Little Longhorn Saloon
Beer and ticket in hand, the faithful gathered around the chicken coop at Little Longhorn Saloon to cheer on the contestants, a pair of colorfully plumed hens by the names of Loretta Lynn and Little Ginny. The birds were pecking away at the seeds scattered inside their pen, oblivious to the exhortations of the patrons all around them.
“C’mon, baby girl!” yelled one dude, urging the birds to strut over to square No. 38 on the bingo board, which serves as the floor of the coop.
“Drop the deuce! Drop the deuce!” shouted another as a band cranked out bootscootin’ honky-tonk music in the background.
Rarely had so much been riding on a fowl moment. Every Sunday at Little Longhorn, patrons lay down their own deuce — $2, that is — to purchase a ticket for what the bar dubs, without a drop of euphemism, chicken s--- bingo. Winners take home $114 each, which isn’t exactly chicken scratch.
This game of bird-drop bingo was first conceived by Dale Watson, the silverpompadoured Texan better known for producing fine country music. In 2013, Watson and his sister, Terry Gaona, along with her husband, David, bought the former Ginny’s Little Longhorn from Ginny Kalmbach and gave the place a much-needed facelift. The new owners built a stage for their full schedule of bands. They added beer taps. They even installed a window in the once sunlightdeprived honky tonk.
In 2015, Watson sold his share of the saloon to the Gaonas, preferring to spend his time on the road, not inside a dive bar. But Watson left behind his legacy of chicken s--bingo. (Though he later launched a similar poop-based contest at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, causing a minor controversy in Austin.) “Dale brought up the idea,” Terry Gaona said. “Ginny said, ‘Oh, it’s never going to last,’ and here it is, 23 years later and still kicking.”
Ronna Geisler, a first-time visitor to the saloon, was thrilled at her luck one Sunday. She was there to salute a friend moving to Ireland but became the toast of the Little Longhorn herself when Loretta Lynn dropped a load right on the line, between two numbers. A pair of patrons argued that the bird poop covered more of square No. 21 than No. 51. They had a point. They both also had ticket No. 21. But what they didn’t know is that Terry Gaona sells bingo tickets to cover such controversial dumps: Geisler had one of the winning “line” tickets in her possession.
“I might have to spend [the money] on myself,” the surprise winner said.
Little Longhorn Saloon, 5434 Burnet Rd., Austin. 512-524-1291. thelittlelonghorn saloon.com.
FROM TOP: In Austin, signs and photos on the wall of Little Longhorn Saloon convey a good idea of its driving forces: beer and music; owner Terry Gaona cleans up chicken droppings after a round of one distinctive brand of bingo; James Intveld is reflected in a mirror as he performs; Ian Dennett, left, stands beside David Ward at the front door as strange pleasures await inside.