Monday, August 24, 2009

The Chicken Ranch

There has been a lot of publicity about the Chicken Ranch, the country whorehouse at LaGrange, including a magazine article, a play and a movie. It was the favorite destination of students from Texas A&M when the college was all male. I first visited the Chicken Ranch a number of years ago when a murder trial was transferred from Houston to LaGrange by a district judge. The sheriff was Will Loessin, a popular man who served as sheriff for 20 years. During a recess in the trial, the jurors appeared to be divided. The sheriff called us together -- six journalists from the major newspapers of Texas -- and told us he was going to take us on a tour of the area. The tour was a visit to the Chicken Ranch. Those of us who made the trip included Margaret Mayer of the Austin American, Dawson Duncan of the Dallas Morning News, myself and several others. We were introduced to Miss Jessie, the madam of the whorehouse, who told us her life story. Shehad started out hustling in the oil boom at Longview, where she was robbed and beaten. She had been madam at the Chicken Ranch for a long time. The sheriff bought us a round of drinks while she told her story, and about five young women, wearing shorts, joined our group. In the beginning, during the Depression, money was scarce, and the farmers brought several chickens to pay for their visit. That is where the name Chicken Ranch came from.

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