Mess with Texas.

You most likely associate the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas” with cheesy t-shirts and that unmistakable brand of Texas swagger.

What you don’t know is that the slogan is the product of a 1980s anti-littering campaign and a federally registered trademark of the Texas Department of Transportation. The initiative is credited with cutting highway trash by 70% from 1986-1990.

So maybe the best way to piss off a Texan is to mess with our state — cruise down a Hill Country two-lane during wildflower season and throw your pickle juice and mustard-stained Whataburger wrapper out the window. Local law enforcement will be happy to collect the maximum $500 fine when they spot your out-of-state license plate.

Assume we’re all cowboys / dumb rednecks.

No, I didn’t ride a horse to school. No, I’ve never been on a working ranch. Automatically pegging Texans as backwardly rural, uninformed, or unworldly would be sadly missing the mark.

I’ve met more fellow Texans while traveling (places like South Korea, Argentina, Belgium) than I have people from any other state. And just a mile down the road from my house, at the University of Texas, researchers are at this very moment using over $600 million in annual research grants to analyze data from the farthest reaches of space, design the computers of the future, and develop groundbreaking biomedical technologies that may one day help cure cancer.

What a bunch of hicks.

Underestimate our geographic diversity.

The state borders encircle 268,580 square miles — that’s more than 100 Delawares.

In the East we’ve got the Piney Woods, a forest of pine and oak that covers 54,400 square miles (20+ Delawares, for those counting). The Great Plains of North Texas and the Panhandle comprise cotton fields (Texas is the largest US producer) and other agricultural land. Out West things get pretty desert-y — oil wells share real estate with wind farms, and the Guadalupe Mountains rise to 8,750ft (over 2,000 feet higher than anything east of the Mississippi). The coastal plains of South Texas and the scrubby hills of Central round out the picture, but of course all this is still a gross overgeneralization.

Bottom line: Whatever image you’ve generated in your mind to define “Texas,” it’s woefully inadequate.

Say the whole state sounds awful…except for Austin.

We get it — the world has a hard-on for Austin. But that still doesn’t explain why, when I’m traveling around the US and tell someone I live in ATX, they invariably respond with some riff on the above.

You’ve just dismissed over 25 million people out of hand. Kind of a dick move.

Move to Austin from San Francisco or Brooklyn and then shit-talk the rest of the state.

Go home.

Call it “George Bush’s state.”

W was born in Connecticut. HW was born in Massachusetts. While there are likely hundreds of George Bushes from Texas, they’re clearly not the ones you’re thinking of.

This is not a political beef — just a matter of birthright and heritage. But since you brought it up, maybe I should remind you there were over 5 million of us who voted for the other guys in 2000 and ’04. That’s like, 6 Delawares.

Make an “everything’s bigger in Texas” joke.

This is the territory of souvenir bumper stickers and franchise steakhouse wall art. Your joke will not land.

Ask why we don’t have an accent.

Because I grew up in a suburb of the 7th largest city in the nation.

You really need to specify anyway — are you talking East Texas drawl or West Texas twang…or the Mexican / Hispanic flavor that’s probably a more accurate, 21st-century reckoning of the “Texas accent”?

Drive like a tourist.

I know — you are a tourist. But here’s a tip: When you’re on a country highway, taking your time, enjoying the pastoral sights, and you suddenly check your rearview to see an F-350 bearing down on your rear bumper, find a good spot to drift onto the shoulder a ways so that cowboy/girl can pass you more easily.

If you see the hazards blink or a hand wave through the rear glass, you know you’ve done good.

Mix up your NBA teams.

In San Antonio it’s the Spurs, in Dallas the Mavericks, in Houston the Rockets. There are no exceptions.

Sauce your meat.

Again, Texas is too big to have only one style of barbecue, but the Central Texas variety is currently ascendant — the main element of which is certainly not any kind of sauce.

When you order BBQ in Lockhart or Llano, in Luling, Taylor, or the hipster trailers in Austin, it’s all about the quality of meat, the wood used, and the cook time. Dousing that half pound of moist brisket in a pool of sauce is a kick in the spurs to the artiste behind the smoker. Go back to Kansas City.

Order a burrito.

Seriously? You came to the best place in the world to eat Mexican food outside of Mexico and ordered some Californian perversion of the real thing? There’s only one person who should be pissed off about that, and it’s you.

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