That damn Rio Brazos bridge on the Cleburne Highway near Glen Rose sure has seen its share of goofy shit. I’ve witnessed acid-addled fuckers dive from the top suspensions into four foot of moving water right along with it, for one. But that’s another story.
This ol’ boy from Granbury up one day and decided he was gonna use some of the river land and money his daddy had willed him for a concert/party place. He did it cool: You had to drive forever down rutted red dirt roads amongst the mesquite tangles to get to it. It was cattle-fenced already, and he built a big ol’ steel gate at the entrance. Posted biker guards.
“You ain’t got a ticket? Five bucks for the beer fund, or go your ass back to Foat Wuth or somewhere. Oh. Thankee. Here’s your ticket. Go on in.”
“Howdy, Sheriff, good to see ya. You got a warrant? No? Well, ya cain’t go in, sorry. Wanna beer?”
Ol’ boy had a two-tiered stage built with lighting and sound - thirty or so foot from a bend in the river- a keg cabana with a block-lettered sign in red-
WELCOME TO TARANTULA RANCH
1) NO FIGHTING
2) SEE #1
3) SURVIVORS WILL BE THROWN IN THE RIVER
4) NO TICKET, NO BEER
5) SEE #1
- and a Winnebago ‘office’ planted on a concrete pad for the biker ‘Staff-shirts’ and bands to kick back between shows. With word of mouth, great local bands, and free ticket giveaways in convenience stores over 4 or 5 counties, Tarantula Ranch got to packin’ in a couple thousand crazy people every other weekend in the summer months.
Yup. Perfect. Oh, other than they kept a herd of cattle on the same land. It wasn’t unusual to have to step around a Hereford cow to get to a porta-potty. But folks and cows got used to it.
Anyways, we left there trippin’ one night, a truckload of idiots. We’d played like third in a five band lineup, and during one of our breaks some chick had come around dispensing ‘special’ kool-aid. By our last set the stage lights were starting to look more and more like multi-colored UFOs with every intention of landing on our heads.
We somehow got our amps and boards and shit loaded all willy-nilly into the back of the old Chevy without losing anything or anybody. Chivo banged the last of his cymbals and stands into the side of the truck, stood there for a second or three, then dumped ‘em crashing into a gap between speaker boxes.
“Goddamit Chivo, you’re a loud motherfucker.”
“Yeah. You seein’ what I’m seein’?”
“I’m seein’ double what you’re seein’.”
Chivo rubbed his eyes. “Fuck this. Let’s go to Cleburne and get some chili-tots.”
“You’re a fuckin’ genius. Let’s jee-O. Dale! Mark! Where’d those morons…”
“They’re already in the truck, dickweed.”
We drove off, packed four deep in the cab, weaving our way between drunks and cows. The stars were full out above the mesquites, pinging sparkly tracers off the hood of the truck and the river. The biker guards had the gate chained open, leaning against it, giggling and drinking beer. I stopped beside ‘em and leaned out the window.
“Ya’ll get ya any kool-aid?”
“HAHAHAAAAAA!!! No shit!”
We laughed our way up the rutted road toward the Cleburne highway, cymbals and boxes bouncing and banging. The moon came out.
Mark lit a cigarette and said, “Look up, man.”
The bridge had what we called a ‘lap-lap’ floor; segments of asphalted concrete that caused tires to sing ‘lap-lap-lap-lap’ with accompanying vibrations at 70 mph. We looked up. The moon and starlights flashed between the bridge beams….shadow, light, shadow, light…lap, lap, lap, lap….warm wiggly tracers bouncing on the dash.
“STEVE GODDAMIT LOOKOUT!”
Lights were spinning red, white, red, white at the end of the bridge.
“Fuck. UFOs.” I locked the brakes up. The Chevy skidded left, right on the lap-laps, bumped over the bridge edge back to the highway, and stopped.
A cymbal rolled up and dinked the cab. The engine stalled and the headlights dimmed.
Mark took a toke off his cigarette. “What the fuck is that?”
The lights stopped spinning.
Chivo let go of our knees. “It ain’t no cop.”
I opened my door. “I reckon not.”
Dale opened his. “It’s your mama, motherfucker.”
I cranked the Chevy back up and hit the brights. Chunks of Styrofoam ice chest and Coors beers debris were everywhere. At the tip of the headlights was a car on its ass, upside down. We piled out.
“That, my boys, is a ’69 Super Bee with its hemi still runnin’,” said Dale.
“This, motherfuckers, is a shook-up Coors beer,” said Mark. “Crack. Gulp.”
Me and Chivo bent down to the driver’s side. Legs were where a torso should be.
“Hey! You alive?”
Chivo reached in and shook one of the legs. “Hey!”
“Well, kill the motor before you blow us all up.”
The engine stopped. “Gmmmdmm.”
A hand came from under the dash and grabbed the steering wheel. “Gmmmdmm brother.”
“I said my goddam brother’s gonna fuckin’ kill me.”
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