Smiling in USA (Texas)

In order to integrate with the tough local cowboys in Texas, Lütken and Grønkjær would perform in saloons at night wearing their finest cowboy outfit, while spending the day practising horse riding and rounding up Longhorn cattle. 


"You won't get them to smile"...

After the conquest in New York, where we tried life as a Drag Queen, we went south to the more masculine Texas to try our talents as cowboys. This is the second chapter of “the smiling travel-tale” from New York, Texas and the Caribbean.

Everyone we met in New York looked at us with with disbelieve, when we told them about our plans to travel to Texas

We were told over and over again: “The Texans are very rejecting and they are not easy to get to know. You won't get them to smile”. This wasn't quite what we wanted to hear, since we call ourselves “The smiling Fairytales Society” and our plan was exactly that. To spread smiles among the Texan cowboys.   

In J.R. Ewing's city, Dallas, we rented a true American style car and through the following 12 days we crossed Texas – a ride that almost reached 4000 kilometres. We drove through Dallas on 12-lane highways towards the lone road stretching as far as the eye could see. We drove through desert-like prairies past mountains, rocks and nature reserves and at last we reached the small, deserted towns, where the gas stations signs are squeaking from the blows of the powerful Texas wind. Where raccoons and road runners (from the cartoons) ran out in front our car in the dusty roads. 


Smiles broke the ice

To our positive surprise we were met with smiles and laughter in Texas, every where we went. Sure some of the locals made grave faces under their cowboy hat, when we approached them, but it didn't take more than a balloon animal and a weird remark to break the ice. And afterwards we would laugh and talk. We had heard so much about their distance to visitors, but this apparently only exist between proud states and not for smiling travellers. When we stopped to spend the night in one of the sleazy motels, which we beforehand only knew from American movies, or when we had dinner in one of the endless number of restaurant chains along the highway, it would take nothing more than a few minutes before people joined in from every side to help us with  names, telephone numbers, addresses and everything. It was completely overwhelming.

Among other things we experienced that another restaurant guest had paid for our dinner as way of saying thank you for the balloon animal, that we had given his daughter. He didn't tell us anything about this, and we first discovered, that dinner was already paid, when we tried to ask for the cheque, and at this moment the guy was long gone.  


A stranger knocks on the door

A part of the concept in our travels is that we don't make any deals before leaving, which means that we out of the blue arrives and offers people a free show of magic, singing, music and small tricks to break out of habits. One thing is that it might be transcendent for people that suddenly two strangers from a distant country offers to invade their daily lives. Another thing is that it is just as transcendent for us to intrude peoples private lives in this way.

People were off course very puzzled, when we suddenly drove up to their ranch, school or saloon and told them about our plans. But every one was happy and touched by our offer, and those who couldn't accept themselves, helped us with information to other relevant places.

When we had performed in a school in Terlingua Ghost Town, which is one of the most deserted places in Texas, the people of the town queued up to book us for other arrangements in the area. In this way we gave a successful show at a very special school the day after. 
The school was placed in the middle of the nature reserve Big Bend, wich was filled with high, brown rocks as we know them from the cowboy movies. In the middle of the unique, deserted nature the park rangers has a microscopic town in a closed area, and here we found a miniature school with only 16 students – and they were thrilled to have uninvited guests! It is thoughtful that the inspector of the school every day meets an hour before everyone else, so she makes sure that there are no lethal rattle-snakes in the playground or classrooms.       

The big cowboy show 

In Terlingua Ghost Town we managed to stage a real cowboy show in the saloon “Starlight”. We had accepted the challenge and entered the stage wearing cowboy clothes: Worn-out jeans, pointy boots, cowboy hats and off course a matching shirt. We were told, that it was a show for both kids and adults, and therefore it was a very pale magician, who entered the stage in the town's old movie theatre, which now had been turned into a bar: Not one kid was present, instead it was a room filled with adults. This would not be a problem in Denmark, but here the suitcase was stuffed with magic tricks for kids, and at a glance these old, local cowboys in the bar didn't appear to enjoy tricks for kids. But only a short while later the audience was on fire. People cheered, when Jesper did his magic tricks and they sang along, when Thomas played old country hits like Apple Jack, The Gambler and even a Danish kid's song about a cowboy, which we had translated to English just before the show.

