Thursday, July 8, 2010


Down in Texas there's a war--always has been--between shitkickers and hippies. The kickers are cowboys who wear cowboy hats and boots and Texas longhorn belt buckles and love George Bush and hate the damn hippies. As Jerry Jeff Walker put it in his song "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother," the typical kicker chases down his Falstaff beer with Wild Turkey, and drives a fifty-seven GMC pickup truck with a gun rack and a bumper sticker that reads "Goat ropers need love, too." Speaking of love, kickers love nothing more than "kicking hippies asses and raisin' hell."

Marlboro Man, shitkicker

Texas hippies, on the other hand, tend to wear their hair long and smoke loco weed now and then, or at least drink some good Shiner Bock beer. They are fiercely independent and take after the outlaws of the Wild West. They might wear cowboy hats and boots, but they're decidedly outlaw about it. Willie Nelson is the classic example. Or Townes Van Zandt. Or the folks in the video up top.

Townes Van Zandt, hippie

While the Texas longhorn is the symbol of all things kicker, the mascot of the Texas hippies is the armadillo, a tough little creature that knows when to roll into a ball. Armadillos were popularized for the alternate Texas scene by cartoonist Jim Franklin back in the sixties, and in 1970 the Armadillo World Headquarters opened in Austin for rock shows and other subversive hippie activities. It's been a long strange trip but those ornery little buggers are still hanging on.

In Texas, both the kickers and the hippies love country music, barbecue, Mexican food, and--surprisingly enough--Willie Nelson (who doesn't?). Willie is a dyed-in-the-wool Texas hippie and patron saint of Austin, Texas. God bless Willie.

Willie Nelson, damn hippie

Of course, we're speaking in gross generalities--no one is truly and completely a cultural stereotype, after all, but you'd be surprised how many folks fit somewhere on this spectrum. And there are other mutations in Texas, too, such as cowpunks and rockabillies, Texas Swingers, Texas Two-steppers, rodeo clowns and a huge population of Hispanics and Native Americans who were there before white folks showed up. Still, for the sake of our overly simple dichotomy, play along with me...okay? Now let's listen to some music.

Top clip: Nanci Griffith joined by the best of the Texas singers and songwriters, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Eric Taylor and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. They sing a classic country song written by Guy Clark, "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train." The song is guaranteed to melt the toughest kicker heart.

Willie and friends, including Kris Kristofferson, singing "Ain't it Funny How Time Slips Away."

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