BIT Blog

Au Naturel at the Chicken Ranch

Now I know what you’re thinking, but today’s tequila blog has absolutely nothing to do with an infamous Texas cathouse that was sanitized for a (shudder) musical starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton.  Well, maybe “absolutely” is stating it too strongly, but more on that later.

Before I moved to Mexico, I lived in Austin, Texas for 37 years, working and playing music in the city’s teeming music scene.  As you might imagine, there were a lot of characters who passed through those ranks.  Way back in the ‘80s, there was a drummer who went by the self-anointed nickname of “Ned deDrumma” (I’ve changed the first name, for reasons that will soon become apparent).  When he wasn’t in the room, he was also known as “Missile Command” for his tendency to launch drum sticks at high velocity all over the stage or practice room as they slipped accidently out of his sweaty hands.  There was no time to yell “incoming”…..you just had to rely on blind luck to avoid getting pranged by one.  Aside from the launched sticks, he was a good drummer, and had the great panache to replace one of his toms with an ancient metal minnow bucket which had “Greatest Fucking Drummer” painted across it in bold green letters.  It made quite a clamor when struck. 

One day the word went out that Ned was getting married, and that a bachelor party would be held out at The Chicken Ranch.  This was the name given to a very dodgy house that several musicians we knew shared down in South Austin, sitting on a couple of acres but still in town.  As you might imagine for a crash house shared by punk rock musicians and their friends, it was fairly unadorned and “rustic.”  Actually, it was pretty foul (more on this later), but it had the great advantage of featuring some much-needed space between the house and any neighbors.

There were going to be so many musicians at this party that the word went out to bring the amps and guitars.  Ned was going to have his drum set there, too.  So when that afternoon came, I headed over there with a bottle of tequila, an amp and this red guitar:

Everyone pitched in on some 16 gal. kegs of Shiner Bock, the de rigueur choice in those days in Austin (so much so that if you tapped the veins of any 20-something-year-old in the city, they would run dark brown with a beige head).  Once I got to The Chicken Ranch, I saw that there were already several bottles of gold tequila there (I know, I know…..but we didn’t know better than to buy gold tequila back in those ancient times).  I set up my gear over by the drum set, and looked around.  We seemed locked, stocked and ready.

A moment to describe the main house at The Chicken Ranch:  if I had to quickly come up with two adjectives that captured the structure, I would have to say “old” and “shoddy.”  It was as if someone decided that the construction budget could be shaved by leaving big gaps between the boards that framed up the house.  And by just skipping the dry-wall altogether.  So raw boards with 2-3 inch gaps between them was what you saw, inside and out.  Might have been some critters living in the walls.  The fact that the house was probably “built” in the ‘50s didn’t help matters either.  That there was no air conditioning…..in Texas…..in August…..should surprise no one.  Also, there wasn’t what you would call a lot of designer lighting in the place.  In fact, the big living room was only lit by one naked lightbulb handing down from wires that protruded from a hole in the ceiling.

And the less said about the bathroom, the better (at least there was some dark acreage outside to provide a more pristine and appealing option).

Anyway, since it was punk rock musicians and fans who lived at The Chicken Ranch, that stripe of music was quickly cranked up on the patchwork stereo as the guests started to arrive.  When the bachelor finally pulled up, a great cry arose from the throng.  Now Ned was a little older than the rest of us, and so we were a bit unsure regarding what he would allow himself to be subjected to as part of this ritualistic affair.  But when the kegs were flowing and the tequila cracked open, he dove in there with everyone else in high style.  Things ran at a fever pitch for quite a while, and then the amps were turned on and the jamming started. 

Actually, that descriptor really doesn’t really cut it.What it was, in fact, was a Big Honking Sweaty Nasty Bleedingly-Loud Power Jam.  Or somesuch.

It was gloriously awful, and between the paint-peeling volume and the cacophony of a bunch of perspiring dudes jumping up and down, it’s very likely that some of the wall critters decided to high-tail it elsewhere for the night.

In short, it was Good.

