A Youthful Voice
“Everything is Bigger in Texas”
They say everything is bigger in Texas; this includes the Dallas Cowboys new 1.2 billion dollar stadium. It is the largest dome structure in the world. At maximum capacity it holds 100,000 people. The stadium also boasts the world’s largest TV screen, at 700 feet. So, when Jerry Jones, Cowboy’s owner and manager, needed someone to perform at the grand opening of the gigantic, much-anticipated stadium he had to do it “Texas style”.
Who is bigger or better than the King of Country, George Strait? Keeping up with the building old George has a few records of his own. He holds the Billboard Hot Country record for most number one singles, at fifty-six, recently won artist of the decade, and has sold over 67 million records. Furthermore, George Strait’s fame has grown outside the music industry. From the popular line of Wrangler jeans, shirts, and hats to the classic movie, Pure Country his super-stardom eclipses any building around.
My friend Lucy, and I must be the luckiest girls in the world, the first week of June we went to the inaugural event of the stadium and saw George Strait live in concert. Before the concert, I did not know which part to be more excited about. Amazingly, we found three tickets on eBay and even more surprising, no one bid against us. We purchased the three tickets only one dollar above the minimum bid.
Our parents agreed to let us go, not truly believing the trip would happen. Suddenly, we had to go. Not only did we have the tickets, but our pride was at stake too. Since our parents did not expect it to happen, we had to do just the opposite. Lucy and I were too scared, and wise, to take a 700-mile road trip with three 17-year-old girls. We decided to give the third ticket to a bodyguard and emotional stronghold, Justin Mills. Easygoing, protective, and a fellow lover of country music, Justin was the perfect friend for the third ticket.
Justin is working at the Centralia MFA this summer, he had a very hard time getting off work because of all the rain leading up to the concert weekend. Luckily, his boss let him go.
We left at two a.m. Saturday morning and listened to George Strait songs all the way to Texas. I probably heard “The Chair” a dozen times. While Justin and I attempted to sleep, Lucy drove to Joplin with a Starbucks Double Shot Latte and liter of warm Mountain Dew as her only companion. Next, Justin drove and he made it all the way to Fort Worth city limit, I was impressed. However, Justin gave up control of the wheel as soon at we hit four lanes, it was just too much traffic for a ole’ country boy.
Since I did not have to do any driving, I began taking notes for this month’s article. Oklahoma was an interesting state—terrible drivers, no concept of how to use a passing lane. After much thought, I concluded this phenomenon occurs because the so-called “slow lane” is going eighty miles an hour! Thus, to actually pass someone, your speedometer will nearly reach triple digits. Who knew the Oklahoma was the United States version of the autobahn?
We passed Moore, Oklahoma where the water tower touted this inscription, “Home of Toby Keith”. It was also evident that the people of Oklahoma were very proud Will Rodgers was from their state. We drove down the Will Rodgers Memorial Road, passed the Will Rodgers World Air Port, and considered attending the Will Rodgers memorial Rodeo in August. If I learned only one thing on our trip, it’s that Will Rodgers was certainly and undoubtedly born in Oklahoma.
Traveling south on I-44 and then I-35, we were entertained with attempting to pronounce the towns listed on the exit signs: Okmulgee, Catosee, Sapulpa, Tecumseh, Chickasha, Goldsby, Paoli, Comanche, and Waurika. Finally, embarrassing but true, we sang lines from the unofficial state musical, “O-k-l-a-h-ma where the winds come sweeping down the plains!” and we took pictures of the red dirt.
For brunch, we stopped a What-A-Burger for an urgent bathroom break and to try a sandwich my cousin, Jardyn highly recommended. What-A-Burger’s are known for their orange and white striped A-Frame roofs and delicious burgers. They are also limited mostly to southern states. The honey-butter-chicken-strip-breakfast-biscuit was delicious, but more importantly it reminded me what I love about traveling. I had never seen the famous What-A-Burger roof, meet an Oklahoman, or tried a honey butter biscuit. Traveling brings adventure, new people and cultures, different foods and experiences, landscapes and building. All that “newness” always brings back my zest for life and reminds me how much of the world I have yet to experience. I realize I was talking about a bon-a-fied McMuffin here, but still, my horizons were widened and taste buds indulged.
