September 04, 2003
Don't Mess With Texas

Commenter Matt Weiner, over at Perverse Access Memory, asks about the origin of the phrase "Don't Mess With Texas". Is it true, he wants to know, that it was originally an anti-litter slogan?

That's right! What's more, it's still in use today. The best thing about this longtime campaign has been its use of Texas's broad and deep stable of musicians, in both TV and radio spots. Give some of them a listen, they're really pretty cool. Some are original compositions, others are reworkings of hit tunes - Willie Nelson croons "Mamas, dont let your babies mess with Texas", for example. Doesn't scan quite as well as the progenitor, but what the heck.

Aside: Back when Houston was a two-newspaper town, the old Houston Post would occasionally print editorial responses to letters it received. One day they printed a letter from someone who, for reasons I don't recall, rhapsodized for several paragraphs about how the phrase "Don't Mess With Texas" embodied for him an ideal of rugged individualism and indepedent Texan spirit. The Post's editors were moved to put in one of their Ed. Notes in which they stated without preamble that it was an anti-littering slogan. I still think that's the funniest thing I've ever seen on an op-ed page.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 04, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

Damn, have I mentioned lately how much I miss Lynn Ashby's snarky editorial asides? Or just the Post in general?

(And yes, excessive subtlety did me in there, I think. Fortunately, I'm a Gen Xer and don't have to care whether anybody gets my humor.)

Posted by: Ginger on September 4, 2003 10:28 PM

This (the anti-litter campaign) was going full tilt at the same time Texas' economy was in full melt down in the mid 80s. (How long has it been since you heard Houston referred to as recession-proof?)

Later, I saw several stories that "Don't Mess With Texas" signs/bumper stickers were prominently displayed in Wall Street investment offices. I suspect in this case, the sentiment had little to do with litter.

ObLitter: I also miss Ashby. The Post letters (Sound Off?) was a wonderful potpouri with a good cast of repeat writers. Comical letters all read as if the same person wrote them.

Posted by: Charles M on September 5, 2003 10:55 AM