Gainesville Daily Register
An undefined electrical glitch burned the legendary “Big Tex” statue to a charred frame on Friday, but the cowboy’s Walnut Bend twin remains standing high.
The 52-foot animatronic cowboy ignited early Friday at Fair Park in Dallas following wiring problems seen to begin in the figure’s neck area.
Once a fire started, witnesses watched the fiberglass statue burn for several minutes. No park patrons were injured and the remains were later hauled away.
But local fiberglass magnate Glenn Goode said this sudden undoing of the talking cowboy provided a new reminder of “Big Tex” counterparts cross the state — including his own, currently displayed at 1651 FM 371.
“I have had people from England and France and Germany come by here and see my people,” he said Friday.
His cowboy statue, now a Walnut Bend staple for more than four decades, is only 22 feet tall and isn’t wired to talk or do anything else.
This may be an advantage, Goode said, since Friday’s destruction of Big Tex was just as quick as its material allowed.
“If you catch fiberglass on fire, it’s almost impossible to put it out,” he said. “It’s like throwing a match to gasoline. About the only way you can put it out is if you had a sandblaster right there with it, and then the sand in the air might cut it off.”
The local statue was not, in fact, purely a Glenn Goode creation. The businessman said he bought most of the cowboy in pieces in 1971 from a dealer in Garland.
“I bought the body, legs and chest and everything for five dollars,” he said, adding that he was later forced to repair the cowboy’s head and hands with pieces incorporated from Canton and Winslow.
And Goode’s version of the famed cowboy is also not officially named “Big Tex,” following lawsuit threats from state fair officials in the early 1970s. Goode said the statue originally advertised his Big Tex Sandblasting business in Sanger until legal threats prompted him to move the cowboy and change the company name.
The staute presently stands in Walnut Bend among three other Goode creations: a Jacqueline Kennedy replica and a pair of figures derived from a “Big John” grocery store chain based in Tennessee.
The fiberglass businessman, now 74, said sciatica problems during the past year have prevented him from completing a fifth statue, though he has already completed the head and hands.
“I never have gotten back to him,” he said. “But I plan on building one more man before I quit.”
Goode compared his current gallery to Mount Rushmore and added that Friday, the death of Big Tex, also marked his 42nd local anniversary as “The Fiberglass Man.”
Having already drawn worldwide interest, he said, his array of people has stood the test of time.
“If Gainesville would have got behind me, it would have been a good tourist attraction,” he said. “They didn’t because I was in business for myself.”
Big Tex was originally built in 1949 as a giant Santa Claus for a Christmas celebration in Kerens, 60 miles south of Dallas. Intrigued by the idea of a towering cowboy, State Fair officials paid $750 for the structure, which debuted as Big Tex in 1952.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Friday that a revamp of the Big Tex statue is scheduled to be complete in time for the 2013 State Fair — “bigger and better for the 21st Century.” Officials added that the steel structure that framed the fiberglass cowboy will be evaluated, and a new one will be built if necessary.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.