Thursday, February 25, 2021

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Miss Edna (1928-2012)

On this date in 2012, Edna Milton Chadwell, better known as Miss Edna, passed away at the age of 84 in Phoenix, Arizona, where she'd lived a life of quiet anonymity since the early 1980s. Her final days were tragic. The previous October (or September--my memory is imprecise) she was involved in a car wreck that left her hospitalized with an array of injuries. From what I understand, her memory was affected, and her brain stopped converting short-term memory into long. In practical terms, it meant somebody could introduce themselves and begin a conversation with her, but five minutes later she'd have no recollection. Over the previous three years I feel I've gotten to know her as much as any person alive today who wasn't related to her. She enthusiastically supported my book project and graciously invited my wife and myself into her home for hours of interviews.

Throughout the six-plus years it took to research, write and publish Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse, there was no bigger supporter of mine than Miss Edna. As I've said elsewhere, my biggest regret is that she did not live to see the finished product. I can't say for certain what she'd have thought of it, but others who were close to the Chicken Ranch have given me the thumbs up, so I like to think Miss Edna would've approved (while giving me an earful about what I got wrong).

Let me share something about her that didn't make it into the book. When I first met Miss Edna, she asked where I was from. I answered that I was originally from Columbus. Miss Edna paused a moment, then said, "Twenty-two miles." Then she asked my wife where she was from. Bastrop, Lisa answered. Miss Edna paused again, then said, "Thirty-six miles." Almost four decades removed from her life in La Grange, Miss Edna still remembered those details that would've mattered to her prospective out-of-town customers. I'll wager we could've sat there for hours, tossing out town names like Brenham, Hallettsville, Bryan, etc. and she'd have come up with the distance between them and La Grange like there was nothing to it. I have long felt that a fascinating glimpse into her character.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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Friday, February 12, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

So here we are, staring down the barrel at a full week of the coldest weather South-Central Texas has faced in a decade. North Texas iced over yesterday and the result was a 100-plus car pileup on Interstate 35 in Forth Worth that killed six people. Monday it's getting down to 9F here in New Braunfels, which is cold enough to theoretically kill every tropical plant I have growing with the exception of my dwarf palmettos. I've covered my bananas and citrus and pulled the potted plants into the garage, and I don't think it'll be super-cold long enough to do lasting damage to my palm trees, but still. I tolerate August in Texas so that I may wear shorts comfortably in January. I dislike cold weather intensely. With that in mind, is it any wonder I eventually found my way to tiki? Check out this song, "Lakalaka," by the Polynesian-fusion band Te Vaka. That's what I'm talking about. I think all of us could use some of this sunny beach energy about now. I know I certainly do!

And if you dig that video, they've also go a fun making-of featurette you can enjoy as well:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Little River Band.

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Friday, February 05, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I've never paid a whole lot of attention to Little River Band, although I've been aware of them for as long as I've listened to music other than country. I even remember their ill-fated rebranding as "LRB." Yeah, that didn't take. Regardless, their 1977 hit "Help Is On Its Way" is a darn good song. I'm not sure why I've been thinking about it recently, but I have been, so that's why I'm sharing it with you now.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Rod Stewart.

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Monday, February 01, 2021

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday Aunt Jessie!

On this date in 1885, Fay Stewart was born in Waco. She would've been 136 years old today. Stewart would later adopt the alias of Jessie Williams and operate a small brothel in Austin's Guy Town district before moving to La Grange in 1913. In 1915, she bought 11 acres of land outside of city limits and opened what would eventually become known as the Chicken Ranch. Known locally as Aunt Jessie, she ran the brothel until selling it to Edna Milton in 1961.

Fay Stewart’s parents came from Georgia, moving to Waco well before she was born. The family lived for years on Franklin Street. While it is entirely possible that Stewart learned the ropes of prostitution in Waco's infamous Two Street vice district, there’s scant evidence she was successful enough to own her own brothel there.

Curiously enough, despite the fact Aunt Jessie spent nearly three decades in La Grange and was as well-known a civic benefactor as anyone in Fayette County, I have found no photographs of her. Zero. Nada. Which is strange, since I know photos of her exist somewhere. So in lieu of Aunt Jessie's photo, we'll have to settle from the 1958 edition of the La Grange phone book. Think that cover art is coincidental? Or was someone with the Yellow Pages making a not-so-subtle joke? In any event, here's to Aunt Jessie, the woman who turned a number of shoddy prostitution operations into the brothel remembered today as the Chicken Ranch.

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