Shaking bones, drinking beer, and singing those old country tunes…
To hear my momma tell it, in the Fall of 1994 I majored in Bonfire, but in the Spring of 1995 I majored in Dixie Chicken Studies.
The Bird – my favorite appellation for her – was a natural match for me in those days: dark and foreboding, but full of life and abounding energy. I spent countless evenings (and afternoons . . . who am I kidding!) shaking bones and drinking from glass pitchers, or sitting on the back porch telling lies holding a longneck bottle. I learned more about the best parts of life standing under dusty trophies of Hill Country bucks and rusted signs, listening to Johnny, Waylon, Willie, and Jerry Jeff, than I could have anywhere else in the world. I formed friendships that will last a lifetime, romances that lasted a few short hours, and sentences that couldn’t survive outside my beer-addled mind. I’ve seen Don’s office – the result of running afoul of his strict no fighting rule – the rattler tank from the inside, and the floor of the men’s room up close and personal. So many nights I’ll never remember, a few I’ll never forget, and some so cloaked in the hazy gauze separating reality from legend that I can’t be sure they actually happened. In the story of my life, The Dixie Chicken is not a setting, she’s a living, breathing, ever-present character. Walking in through the swinging doors or up the steps on the back porch today is like seeing a loved one after too long a separation.
I don’t know if it’s true, what my momma says about me and my misspent semester with the Dixie Chicken, but I can tell you this for sure: I don’t remember a single damn thing I learned in the hallowed halls and erudite classrooms across University Drive in the Spring of 1995, but I’ll never forget the lessons I learned shaking bones, drinking beer, and singing those old country tunes with all my buddies at The Bird.
Thanks and Gig ‘Em!
Nathan J. Bouchér
Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 1998