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On the border of Texas and Louisiana: Texas Longhorn Club

Issue Date: Friday, Aug. 06, 2004

Living in East Texas during my late teens and through my early to mid twenties was a formidable challenge. Although I loved the piney woods, the laid back people, the smallness of the town(s) and the good friends I made there, there was always something missing.

I thought I found it when I was 19 or 20 years old.

I was always a big fan of road trips and the mere act of getting in my car, strapping on my seat belt, placing my big white and blue mug (which I threw away during the move, Oh the horrah!) into the seat belt in the passenger seat next to me, putting a fresh pack of smokes between my legs and taking off was a delight to me.

That feeling of freedom was something that I cherished. But I always felt like I was either running away from something, or toward something. I would rope my poor friends into countless road trips over the nine (holy shit, NINE!) years I lived in East Texas.

My group of friends would go to Bullwinkle’s (a country bar that is new defunct) on a Thursday night and at 11:00 pm, after sweating for several hours on the dance floor and having a raucous good time, I would find my girlfriend Stacey (and whomever else wanted to come, Hi Kerry and Stephanie!) and shout in her general direction, “Do you Know WHAT TIME IT IS?!?” She would grin and we would head towards the front door.

When we got to the front door, we would get in my little four-door Oldsmobile, make sure we had smokes and something to drink and we would head southeast for two hours until we hit Orange, Texas.

There was a place right across the river on the border of Texas and Louisiana called the Texas Longhorn Club (geeze I wish that place hadn’t burned down (repeatedly) I would love to show you guys pictures). On Thursday nights it wouldn’t close until 6 am, on Friday nights it wouldn’t close until 4 am and on Saturday nights… 2 am. That place was The Crazy, and it was in Louisiana so we were of drinking age if we were at least 18*, which we were.

*Note: Louisiana’s drinking age was 18 until 1994. Federal funds (road and highway) were withheld from the state until they changed it. Their roads were ass-terrible.

We would walk into that place and almost get lost. It was yooge, the dance floor was bigger than most restaurants, or bars, that I had been too. The ceiling was high over the dance floor so it wasn’t that hot and above the front of the club was a second floor where most of the regulars would go to play pool and drink (or chair-ble dancing… helllooooo Trixie!). The margaritas were cheap and yooge as well. We’d grab a drink and find the guys that we knew and commence to dancing and drinking until all hours of the morning. It was a riot.

More on this later, there are stories upon stories about this place, but that is for another entry… or twelve. Ladies, you know who you are, send me ideas to write about… “Take care! Take caaaaaaaaaaaaaare.” Heh.

My Friday classes suffered, but alas, I did graduate. So nyah.

The road trips weren’t as fulfilling as I thought they would be. When I got out of class on some days I would go and just drive around the Loop (224). Just driving made me relax a little, but I was still restless.

I started driving further and further in concentric circles or just heading a main compass direction. Some days I would head west and go to Lake Nacogdoches, some days I would head east and park at the Carl Monk Scenic Overlook, unknowingly parking less than a mile from where I would eventually live for 5 years. Sometimes I would head north and go into Cushing or out to Henderson, but mostly I would head south into Lufkin.

Lufkin seemed to be a larger city than Nacogdoches. There was more of an industrial feel. I found the Brookshire Bros. Distribution plant, I found a few movie theaters, a mall, a Toys R Us and then I saw it.

On the north loop (287) of Lufkin, on the right hand side (if you’re heading north) was the Ellen Trout Zoo. I love zoos. I love the smell of them, the education programs on animals and I especially loved the Ellen Trout Zoo’s admittance fee. It was by donation only back then and as I was a poor college student, I would meekly stuff a few bucks in the collection box every time I would visit.

I fell in love with the lemurs and the otters (river otters… LOVE!) and especially the big cat enclosure. They had lions and tigers (a few black bears, oh my) but the piece de resistance was the jaguar exhibit.

They had a black male that was glorious and a spotted female for his mate. The large male would find a high perch and lay there in the sun looking at you like, “Go ahead, mere mortal, worship me and my muscular sleekness. Look into my eyes and shiver in your very soul. And gaze upon my gorgeous coat that the sun reflects the pattern of spots and subtle undercurrents of my hotness. By the way, if you didn’t get the memo… I rule.”

So, yeah, I was completely taken with this zoo. It was close, it was small, the keepers were cool and it wasn’t crowded. There would be small groups on field trips, but mainly it was the staff, the animals, and uh… me.

I was there so often that when the jaguar couple (What? I can talk about them like they have been invited to my next cocktail party… hush.) had three cubs on Christmas day of 1991 I got a call.

I was in Plano, home for the holidays and working my ass off at Victoria’s Secret (hee!) or Paulette’s or something. One of the keepers called me and said, “Hey Suz, just wanted to let you know that the cubs came last night, a spotted female, a black female and a black male. The little black male is a little weak, but they seem to be doing fine.”

I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to get back to school so I could go see the babies.

They lost the little male two weeks after he was born to kidney failure, but the two females were doing Ggrrrreat! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

I went to the zoo several times in that first few weeks of the cubs lives. They weren’t out for the public to see, but at six weeks old they would be, so… I went back. The zoo was practically empty and the female jaguar was back in the enclosure with the male. Where were the babies? A keeper called me over, I can’t remember his name for the like of me but the dude looked suspiciously like Weird All Yankovich. He asked me if I would like to see the little ones.

What do you think I am? High? Of COURSE I want to see them.

He brought them out, for me … TO… PET… And to LOVE ON! I am not kidding you people. His only word of caution was that I should keep a firm grip on the base of their (whichever one I was holding) tail lest they try to get away.

I had a jaguar cub in my lap. I had a jaguar cub on my shoulder. I had a jaguar cub try to eat the lens off of my Photography 201 camera that was the property of Stephen F. Austin State University.

I have pictures of these babies, close up and personal. Actually, I have the negatives, black and white negatives that I developed. The photos are long gone. I should get a few more prints.

I was crying like a little bitch because it was so awesome.

The little black female was more timid than her sister the spotted one. The spotted one went from my lap to my shoulder in a half a second. If I hadn’t been holding the base of her tail (Thanks Weird Al) she would have been up a tree the next second.

I had puncture wounds on my back from her claws, but I didn’t care.

She was chewing on my hair so I grabbed her little muzzles and shook it gently.

I cannot tell you guys the impact that made on me, being that close and personal with a big cat cub. Two of them!

I will never forget Weird Al for the gift he gave to me that day… but apparently I’ll forget the fuck out of his name.

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To understand this dear reward (above) at all, you must hie thee on and read gatsby’s grape ape entry and my comments.

And because of said comments he sent me my very own dream turtle in an email titled wee gift with these words attached, “my purple monkey is booked solid so i ordered you a tangerine turtle. hope he proves helpful.”

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