Our next stop in Texas was in Fort Worth – the famous town where cowboys from all over the land would have travelled with their cattle to then ship them to places much further afield. It’s now well known for its classic small-town Texan feel and appearance, particularly in an area called ‘The Stockyards’. Along these streets, there are long-horned cows, live rodeos and wooden fronted pubs with swing doors. We were staying at the Hyatt hotel, perfectly positioned next door to Stockyard Station and market, backing onto the old livery stables.
We enjoyed the luxury of our hotel rooms for a short while, before deciding that we should head out to explore the Stockyards. Located on the driveway to our hotel, as part of the stables, was the Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum, so we wandered into there to escape the heat as much as anything. Inside was filled with cowboy artefacts and biographies of some of the most famous and memorable cowboys. One such stand included details about a performance clown (as mentioned previously, this clown is used to aggravate the bull in the ring), who not only entertained himself but also trained his pet monkey to ride the back of a collie dog just like a rodeo rider. There was a video of the monkey racing around the ring in his little hat and boots, and one of his tiny, sparkly cowboy outfits was laid out in a display in front of us. We then decided we’d had enough recent history inside, and that we’d go out to experience it first-hand.
It was absolutely boiling outside, measuring about 42°C, so we had a quick walk around the market and bought an old cowboy whip to take home, but since it was undercover and stuffy we decided that it was definitely beer o’clock. The first bar we came across was the White Elephant, an old pub with neon signs, hundreds of hats belonging to significant cowboys hanging from the walls and ceiling, and filled with lots of loud Texans. Everyone was smoking and there was a strong smell of weed coming from the back, near to where we sat in a corner by the stage. We loved it in there; it genuinely felt less touristy and more like Fort Worth’s ‘local’, so we sat for a few drinks and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Our next stop was Billy Bob’s Honkey Tonk – the only place that we’d heard of prior to arrival. We’d read that it was the country’s largest honkey tonk (whatever that meant!) and we’d been looking forward to it since the start of our trip. We were disappointed, however, the moment from stepping in. It was $12 per person for entry into the building, and once inside, the place just resembled a huge cheap casino. There was no specific central area as such, but a stage for the live acts, and then a pizza place, a bbq cafe, some pool tables and a model bucking bull which you can have your photo taken on. We went to see if there was any food in the cafe but it all looked pretty bad, so we went to get pizza instead. At $12 a pizza, it wasn’t exactly cheap but it tasted like cardboard as though as it had been quickly shoved in a microwave for a minute. We played a couple of games of pool, and I bought everyone a tequila shot to try and liven the atmosphere, but even that didn’t work! In the end, we decided not to waste any more of our evening here, despite the entry fee, so left after an hour or so.
We walked back in the direction of our hotel and passed an outdoor schooling ring which was filled with people warming their horses up ready for the live rodeo. We stood and watched, and fed the horses some treats, and it made me really want to get back on a horse. I decided I would do some riding the next morning. As we carried on walking, we came across the Love Shack – a small outside bar where a man was playing his guitar on a small wooden stage at the back with a backing band. Posters displayed that the guy playing was Don McRoy and he was very good, so we sat and watched with a drink as he played through lots of classic country songs.
The next morning, I woke up and headed next door to livery stables to go out on a horseback trail ride. I went out on a horse called Gracie, who definitely had some mule in her, with our guide and two other riders. We headed out along the the Old Chisholm Trail, which is the route the cowboys took from the countryside into town, and which also offers the best view of the Fort Worth skyline. It was too hot to be out for long, so we were only riding for half an hour or so, but it was nice to be back in the saddle.
I got back just in time for the cattle drive at 11.30am along the Main Street, just outside our hotel. Twice a day, professional cowboys drive the long horned cattle through the town to a different pen. Then it was time to leave Texas and head onto Louisiana – back into the Dodge and onto the road!