Before the caged gameboard slides into view, the only peculiar element of the building is the steeple. A local recounts how the white point was added for a wedding, then simply let be. While the steeple points heavenward, the saloon underneath shelters music and drink and other earthly delights. Today is Sunday, which means we are here for bingo.
Chicken shit bingo, to be precise.
Inside Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, our eyes search and squint toward a bright commotion. Between the band and ourselves, patrons swig Lone Star and rock their heels in time to the music. The structure is tiny, and although we are not late for the main event, there is standing room only. My two friends and I squish up beside a table; it is laden with crock-pots bearing all the fixins for chili dogs. Above the table the wall is stapled with cheeky characters—Les and Billy and company—gamblers with luck, I presume.
The songs continue, and a few couples give up their seats to dance. Half an hour after four, a queue suddenly and violently seizes the congregation, splitting the bar in half. We spring to our feet as well, eager to exchange our dollars for a brush with fate. The line hugs the edge of a large wire cage perched on a table, which we peer into while we wait. Evenly spread with chicken feed, the surface of this table is marked with a large grid of numbers—a communal bingo card.
After fifty people purchase two dollar tickets, a chicken named Sissy is brought to the gameboard. Sissy pecks around a bit, and Ginny herself pinches off pieces of a hotdog bun to move the animal around. Everyone crowds close, and some try to entice the chicken to a certain square. A bingo elder proclaims that it may take up to an hour for the feed to make its way back to the board.
Today the excitement lasts only a quarter of an hour. When Sissy’s bottom begins to wag like a feather duster, the crowd cheers even more wildly than before. Clicks and claps and guttural quakes render the bystanders animals themselves as they try one last attempt at chicken coaxing. Finally, Sissy sputters and plops an answer onto a square.
Upon declaring number six a winner, the musicians take up their tunes. The singer brings number six forward and introduces him to the crowd. Where was number six from? New York. Did he know that he could buy forty Lone Stars with all that prize money? Number six just grins and shuffles back to his seat. The band plays on, and the queue forms again.