It was at this point that another car arrived, and I saw that a couple of the fellows had arranged something a little different for the night’s itinerary.  The jamming was stopped and we were all lead outside by the grinning twosome in question.  A flicker of understanding passed through the rest of the guys in the yard.  An attractive tall and leggy woman stepped out of the dented Olds 88, followed by the car’s driver. 

--a brief digression on The Napoleon Complex:  I realize that generalizing about any group of people based solely on a physical characteristic is really not a good idea because, among other reasons, the generalization very often just ain’t true when you get to know the person in question.  However, if truth be told, we must confess that in our busy lives we’ve all met short guys who seem to have a chip on their shoulder.  It seems too obvious and part of some discredited Freudian theorem, but given the macho shitheadedness that is so pervasive amongst cadres of The American Male, it’s no surprise that a short guy likely has to deal with a lifetime of crap about his stature.  And that can, it seems, sometimes have a psychological effect.

And so the…..what do we call him?......”escort” of the exotic dancer who got out of the massive Olds 88 (hmmmmm…….) was a short dude.  Pretty darned short, it has to be said.  And the comic, exaggerated swagger he used to approach us did not help dispel the impression that was forming in the minds of a group of guys who really didn’t care, generally speaking, how frigging tall another guy was.

With the much-taller girl behind him, wearing cut-offs and a t-shirt and big hoop earrings and carrying a black leather bag, the gentlemen started bellowing loud and aggressively to our little group, demanding to talk to the guys who had set up this liaison.  So the two fellows (both, unfortunately, over 6 ft. tall) stepped forward and proceeded to get yelled at in a very obnoxious manner by the shorter man.  Picture the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket and you wouldn’t be far off.  Quite a dick, really.

Oh, did I mention that he was an off-duty cop?

Res ipsa loquitur. 

And so, with the various threats, curses, etc. by which The Groundrules were established out of the way, the party cranked back up…...the punk rock was blasted again and everyone started doing what fellows do when supplied with close to 50 gallons of beer and a tableful of tequila bottles.  The exotic dancer seemed to be comfortably in the spirit of things (which means she was a lot braver than I would have been in her shoes, driving up to a dubious location like The Chicken Ranch), and happily was able to suss out that we were not a group of guys that she needed to worry about in any way.  It was a friendly (if loud, and drink-y) vibe, and everyone was having a good time.

Except for the off-duty cop.  We soon found that his belligerent and comically-aggressive entrance was not an anomaly.  It was rather, from what we could tell, his baseline personality. But we all wanted Ned the bachelor to have a great night, and so there was an unspoken agreement amongst our crew that the short cop should be catered to, libationally and in terms of flattery and excessive deference, to that end.  And so we did, which he ate up with a Big Spoon.  “Oh, tell us more of your big, brave cop stories that feature you as the hero and everyone else as schmucks”, etc. etc.

After about half an hour, the exotic dancer signaled that it was time to do her pre-arranged show.  And so the music that she’d brought was put on the stereo, the bachelor told (by her) to sit on a rickety wooden chair in the middle of the living room (the amps being pushed aside to accommodate), and the bachelor party guests formed into a big circle around the room.

When she came back out of the kitchen, she was dressed in a spangley red sequined bikini-like get up, with a cowboy hat and a feather boa. 

“Strip to your underwear,” she commanded to Ned, “and sit back down on your hands.”

A respectful silence blanketed the crowd, heads bowed in admiration and a sense of Great Moment.  You could have heard a pin drop as…….

Nah……Actually, we all hooted like gibbons and heaped mountains of gleeful verbal abuse on the bachelor in the time-honored, traditional fashion.  Lots of clapping, bellowing and stomping of feet…….the room lit only by the one dangling lightbulb, hanging—as it happened—right above the seated bachelor…..the buffeting from the ceiling fan causing the light to sway across the room and illuminate, it must be said, a pretty striking and dramatic scene.

As the bump-and-grind music started to, well, bump and grind, the dancer called for a cup of beer for the bachelor.  This was, as you can imagine, quickly proffered.  Because she had commanded him to sit on his hands during the entirety of the performance, she pushed his chin up and poured the full beer down his throat.  He did well in this task, but would have likely done better had he expected it….and so a not-insubstantial amount spilled down his face and onward to parts south.  

