Lit­tle Longhorn Sa­loon

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL -

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 sa­


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.

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