From ages 3 to 5, I thought George Strait was my father. Allow me to clarify: This isn’t some “Maury”-esque situation. It’s quite the contrary, as I have a loving father who continues to guide me through life’s tough situations.
But my mother was (and remains) a huge George Strait fan. In fact, the only thing that makes her happier than George Strait clad in Wranglers is George Strait clad in Wranglers sporting a beard. So, thanks, Pure Country.
Every time his iconic silhouette would pop up on CMT in a hazy, opaque music video in the ‘90s, she’d yell, “Baby, your daddy’s on TV!”
I didn’t get the joke. And once I did, I wished I hadn’t.
As King George brings the final show of his final tour, “The Cowboy Rides Away,” to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium tomorrow, the thought of the finality of it all has strummed my nostalgia.
Despite the diversity within my musical palette, I am not exactly a country music fan. But we were a George Strait household (Garth Brooks was too much of a showboat. And he had “crazy eyes,” according to my mother).
George was the soundtrack of my childhood, much like he was for so many other Southern-bred twenty- and thirty-somethings. His songs were the score for aimless summer afternoon rides though North Louisiana’s back roads with my grandfather, in his red ’91 Chevy pick-up.
In addition to healthy doses of nostalgia, King George also gifted me something else: a perspective of Texas. I grew up between Louisiana and Alabama–two states with a slew of notorious stereotypes. After moving to Denton from Shreveport last August, I realized I’d assembled my expectations and knowledge of the Lone Star state from various late ’80s and early ’90s Strait songs.
Sure, I’d visited North Texas before and enjoyed it. But living here? That’s a different tune.
Here’s a rundown of my education, courtesy of King George:
Let’s level here. Texas is big. Really big. And I’m still gradually learning its geography. But within “All My Exes Live in Texas” and “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?” there was enough name dropping to encourage me to study a map of our nation’s greatest self-proclaimed country. Texarkana, Abilene, Galveston and Temple, it doesn’t matter. Texas is a place he dearly loves to be. Me too, George.
Have you ever really studied a George Strait music video or live performance? I mean really studied it? The man can dress. The hat, the jeans, the overly starched shirt, the prominent belt buckle. It’s no wonder he’s been a spokesperson for Resistol hats, Justin boots, Wrangler jeans and Chevy trucks. I spot cowboy boots frequently in my ventures to Dallas, and sometimes hats make an appearance too. I’d be lying if I said the sight didn’t make me inwardly smile.
Everyone has a story to tell, but Texans really do. That’s one of the main things that drew me to the University of North Texas’ Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism. Sometimes the stories are a little crazy, and sometimes they are a little heartwarming (Bernie, anyone?) The art of storytelling is imbedded in the foundation of country music, but Strait is one of the very best–his 60 No. 1 hits can attest to that. From “Check Yes Or No” to “Cross My Heart” to “Amarillo By Morning,” there’s always a tale worth sharing.
I’m learning (and loving) more about Texas every day, although I still don’t understand the obsession with Big Tex. Maybe some things come in time?
D Magazine intern Staci Parks is currently enrolled in the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at UNT. She has written for The Gannett News-Star and The Forum.