Death by Holga: 11.22.63

I Can’t Believe Big Tex is Gone

Big Tex on fire at the State Fair of Texas (photo by Jessica Alexander)

Big Tex on fire at the State Fair of Texas (photo by Jessica Alexander)

I can’t believe Big Tex is gone.

I was there Thursday evening. I took my spouse and child to see The Addams Family Musical at the Music Hall at Fair Park. We were thinking about getting a funnel cake. But the show let out really late and all the coupon booths and vendors were closed. If that wasn’t enough, it was cold outside and we were sans jackets.

On the way back to the car we found ourselves in Big Tex Circle, where the State Fair of Texas icon stands. I noticed how quiet and peaceful it was as we approached. This was my first time to see Big Tex this late at night without a crowd of photo-taking, corny-dog-eating, baby-crying, coupon-buying people. It was nice. Really, really nice.

And that’s when I decided to take one more photo.

A coupon booth in Big Tex Circle was still lit. I positioned my family in the light with Big Tex in the background. I took out my mobile and captured one last photo of the big man with my family.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The stars aligned and for some strange reason I was due to be back at the State Fair of Texas. Our office decided to take a Fair Day. We were going to walk around and eat some fried food and try some of the rides. We had decided to meet in front of Big Tex at 11 a.m.

I parked and started walking. I noticed several helicopters in the air and wondered what event was happening. And then I got the text from my brother.

James: Big Tex burned up

My first thought was that someone may have burned the grass around Big Tex and he suffered a singed boot or two. I called James to clarify. He told me Big Tex was gone.

I made my way to Big Tex Circle and found it surrounded by police and firemen. They were still spraying Big Tex when I got there. The only thing left were his arms, a few scraps of his Dickies shirt and his metal frame. Big Tex really was gone.

This was supposed to be a fun day with my co-workers. I was only armed with a mobile and my oldest Holga camera. Oh, what I would have given to have my Nikon with me.

Of all the cameraman and photographers there, I was the only one shooting with a Holga camera. One photographer heard the double click of my shutter, saw what I was using, and gave an approving smile. I must have shot three rolls of the charred remains.

As eerie as it was to see Big Tex last night, it was even more surreal to see the main Fletcher’s Corny Dog stand without lines of people in the day time. It was almost like September 12, 2001, when you realized there were no planes in the sky. Admittedly, I had not eaten lunch yet.

Removal

Officials at the State Fair of Texas were quick to remove Big Tex from his perch. They brought out the same crane that hoists him into place. The shoulder straps were attached and the legs were unbolted. Big Tex was lowered to the ground were his legs were attached to wheels. He was laid on his back and wheels were added under the shoulders. The crew quickly removed what was left of his arms and then they covered him with his storage tarp.

I’m not a big fan of police officers, but I would like to thank them for yesterday. No matter how hard people tried to get closer to take photos of a charred Texas giant (myself included), the Dallas Police kept up safely behind the yellow tape. And when the time came to cart Big Tex away, without any rehearsal or prompting, the Dallas Police turned a simple forklift and trailer into a funeral procession. Thank you.

The Funeral Procession

I had finished taking video of the lowering with my mobile when I started walking toward International Blvd. I got there as Big Tex was being hauled away. A pair of motorcycle police led the way with a golf cart or two following. A forklift fitted with a trailer hitch was driving in reverse. It was attached to the structure that was Big Tex. Another vehicle carried the detached arms followed by more police motorcycles.

The murmuring crowd lined both sides of the street. The blaring music had been silenced. The only thing missing was the dry thump of a funeral drum. I could hear parents whispering to their children the importance of this moment.

The Phoenix

I said years ago that Big Tex was old and should be replaced. He’s just an oddly shaped piece of folk art that used to be a Santa Claus. Surely we could do something better.

But that was before I got to know Big Tex.

I first went out to see Big Tex lifted into place in 2010. I thought the process took all day, when in fact it takes only 30-40 minutes. That’s when I decided to do the time lapse video. In 2011, I shot the stills for a video, but the installation crew took too long and I could not get the complete process. This year I got the whole thing from lifting to boots. It’s amazing what you can see with 4,000+ photographs.

Now that Big Tex is gone, actually burned to the ground, I truly hope he rises from the ashes. I hope he becomes something new and awe inspiring. I hope Big Tex becomes the envy of every state fair. But most of all, I hope to see the big man again. Cheers.

Image Gallery

Click any of the thumbnail images to see a larger version. The photos of Big Tex on fire are by Jessica Alexander.

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Other Big Tex Posts

State Fair of Texas Icon Big Tex Burns During 60th Year – October 19, 2012

Funeral for Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas – October 19, 2012

Mr. Holga’s Time Lapse Video of Big Tex – October 6, 2012

Time Lapse of Big Tex Being Lifted into Place at the State Fair of Texas – September 30, 2011

Special Feature: Big Tex Getting New Dickies Shirt – August 2, 2011

Big Tex Goes Up at the State Fair of Texas – September 24, 2010

About Mr. Holga

Mr. Holga is our walkabout photographer and art reporter. Mr. Holga specializes in film photography, especially with Holga cameras. You can follow Mr. Holga on Twitter at twitter.com/MrHolga or visit his website at www.mrholga.com.

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