Tito was always giving me these Texas history lessons, but it was mostly stuff I already knew, the basic shit they taught us in 7th grade like how William B. Travis was one of the first people to die in the Siege of the Alamo, etc. He acted like we weren’t in San Antonio where it went down, like I hadn’t stood where martyrs fell, like I couldn’t pick Santa Anna out of a crowd of Mexicans if they were walking down the street, like I didn’t go to Barbara Bush middle school with him and Barbara didn’t visit and bring then governor George W. with her and he didn’t come into my classroom. He acted like I hadn’t touched the walls of the original Pearl brewery and the original Lone Star brewery, like my dad didn’t have a replica of the 1824 flag hanging in our living room behind glass with fake bullet holes burned into it (during the revolution some Texans stole a Mexican flag and sewed “1824” over the eagle-sitting-on-a-cactus-with-a-snake-in-its-mouth, or something). Plus I drove a V-8 Chevy with 33-inch tires, and he drove a goddamn Civic Hatchback.
Despite having the name Tito Garcia, he was as white as the sugar cubes I fed the horses at my grandpa’s slice of King’s Ranch, probably the biggest ranch in the fucking world. Once I hung the Texas flag in Tito’s room upside-down, and he didn’t notice for two months. He said a real Texan, out of principle, wouldn’t have hung it upside down even as a joke.
It was during the last gasp of a Friday night kegger at Tito’s house that we went after each other’s heritage. It was 4AM, and the last girl had left long ago, and it came down to four dudes playing beer pong, like it always did. Scott and I kept losing to Tito and Tanner, which should never happen, I thought. Tito had a toothpick in his mouth and was talking with an exaggerated accent because he was drunk, and he started on about his grandpa’s ranch and how they had cows and goats and horses out there. That fucking ranch, he always came back to it. He had nothing without it. I had to go after him.
I started with the standard measuring stick. “I’m at least 7th generation on my daddy’s side. He can’t trace past that so I could be more,” I said and looked at Tanner and Scott who seemed somewhat impressed. According to my logic that was around the time of independence, which meant that if one or more of my relatives didn’t die defending the Alamo, they were at least somehow heavily involved in the movement. Tito countered by saying that the generation number was superficial and could be misleading. His family had kids in their 30s instead of their 20s like most people did at that time.
“My great grandma was born in 1888,” he said.
“Mine was born in 1875,” I said, lying. Scott and Tanner laughed and shook their heads and walked out of the room, and it was just the two of us. We each took a big gulp of Lone Star.
Tito: My great-great grandpa helped settle New Braunfels.
Me: My granny lived in Cisco and would go out and kill a chicken for supper when she was six years old, and she’d churn butter too. My granddad would slaughter a pig on Sundays and cure it and hang it in the smokehouse.
Tito: After it rained, my grandpa would drive down to Cotulla and pick the shrooms that grow on cow shit, and they would go to this bar and trade shrooms for beer.
Me: My dad’s first job was picking cotton (he lasted two days and didn’t make enough to cover the cost of his cotton picking bag), and his second was loading hay onto a truck.
Tito: After he got back from Korea, my uncle went to Southwest and they would spotlight deer and shoot them in the eye with a .22 and take them back to the dorms and chop them up.
Me: I was at Arnold when I went, one of the oldest dorms. Could’ve been the same one. Apparently the year before my freshman year, a deer got on the roof of Arnold somehow and it fell off and broke its neck, and a campus cop had to shoot it in the head.
I was pretty sure a cop shot it. Seems like the right thing to do.
Tito: LBJ came out to the ranch in ’47, and John Connally had his ranch behind ours, and he brought Nelson Rockefeller out there once and also the grandson of the original Coors beer guy. They all drove up one day in the 60s. John Connally was the governor of Texas at the time, and he was in the Lincoln with Kennedy when he got killed in Dallas. He got hit too and almost died but survived and became the US Treasurer.
Goddamnit, that’s good, I thought. He’s not a liar; he doesn’t lie like me. How did Tito know all this stuff? He’s the dumbest guy I’m good friends with; I once convinced him Mopac Expressway in Austin was named Mopac because traffic on I-35 was so bad, they had to build another highway to Pack Mo’ people on the roads. Pack-Mo. Mo-pac…
I felt myself grasping…
Me: Black people weren’t allowed in my granddad’s town after dark. He didn’t see a black person until he was 18.
Probably wrong to brag about the racism of the place where a relative grew up. My granddad isn’t racist, so it’s okay? “I don’t know how they justified that,” he’d said.
Tito: My ranch is by this shitty little town, Elmendorf, and a few years ago my granddad drove me there and pointed out an old, abandoned building and said in the 30s it was a saloon called “The Sociable Inn.” It was run by a man named Joe Ball who supposedly killed his wife and some of the waitresses and had his handyman chop up the bodies and feed them to the alligators he kept out back. He would charge admission for people to watch the gators eat live dogs and cats and shit. “The Beast of Elmendorf.” Look it up.
Damn, fed them to alligators too, damn. Charged admission, fuck, I thought.
Me: My great-great-great granddaddy was shot at the Alamo and he fell off the top and landed in a bed of bluebonnets and whispered “Remember…” then just fucking died.
We laughed, but we both knew I’d conceded. Tito was more Texan than me, and I had to go outside and smoke a cigarette about it. A few minutes later he stepped out, and just to throw salt in the wound, he invited me to come out to the ranch. He’d invited me countless times before, but I’d always declined because I knew I would go crazy from him telling me the backstory of every trail and water pump on the property. My will broken, I finally agreed.
We took the 30-minute trip southeast and walked on Connally’s ranch where LBJ walked. He showed me the cows and the six remaining goats. We rode the 4-wheelers, and I watched him shoot beer cans and cacti with a 12-gauge. He showed me the barn where his grandpa once kept 10,000 chickens until cheap eggs from California forced him to sell them all. Afterwards Tito’s uncle told him that before they were sold off, he went in the barn while Grandpa was gone and opened fire into the cages with a shotgun for the hell of it.
Turns out no one really knows exactly where the “The Sociable Inn” is/was, only that it’s somewhere near US 181. Well, to be honest I didn’t try too hard to figure it out. I did a few Google searches and tried calling the Elmendorf town hall, but it was past business hours. I get the impression the saloon was torn down long before Tito or I were born. We figured his grandpa just pointed to a random abandoned building to enhance the story. I invite any young, ambitious documentary filmmaker out there to dig up the truth and make a movie and name it “Catching the Beast of Elmendorf,” or something.
 Not to be confused with “The Elmendorf Beast,” the monster that went on a livestock-killing rampage in 2004. Chupacabra endured false accusations from the local community and media until the beast was found to be just a coyote with advanced mange. If you don’t know about Chupacabra, I don’t know what to tell you.
Photo By: Steven Ng