Skip to comments.Lajitas (TX) takes wounding of its mayor seriously - (Mayor castrated in attack)
Posted on 08/06/2002 5:08:04 AM PDT by Damocles
Lajitas takes wounding of its mayor -- a goat -- seriously By Jim Yardley
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Monday, August 5, 2002
LAJITAS -- This isolated place along the Rio Grande in West Texas is called the end of the road, but it might as well be the end of the world. The closest commercial airport is five hours away. Cell phones do not work. There is no municipal government, and the elected mayor has no powers or duties, which is fortunate, because the mayor is a goat.
Not a goat in figurative terms but a real goat, Clay Henry III. He is admittedly a symbolic figure, a mascot of sorts, a publicity tool. He does not involve himself with zoning or ribbon cuttings. He is not a strategic planner.
His claim to fame is that he drinks beer.
Yet anyone who doubts his standing in Brewster County need only come to the county courthouse in Alpine this month, when a defendant is scheduled to be tried on state felony charges for grievously wounding Clay Henry in a knife attack. Clay Henry has healed, but the sheriff has preserved a piece of the goat's anatomy as evidence. To put it indelicately, Clay Henry was castrated.
"It's serious business to anybody," said the Brewster County sheriff, Ronny Dodson, noting that the defendant could face jail time. "Clay Henry is one of the icons in our community." Of the accused, the sheriff added, "He thought it was a joke." In the southern part of the county, the sheriff said, people do not think it was that funny.
No, they do not. Clay Henry is a celebrity in Brewster County, a place where about 10,000 people live in an area larger than Connecticut. The breathtaking landscape has been discovered in recent years by artists, yuppies and others looking for a great escape. But the region still feels enough like the Old West that the defendant, Jim Bob Hargrove of Val Verde County, should consider himself fortunate that modern jurisprudence prevails.
"They wanted to lynch the guy," said Roger Gibson, who owned Clay Henry's predecessor, Clay Henry Jr. "Clay Henry is an institution in West Texas."
Clay Henry I, the most famous of the Clay Henry mayors, belonged to the Lajitas Trading Post and earned a reputation in the 1970s for having a thirst for beer.
"The goat would walk around by the pool table, and he would take a beer off the table if you didn't give him one," Dodson recalled. "Even when I was a kid down on the river, we'd give beer to the goat."
Clay Henry's popularity and common appeal made him a natural for politics. His first race came in the 1980s, by which time Lajitas was less a town than a resort owned by a prominent Houston businessman, Walter Mischer. Late one night, Mischer and a group of his Houston friends jokingly elected one of their own, a wealthy developer, as mayor of Lajitas, a gesture that offended at least one of the locals.
"I decided that if somebody from Houston can be mayor of Lajitas, then why not my goat?" said Bill Ivey, who then owned the trading post as well as Clay Henry.
The contest of goat versus developer became an irresistible spectacle for the media. Ivey said more than 1,200 "votes" arrived from around the world for Clay Henry. (The election had no apparent precincts or boundaries.)
When the final votes were counted, the Houston crowd, apparently annoyed, placed a Houston phone book on the table as a bloc vote and declared victory. The Supreme Court was not consulted, and in a quieter election a few years later, Clay Henry won handily.
His responsibilities consisted of being available for tourists who wanted a peek at the beer-drinking goat. But he did apparently affix his hoof print to at least one piece of legislation introduced at the Capitol. Ivey said the goat appeared in movies, drank beers with country music stars such as Willie Nelson and held office until the early 1990s. Then at age 23, he died after fighting with a younger goat over the affections of a nanny. Today, Ivey has him stuffed, a beer bottle wedged in his open mouth.
Clay Henry's son, Clay Jr., had a shorter tenure and left office in 1998. For a while, the trading post was without a goat and the town was without a mayor, until tourists visiting the resort demanded a successor. Clay Henry III officially became mayor in 2000, winning an election against a field that included a wooden Indian and a dog named Clyde.
His blood connection to his predecessors is dubious, but Clay Henry III shares their taste for beer. He lives in a fancy pen beside the trading post and paces back and forth, excitedly, when a person approaches with a cold one. (A sign in the trading post says the mayor prefers the Lone Star brand.)
It was Clay Henry's thirst that prompted his attack, according to the sheriff. On a Sunday in November, the new owner of the resort, Steve Smith, wanted to show a few visitors how Clay Henry drinks beer.
Blue laws prevented him from buying one at the trading post, so Smith asked two men sitting nearby for a bottle. They obliged, but the sheriff said one of the men was offended that Smith had given a perfectly good beer to a goat.
Later that day, witnesses overheard Hargrove boasting that he planned to go back and castrate Clay Henry. The sheriff said Clay Henry was found in a pool of blood the next morning. Housekeepers cleaning the condominium where Hargrove had stayed found something in the refrigerator. Dodson says it was Clay Henry's testicle. Hargrove could not be reached for comment.
For now, Clay Henry does not seem very vengeful. He is back in his pen, happily drinking beers when they come his way.
I love Texas humor!
I'll second that. Everyone stay where you are. Stay out of West Texas it's toooooooo dangerous for tenderfeet.
C'mon, help me out here. EVERYTHING West of Austin is uninhabitable to humans.
Great place, straight out of a John Wayne movie, although I understand that it has really grown since I was last there in the 1980's.
Clay Henry took the assault hard.
I know they like the warmth of the asphalt after a rain, the roads will be covered with them. I also remember my granddad talking about shaking tarantulas off his pants leg as he hoed his cotton rows, but that was in north Texas.
Guess you've never seen Palo Duro Canyon in the morning or antelope off the caprock. Marble Falls is a pretty neat place too. The sand dunes around Monahans was great place to go sand boarding as a kid I remember. And there is just something about the Big Country around Abilene, it just sort of draws you into it. You can stand on a slight rise and see nothing but miles of Texas, (the real Texas).
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