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© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002
LAJITAS, Texas -- Until a few days ago, I had never drunk beer with the mayor of a town of any size. Well, I just had the pleasure of swilling a few cold longneck Coronas (no lime) with The Mayor of Lajitas (his official name).
Along the Rio Grande River, outside Big Bend National Park and nestled among canyons, mesas and mule ears, this town of about 100 residents bakes in the sun year round.
It is so isolated that cell phones do not receive signals. You must drive more than five hours to get to the nearest commercial airport. In southern Brewster County, Lajitas literally is the end of the line. From the Lajitas Trading Post, you can throw a stone into Mexico.
Which could be one reason that The Mayor -- the world-famous Clay Henry III -- is a strapping mountain goat with a people-loving disposition.
Oh, yes, and Claytie, as he is affectionately called by locals, guzzles beer. Lots of beer. He is not picky. He will take beer from anyone who will share. Everyone knows that Hizzoner III prefers Texas' own Lone Star brew.
This Clay Henry is the third Claytie to be The Mayor of Lajitas. Clay Henry Sr., the first goat mayor, was elected in the 1980s and held office until his death in the mid-1990s, at age 23. He was killed in a fight over a nanny with a much younger goat. By the way, he was killed by today's Claytie III.
I have gotten ahead of myself.
Clay Henry Jr. was next in line to be The Mayor of Lajitas. He left office in 1998 and was replaced by III.
Here is how you drink with The Mayor: All you do is walk up to the pen, where Clay Henry already has his beautiful head thrown back and his lips moving. Simply put the bottle in his mouth, and Hizzoner does the rest. He takes the bottle, tosses his head a few times and gulps. When the bottle is empty, he spits it out and prepares for the next round.
You should know that Clay Henry Sr. still holds the record for drinking the most longnecks a day -- 35-40.
If Claytie III's beer drinking and political position were not enough to make him famous, an incident during November of 2001 made him a sympathetic international star: The Mayor of Lajitas was rudely castrated.
Here is what went down: On a Sunday morning, Steve Smith, an Austin developer and owner of Lajitas Resort in the Big Bend, was carousing with friends and decided to buy a beer for Clay Henry. You cannot buy beer until noon on Sunday in Lajitas. Smith walked outside and spotted some men drinking expensive Mexican beer under an arbor a few yards from the building. The men were not on the trading post's property, and they had bought the beer the day before. They, therefore, were not subject to the blue law.
Well, Smith asked one of the men, Jim Bob Hargrove, to lend him a beer. He would return the favor after noon. Hargrove gave Smith a beer, who gave it to Clay Henry. The thirsty goat drained the bottle and spat it out. Smith and his party celebrated and headed for the Lajitas airstrip, where Smith's private jet waited to whisk them back to Austin.
Hargrove was insulted that Smith, a rich dandy, had given his premium beer to a mere goat. Then and there, he decided to avenge Smith's slight. That night, Hargrove is said to have cut off The Mayor's testicles, put them a bag and placed them in a refrigerator in a condo.
Poor Clay Henry, bleeding and near death, was found the next morning. Animal rescuers treated him, and he recovered -- not fully, of course.
Hargrove was tried and acquitted of animal cruelty. Several men on the jury said they just did not have the stomach to send a man to jail for doing something to an animal that is done all the time.
Many people in Brewster County thought differently. They wanted to hang Hargrove for maiming The Mayor.
Brewster County sheriff Ronny Dodson: "It's serious business to anybody. Clay Henry is one of the icons of our community."
Roger Gibson, who owned Clay Henry Jr.: "Clay Henry is an institution in West Texas."
I would love to return to Lajitas and explore Big Bend National Park. If I do, you can bet I will visit The Mayor. He is one heck of a drinking buddy -- even though he is not the goat he used to be.