Author’s note: Growing Up Wild has a book within the book entitled Alex’s Restaurant. This is an excerpt from the book inside the book.
Big Dog’s mama didn’t really name him that. She named him after his two grandpappies, Brian O’Shannahan and David Broadwater, but neither name stuck as well as his initials did, because Brian David Broadwater grew up in Texas, and only his mama called him Brian David. His papa and everybody else in Dripping Springs called him B.D.
It was his genes that made him big, descended from big people in a big place. When B.D. Broadwater walked onto the hallowed ground of Longhorn Stadium as a redshirt freshman for the University of Texas football team one August day, an assistant coach looked at him and said, “Now, that is one big dog.”
Two years later, a deception play made its way into the University of Texas football playbook called “Big Dog Up The Middle.” Big Dog was a blocking tight end, but on this play, used just once and in desperate times, he set up next to the quarterback. The Oklahoma State defense, thinking he was an extra pass blocker, brought the safety up and sent him and the middle linebacker on a blitz, but the center snapped the ball direct to Big Dog and he let the linebacker come by and rumbled 35 yards for a touchdown, the only score of his college career.
At the party afterward, he met his first wife.
She divorced him sixteen years later when she got tired of living on the wages of a Texas Ranger and had found a wildcat oilman with more money than God. In the divorce, B.D. kept the two kids and gave her nothing except grief for leaving him.
He raised his son and daughter as best as he could, but they always seemed to be in trouble. Cecile, the oldest, was pregnant and married when she was 17, causing B.D. a certain amount of grief, and also a great deal of relief. He actually kind of liked the kid who married her, though he was by no means sure it was the baby’s father. It didn’t matter to Tony, because he adored Cecile, gorgeous little airhead that she was, and 15 years later, they were still married, with a couple more kids.
By the time Davey was a senior in high school, B.D. had gone bail for him twice. The third time, he let him sit in jail for a week before he even went to see him. After the boy read him the riot act for being a rotten excuse for a father, he let him sit there for another week.
The charge was somewhat serious in Texas in those days, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Davey was 18, and the law said he was old enough to do hard time, 1 to 5 for selling an undercover cop two joints at a party where kids upstairs with the doors locked were snorting up thousands of dollars worth of their daddy’s cocaine. Blind justice.
In deference to his father, the judge gave Davey a choice, medium security penitentiary for 6 months, or three years in the Army. B.D. held his breath for the full two minutes the boy conferred with his court-appointed lawyer, expelled a sigh and gathered in a sob when Davey chose the Army.
Fourteen years later, Davey was a Captain in the Special Forces, not quite as big as his dad, but just as strong. B.D. was proud as hell of him, a pride made bittersweet because after the trial, Davey had never spoken to his dad again.
B.D. had a couple of UT buddies in the service, and they kept up with his son for him. He had his grandkids and a little one-bedroom house with a nice yard and a big willow tree with a swing in it in Dripping Springs. He drank a lot of beer in his back yard, followed UT like it was a form of religion, and tried to be a good cop.
All in all, B.D. spent 25 years prying himself in and out of patrol cars, listening to excuses and being tempted by bribes, neither of which he ever accepted, no matter how big the bill or pretty the eyes.
On his last day of patrolling the freeway between Austin and San Antonio, he stopped a red, 1971 Volkswagen Bug for doing 90 in a federally mandated 55-mile-per-hour zone, and that was how he met his second wife.
Big Dog never drank on duty when he was a cop, but now he drank on duty any time he worked the bar. Lucky for him and Cottonwood Canyon Lodge, he only worked the bar a couple of busy afternoons when he didn’t have time to drink a lot and two graveyard shifts a week. Nobody else would cover the graveyard shifts, and Bandy wouldn’t think of closing for a moment. That sign in the window, “Open 24 Hours,” was Bandy’s idea, and when Bandy had an idea, she never backed off of it.
Bandy was the woman who had been driving the Volkswagen.
Her real name had been lost somewhere long before she met B.D. and he knew it must be a doozey, because “Bandy” was a reference to her shapely but bowed legs —courtesy growing up on a horse — and she readily admitted that, but there was no way in God’s green earth she would tell him what her real name was.
Legs notwithstanding, Bandy was an incredibly beautiful woman in her prime, which is where she was when she first caught sight of Big Dog in his Texas Ranger uniform trying to get out of his Ford gracefully. After he quit unfolding, and began walking toward her in her side view mirror, she got such a rush of lust that she thought she was going to faint for a second, and she got the idea that she was going to marry this big honyocker, and when Bandy had an idea . . .
