This story is based on the song by Conway Twitty. I was driving down to the Cherokee Strip museum in Perry, Oklahoma and heard it on the radio. An old favorite of mine seemed like it would be fun to write.
Thanks to Techsan for his editing support.
Composed by Michael and Mike Huffman
Performed by Conway Twitty
THE STAMPEDE, BIG SPRINGS, TEXAS
She tried to hide it by the faded denim clothes she wore
But I knew she'd never been inside a bar before
And I felt like a peasant who just had met a queen
And she knew I saw right through her tight fittin' jeans
I'd been coming to The Stampede since I was old enough to drink beer. It was a well-known dance/music hall a few miles east of the Midland-Odessa area. My mom and dad had started going there when Hoyle Nix and his brother Ben built it in 1954. Dad had gone to school with Hoyle and knew him pretty well.
The brothers Nix had formed a band a few years earlier, somewhat patterned after Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, called The West Texas Cowboys. The two bands played together a number of times and, after Bob Wills disbanded The Texas Playboys, Bob played off and on for Nixs' band until he had his stroke in '69.
Hoyle's son, Jody, took over both his dad's band and The Stampede. He wasn't what I would call a best buddy but we ran across each other once in a while at barbeques and such and would chat over a beer. Before my ex, Dixie and I had split we came down from my ranch southeast of Lamesa to dance and drink every Saturday night. Sometimes Jody's band would be there, other times — when The West Texas Cowboys were on tour — there would be other local bands. All in all it was a great place for music and dancing.
Dixie was a piece of work. I don't know how I ever wound up with her. The first time I met her, when I was introduced as Jake Dancer, she smirked and commented, "Damn! That means if we got married I'd be Dixie Dancer!" She broke out laughing like it was the funniest thing ever. But she was appealing, a short, buxom, high-energy blonde. One thing led to another and we were married six months later.
She was, for sure, a high-maintenance gal. She 'bout ran the ranch bankrupt before we both figured out that the only thing we had in common was great sex and our love for dancing. Maybe it could have worked out but the constant fights over money kept an edge on both our tempers. Truth be told I think she hated the ranch and ranch life.
It all came to a head when she met an oil lawyer in Odessa and nervously asked for a divorce. I tried to look sad but I had her packed and moved to Odessa that weekend. On the way home I stopped at CC Liquors and picked up a case of Chicken Killer Barley Wine - known as the finest drink ever to be named after a death-dealing dachshund - from Santa Fe. It was beer but they called it wine since it was as strong as many wines. This was great tasting stuff and at ten percent alcohol it wasn't for the young and innocent.
I remember sitting on my back porch when I got home, watching the sun set on the broken hills rising to the north of my ranch. My place was more east than south of Lamesa, and backed up against the edges of the hills. I put the beer in a tub of ice and as I finished the first bottle I started getting a slight smile on my face. By the time I'd consumed about four or so the smile had turned into a grin then a full fledged shit-eatin' grin. I felt really relaxed sitting there in the now dark night for the first time in months. The still warm fall evening and the high-octane beer were working well together.
This was all about six months or so ago and I kept going to The Stampede every three or four weeks or so just to drink beer and watch the girls. A lot of them knew me and knew I was a good dance partner so I did my fair share of whirling around with the ladies. Once in a while I got lucky and spent the night with one or another of my dance partners but I wasn't really looking for or pushing it. I was a month short of thirty-five at that time — a bit over six feet, lanky, and had what a couple of the girls had told me were "rugged good looks" with black curly hair.
Now it was a pleasant April evening and I was back at The Stampede slowly working my way through a couple of longneck Lonestars and idly watching the girls dance. Jody was in town with his band so there was a pretty good turnout but it wasn't really crowded. I'd been talking to the bartender, Molly, and swiveled on my barstool to check out the action.
About ten feet in front of me was a tall — the better part of five-eight — girl with long brown hair. She was curvy in an understated way and an air of... well, elegance about her. It wasn't in the clothes — she had on a white lacy blouse, an old black denim jacket, and faded black jeans that were sure enough tight fitting. She also had a red bandana around her neck. I'd guess she'd had those jeans for a long time and had filled out some, making them nice and snug.
