Monday, September 22, 2014

Chicken Ranch: Of Sheriff Flournoy and Scarlett Hens

Sheriff J.T. Jim Flournoy
On this date in Chicken Ranch history, 1902 to be exact, J.T. "Big Jim" Flournoy, the larger-than-life Fayette County sheriff in the center of the epic Chicken Ranch dust-up of legend, was born. Happy birthday to Big Jim, who passed away in 1982. As the saying goes, they don't make 'em like him anymore.

Marking Sheriff Jim's birthday isn't the only Chicken Ranch news of late--no, sadly I don't have a publishing deal yet. Rather, I've developed something of a speaking career as the go-to authority on the infamous brothel. Those of you keeping score at home may remember I gave presentations ("lectures" seems too pretentious a word, doesn't it?) at the Nesbitt Memorial Library in Columbus, the San Antonio Writers Guild and the Fayette Public Library in La Grange. I've honed my presentation to the point where it's pretty doggone tight. Through trial and error, I've gotten a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't, and the audience responds.

So Saturday, Sept. 20, I was the guest speaker for the Queen's Confab of Texas (QCT) #16, sponsored by the La Grange Scarlett Hens chapter of the Red Hat Society. Yeah, that Red Hat Society. And I have to say I couldn't have asked for a better audience! Take a look at this crew and try telling me we didn't have a blast:

Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch lecture, Scarlett Hens chapter, Red Hat Society, La Grange, TX, Sept. 20, 2014

They soaked up my tour of the ruins, asking plenty of questions, and found the history of all Chicken Ranch fakes for sale interesting. But Miss Edna's story held them in thrall. What she accomplished with her life, the obstacles and setbacks she overcame, really hit home for these ladies. More than one commented that "she was a real person" as opposed to the over-the-top Dolly Parton caricature from the movie. That Miss Edna had the same hopes and dreams as a child that any of them may have had, and lived out the final decades of her life in quiet anonymity humanized her for them. One piped up from the back that she'd rather see a movie version of Miss Edna's life than watch The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas again. Many of them came up to me afterward and thanked me for the presentation, telling me how interesting and meaningful it was. And they bought copies of Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch. Lots and lots of copies, so that I need to reorder. For a writer, this is always a good thing. It's nice to know when I've put together a book people want!

And I really need to get those Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch copies ordered ASAP--Oct. 9 I'm heading back to La Grange for a meeting of the Episcopal Church Women for St. James Episcopal Church. The Red Hens set the bar pretty high, but I have confidence the Episcopal women will have a good accounting of themselves.

Now Playing: Jewel 0304
Chicken Ranch Central

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