I haven't been away from my home state of Texas that long, and occasionally I like to remind myself what it means to be a Texan. Yeah, we execute the mentally challenged, we thump our Bibles, and sometimes we forget that we're part of a larger country. But we do have one thing in our favor: We love ourselves. Reveling in self-glorification is a Texan's favorite pastime. It might be because the women have big hair and the men drive pickups, or it might be because our state flag has one big-ass star, or it might be because we have a fuckload of armadillos (commonly seen dead along long, lonely highways). Anyway, I was feeling a little homesick for the Lone Star state, and I rounded up a few of my Texan friends (fellow New Times cool kids Brantley, Jamie, and Mike, plus an honorary Texan, Tom). We pulled our cowboy hats out of our closets and took off to Round Up, a country western-themed bar deep in the heart of Davie (9020 W. State Rd. 84).
Ambience: As clubs go, Round Up is big as all hell and half of Texas, and partiers were packed into the joint like cows under the ranch's only shade tree. Four full-liquor bars stake out the corners of the territory, and wannabe wranglers were lined up for drinks at all of them. One bar was dishing out plastic cups full of strong concoction to cowgirls only (and anyone else with an extra X chromosome) in honor of an immensely popular ladies' night. The largest bar ran along the back of the establishment, positioned like a barbed wire fence protecting the impressive collection of liquor bottles stretching out behind it. Daisy Dukes-wearing bartenders busied themselves fixing drinks or just leaning invitingly over the bar to flash the deep crevices of their cleavage. Texas-shaped neon beer signs (Lone Star state-shaped beer signs are protocol in Texas bars) cut through the dim lighting, and pop-country filled the air.
Line Dancin': Colored spotlights flashed across the big dance floor in the center of the room, illuminating the shadowed faces of hat-wearing line dancers, who were hopping, stepping, and sliding in sync to the Garth Brooks and Rascal Flatts songs spilling from the DJ booth.
"We're seconds from this turning into a country-western Michael Jackson video," Mike whispered from under the brim of his cowboy hat.
He gave the dance floor a jaundiced once-over. "They're eerie, like zombies or something," he said.
"Texans don't line dance," Brantley said, sipping his scotch on the rocks. "If they're gonna dance, they two-step or something."
"I don't dance at all," I said, staring at Jamie, who hit the dance floor for line-dancing lessons and, after mere minutes, was already gloriously step-kickin' with the best of them. (I'd tried it for three seconds and retreated after I kept walking into fellow participants.)
"At real country bars," I said, "I feel a lot more comfortable just being depressed and drinking a lot."
At Round Up, though, that was nigh impossible. Not just because the DJ refused to play any sad old Hank Williams songs, but because I just wasn't lonesome enough to cry (sad country song references, anyone?), what with all the girls, hot as the southern sun, shakin' their asses at every turn.
Bartenders: These were mostly young hotties in half-shirts with their cleavage painfully propped up. One bartender babe even opened a beer on her tit (OK, the cap must have been loose to begin with) — and if that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass.
I talked briefly to Christine, a short girl with flat-ironed dark hair. She told me she'd been working here for two years and was originally from West Virginia. "I see a lot of cowboy hats," I said. "How many of these people are true-blue country folk?"
"Not many," she said with a smirk and comical glance around. "They're here for ladies' night."
Drinks: The only bartender who wasn't baring cleavage was the big bald-headed guy manning the ladies' night bar — chock-full of cowgirls waiting to lasso a free drink or two. As the girls piled up around the bar, the bartender set out dozens of plastic cups and filled them with liquor as fast as he could — barely having time to swipe up the single dollar bills girls left for him along the bar.
Anita, eyes heavily lined, crescents of round cleavage peeking out of her teal thigh-high dress, headed off the dance floor, where she'd been grinding against her friend, a dark haired girl in very short shorts — they proceeded to take flaming Dr. Pepper shots. (For y'all tenderfeet, that's a shot of flaming Amaretto and 151-proof rum dropped into a beer, leaving you with a distinctive cherry-soda aftertaste.) As she gagged on the last swig of her poison, Mike, who prides himself on years of unnecessarily hard Texas drinkin', offered her some sweet words of encouragement: "Oh, come on, you're not drinking fast enough! Chug! Chug!"
Maybe Anita's mama taught her not to talk to strangers, because in response she wordlessly offered him the finger.
Customers: While we perched at a bar and listened to Jo Dee Messina's "Bye Bye," a single figure separated from the crowds of bobbing hats and clicking boots and stood alone — like a tiny, hunched John Wayne surveying the throngs, a cowboy about to rope him up some cattle. Suddenly, he pointed at a random pretty girl and crudely thrust his pelvis toward her in a jerky humping motion. Vernon Lovejoy wore a red flannel shirt with white fringe running along the back and sleeves and rhinestones glistening from the upper back. His startlingly jet-black hair was slicked back from his receding hairline, and a perfectly manicured moustache sat atop his upper lip. As soon as I got near him, he tried to thrust into me, but Mike shouted sharply from a few feet away, gesturing clearly for Vernon to keep his hands from traveling south.
"So, what brings you out tonight?" I asked.
"I'm an investor, land developer, and multimillionaire," he said. "I don't drink, smoke, gamble, or pay for pussy. I just come out here a couple times a week to have a good time."
"Isn't this crowd a little young for you? How old are you, anyway?"
"I'm 85 years old," he said, fumbling in his wallet and eventually flashing me his driver's license for age confirmation. "I could be the grandfather of any of those young boys over there, but I could kick their asses." He gestured sharply at my friends. Mike squinted and sipped his bourbon, which must have been strong if he was even considering having a showdown with an 85-year-old man.
"When I'm dancing with girls, a lot of times they ask me if I'm taking Viagra," he continued. "But I tell them I don't need it. You know what I'm saying?"
"Uh, yeah," I said.
"I mean, when I'm dancing all close to them, I sometimes—"
"—Yes, I get it!"
"Anyway, I'm not your father or nothin'," he said, "But be careful out here. I don't take advantage of girls, but other guys out here will. Don't let 'em slip anything into your drink." He stole another sideways glance over at my friends. "You don't wanna get raped."
Texas Consensus: There's something about seeing leather boots and big-brimmed hats that puts a Texan right back at home, even in a glam Hollywood-ized cowboy bar with enough half-dressed girls to put the "ho" in hoedown. Yeah, it ain't quite the jukebox saloons out in the tumbleweed towns of deep east Texas or even a big-ass honky-tonk staple like Fort Worth's infamous Billy Bob's. But a stiff drink cures a homesick heart faster than you can say "achy-breaky," and an upbeat atmosphere and a fun crowd don't hurt neither.