I suspect there may only be a few among us who haven’t at least heard about Burning Man. In fact, I’m willing to bet since artistic blood runs through your veins some of you folks may have ventured to Black Rock City for a week of radicals.

You know, radical inclusion, self-reliance, self-expression, decommodification and all that jazz.

Those kinds of radicals.

Frankly I didn’t even know what the hell decommodification was until I Googled that sucker. Something about being free from market dependency. Still scratching my head a little on it. Maybe one of you economics gurus can send me an email with a better explanation.

Just be ready to dumb it down for me.

A lot.

So, Burning Man got its start back in the Eighties on Baker Beach in San Francisco inspired by the genius of two dudes — Larry Harvey and Jerry James — who built the first “Man”. At the end of a week long hang out with friends they burned it as a symbolic ritualistic end to the festivities.

It’s still going strong today and although the celebration has been blemished with a few “freaky incidents” it is attended by thousands of participants every year.

What incidents am I talking about? Nothing really, except for that time one dude tried to run through the freaking effigy while the damned thing was lit up. Guess what?

He didn’t make it.

Maybe he got caught up in the spirit of the celebration and decided he was the perfect sacrifice. Hell, I don’t know, maybe he was a Druid just trying to get back to his roots.

Not sure if you know this, but back in the 10th century Druids sometimes practiced human sacrifice. They often placed men, some women, but mostly men, inside a monstrous effigy comprised of wicker. At some point during the ritualistic ceremony, the wicker effigy was torched and of course the willing/unwilling inhabitants were fricasseed.

As I was doing research for this article — stop with the eye rolls y’all. I was on Google looking up decommodification and I thought why the hell not run with it I stumbled across a movie loosely based on one of the Druid’s 10th century rituals.

Wicker Man with Nicolas Cage.

I sincerely doubt this is going to be a spoiler moment since the damned thing came out thirteen years ago. If it is a spoiler for some of you my sincerest apologies. Maybe you folks should watch a few more movies.

Here’s how the ending pans out.

Cage Flipping Out

And you thought being in a hot spot was a wireless technology term didn’t you?

Well, not to be outdone by Larry Harvey or those wicked looking sisters who fried Nicolas, we, the proud state of Texas, performed our own Burning Man ritual.

Unfortunately it wasn’t really planned.

It just kind of happened.

The year was 2012. That crisp October morning all eyes (Texan eyes) were fixed with anticipation on the State Fair of Texas and ‘Big Tex’. For over sixty years ‘Big Tex’ was an icon at the fair. He stood fifty two feet tall and his mouth and arms would move as he welcomed fair goers young and old.

“Howdy Folks! Welcome to the State Fair of Texas!”

But on that October morning, October the 19th I recall, because I cried that day. Okay I didn’t cry, but I was really, really, really, really sad. On opening day of the State Fair, all Texans were met with a catastrophic event of epic proportion.

The State of Texas had their own Burning Man moment and the man was ‘Big Tex’.

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Even to this day no one is one hundred percent sure what caused ‘Big Tex’ to torch himself. Some say the electrics which animated his head and arms may have shorted out but one thing we all know.

The end was quick for ‘Big Tex’.

From the top of his cowboy hat (made of felt) to his cowboy shirt (made of real fabric) and jeans (made of real denim), the fire ravaged ‘Big Tex’ in only fifteen minutes. When the smoke cleared the ‘Big Tex’ we knew and loved was gone.

In his place stood nothing but a smoldering wire frame. No, I’m not going to show you what ‘Big Tex’ looked like after the fire. I don’t want to be reminded of the pain all Texans felt that day. We want to remember ‘Big Tex’ in his prime, with his jeans and boots, his cowboy hat and fifty pound belt buckle.

We want to remember him as he was, an inspiration to all of us State Fair goers, welcoming us to fun times and wonderful fried food.

I mean, come on folks, who can pass up a stick of fried butter?

The Druids may have had their Wicker Man in the 10th century, and during the Eighties, Larry and Jerry may have started the Burning Man ritual, but Texas, well Texas had the original ‘Big Tex’ and until that sad day we had him for over sixty years.

That crisp October morning, a day most Texans will never forget, we had our own Burning Man ritual, Texas style.

It will be a day many of us Texans will never forget.

I know I won’t.

Let’s keep in touch: paul@pgbarnett.com

Written by

A published author enjoying married Texas bliss. Dog person living with cats. A writer of Henry James' stories. Featured In MuckRack. Top Writer In Fiction.

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