After the grand finale, where a condom was pulled over the head and blown up with the nose, the local gathered around us to give tips. Everyone wanted to chat, and the big cowboys hit us on the shoulders saying “Well done, boys...welcome to Texas!”.     

And just like that we were a part of the town, and even a small, elderly and drunk Mexican woman with a moustache was more than kind, when she offered to follow us back to our lodging. We both turned that offer down, though.  


Mexico, cowgirls and a new candidate for the presidency

From the south of Texas we crossed the river Rio Grande, which is the border to Mexico. Even though this was only a short visit, we were soon the subject of conversations all over town. A street vendor saw his first magic trick and shortly afterwards the plaza was topped with people trying to get a glimpse of magic. Small children with snot running from their noses and old, toothless men with Mexican cowboy hats. The rest of the day we were sought by people, who wanted to see more. Back in Texas we went to another ranch with an offer to do a show, and coincidental this place  was visited by 25 women from all over Texas, who was to learn the art of being a cowgirl. The owner immediately said yes to our spontaneous show, and only 90 minutes after the arrival our exotic  comedy-show was written into their tough training program. The rough cow-ladies screamed and whistled at the Danish show, which besides magic and singing contained Danish specialities such as  the liqueur “Gammel Dansk” (meaning old Danish), salami with roasted onions, Danish salt liquorice and fairy tales from H.C. Andersen.            

And later another audience applauded us, when we by chance ended up in a dodgy bar. Two of the local musicians were reduced to one, when the other turned out to be too drunk to play. The guests, who were big, tough guys, were about just as drunk, so they didn't care, and in the dirty toilet Jesper was questioned about, what he was doing in their bar, and when the “interrogation” ended, he had to   prove his words by doing a bit of magic in the bar. It didn't take long for the whole bar to join around Jesper, and even the music stopped, when the guitarist wanted to see for himself what was going on. The local guys wanted more, and in the end they agreed, that Jesper should run for president. It is amazing what a small balloon animal can do to a drunk man.     


The cowboys apprentices

We had lots of fun walking around in our cowboy-outfit all day long. But we did do something right, because one day a local officer looked quite stunned at us, when Thomas opened his mouth and revealed his European accent.

- You look like one of us, but I can hear, that you are not from around here, he said.

When Jesper then tried to explain with an even worse accent, the officer looked at us as if  we were from China. 

But we did get close to being real cowboys, when we met the Mexican cowboy, Raul in a farm a little south of Dallas. We were placed on two large horses, and with Raul in front we rode out to find the cattle. As in every Lucky Luke cartoon we rode towards the sunset, and everything went fine, until Jesper's horse suddenly started to act impatient and uncontrollable.

When the horse suddenly reared, it was a somewhat humble and horrified Jesper, who held on to the saddle, while he thought that the difference between being a magician in Denmark and a cowboy in Texas after all was noticeable.    

We made it to the herd, which was real longhorn cattle with the legendary large horns. It was an amazing experience. The sun was setting, Raul lassoed and with our shadowing hats we slowly paced  on horseback along the dusty fields, while the longhorn cattle willingly followed us. We sang the Danish kids-song about being a happy, little cowboy as loud as we could, and for a moment it seemed like, we actually believed in it.

The third and final destination turned out to be the Caribbean. The plan at first was to visit Haiti, but we changed the plans because of the civil war, that was going on. Instead we headed  for Cuba and The Dominic Republic. You can read more about this in the chapter USA:Caribbean, which you can choose in the menu on your right.       

The Smiling Fairytale Society