Plenty of Texas country bands sing about people on the wrong side of the law, a tradition that goes back at least as far as Willie and Waylon. But recently the Casey Donahew Band did their peers one better when several members foiled the attempted theft of one of them's expensive ice chest - and went right on to play their gig in front of a screaming audience that included several of the perpetrator's friends as the cops were hauling him off to jail.
The scene was a show in Wichita Falls about six weeks ago. According to Donahew, he and bassist Steve Stone had spent the day at his ranch outside Fort Worth and driven up in Stone's truck to meet the rest of the band at the venue. When it was getting close to showtime, they walked out of their tour bus to notice someone had pulled another pickup halfway into the parking spot next to Stone and was attempting to make off with the Yeti cooler strapped into the back.
"We walk out of the bus and if it had been 15 minutes earlier or 15 minutes later, or 15 seconds, we'd have missed it all," says Donahew, whose band is known for songs like"Double Wide Dream," "Whiskey Baby" and "Stockyards."
"It took me a second to process what was going on," he adds. "He had cut the straps off there and unbolted it, and was already placing the Yeti in the back of his truck. I was just like, 'They're stealing our Yeti!'"
The cooler in question runs about $300 and will hold 20 cans of beer and 28 lbs. of ice, and Donahew says Stone wasn't about to give it up without a fight. After noticing Donahew, Stone, keyboardist A.C. Copeland and the band's tour manager "Weezy" headed his way, Donahew says the would-be thief freaked out, threw the Yeti back into Stone's truck and froze behind his own, which had both the front passenger seat and back seat full. Then, Donahew recalls, Stone managed to reach into their adversary's truck and snatch the keys from the ignition and put them in his pockets.
"So then I'm thinking, 'OK, this is about to get real serious real fast," Donahew says. "We were about to be in an all-out war. This guy runs around, realizes Steve had his keys and runs back to the back. Steve is already squared up. He tells this kid [no more than 20, according to Donahew], 'Take one more step, I'm going to put you to sleep right here.'
"The guy was like, 'I wasn't stealing it,'" continues Donahew. "Well...yes you were."
At this point, the singer says the bar's security had noticed what was happening outside and had radioed the cops.
"I think the kid tried to plead his case a little bit, and he came to the realization that it wasn't gonna go good for him," Donahew allows. "He went and sat in his truck, and Steve still had his keys, and the people with him in his car piled out of the car and went inside for the show. Left him out there all alone."
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Eventually the police showed up and escorted the suspect off to jail, and the band went inside. The whole thing only delayed them 15 minutes, and they played what Donahew calls a great show.
While he was performing, he reflects, "I was thinking to myself, 'The people who rode with him are in this room somewhere.' I don't know how you'd take that from your friends, how that goes over the next day: 'Thanks for leaving me.' But maybe they didn't want to be involved."
Ironically, as Donahew remembers it, there wasn't even much in the cooler worth taking; just a few bottles of water and Gatorade and maybe a few cans of Coors - "not enough to warrant a party," he says. And adding a little bit more poetic justice to the whole thing, he was even wearing a Yeti hat when his band rescued their cooler. Normally it would have been padlocked, Donahew admits, but Stone's lock had broken and the cooler was only strapped into the bed. He sounds hopeful the band might still be able to play up the attempted theft into some endorsements, though.
"[The Yeti people] sent us a text and said they were going to send some of those padlock things, but I have yet to receive them," Donahew laughs. "I would like to see that come through."
The band, whose latest album is last year's Standoff, is pretty up-front about their support of the Second Amendment. Donahew says he's relieved the situation didn't escalate any further, noting "you never know these days how these things could go; somebody in that car could have had a gun or something."
The creative potential of the attempted Yeti-snatching is not lost on Donahew, either. In the future, "I wouldn't be surprised to see us reference that for sure," he allows. Everybody loves a happy ending, except the one who goes to jail.
"I think it's definitely something the kid regrets," Donahew says. "It was just one of those things. It's so dumb to go to jail over a $300 cooler, know what I mean?
"But on the other hand, don't steal stuff," the singer continues. "If you let 'em get away with that, maybe they do it again. So I was 100 percent on board with him going to jail."
The Casey Donahew Band performs tonight at Big Texas Dance Hall and Saloon, 19959 Holzwarth Rd. in Spring. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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