Texans are known for their brash pride in their state and all things Texas. Perhaps it comes from being the largest state in the upper 48. Or perhaps the sense of arrogance attends the state's history of once having been its own country — the Republic of Texas. The bravado may go along with being the country’s biggest producer of crude oil. Then again, maybe the "everything's bigger in Texas" attitude lingers from the swagger of cowboys that rode these lands. Indeed, the state still bristles with cowboy culture — from the roar of oversized trucks on city highways to the men and women herding the over 10 million cattle that roam the state. The cowboy culture also shows itself in the state sport: the rodeo.
Of course, the sense of bravado doesn't win everyone over. Some states and countries look on Texas as backward and backward-thinking and dislike Texans' boot-stomping pride. But Texas has another side too. The state name comes from the Caddo word for "friend" or "ally." Texas shares a nearly 2000-mile-long border with Mexico and demonstrates the unique friendship that can be shared by two countries. Cities along the border almost seem to be a country of their own; the collaboration and exchange create such a dramatic blending of cultures that can really be seen through the state.
Whether you're a cowboy or a skeptic, Texas has a place for you. Find out if you’re a Tex-pert by taking a ride through this quiz!
Which icon of the Texas State Fair was engulfed in flames?
The Great Longhorn
The Ol' Oil Rig
The Mega Mockingbird
In 2012, the 52-ft tall, 60-year-old cowboy by the name of Big Tex caught fire and burned to the ground before an audience of fair-goers. Not to worry, though: A new Big Tex has since replaced him, this time with fire-retardant clothing.
Before the Alamo was remembered as the site of a great Texas battle, what was its original function?
Before the Alamo became a military fort for the battle against the Mexican army for the territory of Texas, it was a mission for the Spanish Franciscans. Texans remember the Alamo as a turning point in the fight for independence.
Food made from the mixture of Mexican heritage and other Texan influences
Mexican food purists (and you'll encounter a lot of these in Texas) will tell you that Tex-Mex is not Mexican food. The food found in "Mexican restaurants" in much of Texas diverges widely from the cuisine you'd find in Mexico. Tex-Mex food blends elements of Mexican heritage with Texas signatures, creating a unique regional food.
What do you call the northern region of Texas that juts out into Oklahoma?
Texans affectionately refer to the northernmost promontory of their state as "the panhandle." Flat grasslands dominate the landscape of this region, though these are interrupted by the dramatic cliffs of Palo Duro and Caprock Canyons.
Cowboy boots, with the pointed toe to slide into the stirrup and the high, tough leather to protect the legs from brambles and rattlers, perfectly suit life on the range. Whether or not Texans live a cowboy lifestyle, most own a pair of boots.
If you're a Central Texan, spring has just arrived, and you'd like to capture the beauty of your family and life in general. Where will you go with your photographer?
To a mountain ridge
To the edge of a waterfall
To a field of bluebonnets
Once spring lands like the dew on Central Texas, bluebonnets, the state flower, begin to bloom in every field and highway shoulder. Nearly every family for miles around will don white and gather in a field while a photographer captures their gaiety.
Which of the following is an unexplained phenomenon in West Texas that has generated paranormal speculation?
The Trinity Site
The Marfa Lights
Since the late 19th century, people have reported seeing bizarre, orb-shaped, erratic lights over the small town of Marfa, TX. Many speculate that the lights may be the result of paranormal activity. Skeptics attribute the mystery lights to passing car lights or changing atmospheric conditions.
In Texas, how do you appropriately address a group of friends?
In Texas, as in some other places in the South, people appropriately use the "you" plural "y'all," which is a contraction of "you all." Common in other languages, as in the "ustedes" of Spanish, y'all only makes sense as proper grammar.
What's the most common creature to be found with four legs straight up along the side of a Texas highway?
Armadillos, those strange, dinosaur-like, armored creatures, line Texas highways. Of course, deer are probably equally common. But the armadillo is such a common sight that you'll see its image adorning many a Texas establishment.
