- By John Kelso
The T-shirt message says, “If Your Wife Drives You to Drink Have Her Drive You To Giddy Ups Saloon.”
What’s been driving Giddy Ups’ owner Nancy Morgan to drink lately is the money she owes for attorney fees and the settlement of a civil lawsuit she won’t discuss as part of the settlement.
Nancy figures she needs $18,000 to keep her bar open, which is a lot of Bud Lights. So to help raise the dough, this old-fashioned beer joint with a liquor license, located way down at 12010 Manchaca Road in Manchaca, is holding a Fall Music Fest. The bands started playing Friday, and they’ll continue through Sunday night.
Bruce Springsteen didn’t make the list. Nobody invited him. What an oversight. But you’ve got the Redneck Boys, the Koolerators, Tottsie and the Flames, and Uranium Possum, to name a few.
Upscale doesn’t come to mind when you walk into Giddy Ups. Nothing under glass in this joint except the coasters.
Each year the bar puts on eight chili cookoffs, all of them to raise money for various charities. The bar even collects beer tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. Nancy keeps little paper houses with the Ronald McDonald brand printed on them on the tables. There’s a small hole in the top of each house. You stick your beer tab in the hole. The beer tabs go to the Ronald McDonald House to be recycled.
Then there’s Blue Santa — the Austin Police Department’s drive to gather toys for kids at Christmas. Thursday nights are open mic nights. Tips for the musicians on open mic night go to Blue Santa. Nancy says that since 2003, Giddy Ups has given $37,000 in musician tips to the Blue Santa cause.
Ironically, Nancy is now the cause at Giddy Ups.
Giddy Ups is sort of an old folks’ home with live music and a shuffleboard table. You don’t come in here to pick up chicks, unless you mean pick up literally. The place is definitely blue collar, though Nancy says it attracts everyone from “attorneys to cement truck drivers.”
Nancy pronounces cement “SEE-ment.”
Many of her regulars are known by their bar names. On Tuesday during the lunch hour, a guy who answers to Tomahawk came strolling in. Tomahawk wears a cowboy hat with a colorful headband. He makes headbands and jewelry and sells what he makes.
Then there was H-E-B Bill, a Giddy Ups fixture and the impetus behind Nancy starting a library in the bar with a book exchange. H-E-B Bill was an avid reader. “He read anything by Michener,” Nancy said.
Even Nancy has a bar name — Mom. That’s what her younger customers call her, since she’s the one who tells them to knock it off. Nancy has a reputation as somebody who’ll toss you if you get ugly in a no-ugly zone.
“Even when I get the young whippersnappers in here, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. This is my living room,’” she said. “‘Would you act like that in your mom’s living room?’ And it works.”
She says there hasn’t been a fight in here in 14 years. When there was a fight, she made them take it outside. Things happen in Giddy Ups that you won’t see at a downtown club. There used to be a riding arena across the road. Occasionally, some cowperson would ride into the bar on a horse.
“That’s why I put that rail out front, so they could tie their horses,” Nancy said.
Nancy bought Giddy Ups 15 years ago. She says the location has been a bar since the 1950s when Samuel H. Dodson put up the building. This was back in the days when Manchaca was rural and settled by black families. Dodson grew vegetables on the 4 acres behind the bar and butchered hogs.
Something’s always up at Giddy Ups — a shuffleboard or a washer pitching tournament. A couple of years ago there was the Movers Olympics, featuring guys in the moving business competing to see who could lug a couch across the yard the fastest.
Then there were the turkey shoots. (No turkeys are harmed during a turkey shoot.) People show up with shotguns and shoot at targets. But with all the subdivisions going in out here, the turkey shoots have gone away.
Let’s hope that Nancy’s supporters raise enough money so that Giddy Ups doesn’t go away, too.