Last post, I chipped my 2 cents in regarding the candidacy of Rick Perry for President in 2012, and of America’s residual love of tough-talking cowboys in general. It wasn’t until today, though, that I remembered a bit of personal history which I’d like to append to the previous post.
When my wife and I got married in 1996, our honeymoon was in New Zealand (go before you die; you will NOT be disappointed). We flew from LA into Auckland (which is where the vast majority of international travel arrives in New Zealand, even though Christchurch technically is an “international” airport as well). We then rented a car and drove southward through the north island of New Zealand, eventually arriving in Wellington, the north island’s southernmost city (side note: I felt compelled to actually eat Beef Wellington IN Wellington – and it was quite good). We then boarded the inter-island ferry from Wellington to Picton (the northernmost port city of the south island) and continued our car tour through the south island.
While we were still in the north island, though, we went through Rotorua and, being tourists, checked out some of the local attractions. One we kept hearing about, over and over, was something called the Agrodome. The Agrodome is essentially a working organic farm where they raise the usual variety of things…but their primary focus is the famous New Zealand sheep (and lamb). The difference between the Agrodome and other farms is that the Agrodome also has a full-scale theater/auditorium, where they show visiting tourists (and probably plenty of locals, as well) all about the lamb/sheep business. If the idea of watching a sheep farmer spend sixty-plus minutes on a stage, expounding on the fine points of shearing sheep and related matters sounds duller than dishwater to you, well, it did to me as well, at first. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, partially due to the surprisingly interesting nature of the subject itself and largely due to the equally surprisingly polished presentation of the genuine New Zealand sheep farmer who gave the presentation, it was thoroughly engrossing.
This guy was a real sheep farmer, but I’m sure he had been hired at least as much for his abilities as a showman, since I’m guessing most run-of-the-mill farmers aren’t this comfortable and even funny in front of a paying crowd. He actually sheared a sheep live on the stage in about 90 seconds(!), explaining all the while how to do it to get the most of the wool, as well as how to take precautions not to hurt the animal. It was, as I’ve already said more than once now, surprisingly engaging; I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What’s making me remember this now, in relation to my Rick Perry post, was that in his opening patter, as part of the duty of a showman to get the audience engaged, he did a fairly standard “where’s everyone from” call-out to the audience. Since he was the only one with a microphone (obviously), he encouraged people from various countries or even continents to clap and cheer when he called their country. I think he asked for the UK first. A few cheers. Then America. More cheers (my wife and I among them). Then China, Japan, various other parts of Europe and Asia, also Australia. When he’d finished covering the world’s major regions, he politely shouted out: “is there anyone here today whose country I did NOT mention?…..” No one spoke; it was the middle of the day on a weekday, the theater was less than half full. “Anyone?” he asked again, to make sure he had not left anyone in the audience feeling slighted.
And then, he made my day. After letting the silence hang a bit longer than it needed to after his second repetition of his query, he said: “…usually, this is the point of the show where someone will holler out: ‘Texas’!”
Heh. There I was, fourteen thousand miles from my home, and some dude who’d probably never been to America – let alone Texas – was making jokes at Texans’ expense. The people from China and Japan and possibly even France might not have gotten the joke, since he was speaking in English (albeit heavily Kiwi-accented), after all…but my wife and I laughed heartily, and I heard a few other pockets of laughter (presumably from other Americans).
Was it a throwaway joke that he probably repeated several times a day? Of course. Meaningless? Undoubtedly…except with respect to the fact that, even in New Zealand, they understand how insane the peculiarly Texan variety of swaggering bullshit is both eminently mockable and dangerous. So, again, read my lips: NO. NEW. TEXANS.