Which endangered species returns to the Texas Gulf Coast each year to lay its young?
Kemp's Ridley sea turtle
Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, the most endangered sea turtle species in the world, return each year to the Texas Gulf Coast to lay their young. These turtles can grow to be 32 inches long and weigh up to 100 pounds.
What food group draws thousands to the old Western town of Terlingua each year for a cook-off?
Each year, thousands flock to the western town of Terlingua, at the gateway of Big Bend National Park, to engage in a dramatic chili cook-off. This is some serious chili cooking — contestants have to gain entry by qualifying in other, smaller cook-offs.
What's the appropriate way to sing along with this line: "The stars at night are big and bright ..."?
"Out on the Texas plains"
"Deep in the heart of Texas"
Every Texan likely knows the second half of this line and has raised a glass to sing along. "Deep in the Heart of Texas" debuted in 1942, and that year there were five different versions on the Billboard chart.
What is a traditional way to eat chicharrones, the salty, crispy pig-skin snack?
Smothered in red hot sauce, out of a bag
A traditional way to consume fried pig skin is to drench a small bag of them in hot sauce and eat them with your sticky, red fingers. This delicacy can be found distributed by your neighborhood ice cream truck.
If you're going to pick up breakfast for friends in Central Texas, what delicacy, wrapped in foil, will always be a crowd-pleaser?
Pancakes and sausage
Breakfast tacos may hold the title of being the essential Central Texas breakfast staple. You can pick them up at food trucks, taco stands, Mexican restaurants and even gas stations. Depending on the region, favorites range from potato and egg to barbacoa to a tortilla filled only with bacon.
What kind of tree might you see when you cross over into East Texas that's rare in the rest of Texas?
The shift to the East Texas landscape can be easily deciphered by the sudden abundance of Loblolly Pine. Many a Texan has looked up into the pine needles swaying in the breeze and asked themselves, "Am I still in Texas?"
Which animal could you possibly see in Big Bend National Park?
Though many may have reported seeing a jackalope or the chupacabra in Big Bend National Park, supposedly they are fictional creatures. It's not fiction, though, that you could see a black bear roaming the mountainous desert of this vast national park.
What's something that someone from rural East Texas may feel comfortable swimming with?
Residents of rural East Texas, and even urban areas like Tyler, Texas, have grown accustomed to seeing alligators in rivers, lakes and swimming holes. Some brave souls may just brave the water alongside the reptiles.
If you spend Christmas Eve in a household in Texas, what traditional dish might be served?
The tradition of eating tamales as part of the Christmas, La Navidad, celebration began in Mexico and has become a staple of Texas households. Many families gather to make the labor-intensive delicacy of corn masa filled with seasoned meat or beans and cheese in a festivity called a tamalada.
Texans sometimes refer to Dairy Queen as a "Texas Stop Sign." Even though it originated in Illinois, Dairy Queen has more locations in Texas than anywhere else, has a specific Texas menu and is, hands down, a Texas institution.
Which sport are you unlikely to see at a Texas rodeo?
The rodeo was named the official sport of Texas in 1997, but it has been around much longer than that. The sport began as casual competition and entertainment among cowboys during the roundup and has grown into a professional industry. At a Texas rodeo, you can likely see all of the above, except goat racing.
If you were crossing the state of Texas, from Houston to El Paso, what would be your total drive time?
Highway I-10 stretches 745 miles from Houston to El Paso, and the drive typically takes just under 11 hours. Of course, everyone knows that Texas ranks the largest in the upper 48 states. Alaska, coming in at the biggest state in the country, definitely has Texas beat, with 1400 miles from north to south.
Whose figure might you catch a glimpse of within a bathtub, standing upright in a backyard?
The Virgin of Guadalupe
A statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe can commonly be found in makeshift backyard shrines, created out of bathtubs. The Virgin of Guadalupe (Mary) appeared to an indigenous man, Juan Diego, in 1531 A.D., and is the patron saint of Mexico.
