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The Christmas tree told me all I needed to know.

One of the most prominently displayed ornaments was a classic old pickup truck with a Christmas tree in the back.

Until my daughter married a native of San Antonio a few years ago, I had no idea every young boy in Texas wants to own a vintage pickup when he grows up. My son-in-law’s is a 1971 Chevy. A real beauty, I must say.

But as I held my grandson last weekend and looked at the ornament before us I could not help but think, “You know your grandson is a Texan when his Daddy has a ’71 Chevy pickup in the garage.”

But that’s not all my daughter’s Christmas tree had to say.

There are no less than three cactus ornaments on that tree, including one eating a taco.

“Whoa!” I said to Parker, in my best, Pop Pop is excited voice, “Is that a cactus eating a taco? Who ever heard of such a thing?”

Everyone in Texas probably, but still I said it every time I scooped him up in my arms and went over to check out the tree. Parker laughed every single time.

“You know your grandson is a Texan,” I thought, “when there’s a cactus eating a taco on his Christmas tree.”

My daughter Greta was living in Los Angeles two years ago when she told me she had a plan. A three-part plan. She wanted to move to Austin, Texas, where she had lived once before and vowed she’d be back, buy a house, and start a family. And that’s what she did. In exactly that order.

Parker, the tyke giggling at my cactus shenanigans, was a year old Dec. 2. My recent trip was a combined late-birthday, early-Christmas visit.

Being born in Austin clearly meant Parker would grow up a Dallas Cowboys fan. I knew this and accepted it. “You know your grandson is a Texan,” I lamented, “when you find yourself buying him a little Dak Prescott jersey.”

Little did I know, however, how ubiquitous the whole Texas thing can be. The outline of the state of Texas is everywhere you look in Austin, including on the walls of most every room in Greta’s house. I don’t think there’s a letter “O” on any sign in Texas without the center in the outline of the state. Greta has a marble cutting board in the shape of Texas, serving dishes in the shape of Texas, and a 48-star American flag hanging on the family room wall … you know, from back when Texas was still the largest state.

Several years ago my brother was living in Dallas and married to a gal from Texas. She sent a package to my sister for Christmas. Sheila felt bad that the Christmas tree cookie cutter got bent out of shape during shipping. Until someone pointed out it was actually just fine because it wasn’t a Christmas tree at all. It was an outline of Texas. That’s what Christmas cookies look like in the Lone Star State.

I wasn’t able to get to Parker’s birthday party on Dec. 2 so I don’t know if they served Texas-shaped cookies, but Greta sent me photos including one of him eying up the cupcake on the tray of his highchair. It was topped with a cowboy hat, fashioned by Greta herself from a chocolate dipped potato chip and an upside down peanut butter cup. The party was billed as “Parker’s first rodeo.”

You know your grandson is a Texan when his birthday party is his first rodeo.

The cowboy theme permeates most of Parker’s life. Even the rubber ducky in his bath sports a cowboy hat, black vest, gold star and six gun. They call him Sheriff Quack.

We met up for lunch with my son-in-law’s parents in the little town of Gruene, about an hour’s ride south of Austin. Gruene (pronounced Green) is as Western a town as your can find and a favorite of mine since I first visited there last summer. The rustic dance hall in the center of town, dating back to the mid-1800s, is the kind of place where one should amble up to the bar and demand, “Whiskey. And leave the bottle.” Wearing spurs that jungle, jangle, jingle wouldn’t hurt.

We ate at the historic Gristmill where I ordered a Thirsty Goat, an amber ale brewed in Austin. When in Rome, I figured.

The place was jammed and every third guy who walked by wore cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat. When my brother first moved to Texas in the ‘80s he told a fella he worked with, “Nice cowboy hat,” to which the guy responded in a slow drawl, “Down here, Bill, we just call it a hat.”

Still, they were cowboy hats to me, but with Bill’s story in mind, I kept my mouth shut.

Going through my head, though, was, “You know your grandson is a Texan when you’re sitting with him in an old Gristmill drinking a Thirsty Goat surrounded by guys in cowboy hats.”

But the clincher was the long, and I mean long, line of parents with their little kids waiting to see Santa.

Or so I thought.

Actually, they were waiting to see … are you ready? … Cowboy Kringle.



I wish I could say I made that up.

Fortunately Greta said Parker is too young this year to visit Cowboy Kringle, but I suspect we all will be standing in that line next December. I won’t be a bit surprised if he asks the jolly old man in the cowboy hat and chaps for a vintage pick up truck. My grandson is a Texan, after all. And he already has a cactus eating a taco.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at