Saturday, October 20, 2012


As Jacquielyn Floyd of the Dallas Morning News offered this morning, “Vaya con Dios, Big Tex.”  You see, after 60 years as the official greeter at the Texas State Fair in Dallas, Big Tex, as we know him, is no more.  As a result of an electrical short in his size 70 right boot and ensuing fire which in stovepipe fashion roared up to his head, our 52-foot-tall animated cowboy statue literally, “joined that roundup in the sky.”  It was in spectacular though gruesome, surreal fashion with the scene epitomized by a crown of fire engulfing his head and 75 gallon cowboy hat even as he continued his iconic smile. Many in the crowd at the Fair stood in disbelief and tears while others in 21st century form were conscientiously documenting Big Tex’s demise.

Bill Bragg, the very talented basso profundo voice of Big Tex for the last eleven years was reading a script and with head down didn’t notice the fire.  Yes, Big Tex went down talking.  Bragg with tears running down his cheeks turned quickly to optimism and assurances that Big Tex will be back next year, bigger and better than ever.    

Word spread quickly from Friends and Family all over the state aided by Twitter and texts that Big Tex had been consumed by fire.  On the job we watched as fellow workers gasped and moaned at the horror and shock of the news with this writer admittedly harboring a lump in his throat.  Work came to a halt and in disbelief, we shared photos and live video from the scene in Dallas.  The mourning process started with several folks choking back tears with the realization that that the symbol of Texas Hospitality and a meeting place we had all grown up with and embraced was now gone.  Many reminisced and shared memories about their first encounter with the Texas State Fair mascot who first arrived at Fair Park in 1952.  This long-in-the-tooth writer remembers when the original Big Tex was unveiled to proper Texas pomp and circumstance.

However difficult, we can gain some solace that the Big Tex of 1952 and today are very different entities.  Over the last sixty years (yes, he has his AARP card) he has been tweaked and we think improved especially with the gray added to his sideburns.    

We know that with the significant improvements in animatronics the last few years (just look at Disney), Big Tex’s basic movements to include head, mouth and arm will, no doubt, be substantially enhanced.  We note that in the last sixty years he appropriately learned to speak Spanish as well. We see nothing but a bright future and reincarnation of the first order.  Can’t you just see the potential for political ops? Maybe Romney will embrace Big Tex even while discarding Big Bird?

Workers have already removed Big Tex’s charred remains on the back of a flatbed trailer – all covered with a piece of canvas that reminded many of a body bag.  As the trailer slowly exited the park in funereal fashion, people stopped in reverence, many crying while clapping, saluting and/or waving goodbye to Big Tex. Fairgoers and staff have started leaving flowers where Big Tex once stood.

Lest we get too melancholy, our reflection on Big Tex’s demise prompts the assurance that the emotion of his recent exit will be matched and no doubt eclipsed when he is resurrected on the occasion of the 2013 Texas State Fair.  We hope that we will not see snippets of his rebuild during the process, rather a single majestic unveiling where we can all bask in the return of this Texas icon.

Indeed, the sense of loss we all feel now flows from the strong sense of not only our own memories but also the heritage and sincere hospitality the State of Texas offers all those who can embrace Big Tex in that context.  In the meantime, we can continue to cordially welcome those who want to find holiday and home in the Lone Star State.  No fire can put out that sense of “Texas” in us all.  As Sam Cooke once sang, “A Change is Gonna Come” and one that will knock your seven by seven foot boots off… when we once again hear, “Hoooowdy Foooolks! This is Big Tex…”


Ned Buxton

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