Written by Frank Michaels
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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

image for Stranger Than Truth: Dogie Down on the Steakhouse Floor Hoke Clemmons Sr.

'As close to the hoof as you can get without being kicked in the head.' is the motto of Dad's Chuckwagon Steakhouse out on Old Cowpoke Trail in Toecheese, Texas. And after spending the day watching this place in action, we found it to be an appropriate one, too.

The host for our visit, at least initially, was Hoke Clemmons Junior, son of business owner, Hoke Senior - a man most just call 'the boss' round here. "Pop has been cooking steaks for folks in these parts for going on 20 years now. He takes a lot of pride in his work and runs a real tight outfit."

The eatery opens precisely at 4pm each day, most often to lines of people already waiting to be seated. And it is no wonder, because this restaurant is run a lot like a round-up on the range. "If you aren't here to make the cut, you get left out of the deal." Hoke explained. "Each party is escorted to their table and upon seating, a 75 minute clock is started. That is the time you have to order, be served and to eat before the drovers come through and herd you to the exit."

At first, we thought Junior was kidding about being forced to leave but as we would soon see, this was no laughing matter. Off in far corner, there suddenly arose a rumbling sound that grew progressively louder...

Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Keep rollin', rollin', rollin'.

Then out of a door just off of the main dining room, a group of about eight big guys dressed in cowboy attire came in hooting and whooping and whistling, making a direct line for a table where a family was sitting. As if fallen upon, the party of four was dumped from their seats with whips cracking and pushed out the exit door, all while the 'Rawhide' song was playing in the background...
Move 'em out, head 'em up,
Head 'em up, move 'em on.
Move 'em out, head 'em up:
Rawhide!

As we looked on in amazement, Hoke Senior came up to us and laid it all out. "This is a steakhouse, son. Not a road house. If you can't get that meat in your gullet in 75 minutes, you might need someone to show you how it's done!"

Just at that moment, the rumble started again as another table had reached the end of its 75-minute limit. The cowboys reappeared and began to ride herd, rousting the customers from the chairs so the table could be cleared, cleaned and ready for the next party.
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in,
Ride 'em in, cut 'em out,
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in:
Rawhide!

But something went wrong.

Out of the chaotic scene, there was a gunshot.

We fought through the crowd to finally see a man... most likely a customer, on the floor and quite obviously dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

One of the cowboys spoke up, "He fell, broke his leg. We didn't have any choice, we had to put him down."

Most people went back to their meals or whatever they had been doing, but we just stared on in disbelief. Then out of nowhere again, the voice of Hoke Sr. piped in from behind us, "This is a steakhouse, boy. Life ain't always pretty here. But there's the sunrise, the sunset and most importantly, the beef. If you can love the beef, the burger, the T-bones, the Ribeyes, the strips and those damned sirloins… then it becomes worth it. It just gets in your guts and you can't walk away from it."

As we stared out over the vast dining room, considering the old man's words and watching the light peeking through from the kitchen, it all began to make sense. And then, as if to reaffirm all of it, another 75 minute table rolled up on the clock and that soul-shaking rumble of the approach...

Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Keep rollin', rollin', rollin'.

Dad's Chuckwagon Steakhouse in Toecheese, Texas, is open daily from 4pm until 11pm. They do not take reservations and accept only cash.

Don't forget - there is also that 75-minute time limit for each table that begins when you are seated. Don't make 'em drag your ass out.

__/|\__

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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