By Dallas Small photos by Robert Bostick
Where would State Fair of Texas officials take Big Tex to recover following his accident on the last weekend of this year’s exposition?
Sue Gooding, State Fair of Texas vice president for public and community relations, said, “As we deliberated that question, a staff member came up with one of those flashes of the blindingly obvious—A spa. Why not a spa?”
According to Ms. Gooding, Fair officials quickly conducted a thorough, nationwide search for just the right facility. “We wanted a place that offered every conceivable type of quality treatment and also provided a soothing, relaxing atmosphere. After all, Big Tex is special to all of us, so we became quite particular about capabilities and ambience. We looked for a place he could slow down and relax—a place where we could be sure Big Tex would leave happy.”
Gooding said the search led the Fair to five finalists. “That’s when we brought Big Tex into the process,” she said. “We asked each of the five to join us here in Dallas via satellite so Big Tex could be part of the selection process. Nobody’s opinion counted more than his, of course.”
A facility in Wyoming, “where Western hospitality abounds,” attracted Big Tex with its high ceilings, platform beds and extra-large soaking tub. “There are still a lot of real cowboys in Wyoming,” Big Tex said. He thought he would be comfortable in that kind of company, but one of the facility’s requirements—that patients bring their own athletic shoes–nixed the deal for him. “Big Tex doesn’t even have a decent pair of boots,” he said, “and where can we find a pair of size 100 athletic shoes?”
So Wyoming was out.
“Big Tex lost interest in a facility in the East almost immediately,” Ms. Gooding said. “When he started to fidget, we knew it wasn’t going to be the place.”
Big Tex’s comment: “It’s a beautiful place, but look at who’s there—nobody but celebrities and diplomats. It’s not like the Fair, with real, honest, hard-working people. Big Tex would not be comfortable among that crowd.”
“We then met via satellite with spas in Colorado and California,” Ms. Gooding said. Both had amenities Big Tex liked, especially the giant slate-lined tubs in California. But neither brought out the enthusiasm in Big Tex’s voice—the booming voice that says, ‘Howdy Folks’ each day as the Fair opens. It’s a sound that tells us, ‘Big Tex is ready, and it’s going to be a good day.’”
At this point, the search was left with only one finalist. “Big Tex perked up immediately as we visited with this fifth spa, which billed itself as ‘Located in the heart of Texas,’” Ms. Gooding said. Big Tex listened intently as the facility’s director described its full rehabilitation services, spacious accommodations large enough to fit him, their rooftop infinity pool, and king-size treatment beds. He was obviously intrigued by both the variety of therapies provided, and the peaceful setting to help him recuperate and re-energize. Big Tex’s only negative comment concerned one of the spa’s selling points: To allow one to rediscover their inner beauty. “That’s not something Big Tex wants to hear about, or even think about,” he said. “Big Tex gets a tad uncomfortable with stuff like ‘inner beauty.’”
The decision was made.
When asked for the name and location of the spa, Ms. Gooding declined, but said, “Big Tex needs rest to recover. Still, we encourage all well-wishers to continue to send greetings and encouragement to him. We’ll see that he receives every message sent to us here at our offices. I regret it will not be possible for him to have visitors right now, but I’m sure his fans can understand the need for rest and privacy until he’s ready to return to us next September.”
Dallas Small is a Texas-based freelance journalist who will provide updates on the progress of Big Tex’s recovery until the big icon returns to his post, fully recovered, at the State Fair of Texas in September, 2013.