A Real Cowboy

The search in suburbia for the reincarnation of John Wayne

Davie. A throwback. A town that time forgot. But a place that real estate developers, those uncanny visionaries, know all too well. Now that the home front consists of an eighth of an acre or less in South Florida, it would seem that cowboys would have nowhere to roam. Confined to a screened-in patio with a pool and a grill, a wrangler might end up kicking his boots off and giving those calloused feet a little manicure. Or maybe he'd marinate some of them salmon in an Asian plum glaze and have himself a bar-b-cue. The possibilities are endless. And they could be ugly. Real ugly.

If you drive south on University from I-595, past Costco, Old Navy, and Buca di Beppo, you will come to a canal-side road called Orange Drive. On this avenue you will notice something you don't see much in this suburban metropolis: horse shit. The trail of plop will lead you past some hokey spaghetti-Western architecture to a more curious site: a large barn-like structure with a wooden porch, where tall meaty men pose in cowboy hats and cast side-long glances at passersby. That would be Davie Junction, the 15-year-old watering hole.

I went there last Saturday night trying to catch a glimpse of the last of the dying breed amid the throng of pseudocowboys. I paid 15 fat ones to the man at the front counter, which looked like a county fair's makeshift jail, and drank free all night. Sitting beside the dance floor, staking out the scene, my career-girl companion and I took in a live country band that jumped down from the American- and Confederate-flag-bedecked stage and finished its set on the dance floor. When the music finished, my friend said, "Thank God," and when loud country music started blaring from the speakers, she rolled her eyes. A group of folks, ranging in age from 20 to 70, were line-dancing to country music. The scene was set. We were about to start searching the shadows for the elusive cowpoke when all of a sudden Will Smith's "Men in Black" started playing. Double take. A woman in overalls jumped up from her seat, ran out onto the floor, and got in step with the line dance that about six others were doing; yes, that included older folks. They were shimmying; they were two-steppin'; they were exhuming the Roger Rabbit from a grave that the rest of the world would rather forget.

We heard mutters of disapproval behind us and turned to find two young dudes in cowboy hats talkin' to a girl. I asked them, "Why in the hell are they playing hip-hop at Davie Junction?"

One of the young men pointed to his black hat and replied, "I don't know. I really don't." They walked off, and we gathered up our drinks to follow, but the club was crowded, and we couldn't see where they went.

"Up the stairs," career girl suggested, and so we went. But they were not upstairs. We leaned over the railing that overlooked the dance floor and scanned the crowd. They had slipped into the shadows.

Behind me was a man in tight black jeans, a patterned shirt, and a cowboy hat, standing next to a woman with long black hair. It was their first date, and I was to be the icebreaker. Jimmy was in his mid-40s, most likely, with a strong silent aura. She was amused.

Jimmy and I leaned over the railing at the corner of the balcony as we talked about Davie, and his date stood on the other side of the beam, hearing half of our conversation.

He's lived in the town for more than 15 years, he said, and has seen a lot of changes in that time. "When my daughter was 4 years old," he told me, "the schools here were 94 percent white, 4 percent black, and 4 percent Hispanic."

Gotta love that bar-scene math!

"It's not like that now. My daughter is 16 now, and she listens to hip-hop."

I asked him if that bothered him. He tilted his head to the side and said, "There's nothing I can do about it."

So, Davie is a-changing? I asked him. What's happening to the old cowboys?

"Lots of the people who used to live here are moving up north, to Ocala."

Jimmy was no cowboy.

Next we tried Roger, a tall young man with dull dark eyes. But Roger seemed to have been bitten by the slow-thinkin' bug, and he took to me like a cat to water: not too well.

"Are you a real cowboy?" I asked him.

"Yes, I am," he smugly replied.

"So, what makes someone a real cowboy?"

"A real cowboy wears tight jeans. He's good with animals. A cowboy has manners. He listens to country music."

"Hmm." I had a few questions about that. "So do you only listen to country music? Do you listen to other kinds of music?"

"Yeah, I guess I listen to other stuff," he said.

"Hip-hop?"

He twisted his cheek in the affirmative.

Shelley, a friend of Roger's, tapped my arm and commented, "He says that I look like an ice cream cone, and he wants to lick me up."

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