The Excess of Texas

Every day, the United States of America reminds me of what a big place the world is and how insignificant South Africa is in the greater scheme of things.

I thought I was a big deal when I heard someone yell my name from the stands of Great Field during an Internal League rugby match at Rhodes in 2009. I think highly of myself when my Instagram post hits 11 likes and surpasses the dreaded ‘names only’ barrier. I too thought that I knew a thing or two about farming having grown up in the world of agriculture. That was before I crossed the New Mexico border into Texas on Monday 29 August.

Last time we spoke, I briefly mentioned some of the cattle feedlots I had seen whilst staying with my Godfather Paul Mills in Amarillo. Since then, we went for a tour of Paul’s flaking mill in Dimmit where they are pumping out more than 800 tons of feed a day to dairy farms in the area. 800 tons, to put that in a sporting context, imagine 800 Test match rugby forward packs getting trucked out of your shed every day.

Paul then took us off to a dairy that dwarfs anything I had seen or imagined before. A buddy of his, Jake, runs a dairy nearby that features some 9000 cows that get milked every day, which produce on average 32 litres each. That is equal to 13 full loads of a 25 ton truck, which is roughly 325 short tons of milk a day. Chuck a few tubs of Nesquick in the top of the tank and you can rid the entire population of Johannesburg from a hangover on a Sunday morning.

So after having the minds blown by the sheer size of the agricultural production out in Amarillo, we get treated to a top class Potjie from Paul. Another taste of home as a reminder that despite all America’s greatness, there is still no place like the Republic of South Africa.

Off to Dallas we went on Wednesday, armed with enough Biltong and left over potjie to keep a Boer Commando fed for a trek through the Cape Colony. Add to that a neat gift of two complimentary Dallas Cowboys tickets from Paul, just in case the Mills’ hadn’t done enough for us.

What is one’s first port of call in Dallas? Well it’s all in the name isn’t it? That’s right, we head for the famous Ewing household – Southfork Ranch. The obligatory selfie and Snapchats take place as we reminisce to the glory days of JR and company.

Two tourists in a foreign land, we open up the old  Google box and decide that Downtown Dallas is the place to be and check in for the night. Like the Baha Men, we let the dogs out and enjoy what one can on a midweek evening.

The following morning we strap on the takkies and stroll around the picturesque Dallas downtown area. Streets so clean you would happily apply the ’10 second rule’, buildings so tall you could stand on top of them and whisper in God’s ear. This place is truly amazing. Vibrant, pristine and very orderly. By far the most beautiful inner city I have seen, certainly tops Hillbrow and Govan Mbeki Street anyway.

A large section of the downtown area is littered with memorials to JFK and we even visit the actual spot where he got popped by Lee Harvey Oswald. In fact, there is a blue ‘x’ on the exact spot where he was shot in the middle of a busy road.

From here its off to Arlington where we book into a motel, fill up the sink with ice and Budweiser as we get ready for the big Texas derby between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans. We just a stone’s throw from the AT&T Stadium so we give ourselves enough time to chug a few Buds and wolf down some more Biltong. Purds’ chucks on his Tony Romo jersey which his folks got him as a kid (still fits) and I stick on a Bok jersey…classic.

Now I had heard a few things about Cowboy Stadium (now officially called At&T Stadium) before, but I somehow don’t think it prepared me for what was to come. This stadium is a Mecca of football, built in 2009, it is home to the America’s team – the Dallas Cowboys – and has a capacity of some 80 000. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is largely responsible for putting it together and provided a fair amount of the funding which has resulted in the Stadium being referred to as ‘Jerry World’ by many. In terms of funding, it cost about $1.5 billion dollars to build which is roughly R21 billion…that equates to about 84 Nkandlas.

