring of Fire” incident. No, Texan’s don’t begrudge Big Tex for wanting a little peace of mind and flame retardant clothing. But, as for the other changes…
Most people understood that this was the chance to make some changes to Big Tex’s wardrobe. His 95-gallon hat is getting good marks. It’s pretty much what people have come to expect from the world’s largest cowboy. His shirt is red, white and blue with stars and the traditional “Dickies” label. That seems about right. The giant belt buckle looks substantial enough to help hold up his monstrously large blue jeans. So far, so good!
The part of his wardrobe that is proving to be the most divisive is kind of surprising. It’s his boots! What? Texans like boots. Texans like cowboy boots. Big Tex is even wearing Lucchese boots. What’s not to like? Even people who are not fans of the new footwear will admit that the idea was good. Big Tex is wearing boots modeled after a pair of 1949 Luccheses, honoring the state of Texas. There’s a lot happening on that pair of size 96 boots! There are bluebonnets, mockingbirds, longhorns, the Texas Capitol building, the Texas flag, the American flag, and, lest anyone should become confused as to what state they’re in, the word, “TEXAS,” is written across the top of the boots. A mortal size pair of those boots would set you back $10,000! There’s something about seeing them in a size 96 that is making people do a double take. Some people seem to feel they’re just a little too “Las Vegas strip” and not enough “riding the range.”
His wardrobe isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Big Tex is very different in other ways. How can I put this, delicately? All of that extra weight has left him looking like he’s had a few too many corny dogs. (Yes, other parts of the country might call them “corn dogs,” but, in Texas, they’re “corny dogs.” Do not ask me why. I don’t make up the rules.)
Big Tex’s face has undergone some major changes, as well. It’s fuller—quite a bit fuller. His nose is more rounded. He has the beginning of a double chin. Some folks have complained that his eyes look a little, well, crazed. Maybe he’s just startled by people’s reactions. He also looks a little tired. And then there’s the skin tone… Dallas/Fort Worth news stations couldn’t help noting that Big Tex is much darker now, leading people to ask if he’s gotten a spray tan.
Big Tex has even received a new voice. You see, when Big Tex speaks, it isn’t just an audio recording; it’s a live man with a microphone. For the previous eleven years, Bill Bragg was the voice of Big Tex, and the people of Texas loved him. Fair officials chose not to renew Bill Bragg’s contract and that has more than a few people about as hot under the collar as Big Tex was last year.
Texans heard the new voice of Big Tex on opening day. The new voice of the world’s most famous 55-ft cowboy wishes to remain anonymous. Whoever he is, he has big boots to fill and I wish him well.
Changing of the Guard
A flash poll conducted by one Dallas news station revealed that 78% of the people surveyed were unhappy with the new Big Tex. What can I say? Change is hard. But, knowing Texans as I do, I’m guessing that most people will eventually come to love the new Big Tex, with his colorful new boots, fuller figure, wider eyes, darker skin and different voice.
Perhaps, in a dozen or so years, they’ll even stop referring to him as, “the new Big Tex”. When that day comes, they’ll stop treating him with the suspicion reserved for Yankee in-laws at a Texas family reunion and just treat him as family. It may not happen until the children of today have children of their own, but it will surely happen. In the meantime, folks can still visit the old Big Tex’s belt buckle in one of the fair pavilions. Yep, change comes hard in Texas. I am hoping that any disgruntled Texans will take solace in this year’s new and improved offerings of fried foods. I understand there’s a “deep-fried Thanksgiving dinner,” this year. That should help!
Watch a little video of Big Tex, and see what folks have to say about him!
Happy Trails y’all!