So Ned was now sitting in his underwear, on his hands, hot, sticky and somewhat chagrined in front of about 30 hollering friends (and one short, scowling cop).  His lot would not improve for a while yet. 

Now some of the usual provocative gyrations around the bachelor commenced, following which the dancer called loudly for two tequila shots.  These arrived to the front in an admirably short time.  Knocking back the first one herself, she then poured the second one down Ned’s throat.  This time he was better prepared and there was only minimal spillage.  More enticing gyrations around the bachelor followed, all with repeated admonitions for him to keep sitting on his hands (which he honorably did at all times).  

Then she went into the kitchen and pulled out another stash of equipment, this time from the refrigerator.  As she walked back into the living room, from behind the bachelor, there was a surge of anticipation from the crowd as we saw that Something New was going to be employed.  Not yet seeing her, but seeing our reactions, Ned started to sweat more heavily and take on a concerned aspect.

And well he might!

Yelling for the music to be turned up, the dancer stood behind the bachelor and pulled out a spray can of whip cream.  A great huzzah arose from the assembled crowd (sans the cop).  Reaching over Ned’s head, she started covering pretty much all of him with whip cream, moving sinuously all the while.  Was it in his ears?  Yep.  In his eyes?  Certainly.  Squirted in a beer that she then poured down his throat?  Without question.  Squirted under the waistband of his boxer shorts?  It must be said….yes.

This was, needless to say, tremendous fun for the rest of us.  But when she pulled out the squirt bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, we—as they say—fell out.  As she approached with the bottle, Ned’s face ran through a range of emotions in quick order……alarm……The Urge to Flee….and, finally, grim acceptance.  In a manner much like the whip cream, the syrup was applied all over the bachelor.  Was it between his toes?  Indubitably.  Was it in his hair?  All signs point to “yes.” 

“And now, the cherry on top!” she announced saucily with a gleam in her eye.  And so the jar of maraschino cherries was extracted from her bag of tricks and used to finalize the dessertification of Ned the bachelor.  It was quite a sight, but he growled at those who tried to sneak a picture and so I can only describe it to you here.,,,,,You will have to fill in the rest via your lurid imagination. 

What followed was more of the traditional snake dance until suddenly she grabbed Ned, pulled him to his feet, and dragged him outside by his wrist.  Our friends who had arranged all this, no doubt being in on the gag, had a garden hose at ready.  And so Ned was positioned in the dirt driveway, under a mighty oak, and the hose was turned on.  The dancer then ran around him and let him have it, full force.  Truth be told, he needed it and probably would have done it to himself at that point (although he certainly would have enjoyed it less). 

At the conclusion, Ned stood before his friends in all his sodden majesty, soaked to the gills and gird only in his soggy plaid boxer shorts.  There was a slight undercurrent of uncertainty from those gathered around, wondering how he would process all that had happened to him.  Was he still a Good Sport?  Would the party continue?

Well, we needn’t have worried about that.  What happened next was something we didn’t expect, but which would truly help cement this nightas legend amongst a group of guys who had their fair share of noteworthy bachelor parties. 

Ned threw off his shorts, ran buck-ass-naked into the living room, sat down at his drums, and started to play like there was no tomorrow--the swaying bulb still giving a strange German horror movie lighting effect to the whole thing.  Once I had wrapped my mind around what had just happened, I ran in (clothed), cranked up my amp and joined in on guitar.  Bass and other guitars followed suit, and soon the paint was peeling again as the Big Honking Sweaty Nasty Bleedingly-Loud Power Jambecame that much more so.  A mosh pit formed, and the dancer dove into it.  The little cop seemed about to go apoplectic until a couple of our friends took one for the team and said “hey, can you come outside with us where it’s quieter so you can tell us more of those stories about all the wild stuff you’ve done and seen On The Job?”.  Their sacrifice was mighty, and will never be forgotten. 

Decorum prevents this narrative from continuing on to the tail end of the night, but suffice to say that Ned’s bachelor party at The Chicken Range would be very, very hard to top.

Until my bachelor party six or seven years later.  But that is another story for another time.