Mr. & Mrs. Newcomer
By Lynn Ashby 4 Oct. 2010
Welcome, Mr./Mrs. Newcomer,
If you are one of the 4 million or more folks to move to our fair state during the 2000s, we think you’ll like Texas and eventually will become a Texan. As a starter, you should know that we are big on the Official State (fill in the blank). We’ve got official state rocks, birds, mammals (big, little and flying), official state shells, ships and shrubs. All of which brings up Earl Campbell, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
You may know our state bird is the mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) and the state flower is the bluebonnet, but which bluebonnet? The Lupinus subcarnosus or the Lupinus texensis? Actually, any kind of bluebonnet. We don’t just end there. We’ve also got the state Bluebonnet City (Ennis), the Bluebonnet Festival (Chappell Hill) and the Bluebonnet Trail (Ennis again). The state bluebonnet song is called “Bluebonnets,” naturally, adopted in 1933.
We’ve got all sorts of state foods. Chili is our state dish, the state pepper is the jalapeño, the state fruit is the Texas red grapefruit, the state vegetable is the sweet onion — I think the Aggies invented it. Even our state tree bears food: it’s the pecan tree, Carya illinoensis, which sounds more like something from Chicago’s South Side. This means our state health nut is not your personal trainer but the pecan. Our state fish is delicious: the Guadalupe bass. Some of these are cooked in the state cooking implement, the Cast Iron Dutch Oven.
Now here’s a strange one. The state pastries were sopapilla and strudel from 2003 until Jan. 31, 2005, when apparently they were voted off the island. Perhaps that’s because in 2005 pan de campo (cowboy bread) was recognized as the state bread. Maybe they are too similar. That’s fine and dandy, but I’ll bet a lot of official state Germans were ticked.
We must note that no one can just proclaim something to be an Official State, etc. willy-nilly. The Legislature (our official state leaderless mob) has to get involved. It follows the Official State Code, which is Title 11. State Symbols and Honors; Preservation, Subtitle A. State Symbols and Honors, Chapter 3101. State Symbols. This edict requires that all sorts of hoops are jumped through before anything is honored, such as naming the official state dinosaur, or Brachiosaur sauropod, Pleurocoelus as we scientists call it. And, no, our lawmakers don’t have anything more important to do. They’ve solved our budget problems, crime is nonexistent (except in the legislature), the governor is coasting to his 16th term, and all is well in Austin.
Moving on, the first Official Anything was our flag, adopted in 1839, not as a “state” flag but as the Republic’s flag. It was not until 1933 that the Lone Star Flag was described in detail and made official. After the flag came our seal, 1845. The state song is, of course, “The Eyes of Texas.” Well, actually it’s not, but should be because so many non-Texans think it is. Our state song is, “Texas, Our Texas,” which no one can sing. Our state motto is “Friendship,” but probably should be, “Shoot Friendly.” We don’t have an official joke, unless we consider our presidential primaries which, like the state song, no one fully knows. Nor do we have an official embarrassment. How about the State Board of Education?
This, being Texas, it should come as no surprise that our state sport is the rodeo, state tie is the bolo and state footwear is the cowboy boot. I can’t explain why the state gemstone is the blue topaz. As far as an official state play, we don’t have one play in three acts. We have three plays.
Many people think the state insect is the mosquito, but it is actually the monarch butterfly. We can only imagine the debate in our legislature as learned lawmakers angrily shouted, “I say the Danaus plexippus is clearly the best choice, no matter what the honorable idiot from Waco thinks.”
“Wrong, honorable cretin from Laredo. The Culicidae is far superior.”
When it comes to mammals, we’ve got the bases covered. The state flying mammal is the Mexican free-tailed bat. Our small mammal is the 9-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), but you already knew that. No, our state large mammal is not the Aggie. Just the opposite: the Texas Longhorn. Likewise, our state dance is not the Texas Two-Step or even the Macarena. It’s the square dance. It is obvious that our official amphibian is the Bufo speciosus, aka, the Texas toad, but you’ll never guess what our official state Tejano Music Hall of Fame Museum is called. It’s – hang on — the Tejano Music Hall of Fame Museum, in Alice.
Being new to our fair state, you may be wondering, “This all just fine, but what is the official state mugger, like we had back in New York?” We don’t have anything in that category, but we do have our own air force, will that do? The Confederate Air Force was approved in 1989, but by 2002 our history had been scrubbed so much that the group became the Commemorative Air Force. Next thing you know we’ll ban Dixie Cups and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Mr./Mrs. Newcomer, does New York have an official state vehicle? What is ours? The Aston-Martin DBS? The Bentley Azure? Perhaps all those rich and sophisticated Texans you have heard about chose the Rolls Phantom? No, it’s the chuck wagon. And you thought Texans don’t have no couth.
All of this brings us to our official state heroes. We’ve had lots of candidates who would qualify – Vicki Lynn Hogan, better known as Anna Nicole Smith — springs to mind. However, there have been only three: Stephen F. Austin, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. But in 1981, Ralph Wallace, a member of the Texas State Legislature, proclaimed Earl Campbell an Official State Hero of Texas. That’s better than having your coonskin cap retired.
Ashby is officially at email@example.com