I haven’t at all been offended of the many references to Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin since my arrival into Texas but I am thinking Australia needs a female outback identity for these yanks just the same. I guess wearing my crocodile belt didn’t help.
Fort Worth Texas has been another rip snorting chapter of the adventure. My home was the Omni Fort Hotel in Houston street Fort Worth and as my boots have one last shine by Frank the resident shoe shiner and Barry waits with my bags, I know I am going to miss this place.
Texans are so friendly and so very passionate about their country, their heritage and their frontier history. Their pride in the cattle industry as producers of succulent beef and in agriculture in general is simply delicious.
“What brings you to texas”? was the response when my aussie accent gave me away (which was each time I opened my mouth), followed by “you are so brave” when it became apparent I was travelling alone. The big, confident Texans are definitely less likely to travel solo.
My heart fluttered when I arrived into Fort Worth with all the hats and boots perched at the bar. And like how many of us grew up, the emphasis on boots being polished and hats shaped the right way – it all just makes you proud.
In Texas the men not only hit on you but they tell you they are hitting on you, just in case you haven’t caught on. Like tipping, the behaviour just seems to be the norm. something that we aussie’s take a little getting used to. Their forwardness is actually quite helpful when you are trying to determine if someone is just being super texan friendly or if they are after a little more.
The other stand out Texan way is cigar smoking. So many texans smoke cigars and the smell will now remind me of Texas.
When I walked into the iconic hat shop, Peters Brothers Hats, I met Brad who is 5th generation of the Peters Hats family and I was fortunate to be shown around the family business showroom and workshop. As Brad discussed the importance of matching the hat, belt and boots I likened this to the important trio of the hat, bag and shoes for the fillies when they head trackside to Kentucky or Broome.
Peters Brothers Hats has been creating hats since 1911 and are not only famous for their quality workmanship but also for creating hats for A listers including the US presidents up until JJ Kennedy. A custom made Peters Bros hat is as essential as vegemite at breakfast and when combined with custom boots and belts from Leddy’s, a texan is most definitely dressed and ready to go.
Texans are as passionate about their hats as they are about their national anthem. At the Stockyards rodeo there were only a few of us without our hat and hand over our heart when the crowd rose to their feet and sang, very clearly, every anthem verse.
Cowboys are everywhere in Fort Worth and if they are not the type wearing hats and boots, then they’re playing football league on the field. The NRL Cowboys final’s game was on the day of my departure and the day before, their opponents, the Rams, booked into the same hotel as me.
The Rams caused more havoc than a cattle stampede as fans took over the hotel for a glimpse of their idols. I was stuck on the 14th floor when they arrived, waiting patiently for the elevator that had never before been late. Rumour goes that the Rams hired out 5 of the 6 elevators for their players, leaving the one elevator for the rest of the hundreds of guests. By the time I got down to the lobby, you guessed it, the doors opened up and there they were waiting to get in – teams of big, fit, giant rams and this little aussie got mustered right up with them. Somehow I ended up on the Rams side of the roped off area. I was lost amongst their knee caps and completely overwhelmed at their physical presence and size. I was down under alright. Didn’t even bother to get my camera out as what was at my eye level was not for publication.
When I managed to cut myself out from the mob I headed straight to the whiskey and rye bar to get over the ordeal and to surround myself with the other type of cowboys.
I immersed myself into the Texan history and culture by wandering through the infamous stockyards and the many museums, including the cowgirl museum, even the cattle museum and of course, the other way to immerse is by sitting with locals in bars like the White Elephant and the Whiskey and Rye. The Mustang Million was also on during my stay which is a huge event. Cowboys start months prior with a wild mustang (brumby) that they break in at their ranch and then bring to showcase how well they have done so through the week long competition.
As well as the stockyards and rodeo and museums and bars, I also took myself off to a hilarious improvisational comedy show called Four Day Weekend. I haven’t laughed so much since Julia Morris’s last visit! I was in tears and given it was my last night in Texas, before the blues had the chance to set in, this hysterical laughter was the best medicine of all.
The cowboy hat is a world apart from the cocktail headpiece but the passion for its creation and the personality they both sustain couldn’t be more alike.
When at Leddy’s at the Stockyards I watched and learned as a hat maker shaped a young man’s hat. He was competing at the mustang millions and wanted a new hat for the event. I heard this young man ask for more shadow, as he doesn’t like to be on show and as the hat maker put more crease in and brought the front brim down it reminded me why I love hats. The hat, whatever style, is a whole lot more than first thought.
As famously quoted by custom hat maker, Sheila Kirkpatrick …
“A cowboy hat sets off a person. It tells others who you are and what you stand for. It is your statement of character”.
As you all know I feel exactly the same about the headwear I create and wear.
Australia is too far down under for most texans to get to though, so those of us that share the passion are going to have to wear the lid on their behalf.
Keep smiling when you tip that hat ..
Here’s a few little texas pics for ya’ll to enjoy …