The Cowboys are five time Superbowl Champions (second most to the Pittsburgh Steelers with 6) and are ranked by Forbes Magazine as the wealthiest sporting franchise in the world with an estimated value of $4 billion. To put that into perspective, Real Madrid $3.65 billion and Barcelona $3.55 billion follow them on the list. Their owner, Jerry Jones, is worth $5 billion – money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does in underground oil wells. The Cowboys too have the NFL record for the most consecutive sellout matches which stretched to 190 matches starting in 2002.

The match we watching is just a preseason game and unfortunately Tony Romo, the Cowboys starting Quarterback, has broken a bone in his back the week before. On the other side, my favourite player and perhaps one of the greatest defensive players ever, JJ Watt, is out of action for the Texans. This doesn’t prevent some 60 000 fans from attending the game.

Proudly wearing my Bok colours doesn’t attract the attention I was hoping for and draws only one comment from some half pissed cat stumbling past me who blurts out ‘Bokke’. That said, I am possibly the only person in the entire stadium without official memorabilia. It is crazy. Every single person has a team jersey, cap, shorts, jeans and even boots. With Houston being relatively close by, there are heaps of Texans fans, 99.9% of whom are sporting jerseys with the number 99 and “Watt” on the top. Despite being the visiting team and despite Watt’s injury, his jersey is without a doubt the most popular item of clothing in the Stadium.

The girls down in Texas dress pretty nicely too at the Cowboys game. The standard look is a fairly big Cowboys jersey, tiny little jean shorts and some pure leather cowboy boots. Giddy up!

Jerry World is absolutely mind boggling. There are no cues, there is no mess and no animosity between spectators. Everything just runs smoothly and in an orderly fashion. The seats are made of comfortable padding with leather covers and cup holders…better than any Ster Kinekor I’ve been to. Our seats are on half way on the second floor giving us the best view, although in Cowboy Stadium that’s not really necessary thanks to the massive TV screen hanging from the roof. Each of the four sides of the center-hung LED display is the world’s largest: 72 feet high by 160 feet wide equaling 11,520 square feet per side or 23,040 square feet of sideline displays. It would take 4,920 52” flat panel TVs to equal the size and it cost about $40 million for this approximately 1 ton television.

Then there is the sideline shows that take place before the game – inspirational videos on the screen highlighting the glory days of the Cowboys in the 90s. Then there are the world famous Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and pyrotechnics that Guy Fawkes would be proud of. The teams run out with thumping tunes and fireworks. The Cowboys come out to ACDC’s Thunderstruck and Houston run out to the Dallas TV series theme song – talk about home ground advantage! The Star Spangled Banner is sung and you get the same tingle as you do after the cheer that follows ‘In South Africa our Land’ at Ellis Park.

It is truly an amazing experience and it is about so much more than just a bunch of helmet clad athletes chasing a pig skin around for an hour. An NFL game is more than just a sporting match, it is an entertainment event geared at getting people to spend their hard earned cash on hot dogs, beer and team memorabilia. Unlike at home where the 80 minutes of rugby is what its all about, here it seems as if the game is a sideshow. Everyone just wants to be a part of it, support your team, support your town, be proud and just simply belong to something. Can you imagine 60 000 people rocking up to Loftus in early January to watch all the second string Lions and Bulls players tussle it out for a spot on the Super Rugby roster? I think you are more likely to see Jacob Zuma voluntarily step down and confess to his multiple corruption charges.

The Cowboys go down 17 – 28 to the Texans. Not that it seems to matter. Its just preseason with no of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, Dez Bryant, JJ Watt, Brock Osweiler or DeAndre Hopkins taking the field. However, we weren’t there for just a game, we were there for an experience that will never be forgotten and its exactly what we got. Needless to say, like the good sheep I am, I headed off to Walmart the next day to grab myself a Cowboys and Texans hat. Damn groupie.

So from one pilgrimage to another, we set off for the capitol of Texas, my name sake – Austin.

Part 0 – California here we come:
Part 1 – Cookhouse, Cathcart, California:
Part 2 – Dust, Snakes and the Wild West:




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