“I didn’t know Big Tex smoked,” a fairgoer was overheard saying.

The Austin Lounge Lizards once sang about him

You’ve all heard tell of Pecos Bill
Who rode a cyclone ’til it broke
Well, at the Texas State Fair
There’s an even bigger bloke
That cowpoke’s name is Big Tex
Fifty-two feet tall he stands
Outside he’s just a mannequin
But inside he’s a man…

But Big Tex is no more. Friday morning an electrical fire destroyed the emblematic representation of the outsized ambitions of Texas. Big Tex was born in 1949 in the town of Kerens in Navarro County, TX. His birth parents named him “Santa”, but in 1951 he was put up for adoption, and was sold into slavery at the Texas State Fair for $750 (yes, slavery was legal in Texas). They transformed him into the man that he was, unveiling him in 1952. Tex stood 52′ tall. He wore denim pants, a Texas shirt, a 75-gallon hat, a 50-pound belt buckle and greeted fair visitors with a non-pre-recorded slow drawl “Howdy folks! Welcome to the State Fair of Texas!”.

Friday, that all came to an end. A fire started in his boot, and soon the entire body had gone up in flames. Specifically, the fire was caused by an electrical short that started in his right boot. Flames and smoke shot up his body, which acted as a chimney. In about 10 minutes he was gone. Gone was his 75-gallon hat. Gone was his fiberglass face, which once flashed perfectly straight teeth. Gone were his boots, his five-pocket denim jeans and his 23-foot-long belt. All that remained were his charred three-ton steel skeleton and his hands, sleeves, belt buckle and bits of burnt clothing.

But Texas state fair officials have vowed to rebuild him. Fair spokesman Oscar Goldman was quoted as saying, ““We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better…stronger…faster.”

I’m sure Heather Jo will be waiting for him. She’s Big Tex’s girl.

Music: Pipe Dreams (2012 Encores Cast): “Tidepool”