She didn’t try to talk him out of the ticket. Instead, she called a lawyer she knew and told him he could make the easiest grand he ever had by showing up with her to contest the most dead-to-rights ticket she had ever gotten, and she had gotten more than a few. The lawyer did not argue with her, but easy as it was, it was not the easiest grand he had ever made. He was a lawyer in Austin, Texas, after all.
B.D. showed up in court in a fearful mood. He was supposed to be officially retired a week, and here he was testifying against a dipshit woman who happened to be as beautiful as any he had ever met, but had a couple of screws loose if she thought she was going to get off. Why she would pay a lawyer to defend her against a charge that was going to cost her $300 anyway was a complete mystery, and on top of that, she was ruining a trip to the Gulf for red fish that he had been planning for two years.
“Well, Big Dog, who’s more stubborn than you?” asked the assistant prosecutor when he griped. “You could have given a deposition and gone fishing.”
“Lawyer woulda found something wrong with it and that pansy judge woulda thown it out.”
“And the world would be unsafe for all the thousands she drives by every day.”
“Shuddup, Ricky. Let’s just do this, so I can get the hell out of here and go to Galveston.”
That made B.D. wince, because he knew it was probably the last time anybody would call him “Officer,” ever, and the future loomed on the other side of that red fish trip like a Panhandle thunderhead, full of who knows what. He toyed with his badge, and looked at the hat in his hand.
Well, dammit, he thought. This woulda been so easy last week.
He looked up as Bandy walked in, and looked away when she smiled sweetly in his direction.
Goddammit, he thought, but he remembered that her eyes were very, very blue.
The hearing was very, very short. The judge read Bandy the riot act for taking up the precious time of the court to deal with something so cut-and-dried frivolous, which somehow got through her hard head, and she left the courtroom sniffling.
When he walked out, B.D. was even more disgusted than he had been, so when he heard her calling him — the assistant prosecutor was not the last person to call him “Officer,” after all — he just kept walking.
Then he heard the clickety-click of her high heels as she came running down the tile hallway and then a small scream. Something slid into the back of his knees and he went down in a heap on top of what he immediately knew was the crazy woman who had ruined the first week of his retirement. Hell, he could smell her perfume before he even got focused enough on her to begin to tell her just what he thought.
They untangled. Half the legal system of Austin stood and watched with a big grin on its collective face as Big Dog got to his feet and pulled Bandy to hers. He had his jaw set and his lips clamped together so all the undignified things he was thinking wouldn’t escape while he was in uniform. Her mouth was going a mile a minute, trying to apologize for open-field tackling him and tell him she was so sorry about speeding, and wouldn’t do it again, and even more sorry for dragging him into court for no good reason. She was still talking and probably would have continued to if B.D. hadn’t held up one big index finger and put it to his lips. A few more words trickled out of her, and then she shut up.
Bandy had known he was big, but even she was not prepared for the difference in their sizes. With her three-inch heels on, she was still 13 inches shorter than B.D., and she weighed 110 pounds, soaking wet.
B.D. took off his badge and put it in his hat. He handed them, the two apparent symbols of his authority as a protector of the peace and an officer of the Department of Public Safety in the great state of Texas, to a bailiff he happened to know. Having divested himself of any official capacity, and all vestiges of law enforcement (excepting the two-shot .38 derringer tucked into the top of his right boot), he proceeded to filet Bandy in front of witnesses.
Without uttering the same insult twice, and with absolutely no profanities, he explained to her why it would be better if she dropped off the edge of the world, that featherheads like her were the main problem with the legal system and traffic in Texas, and probably caused cedar fever. He explained to her that she had ruined more of his life in ten days than his ex-wife had ruined in 16 years, and if he was the judge in that courtroom, he would have put her in jail for her own safety, as well as the welfare of everyone else in Texas. He told her that she must be as daft as she was beautiful (she perked up when he said she was beautiful), and that if he ever saw her again, it would be two weeks too soon, and when hell froze over, he would begin to think nice thoughts about her.
“Next time, lady, do Texas a favor, and make a run for it.” he concluded. “We’ll give you an escort to Mexico.”
He held out his hand, the bailiff put his hat in it, and Big Dog stomped off down the hall fishing out his badge. He was about to pin it back on, but he remembered he wasn’t a Texas Ranger any more, that his last official duty was taken care of, that he was walking off into some great unknown, and the dimwit in the pretty blue dress behind him was making his last day on the job a spectacle.
He stopped and turned around. She was still standing in the middle of the hall staring after him, just starting to cry, and he said, “Lady. If anyone’s got a right to cry today, it’s me. It’s the last day of my career and I had to waste it dealin’ with you.”
He resisted the urge to send his badge spinning down the polished floor at her, and put it in his shirt pocket. “Goddamit,” he said. Then, he walked out of the courthouse, got in his pickup and drove to Galveston and went fishing.