We all know the Texas State Flower is the bluebonnet; which makes perfect sense. The bluebonnet is as symbolic of Texas as the lone star on our flag. Some might even think the bluebonnet should be on the Texas state flag — if it weren’t that flowers on a flag are little too prissy for the state of Davy Crocket and Sam Houston. Might as well put paisley on the flag, or those little curlicue things on French flags. Just wouldn’t be right.
In addition to a state flower, Texas has a state bird, the mockingbird. While this isn’t as symbolic as the bluebonnet, it does seem appropriate. Take a walk through any park or field almost anywhere in the state and you’ll likely hear a mockingbird singing.
But, did you know that Texas has a State Shell? The Lightening Welk. Or a State Grass? Sideoats Gramma. A Texas State Shrub? Chinese Crepe Myrtle. (That one makes no sense, does it?)
We also have a State Lizard, State Insect, a State Mammal (large), a State Mammal (small), and even a State Flying Mammal. You’d think that would be enough. Despite the Texas Legislature’s penchant for naming as many Texas State Something-or-Others as they can possibly come up with, I’m going to suggest that there is still one official state symbol that they’ve overlooked.
Anyone who has taken the time to leave those 10-lane wide interstates and driven along a Texas two-lane blacktop on a hot summer day knows, what would conjure up an image of the real Texas is a Texas State Road Kill. (If you’re looking for the real Texas, you need to drive the back roads, not the interstates. If you’re looking for the real symbol of Texas, you need to look along the shoulder as your driving.)
Let’s face it, as symbolic as the Bluebonnet is, unless you’re in the Hill Country for a few weeks in March or April, you’re more likely to see road kill than a bluebonnet, mockingbird, or our Texas State Lizard — which is officially called the Texas Horned Lizard, even though anyone who grew up in Texas knows them as horny toads. (Admittedly, you might find the occasional horny toad along the highway. But chances are you’re going to have to get out and walk along the shoulder to spot them. Flattened out and dried in the sun they look pretty much like the blacktop.)
I came to recognize this oversight in Texas State Symbolism while diving south out of Lampasas on 281. I had barely reached the city limits, when I spotted my third dead armadillo. No bluebonnets.
When you think about it, the armadillo seems like the obvious choice for a Texas State Road kill. Nothing evokes the back roads and shimmering mirages of West Texas more than the sight of a fully armored, though sadly vulnerable, armadillo being hocky-pucked across a four-lane highway by an 18-wheeler to come to rest, it’s legs daintily peeking through the weeds as it settles next to the “Wildflower Area — Do Not Mow” sign.
Of course, the armadillo is already our Texas State Mammal (small), and I’m not sure such official designations can be easily revoked. Thus, even though the armadillo seems like the obvious choice, I would advise against haste. After all, choosing an Official Texas State Road Kill should not be taken lightly.
On my drive from Lampasas back to McAllen I saw a white tailed deer, two possums, and what looked like whole family of javalinas lying on the side of the road. The variety exhibited by road kill along our highways indicates that armadillos aren’t the only animal that might invoke memories of the back roads of Texas for tourists and natives alike. We need to choose carefully.
Anyone who has read the Austin American-Statesman knows that naming the animal that will represent our state as road kill may, in fact, be much too serious a decision to leave up to the state legislature. Therefore, I am suggesting a write-in campaign. Send a letter to your Texas State representative with your vote for the Texas State Road Kill. If you don’t know your representative’s name, simply address your letter to “Dear Road Kill, Texas State Legislature, Austin, Texas.” I’m sure it will get into the right hands.