By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Every true-blue Texan remembers where they were when the big man went up in flames. There in the heart of the carnival, stunned masses watched agape as an icon of the Lone Star State, whose squinty, handsome stare and vacuous drawl had represented the spirit of Texas for decades, disintegrated right before the nation's very eyes. Our heart died a little that day.
Governor Rick Perry was no longer a candidate for president.
Wait, what? You thought we were talking about Big Tex going up in flames? Oh, no. Sorry. That was sad, sure. But this. This was tragic. How would we go on? Was life as a snark-powered journalist even worth living?
It was a helluva way to start 2012, watching Candidate Rick disappear from the front of our morning paper. Which is why, as we set out to recap as much of the news of the past 12 months we can remember — about two weeks worth, give or take 11 days — we decided to start with Perry's presidential flameout.
Don't worry. We'll get to that other iconic bonfire in due time. But let's kick things off on a happier note: As recently as this month, Perry was hinting he was considering running for president again in 2016. As Christmas presents go, that would beat a pony hands down, and Buzz was so thrilled that we called up political scientist Cal Jillson at SMU to get his opinion on whether it could be true. Could Perry really overcome the Great Oops of 2011, the Final Flameout of 2012 and his general Rick Perryness to make a serious run for the White House? Could he, professor, oh please, could he?
We hope Jillson doesn't take it the wrong way when we say we bet he never bought anyone a pony for Christmas.
No, he told us, over our whisper-yelled cries of Please say yes. The odds of Perry becoming a legitimate presidential candidate are not good. While there's talk the governor is "considering" a 2016 campaign, Jillson said he doesn't think Perry's notion of consideration is the same as a basic rational person's — carefully weighing alternatives, examining potential courses and preparing for future challenges.
Studying, in other words. Not Perry's strong suit.
"I don't see him doing anything to be a better prepared candidate," Jillson said. Perry is the sort of guy who focuses on what's on his desk right now, and Jillson has seen "nothing to suggest he's preparing himself intellectually" to run for the presidency.
On that glum note, we might as well plow in to some of the other depressing moments of the year. Since Jillson dropped a lump of coal in our stocking, it seems only appropriate appropriate to kick off with:
Howdy, Fol ... AIEEE!
Perry's campaign vanished into the ether way back in January. It wasn't for another 10 months, on October 19, that Big Tex joined him.
That's the day an electrical fire started in Big Tex's Big Jaw, destroying the 52-foot-tall Dickies- and cowboy-hat-wearing figure and stopping the Internet in its tracks. Tributes were penned. Twitter profiles were started. Grams were Insta'd. Tex's "Howdy, folks!" had greeted visitors to the State Fair for more than half a century, and now he was gone. Our heart would have skipped a beat, but this was the final weekend of the State Fair. Our heart hadn't pumped in weeks.
Bereaved Dallasites comforted one another in their grief. Although, let's be honest: Surviving 60 years is a pretty good run, especially for someone in such close proximity to all those corny dogs.
Fair officials have vowed that Big Tex will return to the fair in 2013, prompting his less-bereaved-but-more-smartass fans to offer their suggestions for how Big Tex 2.0 could become more representative of modern Texas. Despite their efforts, though, chances of El Grande Caballero offering a hearty "bienvenidos, amigos" to fair goers at any point in the next 30 centuries appear slim.
In fact, Big Tex, according to a press campaign unveiled by fair officials in December, is recovering at an undisclosed "spa" somewhere in Texas after considering stays in several spas nationwide. (They really said this.) "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,'" gushed Big Tex, presumably between viewings of Brokeback Mountain.
"We looked for a place he could slow down and relax — a place where we could be sure Big Tex would leave happy," said Sue Gooding, the Fair's VP of Community Relations and Fake-Ass Press Releases.
In a related fantasy-news note, police in La Grange say they are on the lookout for a "52-foot-tall sooty, elderly horn dog" who has been harassing residents by approaching them on the street and booming, "Howdy, folks. Say, can you tell me where the Chicken Ranch has done got to?"
Lords of the Flies
Way back in January, an aerial photograph of the Trinity River revealed a large, suspicious plume of red flowing down Cedar Creek and into the Trinity River south of downtown.
Environmental investigators sped to uncover the source of the red liquid, quickly tracing it back to the administrative salaries budget at Dallas Independent School District headquarters.
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