In a lot of ways, Texans are like the wonderful folks from my great home state of West Virginia.
First, there’s that Texas pride.
The fierce pride they feel for their state is on par with that of West Virginians. It’s as wide as the Texas sky. And like Doug Sahm croons in At the Crossroads, “You just can’t live in Texas if you don’t have a lot of soul.”
Like West Virginians, Texans also have a lot of grit, character and bigheartedness.
They greet you with wide smiles and firm handshakes. I’ve never felt so welcome at an away game.
My friend Maja Mullens agrees. She traveled to many games when we were still in the Big East, but this was her first away game since we joined the Big 12.
“I definitely don’t remember any of the Big East schools having a tailgating atmosphere like we saw in Austin,” she said. “The stadium was electric and I surprisingly love the 11 a.m. game. Despite our early daytime win, Texas fans were still very accommodating and offering food and drinks at their tailgates as we walked by.”
This welcome wagon always starts days before the game. Flying WV flags wave cheerfully alongside Longhorn flags on East 6th Street.
It makes me proud to know that this is how Mountaineer Nation makes opposing fans feel, too.
Last year Texas fan Cliff Burkhart came to Morgantown for the game. He was impressed with the unbelievable hospitality of our fans. He even tweeted that “Every time I see a WV fan, they’re getting a hug.”
When you know the origin of the word Texas, it makes sense. It comes from the Hasinai Indian word tejas, which means friends or allies.
And like Mountaineer Nation, Longhorn fans are well known for their high energy and team spirit.
Football is a religion to Texas and West Virginia fans alike, with their place of worship inside a packed stadium. These fall Saturdays are all about fans getting together as one big, happy family and rooting for their team.
Now, let’s talk about the Cowbilly Bowl.
Last year, Dave and I met a group of West Virginia and Texas fans at Mario’s Fishbowl who had established the Cowbilly Bowl when we first joined the Big 12. The contingent from West Virginia all grew up together in Parkersburg.
However, the common thread between the West Virginians and Texans is FedEx. Several of the 18 members either currently work at FedEx or are retired from FedEx.
To make the Cowbilly Bowl official, they created a logo, which many sported on their shirts and jackets. Three of the guys even went in on an old school bus that they completely transformed into a rockin’ tailgating bus. Check it out.
Dave and I ran into them Friday night at The Blind Pig on East 6th Street, which was the official WVU Alumni bar. Since the alumni tailgate was sold out, we were just going to wing tailgating Saturday morning with our friends Steve and Jill.
Last year, West Virginia fan Pat Reed had to wear a Longhorns football uniform. They actually got him on Mountaineer field, where he high-fived all the Texas players. He then watched the game from his stadium seat – while wearing a Longhorns uniform.
I can’t wait to see what Big John has to wear next year.
As we got closer to the stadium, we noticed a man holding up a ticket. Steve asked him if he only had one, and he said yes. The ticket was his son’s who couldn’t make it.
But the seat was primo – 40 yard line, 7 rows up. Steve asked Jeff how much he wanted for it, and he replied, “$50, but I’ll sell it to her (meaning moi) for $25.”
After that, Steve and Dave bought tickets. Their seats were a couple sections over in row 62. Steve asked me to swap tickets with him so I could sit with my husband, but I wasn’t about to give up my ticket.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Dave bunches, but this was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss out on. We made plans to meet at half-time at the Champions Club.
So I went to my seat, where I enjoyed the hospitality of Jeff and Jane Rhodes. I had so much fun watching the game with them.
I finally joined Dave and Steve in their section for the 4th quarter.
After the game, we celebrated back at the Cowbilly Bowl bus. The tailgate party after the game was off the hook. There was such excitement everyone was buzzing like a flagpole in a lightning storm.
Between the heat and the countless, large meat smokers lining the streets near the stadium, Austin felt like one big, heavenly smokehouse.
Johnny Warren was the chef at our tailgate. He produced pounds and pounds of smoked, succulent, lip-smacking meat.
Throughout the afternoon, he brought out trays of pulled pork, chili beef, chicken, ribs, and the most tender and delicious brisket I have ever eaten. He even made jalapenos wrapped in bacon and stuffed with shrimp and cream cheese.
I’m so thankful to the gracious Cowbilly Bowl group for welcoming us into their tailgate.
Now, let’s cue up “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and beat Oklahoma this weekend.