I knew right away she was a lady. The way she moved was graceful but with a bit of awkwardness, like she wasn't used to the two-step and maybe hadn't ever been in a place like this before. There were a couple of other tip-offs. The black, tight fitting jeans had a Gucci label and flared legs. I knew what they cost 'cause Dixie had come home from a shopping trip to Dallas with a girl friend with two pair of them — at the better part of over four hundred dollars apiece! The fight that led to was really the beginning of the end for us because I needed that money for a couple of bulls.
The other tip-off was the new Justin Black Lizard boots she had on — those had to run over three hundred. All together she looked like she had made an effort not to look out of place but for me she failed miserably. I thought she looked like a queen and she made me feel like a peasant.
The next time she came around the dance floor she saw me watching her and she knew at once that those tight fitting jeans hadn't fooled me a bit. Something changed on her face, a sort of pinched, embarrassed look come over it, and when the dance ended she walked over to where I was sitting. She plopped on the empty stool next to me, and looked a bit tired with a fine sheen of sweat on her upper lip.
I had to ask, so I looked at her and said, "What's a woman like you doing in a place like this? I can see you are used to champagne but I'll buy you a beer," as I held up my almost empty bottle.
She didn't say anything so I waggled by bottle and held up two fingers towards Molly who was down at the other end of the bar. When she brought the two beers, sans glasses, we both swiveled back to the bar. I was looking at this out-of-place woman, discretely I thought, in the mirror behind the bar. She was one lovely lady. She caught my eye, an enigmatic look on her face, and turned to me as she put her hand on my arm.
"I saw you admiring these tight fittin' jeans I have on," here she flushed a little, "and for a dance or two I'll tell you the story behind them."
She grabbed my hand on pulled me onto the dance floor. The band had just kicked in with a faster number, "Play Me Something I can Swing To," and she was clearly much more comfortable with this type of dancing. The band played several more fast ones then segued into a slow version of "Night Life." She tentatively moved in closer, then after a minute slid full into my arms, with her head on my shoulder. I could feel the faint whisper of her breath and when the band took a break after that number I could see her eyes were a bit damp.
We sat down at the bar again, Molly bringing a couple more beers unasked. We were quiet for a minute, me wondering how come this classy lady was sitting next to me while she was moving the bottle around in a slow circle on the polished pecan wood bar, looking intently at the patterns she made.
Looking over at me she opened up a little, "I guess you have me figured out... I'm not what I seem. I came from a well known family and I married money and, yes, I'm used to wearing pearls and drinking champagne. But I've always had this dream of just being a "good ol' boy's" girl. Tonight I walked away from those crystal chandeliers in that big mansion in Preston Hollow in Dallas to live this dream I've had. And, partner, let me tell you, there is a tiger in these tight fitting jeans."
We danced every one of the dances from then on, and, oh Lord, the beer we went through. I knew it was just a fantasy for her but for me it was a bit of heaven. As she played out her dream right before my eyes, it seemed a cowgirl had come alive in those jeans.
We wound up at a nearby motel. She already had the key so she must have go there earlier in the day. That night, I experienced a passion I'd never known existed. I'm satisfied I did my best to make her dream come true. As I lay there in the dark, passion spent and her head on my chest in an exhausted dreamless sleep, I knew I had come to love her.
I finally drifted off and when I woke she was gone, leaving her faint, sweet scent behind. She left her bandana on the bed next to me. I saw that as a sign that this was a one-time thing for her. She had lived her dream and had gone back to her world... and leaving me here in mine. I think that's why she left the scarf - she wouldn't need it anymore. She would go home and fold up those tight fitting jeans and put the new Justins in the back of her closet.