This may sound cliché, and I am sure many of you have heard this before, but we thought going to Texas was like visiting a different country. Everything was western! My first sight once inside Texas was “The Hitching Post”. Here in The States we simply would have called it, a gas station. Next, we passed a western clothing store and salvage yard. To Texan’s though, two hundred junked cars is a “Car Corral”. If the buildings didn’t sell us, the trucks did. A few miles over the border we saw a shinny, red Chevrolet complete with lift kit, big tires, grill guard and bow tie decal. It came roaring past our little, foreign Kia Sportage and Justin was very embarrassing to be in “the mom car” as he calls it. The truck looked cooler, but we were getting at least double the fuel efficiency. After 1,400 miles, the money we saved was worth it.
Even for Lucy, the calm and collected city-driver, the Fort Worth-Arlington area traffic was overwhelming. We checked into the hotel—which we so responsibly booked only three days prior—and asked about taking a cab to the concert. The concierge told us, no detail or expense was spared on this state of the art building, except parking! He handed us three numbers, and advised, “two reliable ones and one…not so much”.
While parking and unpacking our car, we passed a group of fun-loving adults tailgating in the parking lot. Curious, I asked if they too were going to see George Strait. They were, and once they found out our trio was as well, we became instant friends. People are brought together so easily similar love and appreciation of music, especially George Strait’s music. They invited us to have dinner with them and waste the few remaining hours before the big concert. I am not sure weather they expected us to come back, but we did. Middle-aged and harmless we decided we could safely take up their cordial offer for two reasons: 1. The brats they were bar-b-queuing looked and smelled much better than yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich and 2. We wanted to make friends with some real Texans; we could watch TV at home. We took a bag of chips to be polite, I am sure our mothers would have been proud, and walked back to introduce ourselves.
Two hours later, we knew their favorite Strait songs, about a kid’s cheating girlfriend, which agriculture school to go to in Texas, and the height, weight, and 40-yard-dash time of a son. Lucy and I were even offered a chance to date one of the sons and Justin was given some strange dating advice. Chances are, we will never see “our Texas friends” again, but I know we won’t forget them. In case your faith was faltering, these four can remind you, as they did us, people are generally nice. Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for the concert.
Our cab, which turned out to be a white van, arrived promptly at four. Zooming through city subdivisions and little known roads, we relaxed, once again reveling in our genius idea to take a cab. Our driver hinted nervously at the chaos surrounding the opening night of this stadium, “60,000 people leaving at one time…what a mess…we have no idea where to pick people up: first time, no plans.” However, we paid no attention to his words of warning, but naively responded, “We are so glad we don’t have to park.” Arriving in less than five minutes we gladly handed over a twenty-dollar bill, saying, “That was the best twenty dollars we ever spent.”
I had viewed the Cowboys new stadium many times on the Internet, in anticipation for the big day. Apparently, they had been working on the building for two to three years, so Texans were excited that it was finally finished. Many people had begun arriving two hours before the concert, just to look around. The three of us decided it was “the building of the century”. The building had a unique raw, unfinished style. It was decorated with an absence of decoration, cool concrete floors and walls, thin, steel cable stairwells, exposed air conditioning and water pipes painted a dull silver and lots of chairs.
Awake for 15 ½ hours, arriving at this concert had been a 700-mile marathon. We were exhausted, but happy, as we sank into our top-level seats. LeAnn Womack opened the show, during the first songs the echo was terrible. I thought, “This is a 1.2 billion dollar building—could they really forget to do a sound check? I imagined the headlines, “Dallas Cowboys new Stadium, too big for concerts, football only” and “George Strait apologizes, promising refunds and make-up dates”. Song by song, the quality became better, but still an obnoxious echo was present. Speaking of obnoxious, the high-pitched squeal of the four, drunken girls behind us was getting old.
After 45 minutes of the screaming and echoing we needed a break. We left our seats to go to the bathroom—and never came back. We found a section of seats one level lower that was empty. As we sat down, we smiled mischievously at our other four comrades whom had also found this secret hideaway. Blake Shelton began, and the echo was completely gone. The echo only took place at the very top level, because of the angle of the speakers. Just like getting tickets and taking a cab, this move was a stroke of genius. Blake Shelton put on a great show, before the concert I did not realize how much of his music I knew and how good looking he was!
Reba was next in the line up. Lucy had been talking about Reba for weeks, going on and on about how she was a “true entertainer” and “a real woman”. I must admit, her excitement rubbed off on Justin and I. She preformed her song “Still” about meeting an old love and listening to her heart say “I love him still”. She preformed with such conviction and sincerity on her face. In the final verse, her old love’s new girlfriend walks up. As she sang, Reba’s blue eyes filled with tears, her chin quivered and voice shook. I looked over at Lucy to see all the same facial features and real tears running down her face. When she finished, Justin and I admitted that Lucy was right about Reba, a wonderful performer and classy woman.
