Let's Talk About Big Tex

by Kristy Tye

This year was a really important year for me. Towards the end of the 2012 State Fair of Texas, Big Tex burned down due to an electrical fire. I honestly didn't think they'd replace him, how could they replace a Texan icon? But like a phoenix, Big Tex was reborn, debuting anew in this year's State Fair.

 

The thing that really took me by surprise was that they didn't even bother modernizing him. To the un-Texan eye, he looks exactly the same to you as he probably ever did, which is: creepy as hell. But there's more to him, friends, I want to teach you all about Big Tex.

 

Big Tex started off in 1949 as Santa/tourist trap in a small Texas town who still to this day use "Big Tex's Birthplace" as their only claim to fame. A couple years later, after he had scared all the children in Kerens with his creeptastic Santa countenance, R.L. Thornton (a name Texans might recognize as the worst highway cluster in downtown Dallas) bought him for a pretty reasonable $750 and debuted him as a cowboy in the 1952 State Fair of Texas.


(From 1956, via Wikipedia)
 

Almost right after his debut, he began traveling, stopping by a national convention in Minneapolis, the 50th annual homecoming at Abilene Christian College, and even eventually back to his hometown for their 100th anniversary. It took them only a couple years before the familiar "Howdy folks!" would emanate from the big jovial cowboy, and probably only a couple more years before he was thanking his sponsors.

His clothes were changed about every three years, and were provided by and designed by Dickies. His jeans weigh in at a whopping 65 pounds, his shirts ranged from patriotic to fairly plain (here's a pretty good slideshow).

He was actually mostly papier-mâché at the beginning of his life. It's a miracle he lasted as long as he did back then, aside from having a couple "bald spots" and being slightly ripped apart by Hurricane Carla. In 1997 they replaced his innards with a metal skeleton, which, ultimately did not and could not save him from the electrical fire of 2012.


(From 2012, via Wikipedia)
 
2012 was Big Tex's 60th birthday (at the Fair, that is), and it had been just ten years ago on his 50th that grey was added to his hair and "wrinkles" to his face to show that the big ol' guy was aging just like the rest of us chumps. After a huge response from local fair-goers and national attention on the admittedly unnerving sight of him burning, fair officials promised a bigger, better Tex. But is he really? Beyond the cool new shoes and reinforced structure, he's basically the same guy.

 

 

This year I made the pilgrimage back to my home state to pay homage to the reconstructed Tex. I had already seen photos- I didn't come in blind, I knew not much had changed, and, ya know, I'm okay with that. Why would anyone want Big Tex to change?


The 2013 butter sculpture, "Welcome Home Big Tex"
 

Kristy Tye, aka agingdragqueen, lives primarily on the Internet and is the usual voice of Woot's social media junk. Watch for more posts about some of the dumb stuff she's interested in!