Urban Cowboy 2: Close Up The Honky-Tonks
Photo illustrations by John Seaborn Gray
A middle-aged man wakes up bleary-eyed and groggy to the sounds of the neighbor's lawn mower. Why do people insist on doing their yard work so early on the weekend?
It's a Saturday morning in Pearland, Texas, and for Bud Davis, a senior plant manager with a gold watch, it means Lone Star tallboys and Country Legends 97.1 FM in the garage. Maybe washing the truck. Sissy is off with their oldest daughter looking at bridesmaid dresses. When the cat's away, the mouse will watch the Astros on a plasma screen and not wear a shirt.
Most people probably assume that Urban Cowboy's Bud and Sissy decayed into white-trash nothingness after that final bull-riding session at Gilley's. That they turned into Pasadena trailer-park stereotypes full of McDonald's, cheap beer, and occasional law-enforcement interaction.
Bud and Sissy could have just as easily been Rocks Off's parents, except ours didn't go to Gilley's since our mother and father weren't the drinking type, nor were they into country music very much. But fighting and feuding in a trailer before having children and making their way to the big city is the origin story of plenty of people around Houston. A lot of us are only two generations removed from what some elitists would call white trash.
It's been a long strange pearl-snapped trip for Bud and Sissy. After that bull-riding event and the thwarted robbery, the couple retreated back to the trailer for a few weeks to get reacquainted. Not like that... well, not completely.
They decided to buckle down and start a family, which meant reassessing where they were heading. Drunk and full of Waffle House every night wasn't conducive to home life, at least not the one they wanted.
Sissy enrolled in community college that fall to become a nurse. With UTMB right down I-45, it was easy for her to make it through. Bud rose through the ranks at the refinery after Uncle Bob passed away. Aunt Corene got a pretty decent settlement after Bob's accident, and helped Sissy make it through school. Bob would have wanted it that way.
The cowboy bone in Bud never completely went away. He ended up spending one or two nights a week teaching Gilley's folk how ride the mechanical bull, and even started buying older ones and started refurbishing them when he could afford it. Sometimes Sissy and him would make the trek back out to Spur to see his family, but mostly on holidays. As his loved ones died, so did the dream of being some mythical cowboy. The closest he got to bull-riding was the random televised events on ESPN 6 or the annual trips to the rodeo at the Astrodome.
By 1983, Sissy's last year of nursing training, she started getting sick in the mornings, and nine months later Robert Buford Davis came toddling along. With better money coming through the household, the new family started looking for a house, especially after someone tried to break into the trailer one day while Bobby was in his crib and Sissy was in the shower.
Soon they sold the trailer to one of Bud's employees and moved to a subdivision near the border of Friendswood and Pearland near a gas station and a funeral home. It was close enough to the freeway to get to work, and a sight safer than where they were before. Bud kept progressing at the plant, winning several service and safety awards, and Sissy worked in the pre-natal unit of Memorial Southeast Hospital.
One more baby came along in 1985, a dazzling daughter named Jennifer, to keep Bobby company and temper the masculinity around the house. Bobby went as a cowboy every year for Halloween until he discovered how much he liked the Ghostbusters. This kind of made Bud sad, but then again it relieved him. It's a lot harder to become a Ghostbuster than to learn to ride bulls and break your neck and be in a wheelchair the rest of your life.
You couldn't keep Jenn and Sissy away from the mall, where they practically lived by the time Jenn was in junior high. All Bud could do was sit in the garage and watch the line of shopping bags come into his house while he mailed away credit-card bills.
Good thing the only thing Bobby ever needed money for was aluminum baseball bats and exhaust systems for his truck. Bud could deal with that sort of stuff, not make-up and glittery shit. Plus Bobby turned out to be a pretty solid drinking buddy.
Time marched on for the Davises as their friends from Gilley's slowly moved away or lost touch. Bud heard that Wes Hightower killed a guard in prison riot in Huntsville sometime in 1988. He got the needle three years later on Bud and Sissy's wedding anniversary. Bud chuckled when he read the story in the next day's Houston Post.
Steve Strange came around on Thanksgiving and secretly taught Bobby how to dip tobacco one year after dinner. Sissy found the ten-year old hunched over her potted plants a few minutes later puking up turkey, brown chaw and spit.
Corene got breast cancer in 1994 and passed away after fighting it for a year. She was buried next to Uncle Bob in that cemetery off Highway 35. She never remarried, but did have a line of suitors at her door trying to woo the single millionaire.
Tonight, Bobby will ask his longtime girlfriend to marry him onstage while they are at Blanco's to see Dale Watson, while Bud and Sissy stand a few feet away in tears. Well, Sissy will be crying, but not Bud.
He's going to save his sobbing for tomorrow afternoon in the garage while he listens to his favorite Gary Stewart songs blaring in the corner. He has to give away Jenn in October. That boy she's marrying tries too hard to impress him, but he makes her happy.
He's thinking about giving him a crash course on the bull to see if he's worth a shit. All cowboys ain't dumb.