If you think bingo is for suckers, then you obviously haven’t tried the kind that involves chicken poop, bluegrass music, and a lot of beer. Admittedly, chicken shit bingo is not the kind of activity I sought when I was first settling in to Austin. I was even a little incredulous that the game really existed when my new friend, and local guide, Stephen casually tucked “chicken shit bingo” in among other more genial local activities, like swimming at Barton Springs and strolling along South Congress. Nevertheless, six months later, I can assure you that it does exist, and it’s a little nuts.
Having finally conquered the local spectacle that is Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon chicken shit bingo, I will offer the following tips for other newcomers to the “sport”:
1. Get there early — but not too early. I arrived with my friend Lani around 4 p.m. on a Sunday, the time advised by some seasoned ChiShiBi aficionado on another website. The action didn’t actually start until about 5 p.m., maybe a little later, but we were in line for that entire hour facing away from the live music and just out of reach of the free…
Boiled Hot Dogs. Ginny, who still works the bar, puts a platter of hotdogs out with a number of fixin’s (ketchup, sliced white onion, buns…). If you want to offset the stress of waiting in line for your bingo ticket, you might consider grabbing a dog or two to nosh on in the meanwhile.
3. Bingo tickets, literally old-fashioned movie tickets with a number quickly scribbled on the back, cost $2 each and come at a limit of one per customer. This means that you can’t buy one for both you and your friend who is holding down your seats within eyeshot of the bird action. Plan accordingly.
4. When Ginny named her Longhorn Saloon “Little”, she wasn’t kidding. The place is small even for the rash of usual afternoon tipplers. But then you throw in the Lacoste-shirted co-eds, camera-heavy tourists (guilty), disgruntled tube-top ladies, and the bar staff itself —which includes many sturdy women, a small bluegrass ensemble lead by Dale Watson, and a chicken— it gets uncomfortable pretty quickly. Plan accordingly?
5. Getting the chicken to poop on your number = impossible. You just need to sit back and let the bozos up front work themselves into a clucking frenzy and cross your fingers that the bird isn’t constipated, as it appeared to be on the night we were there. There are 50 bingo squares, I think, onto which Ginny evenly sprinkles chicken feed at the onset of the round. The chicken just goes to town on this stuff, scratching away and occasionally darting after someone’s dangled finger, but mostly doing her unpredictable chicken thing in an uncontrollable manner. About 20 minutes into the affair, Dale Watson plays a slower tune with his boys, and a compact deuce the size of a green grape finally falls unceremoniously out of the chicken and onto someone else’s square. They will then turn in their winning ticket for, I’ve estimated, around $200. Meanwhile you beat a hasty retreat through the thick crowd to bright, white daylight and your vehicle, which is hotter than a brick oven and parked a block away despite how early you showed up.
6. Needless to say, once it’s been determined that there has been an official bowel movement, people go crazy regardless of whether or not it landed on the number they wanted. I mean, I never even determined where my number (49) was on the board but was (sort of) content just to be able to see the bird working her barnyard magic in such an unlikely setting. It just goes to show that, even with money at stake, the heart-and-soul of the experience is that 50 people, mostly strangers, have come together in a cramped, musty bar to raise their Lone Stars and Shiners to an oft-underappreciated ritual. Who needs multiplex entertainment centers when you can, beer in hand, watch a bird shit on a board for (almost) free?