It had been a long week, I had been staying with family in a place (would you call it a suburb?) called Fate, on the outskirts of Dallas.
While my cousin and her husband had been extremely good to me, I know what it’s like to entertain guests and I usually want them to go home after one night, so an entire week? I’m sure they can’t WAIT to see the back of me.
Fate is about 40 minutes from the city, and where we are – it’s like a gated community without the gate – there isn’t a lick of public transport, something I’ve been heavily reliant on this trip.
So on top of having a house guest that’s staying for a week, I couldn’t really go anywhere without someone driving me. They really took on quite the commitment.
But Fate has a secret.
I’m told it’s where Garth Brooks started out, and it is a short couple of minutes from where I was staying.
It’s called Southern Junction.
The car park is a dusty lot, full of big gas-guzzling Chevys and the only light spilling over their shiny windshields came from the venue itself – a very dodgy looking joint with no windows and a single strip of lights running along the roof.
I was not so sure about this.
So we entered the front door and were greeted by the ‘front desk’ – a plain window (you still couldn’t see inside) where we had to show our IDs (like everyone, not just a pity-ask) and basically sign a waiver.
Now I really wasn’t so sure at all.
Then we headed for the second door.
When I walked in, all I could say was ‘Oh, shut UP’.
It was like walking onto a movie set. It was packed with local families, cowboys, cowgirls, ten-gallon hats, flanno shirts, belt buckles, rhinestones, frosted hair and teeny-tiny denim cut-off shorts.
The band were cranking out all the honky-tonk tunes, while people played pool, ate steaks on long, communal tables, rode the mechanical bull and danced.
Like these people could actually dance. Like not just doing the sprinkler around a pile of handbags, but it was like that scene where Baby Houseman carried a watermelon to the staff party in Dirty Dancing. Except the dancing here was a little less, well, ‘dirty’ (remember we’re in Texas, the buckle of the bible belt).
The place was about the size and height of the Perth Ice Arena in Malaga. Big and airy. Lots of mood lighting, mainly in the form of neon beer signs.
Luckily we had a couple of bar tables booked, but a couple of us straight away jumped to the bar to order some beers.
Most guys were in the uniform of cowboy boots, jeans, a flanno (tucked in) and boots. The ladies? There were two distinct groups: big beauty queen hair is out, blonde-on-top-black-underneath is in. Poker-straight or a romantic curl at the ends. Kimono-style cover-ups are on point, either with a ramblin’ rose or Aztec print, but tassels. Lots of long tassels. Then you have the girls wearing extremely heavy makeup, sequinned handkerchief crop tops with tight Miss Me jeans or cut-offs with the pockets poking out.
As I downed my Budweiser (because America) I spotted the DJ that had taken over from the band as they took a break. I immediately went over (unlike a lot of Australian DJs, they love getting requests and dedications).
I asked if he had heard of Kasey Chambers. Impressively, he said he had. I asked if he could play her song ‘Pony’ and he said he’d track it down.
After going back to the table, our small group decided I was going to have a go on the mechanical bull. Like a mule, I dug my heels in. My cousin Meg said she’d go first. I said OK.
Two very strong margaritas later, I’m signing another waiver (because America) and walking into the blow-up bullpen. After using all my strength to clumsily scramble aboard the steel beast, I mouthed to the operator ‘slow!’.
You know those people who say ‘Oh no, I won’t throw the ball at you very hard’ during a game of brandy… Only you come away with an absolute pearler of a bruise on your upper thigh? I thought the guy at the controls would be all like ‘Oh, you want it slow? No problem’, only to take some sick satisfaction in cranking it to a level that could have you ending up on Funniest Home Videos.
Well, this wasn’t the guy. He let the ride go so slowly, I actually made the whole ride, hopping off myself, not waiting to lose out to basic physics. It was like real-life, real-time slo-mo. There was more of a chance I was going to fall off because of a lack of simple gravity, not from a sudden buck thrust to the left.
We switched tables to another closer to the dance floor where everyone was gliding around so effortlessly. Even the bogans did the waltz, it was beautiful.
It was during the band’s second break that Meg and I had a dance.
I don’t remember the song, but it’s a detail that didn’t matter.
I noticed a group of three girls were doing a line dance to the song playing. I thought it was pretty cool, then I noticed another small group started doing the same thing.
Next thing I know, it’s like I was back at the Carousel Roller Drome in 1986, crying and trapped in the middle of the rink when it was time for the speed skating, I was stuck in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by line dancers, and there was no escape.
I had no choice but to at least try, I’d look sillier if I didn’t.
And really, this dance was called The Wobble.
I mean it didn’t require the classic moves that are the Macarena or The Ketchup Song (or even 5,6,7,8 by Steps) but I did pretty well just mimicking those in front (and behind and to the side) of me.
Then as soon as it started and gained momentum, the movie-like musical dance break, like a honky-tonk Westside Story, was gone.
The DJ announced it was someone very special’s birthday. For the record, my guess was wrong. It wasn’t Jesus.
A short time later, a familiar 1996 track fired up.
I realised the DJ completely misunderstood my earlier request.
I wanted Pony by Kasey Chambers.
I got Pony by Ginuwine.
Two songs about two very different kinds of ponies.
We ended the night back at my cousin’s with the fire pit roaring.
I swear, if I was to live here, I’d probably gain 50 kilograms with all these waffles and ribs, but hey, I’d be an expert in The Wobble.
Thank y’all, Texas.