In my mind I know she's a lady and I'd never tell anyone what had happened that night... that story of a queen that wanted to spend a night with the likes of me. We had parted but she took a large part of my heart with her. I knew I'd held more woman in my arms that night than most men would ever see. I know she will always remember that night, that time a cowboy had lived a millionaire's dream. Lord, I loved that lady with the tight fitting jeans.
She was gone now and all I knew of her was her name, Laura, and that she had been raised in Boston and had gone to school at Wellesley. She was a class act all the way. And that she had left me with a broken, sad heart.
It was hard to get back to what I now knew was a boring humdrum life. Laura had made all the other women I knew seem like pale shadows of the real thing and I lost interest in any ongoing social interactions. I tended to stay at the ranch and bury myself in work. I was lucky I didn't have to pay alimony to Dixie and we'd never had children so I was gradually able to make improvements and put the ranch on a sounder financial footing. But... well, I wasn't kidding myself. Every day I lived in various shades of gray.
I think I faced up to it okay — anyway I did my best. But there was this hollow place in me that nothing seemed able to fill. I'd still go to The Stampede once a month or so, more out of loneliness than anything else I guess. I maybe had this subliminal thought - buried so deep I didn't even want to voice it — that one day I'd see that longhaired beauty again. Oh, I danced once in a while with one or another girl, but I never went home with any of them again.
About three months after all that, on a cold, windy night a couple days after a lonely Valentine's Day, I was sitting at the bar and Jody walked over and offered me a beer. We chatted for a while — about this and that - when he looked at me curiously and asked, "I saw you dancin' with Laura West a while back... didn't figure you would know her. She's married to the guy that owns the better part of that fancy new bank in Dallas; he comes from old time Texas money. He hired my band for a barbeque party a year or so ago."
I was excited for a minute. Now that I knew her name I knew I could find her. But I slumped down on the barstool. She'd had her dream fulfilled and would not be happy if I showed up. I'd just be an embarrassment to her.
I looked over at Jody and answered his unasked question. "She was just passin' through and wanted to dance a bit. You know how the girls all like to dance with me. I dance well and treat them nice... and with respect and they like that. I guess she could see that in me."
He looked unconvinced but patted me on the shoulder and walked away.
It went on like that for a long time — the ranch was doing great and I was drifting. I ran into Dixie one night at a club in Midland. We shared a couple of beers and a few dances... talked some. I was getting vibes that she wanted to come back but I made sure she could see I wasn't picking up on them. She did look good though.
It was two years after that episodic, life changing night of passion and dancing that I was sitting at the bar at The Stampede half-heartedly flirting with Molly when I felt a hand on my shoulder and a hot breath in my ear.
"Hey, Cowboy. They're playing our song."
I turned around fast and almost fell off the stool. It was Laura, and sure enough she was wearing those tight fitting jeans and the boots still looked brand new. I started to ask her something but she kissed me lightly on the lips and whispered, "Later."
So we danced and danced and drank some beer... thought not as much as the first time. She wouldn't talk and wouldn't let me. She was somewhat stiff for the first couple of slow dances and then seemed to decide something and flowed tightly into my arms. I wanted to ask her... so much! But she had her own agenda and I was happy to get even a few magical moments.
Time came when she took my hand and led me out to a dusty BMW. She drove over to the same motel as before and already had a key. I wondered if she had done this before: rented the motel room and then went looking for me. I had a few agonizing moments thinking of this, and then we were in the room.
"I know you want to know what's going on, but please don't talk. Pensively, she added, mostly to herself, "I just need to make sure."
She grabbed me a beer from the mini-bar and disappeared into the bath area. I heard the shower running and she came back in a few minutes wearing a diaphanous black dressing gown that left little to the imagination. She had a new bandana, yellow this time, and she laid it over the lamp on the desk and turned the other lights off. Turning the covers down she sat on the edge of the bed and held her hand out. I took it and slowly sat down on the bed next to her and put my arms around her, squeezing her tight.
"Laura, that night, so long ago... I fell in love with you. You haven't left my heart for a minute. I..."
"I know, Jake. We'll talk... sometime. Now, just love me!"