In last week's cover package, "Don't Mess With Texas," my NEWSWEEK colleagues Evan Thomas and Arian Campo-Flores compared Lone Star State governor Rick Perry to the "Marlboro Man," and looking at the cover image, I could sort of see why: the creased face, the squinty eyes, the windswept mane. But it turns out that Perry's similarities to that paragon of tobacco-fueled cowboy masculinity are more than skin deep—and, predictably enough, he wants the voters of Texas (and perhaps America as a whole) to know all about it.
I'm referring, of course, to a shared affinity for shooting stuff dead.
In a new interview with the Associated Press's Jim Vertuno, Perry seems to have launched, unprovoked, into a yarn about how he recently took out a coyote while exercising near his home in Austin. The details:
Pistol-packing Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a message for wily coyotes out there: Don't mess with my dog. Perry told The Associated Press on Tuesday he needed just one shot from the laser-sighted pistol he sometimes carries while jogging to take down a coyote that menaced his puppy during a February run near Austin. Perry said he will carry his .380 Ruger--loaded with hollow-point bullets--when jogging on trails because he is afraid of snakes. He'd also seen coyotes in the undeveloped area. When one came out of the brush toward his daughter's Labrador retriever, Perry charged.
As if falling anvils weren't enough.
There are so many great things about this story, I'm not sure where to start. I love that Perry's bloodlust is so intense that he feels it necessary to carry a snub-nosed gat while jogging—because, you know, running around a snake just isn't as satisfying as shooting it between the eyes. I love how transparent Perry was about relaying his coyote-killing tale to a reporter (three months later!), clearly relishing the fact that it would make his Democratic gubernatorial rival Bill White—a "pasty white" Harvard grad "with a bald pate and big ears" who "talks in an even, slow monotone and refrains from gunslinging rhetoric"—look like a total weenie in comparison.
But most of all I love the overtly laconic way Perry talked about the incident. Seriously. It's almost like he's playing a highwayman on a cheesy '70s TV comedy. Take, for example, his message to readers:
"Don't attack my dog or you might get shot ... if you're a coyote."
Or his account of the shooting itself:
"I did the appropriate thing and sent it to where coyotes go." [Itals mine]
Or (my personal favorite) his description of the coyote's ultimate fate:
"He became mulch."
Kudos to Perry—it isn't easy to write dialogue this badass. What remains to be seen is whether the cowboy act will propel him back into the Austin statehouse for a third full term as governor—and, if dissatisfaction with another pointy-headed, latte-sipping liberal politician remains high, take him all the way to the White House in 2012 or 2016. If not, though, he should definitely look into remaking Gunsmoke.