You likely haven’t had a test of Texas’ official symbols since about fifth grade. You probably still know the major one. The state flower? Yes, the bluebonnet. The state large mammal? It’s the longhorn. Do you remember the small mammal? Yes, the armadillo. Two points for you. The state tree? Here’s a hint – over the holidays you likely had a pie made of its fruit. That’s it, the pecan tree. The state bird is one I’m sure you remember: the mockingbird, of course. The state sport? You might think it’s football, but no, it’s rodeo. The official reptile? The Texas horned lizard. What about the state plant? It’s the prickly pear cactus. This might have been its consolation prize after being nudged out for state flower. Did you also know there’s a state shrub? It’s the crape myrtle. And there’s also a state native shrub. It’s the – drum roll please – Texas purple sage.
Now let’s move on to the harder questions – the lesser-known symbols. How about the state dinosaur? It’s the Paluxysaurus jonsei. It’s named in honor of both the Paluxy River and Jones Ranch near Glen Rose where it was identified. It was appropriately Texan in that it was huge – 70 feet long and weighing in at 40,000 pounds. That’s about the length and weight of an 18-wheeler transporting ten longhorns.
Did you know we have a state dog breed? The blue lacy. State fiber? You got this. Final answer? Yes, cotton. Here’s an easy one. State footwear? The cowboy boot, which you might want for the state folk dance, the square dance. The music for the square dance is provided in part by the state instrument: the guitar. And that guitar can play the official music of Texas too: Western Swing. At the square dance you’ll also see the state hat: the cowboy hat.
Do you know the official insect? It’s the monarch butterfly. They migrate through Texas by the billions in the fall and spring. It’s good that the numbers are so large because I think half of them, sadly, end up decorating windshields and radiator grills.
Here’s a tough one. What’s the official epic poem of Texas? (Didn’t know we had one, did you?) The Greeks had “The Iliad” and we have “The Legend of the Old Stone Ranch: A Saga of Texas Borderlands,” by John Worth Cloud. I’ve read it. All 387 pages. There’s no rhyming. You might not think of it as a poem if not for the layout on the page and the octosyllabic verses which create a pleasant undercurrent of rhythm. Good story, too. Here’s an observation from an Indian priestess-scholar in the poem: “Brothers, I have listened many times in talks by our White Fathers, always they begin and end with, and we may always expect it – ‘move a little farther westward.’”
Let’s go to food. Official snack? Tortilla chips and salsa. Official cobbler? Peach cobbler. State pastry? We actually have two: the strudel and the sopaipilla (and with honey, oh so good). The official pepper is the jalapeno. But the official native pepper is the chiltepin. The state fruit? It’s Texas red grapefruit, though I think it should be the watermelon since we eat a lot more watermelon than grapefruit.
If I were to have an official state Texan (living), I’d choose Willie Nelson – and if George Strait, through some miracle, outlives him, I’d be in favor of him taking over.