A Texan Attempts To Get A Yankee Ready For RodeoHouston

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This past weekend I -- Craig Hlavaty -- took fellow Art Attack writer and New York native Christina Uticone on a trip to one of my most favorite shops in Houston, the Texas Junk Company, in anticipation of RodeoHouston season here in the Bayou City.

Located in the center of Montrose and owned by Robert Novotneys since 1979, the shop sells everything from vintage and ragged cowboy boots, pearl snap shirts, dusty vinyl, pop-culture artifacts, and enough authentic Lone Star State stank to make any Texan bow in reverence. I feel at home there.

The purpose of our trip was to get Christina ready for rodeo season, which will be her first here in the city since she moved here from Alaska. I figured that the Texas Junk Company was a good place to begin her journey, er, trail.

Craig: Now, you are new to the RodeoHouston thing, right?

Christina: Yes. I'm afraid that when I admit that I've been in Houston for three years and have yet to attend my first Rodeo that I'll lose my Texas card, but this is the year that I'll attend my first Rodeo. I want to dress up, but not look like I'm wearing a costume -- I also don't want to spend a billion dollars on fancy Rodeo duds.

Craig: First thing's first. You need to immerse yourself in all things rodeo for the whole month or so that the rodeo is here. That means music, clothing, decor, food, and even movies. Christina: Well, I definitely need to start with music. We've got a lot of classic country on the iTunes, but I'm thinking an investment in some vinyl might really get me in the right headspace. As for movies, does this finally give me license to watch 8 Seconds in a continuous loop? Or maybe I should go with something a little more classic, like the old cowboy movies I used to watch with my dad when I came home drunk from the bar during college break.

The food--I'm pretty sure after I eat at the Rodeo I'm going to hate myself for all of the rodeos I didn't go to since moving to Houston. We've got some of the decor covered--my husband is a geologist, so there's no shortage of cool looking bones around here--and maybe instead of hanging on to those "I'll-be-skinny-enough-to-wear-them-soon" jeans I've been hanging on to, I can make some throw pillows.

But my No. 1 must-have, WANT IT item is a sweet shirt with pearl snaps, which I've only found in size extra-giant so far.

Craig: Yes, and that is why I took you to the Texas Junk Company. Sadly, that one amazing shirt we saw with the rabbits doesn't come in my size or your size.

The important thing with pearl snap shirts is to go for traditional, so you can wear them year round. The loud Garth Brooks type western shirts are just....they should all be burned. Sorry, GB, but your shirts sucked.

The shirts at Texas Junk can range from $10 to $20 depending on the condition of the material. Jean jackets are always on sale as well. Get one and turn it into a vest for the summertime.

Make sure you look for authentic cigarette burns when seeking out a great pearl snap shirt too. The old men who wore them got careless quite a bit. That shows they have extra character. The length of them should also be taken into consideration. Those extra long tails can turn a great shirt into a dress on some people. And whatever you do, take care when wearing them right out of the (OUCH) clothes (OUCH) dryer. Ever been branded on the belly a hot pearl snap? I still have scars.

Christina: I was bummed I couldn't find any cowboy boots for myself, but finding shoes in my size (size: midget) "brand new" is hard enough, forget second-hand. It's the pearl-snap shirt I'm after, and I shall not rest until I find it. I've got to head back to the Texas Junk Company, but I've got a full day of thrifting on my schedule later this week (suggestions on where else to find great rodeo gear appreciated).

Craig: As far as boots go, remember that the boots aren't too terribly expensive at the Texas Junk so you can get a pair of knock-around boots to wear over rodeo season and put back in the closet if you so wish. If you fall in love with them, you can always get them re-soled at a local shoe repair. Brand-new boots that actually fit great are hard to come by, so if you can get a pair of vintage ones and survive a day in them, you should do so.

The prices at Texas Junk for a fine pair of old boots ranges anywhere from $20 to $100, and they come in almost every color and condition imaginable. Some of them are junkier (HA) than others, but they could very well fit you like a dream.

