The bull wins every time.
The bull wins every time.

Hugs and Hoots

Eight seconds ago, Cheryl Menjivar, a 35-year-old employee at Texas Children's Hospital, was sitting on a bull. And now she's lying on her face.

Her husband, a square-framed man with strong hands and an honest smile, looks on in amusement. Several family members and friends do as well. A few laugh. Menjivar soaks in the jeers. It's a glorious, silly moment in time.

The bull lives at Whiskey River (7637 W. FM 1960), a franchised country saloon in Spring that's been around a little less than two years. It's mechanical rather than God-made, which means it can't experience sadness or empathy for you. Or, in this case, Cheryl Menjivar.

When it swayed to the right, Menjivar's body followed. (Cheers!) When it rocked to the left, she did too. (More cheers!) When it wiggled, she fell forward onto its big fake neck, giggling and grasping desperately. (Laughs!) And when it whipped around, flexing just a bit of its torque, she went tumbling. (More laughs!)

The bull, that bastard, he just stood there, his glassy eyes looking every bit victorious.

"It's going to hurt right here tomorrow," she says with a smile, pulling her teeth together, rubbing the inside of her thighs as she walks out of the inflated landing/falling area. "I'm going to feel it."

Hugs and hoots.

This is a common occurrence at Whiskey River, it seems, both macro (the bull is rarely without a rider over the course of any business night) and micro (Menjivar and her group say they visit Whiskey River at least once a week).

The decor is as expected: Everything is wooden, the room is expansive and a beer-bottle chandelier hangs proudly above the center of the dance floor.

Outside, there is a hefty patio that features its own DJ station, stage (karaoke Wednesday, suckas) and bar.

Despite the venue's size — it feels nearly twice as big as Concert Pub North (2470 FM 1960 West) — come the end of the week, there is barely room to move.

"It can get like...," says Jennifer Molina, a full-time student at Lone Star College-North Harris, before pantomiming being in a tiny space, elbows tucked in neatly to her sides. "We'll come Thursday and it'll be like that."

According to staff, more than 1,200 people, ranging in age and ethnicity, can cycle through on a busy night. Yes, 1,200, bro, or roughly how many copies Christina Aguilera should've sold of Bionic last year.

There might be something to be said about how fabricated the experience can feel — it can, at times, feel like a hollowed-out Saltgrass Steak House — but it functions as it should.

Whiskey River offers wholesome, clean, good-natured fun, packaged neatly in a rustic Americana aesthetic and soundtracked by everyone from Steve Earle to Chris Brown. (If you've never seen a crowded dance floor of people do the robotic line dance that goes with Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road," that might be reason enough to drive all the way out. It looks very much like that dance all the creatures do in Rango when they're trying to get water.)

Whiskey River is as streamlined and attractive as Rebels Honky Tonk (5002 Washington), still a premiere destination on Washington, and as inviting as Mo's Place (21940 Kingsland Blvd.), Katy's do-it-all country music venue and bar.

Eff that bull anyway.

Eight seconds is a long time to stay on there.

We mean, it's a ­mechanical bull, not a mechanical cat.


Firehouse Saloon

You can't write an entire article about country and western bars and not mention what many consider to be the best of the bushel: Firehouse Saloon (5930 Southwest Fwy.). November 26, red dirt musician, Houstonian and just general world-beater Cory Morrow will be in concert as part of FHS's annual Thanksgiving concert. He'll be performing that night with newcomer Neil Austin Imber (look for his "Come On In" to see what he's got going on). Tickets are only $15. That's $15, bro, or roughly $14 more than Christina Aguilera should've charged for Bionic last year. [baduum-tssh!]


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