Our Texas friends had warned us about George saying, “He’s no entertainer, don’t expect that. He will just walk out on stage, say hello and play his guitar for two hours.” They were exactly right, but nothing could have prepared me for the confident, yet humble, swagger of George. Of course, he was wearing a George Strait hat, shirt, and Wrangler jeans and he looks better now than at twenty-five. All he had to do was walk on stage and everyone went crazy. My favorite song that he played was Troubadour. I had never paid much attention to it, claiming I liked his old stuff. Yet, as they played the music video along to the song, and I finally understood autobiographical significance of the song. I guess I just had to hear it live to finally understand.
After the concert, the three of us and 60,000 pleased other fans left the stadium. Exhausted and hungry, we were ready to get back to the hotel and sleep. Turns out, our genius idea of taking a cab had one flaw: finding one to get home. We walked out the back of the building and were told to go around to the front to find a cab. No cabs. Not one in sight. There were thousands of people standing, sitting, even laying in the grass—waiting. Panic began to set in: my feet hurt, my legs were tired from keeping up with Justin, and I was hungry. At this point I wanted to give up, get some dinner, and wait it out. Justin wanted to walk back to where our cab driver had dropped us off, because he had said he would be right there. He wasn’t. Eventually, we made our way back to the front and found a cab. We learned that people only wave cabs down in the movies. When push comes to shove, you just hand them twenty bucks and jump in.
We were definitely not laughing or enjoying ourselves during our trek. It was a prime example of those things that are not funny at the moment, but hilarious later. It’s especially funny because we walked all the way around the world’s largest dome structure. That is something to be proud of.
After that tramatic event, the rest of our trip went smoothly. Our good fortune was with us again, we wanted to visit the Fort Worth Stockyards, but the map looked very confusing. Knowing we had long drive ahead of us, we decided to go ahead and get on the road. We found our way back to I-35 north and began heading out of town. Then, we saw a sign “Fort Worth Stockyards—next exit”. Deciding it was fate, Lucy turned off.
It was a wonderful stop; we talked to the locals about the best place for a good steak. We were pointed to the restaurant that would be the equivalent to The Bull Pen Café of The Columbia Livestock Auction years ago. The restaurant, Riscky’s Sirloin Inn, had outlasted the Stockyard; we all three had delicious Texas Steaks for less than twenty bucks; it was the only meal we ate out during the entire trip! We were also able to see some of the pens from the stockyard that were left standing.
Heading home, we went a different route for some variety. We took I-35 north through Oklahoma and Kansas to Kansas City. It was a breathtaking and beautiful drive. Just into Kansas, a huge lightning storm exploded across the sky. Due to the flat landscape of Kansas, the lightning was particularly impressive. We also saw two double rainbows and a magnificent sunset. It was a humbling and uplifting drive, hour after hour, experiencing the power and beauty of God’s Creation.
The miles passed quickly, as we neared Kansas City we began reminiscing over everything we had done since leaving home. In one weekend we drove 1,400 miles, went through four states, saw two legends of country music, and attended the grand opening of a stadium. Justin made a comment that summed up the trip for me. He remarked, “I think in the past forty-eight hours, I think we laughed more than we slept.”
Three Rules for the Texas Trip:
1. You must … have fun.
2. You must … wear cowboy boots during the entire trip.
3. You must … eat a really, good steak while in Texas.
Code of The Cow Country
It don’t take such a lot o’ laws to keep the rangeland straight,
Nor books to write them in, because there are only six or eight.
The first one is the welcome sign written deep in western hearts—
My camp is your and yours is mine in all cow country parts.
Treat with respect all womankind, same as you would your sister.
Take care of neighbors’ stays you find, and don’t call cowboys ‘mister’.
Shut the pasture gates when passin’ through and takin’ all in all.
Be jest as rough as pleases you but never mean or small.
Talk strait, shoot straight, an’ never break your word to man nor boss.
Plumb always kill a rattlesnake, don’t ride a sore-backed hoss.
It don’t take law nor pedigree to live the best you can;
These few is all it takes to be a cowboy an’ – a man!
--S. Omar, Barker
Credit: Mayan Ranch, Bandera, Texas
We got this from a saloon in Fort Worth.