I can never look at a chicken in quite the same way.
Now, as I’ve told this story to others who live around here as soon as I mention the name of the cabin and its location I immediately see eyeballs pop and tiny little smiles form on the edge of lips. I was not so fortunate. There was no advance warning for me . . .
I saw this cute little cabin last year while doing research online and I thought if we ever had a free weekend it would be a fun place to try out. It’s nestled just outside of Smithville Texas and not a far drive from where we live. So I come up with this brilliant plan that this would be the perfect getaway for an anniversary weekend.
“No worries!” I assure my husband. “Let me take care of the details! I have a great little place all lined up!”
I call the number listed to reserve the cabin and the sweetest little old lady answers the phone. This is how the conversation went:
ME: So . . . where do we stop by to pick up the keys?
LITTLE OLD LADY (hereforafter to be referred to as LOL): Oh no, dear. We don’t ever lock the cabin. Just drive on up and come right in.
Oh crap. An unlocked cabin, alone on 300+ acres. What could possibly go wrong?
LOL: And while you are there we have the best little asses in Texas too if you’d like to drive over to see.
ME: E-excuse me?
Talk about confidence. You go girl.
LOL: Oh yes, dear. We raise donkeys.
ME: Oh! Yes! Awesome! We would definitely want to see that.
LOL: Yes, dear. Just drive on up the hill and you will see two signs: one points to The Best Little Cabin and the other to The Best Little [BLEEP].
I think you get the idea.
I’m a little worried as we drive. You see, I’ve arranged this little getaway and if everything isn’t amazing I will feel personally responsible FOR IT ALL. No sweat. Just the entire weekend is riding on how interesting and cool and amazing and NOT AWKWARD this weekend is going to be.
As we drive I shoot my husband a worried look. “Is this okay?”
“Of course, love. It’s a nice area.”
Five minutes later I shoot him another worried look. “This is a pretty cool town, right?”
He laughs. “I’m going to love it.”
“’Cuz you’d tell me if you don’t like it, right?”
“Lets at least see how things are when we get out of our own neighborhood . . .”
We drive onto a gated area of woods with 300 acres of beautiful Texas shrubrush. I shoot hubby a look. “This is nice . . .” I suggest hopefully. We follow the signs and soon are pulling up to a quaint little cabin.
The website alluded to this woman and the fact that the owners now were in possession of her bed.
We look around and we realize that the master bedroom is decorated in the style of . . . wait for it . . . a bordello! Framed frilly pantaloons adorn one wall with a large Vegas showgirl-type feather headdress. The bathroom holds a framed license to practice prostitution from the 1800’s. Regular and coffee table books, posters, etc. on the same general theme of “bad girls and pinups.” Hmmmmmm . . .
And the chickens. Scattered around the cabin are various decorations of chickens and roosters. Okay, I thought, that can be a theme. So they like chickens.
Oh dear reader. It is not that simple, or innocent.
Then we found the binder. Do you recall Romney’s “binder full of women”? We found the binder. Inside was a complete explanation—and education—about not only Miss Edna’s bed but about the infamous La Grange Chicken Ranch that had been located not but twenty miles away. Encased in clean, shiny sheet protectors were articles and a fairly complete history about this well-known “business.”
Does it ring a bell? How about the movie/musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? Miss Edna was the last Madam of this small Texas town’s brothel that had been thriving since the latter 1800’s. During the depression when money was tight Miss Edna allowed customers to pay with chickens. Soon the place was teeming with poultry. The girls began selling the eggs and chickens to supplement their income. It was known as The Chicken Ranch from then on out.
What is even more astounding is that the place was not shut down until 1973.
After a reporter’s expose, the governor decided he could no longer turn a blind eye and ordered the Sheriff to shut the place down. A shock, I know. Not even after the Sheriff presented 3,000 signatures to the Governor to keep the place open. 3,000 signatures. I think there were more chickens than people populating that town so I have no idea where they came up with that many warm bodies.
So they shut the place down and the furniture was sold. The 4 poster bed of the famed Madam ended up in a quaint little cabin not too far from its original resting place where two (now much wiser) Mormons spent an uneventful weekend.
When I told my brother and his wife about our discovery they couldn’t believe we had lived as long as we did in Texas and never heard of the Chicken Ranch.
The study of brothels and the Sheriffs who loved them has never been on my bucket list. But I can honestly say I know more about Miss Edna and the history of LaGrange than I ever thought I would in my lifetime. That and how to successfully run a house of ill repute.
Quiz me and I’ll tell you that the girls were required to be fingerprinted by the local Sheriff with a background check before beginning employment.
Quiz me and I might share that the biggest supporters were the local university and a military base nearby, complete with a free helicopter ride for our troops. Extra-curricular activities indeed.
And if you get me in just the right mood we can discuss how on a return visit this reporter had “words” with the Sheriff who ended up knocking him flat on his back. Shuttin’ down my fave-oh-rite place? Thems is fightin’ words . . .
So, along with the good advice of never starting a land war in Asia, be sure to do your homework, especially if vacationing in some of the smaller towns of Texas. Sometimes a chicken is not always just a chicken.