Thursday, September 20, 2018

Spider Grip & Uncle Reba Joe: The Eagle Pass Biographies Revisited

One of the best memories I have of our friendship with Blackjack Mulligan in the last years before his passing was his emails about the characters he used to mention in his promos for the local matches. From the first time we were fortunate enough to get to know him, we told him how much we loved hearing those references in his local promos for matches we grew up attending - - David in Richmond, VA, or the few shows I got to see in those years in Asheville, NC, and Spartanburg, SC.

When working with him on his (now defunct) website, Blackjack's BBQ, I asked him to relate some of the background detail on some of these characters, many of whom were based on actual people Blackjack had known in his life. He had a great time doing it, and the result were these short passages that we include here as the "Eagle Pass Biographies."

The "Eagle Pass Biographies" take a humorous look at those legendary West Texas characters from the fertile mind and imagination of Blackjack Mulligan. All of these names appeared in his TV promos back in the 1970s and 1980s, some more than others.

Part fact, part fiction. True lies and alibis.  
 - D. Bourne

by Blackjack Mulligan
As told to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Uncle Reba Joe could best be described as wild as the west Texas wind! If one has ever seen the movie "Hud" with Paul Newman, then you know my Uncle Reba Joe.

He was raised on a ranch in Cross Plains, Texas in Callahan County Bright red hair, wore a flowery western shirt with the sleeves half rolled up, and a pair of the fanciest western boots you ever seen called Apache Flower. Had his pants tucked in the boots and a large silver buckle he won at the Concho County rodeo for bull ridin'. He was always driving an old Cadillac convertible with the top down come rain or shine. Always had 2 or 3 senoritas with him. He loved Jack Daniels, women, and fightin' - not sure in which order, didn't seem to matter!

Well Uncle Reba Joe was the coolest thing I had ever seen and he was (unfortunately) my hero. He took me to Mexico with him one weekend and there in Rosie's Cantina I fell in love with a 50 year old senorita and wanted to marry her. I was 13. Uncle Reba Joe had to drag me outta there. He assured me there would be others. Not that I knew what to do!

We had a large family and every year Uncle Reba Joe and Uncle Red would get in a fight at our family reunion. Uncle Reba Joe would promise every year no drinkin' or womanizing, and Uncle Red, Christian man he was, burly 6'5'' medal of honor winner in World War II,  didn't stand for no B.S.! Well every year Uncle Reba Joe would get to drinkin' and messin' round with all the women folk and call out Uncle Red. And every year Uncle Red would K.O. Uncle Reba Joe and we would have to carry him to his Cadillac! My Hero!!

Sara Jo Puckett was voted the Concho County Rodeo Queen and from that moment on, fame and fortune would lead the path to wealth and eventually back to running her own saloon in Eagle Pass, Texas. I actually found her there while working on a ranch in Concho County during summer break. She accompanied me back to Odessa and went to work at the Ace O' Clubs.  I had to return to school, but our lives crossed paths many times throughout the years.

She was a Dolly Parton look-alike, an unbelievable beauty.  Down through the years she would call me, and to the rescue Blackjack would come, rescuing her from gamblers, bums, sheriffs, and rift raft! As the years passed, her beauty started to fade and Blackjack decided to immortalize her in promos and interviews.  She took on a few pounds over the years, but the beauty was still there. I actually took her to Madison Square Garden and few other places so she could go home and have braggin' rights!

Never a prettier woman; she could ride a bull, chew tobacco, drink whiskey, back you up in a fight, and all the things a good woman does! WOW, what a woman!

Spider was raised somewhere in Concho County, Texas (county seat is Paint Rock, population 231, about 200 miles southwest of Dallas). He just showed up one day. He stood about 6'1" weighed about 135 lbs. and was the rangiest looking critter that I ever did see. Looked like it had been a while since Spider had had a bath.

Spider was working as a ranch hand and moon-lighted as a rodeo clown for the RCA (Rodeo Cowboys Association), keeping the bulls away from the thrown riders.

I had met Spider while working on a ranch as a youngster. He was the toughest man I ever saw. A water moccasin bit him one day at the crik. Spider just grabbed him and bit his head off, sucked the venom out of the bite, and kept on working...and then he told me to get back to work!

Spider got gored by a bull named Chilli Dog and died shortly afterwards.

See the complete set of the "Eagle Pass Biogrphies" by clicking here. 

More great memories of the legendary Blackjack Mulligan on the pages of 

now hosted on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

The Eagle Pass Biographies were passed along from Robert Windham to Dick Bourne in emails and phone conversations in October and November of 2006. 
Originally posted on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in 2006.
Copyright © Robert Windham and The Mid-Atlantic Gateway