Finding Texas is an ongoing process. Austin helped bridge the gap between my Texan past, but coming back to Houston brings me face-to-face with who I am now. When I arrived from France I was desperate to hold on to my new found instincts, cultural attitudes, and language. This resulted in a circle of French friends who keep me culturally astute and constantly entertained by their responses to Texas culture and events. There is no spectacle bigger in Texas than the Houston Livestock and Rodeo. It’s the biggest rodeo of its kind in the world with a record of over anywhere from 60,000 to 110,000 visitors a night, and features barbecue cook-offs, carnivals, tent parties, and an ensemble of various international music acts.
I received a group email stating that Marine had received 4 passes to a tent at the rodeo. These pricey passes provide copious amounts of food and drink and it turns out that myself and two other french girls were invited.
“You must come,” says Marie. “We must experience the rodeo with a real Texan!”
I’m not sure after all my adventures how much of a Texan I still am, but to turn down a free rodeo with French girls is neither Texan or French. It’s criminal.
Our taxi drops us off within the sea of cars and people all seeking to pack into the Reliant Stadium parking lot, which will be the rodeo for the next 3 weeks. I’m eager to delve into the events, but most immediately I need to find a toilet. Fast. We buy our entry tickets and quickly navigate through the cowboys and cowgirls. Marie is constantly amazed by their outfits, while I am only amazed that I’ve been able to hold it this long. We arrive at security check and I see a row of several green portapotties. Never did wretched fecal boxes seem so heavenly.
“There they are! The toilets!” I say to them in French.
“Where? We don’t see them,” responds Marine.
“There,” I say pointing ahead. “They’re the green boxes.”
“What?! What in the world is that?”
I have no idea how to explain it in French, so I explain in English that it is a portable toilet.
“People use this?”
“Well, yeah. I know I am”
I rush into the first open one. It’s nothing special, and someone has left a present on the toilet seat. I do the deed, apply the antibacterial soap, and quickly leave. A woman tries to enter when I leave, but I warn her of the surprise waiting for her. She says thank you, and heads to the next toilet. Meanwhile, I spot Marie standing in front of a portapotty as if to protect Aude from the next person in line.
“What are you doing?!” I yell.
“I don’t know! I am waiting for Aude!”
I laugh and turn to notice a woman wearing white pants. She very meticulously is checking every part of her outfit for porta-stains.
“Haha. You’ve got to be careful with pants like that,” I say.
“Yes, I know! I’ve gotta be lookin' good,” she replies. Meanwhile the girls arrive traumatized from their first porta potty experience.
“So how was it?” I ask.
“It waz so disguzting!” says Marie.
“Yez! It iz the first, and last time I use one!” says Marine.
The white pantsed woman looks at me perplexed.
“It’s their first time to use a porta potty. They’re French.”
“Ahhh, ok! Well ladies make sure you check yourselves nice and good.”
“Yes, you seem to know what you’re doing,” replies Marine.
“You bet I do. It ain’t my first rodeo! Haha. See ya’ll!”
We wave goodbye to the kindly lady. Suddenly it hits me. ‘It ain’t my first rodeo’ is a very common expression used simply to say it’s not one’s first time doing something. However, I have never heard it used at a rodeo!
“Isn’t this some kind of expression?” asks Marie.
“Yes...haha. It is,” I reply.
We finally enter and make our way to the tent. En route, I to run into several old high school mates who are all out for the opening night of this years festivities. Meanwhile, les françaises stop to take photos in front of anything that seems too Texan to be true.
We arrive at the tent and are led to the bar areas. We take our first couple of drinks and feast our eyes on the Texas folklore. A country band pumps out two-step worthy tunes, while young and old revel in the southern glory. Marie spots a man who she cannot stop looking at. He’s every bit of 6’5 and 300 pounds and is dawning a git-up worthy of the Wild West. She says she’s afraid, but wants to take a photo with him.
“Just ask him,” I say.
“No, no. I don’t want to be rude or something!”
“Girl, this is Texas. C’mon.”
I explain to the man the situation and he gladly poses with her. He even lets her put it on for her own photo op.
This tent is an eternal Texas haven. We dance line dances, and even take a plate or two of barbecue. I begin to feel a sense of pride that my friends are having such a great time, when I turn to see Andy, another friend from high school. He explains to me that his family has operated the tent for 20 years and welcomes us to specialty drinks. He leads us in a hearty Texas toast before getting back to his duties.
The strangest sensation comes over me. Maybe it was the recent barrage of reunions, or perhaps it's showing three french girls around a Rodeo, but it's the first time in five months that I’ve felt Texan. I turn to my girls and tell them the revelation, and they sandwich me like thick piece of spicy brisket between baguettes. I wanted to find Texas. My Texas. Somewhere between “Fried-Days” and rodeo nights, I begin to feel at home again.