Monday, January 11, 2010

The Big Texan and Hank the Cowdog

by Pa Rock
Literate Carnivore

Reports on Reed today have been good. I visited with him in his room this morning before I hit the road back toward Phoenix. I told him that we had eaten at a really good restaurant the night before - the one that will give the 72 ounce steak to anyone who can eat it in one hour. Reed knew immediately what I was talking about, and he said, "You ate at The Big Texan!"

Yes, we did. Reed majored in meat science in college and now works for a company that provides beef to the best restaurants in Las Vegas. He knows his beef and steak houses!

The Big Texan is big, brawny, and very Texas! It is replete with a gift shop, stuffed animal heads and one enormous stuffed grizzly bear, and strolling country musicians. I was with Gail, Heidi, and Justin. We all had steak - but not the 72 ounce one! The place boasts that 48,000 people have accepted the challenge over the years, and only 8,000 managed to clean their plate in an hour. Justin said that part of a John Candy movie was filmed in that steak house.

The highlight of the evening for me was when the trio of musicians stopped at the table behind us to sing happy birthday to one of the diners. They were standing in a way that had us blocked in. After they finished "Happy Birthday," the trio did "Goodnight Irene" and "Jambalaya." Yours truly knew the words to both songs and sang along, much to the mortification of some at my table!

One more restaurant story: Last week we ate at The Barn, another steak house with an abundance of country ambiance. There were four or five display cases in the reception area that all contained hundreds of copies of Hank the Cowdog. I remember that my kids had that book many years ago, but what I didn't know was that it is a series that currently contains 63 volumes. As we were leaving I asked about the book. A sales clerk said that it was written by a friend of their manager who lives in that part of the state. (It turns out that the author (John R. Erickson) and illustrator (Gerald L. Holmes) both live in Perryton, TX, where the Smith/Short New Year's Eve wreck occurred.) I told the clerk that I wanted to buy one, and then I slyly asked her to recommend one and to give me a justification for the recommendation. She said, "Well, if you haven't read Hank, you definitely need to start with volume one."

The next day I sat around the hospital reading my new book. I told Gail how funny it was, and that it was definitely written for adults, not kids. I was put in my place later when a lady in the lounge asked me how I liked it. She said that she teaches third grade and her students love Hank!

Hank is a cowdog who doubles as the ranch's head of security. In the first volume he is consumed with solving the death of one of the chickens. When a second hen is killed, he winds up salivating over the warm corpse and eating it. (Nowhere in Shakespeare, Dashiell Hammett, or Raymond Chandler have I ever come across a case where the investigating officer eats the murder victim!)

One reason Hank is such a good detective is that he speaks several animal languages. It was from Hank that I learned that chickens only have a vocabulary of six words, and three of those mean "help!"

I'm not sure if I will ever get back to Amarillo, but I will spend more time with Hank the Cowdog! And if I do make it back to Amarillo, I will definitely revisit The Big Texan and sing with my supper!

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