Texans began smoking briskets, along with the rest of the animal, for community celebrations. These days, brisket is considered the crowning item on any BBQ menu. Connoisseurs look for the pink ring around the outside of the meat as evidence of the low and slow indirect smoking method that characterizes this Texas specialty.
If you're feeling fancy and heading out to go dancing in Texas, what kind of accessory may adorn your shirt?
Pearl snap shirts have dressed up Texas fashion since the 1950s. The glossy, shiny snaps add flair to a traditional button-up and have the added functional benefit of coming off easily if you get caught in the thorns of a Mesquite tree while out riding horses.
Maquiladoras helped Texas border cities grow even when much of the state was in a recession in the 1980s. What are they?
People who live in Mexico but work in Texas
Large agricultural operations
Factories in Texas that primarily produce handcrafted items
Factories owned by U.S. companies yet located in Mexican border cities
The word "maquiladora" comes from the Spanish verb "maquilar," meaning "to process in exchange for a portion of the product." These factories, located in Mexico, provided a way for U.S. companies to assemble their products in Mexico and export them from there.
A common historical flag flies over many houses and establishments in Texas, bearing the image of a cannon and a star. What does the flag say?
"Come and Take It"
The slogan "Come and Take It" dares passers-by, as did the original flag. The "Texians" of Gonzales, Texas, taunted the Mexican army with this line raised on a flag when the Mexican army came to retrieve a cannon they had loaned the town to defend themselves against the Apaches. The slogan became a rallying cry.
What is a rule of thumb concerning cowboy hats that every good Texan observes?
Never wear your hat inside a building.
Never wear a black hat in the summer or a straw hat in the winter.
A black felt hat should only be worn during the winter and the straw hat during the summer. Of course, not everyone is a traditionalist these days. But beware: Tradition is powerful. Thecowboyhatguide.com warns that asking to try on someone’s hat is akin to asking to try on their underwear.
Never wear a cowboy hat inside your place of employment.
Never wear a cowboy hat outside of a ranch or a country music concert.
As a cowboy lifestyle mecca, Texas has its own version of country music — Texas Country. Which of these artists represents that sound?
Music critics argue that Texas country is more acoustic and instrument-driven than its mainstream, electric counterpart, Nashville country. Jason Boland exemplifies Texas country music, with the band's fiddle-and-mandolin-heavy songs laced together with tight, poetic lyrics.
What is a surprising fact about the West Texas black-tailed jackrabbit?
It's actually slower than a tortoise.
It's not a rabbit.
The jackrabbit, technically, is not a rabbit but a hare. Hares, unlike rabbits, are born with their eyes open and covered in hair — ready to make a run for it. The jackrabbit got its name from its long ears — early settlers called it a jackass rabbit because of its semblance to a donkey.
While many Texans eschew sauce on their BBQ, many others do douse their smoked meats. What defines a Texas BBQ sauce?
Dark and thick with heavy maple flavor
Tangy mustard overtones, slightly sweet
Maple and tomato, kicked up with bourbon
Balanced tomato, celery and onion, with a thinner vinegar finish
Texas BBQ sauce, while optional and usually served on the side, distinguishes itself by its thinner, vinegar-forward profile. This sauce has vegetable tones in it beyond the tomato and can be found in spicy varieties.
What makes the creosote plant so well-loved among Texan desert dwellers?
Its beautiful display of yellow flowers
Its drought resistance
The aroma it releases when it rains
The creosote plant, found in the Chihuahuan Desert that extends over West Texas, emits a fragrant aroma when it rains. Many people claim that the plant itself smells like rain, making it a treasure in places that do not see much rainfall.
The craft beer craze has swept Texas, just as the rest of the country. Who holds the title of the oldest Texas craft brewery?
Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston holds the illustrious title of Texas' oldest craft brewery. Shiner lays claim to being Texas' oldest independent brewery. Saint Arnold has been shipping craft kegs since 1994.