I'm pretty immune to typical Texas stuff because I hate Christianity and conservatives, but I went to an event in Houston the other week that took me right back to my childhood, a time full of horses and dirt and country music, and I loved it.
Everyone talks about how shitty country got after 1981 or whatever, but I actually secretly really love 90s country. I don't care, some of it is excellent!
Austin isn't very country. I know everyone's experience is different and that Phoenix is about as city as it gets with miles of concrete and malls, but in the 90s, my family spent our weekends in Cave Creek or Casa Grande to visit our horses and go to rodeos. I was the only kid in this group, so it was a little lonely for me, but I was surrounded by old cowboys and country women with work-gnarled hands and dogs and frogs and the smell of horse shit, which isn't so bad.
I felt like I was so fucking in love with George Strait then. It made me want to cry.
One year, I would guess 1992, we spent the fourth of July at our extended family's little ranch in Casa Grande. Again, the only child around on a drinking holiday, I wandered out to the paddocks by myself and took my horse out. I wanted to ride her, but she was a wild card and I knew I was inexperienced, so I put her in the round pen, where she couldn't get away. My greatest fear was losing the damn horse. I put a bridle on her and walked her out without a saddle, pulled her up next to the fence and used it to climb on her bare back. We walked around the pen aimlessly for a while until the fireworks started. I stopped trying to move her around and she just stood for what seemed like forever while I held a handful of her mane with the reins and watched the sky. I felt that it was a very American thing to be a child sitting on a horse alone watching fireworks on the fourth of July while my parents laughed indoors. It felt like a commercial about wholesomeness. I put her away and thought about how no one would know that that moment had ever happened but me.
So anyway, I went to a fancy event out in Houston held at a polo club. Even though the place is meant for elites, it still smelled like horse shit and the faint dirt kicked up by hooves still floated in the breeze and still smelled the same. The horsey musk emanating from the clean, white paddocks paired with an endless playlist of 90s country hits took me all of the way back home. Arizona's more country and western than Texas no matter what some a Texan will tell you, but you wouldn't know it in Houston.