Christina: I prefer vintage leather, as long as it's in good condition. I rely heavily on the Houston Shoe Hospital to keep my vintage (and new) leather and shoes in good repair.

Craig: Be careful though, some boot repair services are jacking their prices up to high heaven with all the March Cowboys going in to get work done. I would also pick up some boot cream and polish to give your new beauties a good once over. The cream will loosen up the leather. Sounds hella dirty.

Christina: Once I've got my outfit and my tickets to Mary J. Blige or Pitbull -- when I think rodeo I think PITBULL -- then what? Is there a "shit, don't miss it" food I have to eat? Or a livestock show I have to see? I heard there are little kids riding sheep, which sounds pretty much amazing to me.

Craig: You need to teach your body to ingest every kind of meat that there is. Cow, pig, alligator, "sausage", catfish, chicken, quail, frog, and hopefully rabbit, are all available somewhere at RodeoHouston. This is not a season to be on a health kick. This is a season to assert your place in the food chain.

You are telling the world that "Not only will I wear leather boots to the event where men ride bulls, I will also eat a huge bowl of chipped beef will doing so." I just wish that they made some sort of beef soda to complete the circle. Maybe some foodies in town should get on that.

Christina: 'Tis the season to mainline milk of magnesia! Note to self: do not fill up on leafy greens when there are animal parts to be consumed. (Confession: "beef soda" made me a little nauseous.) I feel like this is my opportunity to fully realize the carnivorous Christina that has lived inside me -- and my fat jeans -- for so long. Bring on the edible flesh.

Craig: Now, you will also need to load up on country music. Have you done so already? Note that the only man playing country music this rodeo season is Mr. George Strait. And maybe Alan Jackson.

Christina: I liked the look of some of what we found at the Texas Junk Company. Like I said, most of our collection is digital so I'm really feeling the need to go back and grab some vinyl. Thanks to my husband, who schooled me early on that true classic country is not the same as the contemporary country that I came to hate, after years of bartending.

So we have a shit ton of Johnny Cash, Hanks Williams Sr. and otherwise, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings, with Dwight Yoakam and Kenny Rogers coming up the back. Let me guess -- not enough Pitbull on this rotation?

Craig: You keep mentioning this Pitbull person like I should know who he or she is. How many George Strait albums do you currently own?

Christina: Our iTunes reports that we own three George Strait albums. Is it time to blow the $75 iTunes gift certificate my brother gave me for my birthday? Straight Strait?

Craig: I just don't how someone can live in Texas and not own more than a dozen Strait albums.

Christina: Dude, I've lived here three years and I'm going to my first rodeo. I am the tortoise, not the hare.

Craig: As for rodeo movies, yes, 8 Seconds works, as does Pure Country. And maybe Crazy Heart if I am feeling weepy. Around this time of year I watch Urban Cowboy at least twice a day, four times on weekend days. You? There are some great furnishings at Texas Junk that look like they would have come right out of Bud and Sissy's trailer.

Christina: Well, my rodeo-specific movie repertoire consists solely of 8 Seconds, which really isn't my fault -- it's Hollywood's fault for not casting Luke Perry in more rodeo-themed movies. Now that I know Urban Cowboy counts I'll definitely move that up in the rotation.

Since Hollywood is so into remakes, I'm now thinking about who would be cast in an Urban Cowboy reboot. Justin Bieber and Shanae Grimes? Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in a post-Twilight on-screen reunion?

Craig: Maybe I don't want to help you rodeo-ize your life anymore.

Christina: I'm pretty sure my Texas card just spontaneously combusted.

Craig: (stares at computer screen for ten minutes without blinking)

Christina: I think I'm ready for my Rodeo Immersion Program. I'm sure to make some missteps (Urban Cowboy casting fantasies?) but with my own personal Rodeo Adviser to keep me in line, I think I've got a real shot at being awesome at rodeos.

Craig: That's good to hear. Remember, all cowboys ain't dumb. Some of 'em got smarts real good, like me.

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