Texas

More omniscient observers than I, their duty being to chronicle the great trends in society, have already told you of the passing of Texas Chic.

You know the story. Boots and hats are out. Gilley's nightclub has gone commercial. Mechanical bulls have been declared hazardous to your health. Even J.R. Ewing on "Dallas" isn't quite as tough as he used to be.

All that is well and good, and I'm sure sorry I wasn't the first to point it out to you. Great careers are supposedly made that way in this business.

But I have just one question for these scribes of pop culture: If Texas Chic is dead, why are all these people dancing?

I'm referring, of course, to all these people here at the Short Horn Lounge who are two-stepping themselves toward an early grave to the music of a captivating group known as Tommy Hancock and the SuperNatural Family Band.

If this were old time Texas during the days of Chic, the Short Horn would be called a roadhouse, the kind of place where Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys or Pappy O'Daniel and the Light Crust Doughboys once played.

But in the 1980s, the Short Horn appears to be an aging relic, a little old place squeezed in next to a massage parlor a few miles north of the state Capitol.

It's not the sort of place you would just happen to drop into, or take your mother to see.

Basically it's a bar. There are a few tables with straight-back chairs, a pool room with four tables at 50 cents to the game, a linoleum dance floor and some space for the band.

To put the Short Horn into some perspective, you could say it is to Gilley's as Bill Graham's Fillmore West auditorium dance hall was to the elegant Aragon Ballroom, or you could just say it was country when country wasn't cool.

But don't be fooled. In Texas, it's hardly unique.

Tommy Hancock, however, may be unique. He's an aging hippie, a benevolent Timothy Leary with an electric fiddle, long, white hair tucked under a cowboy hat, blue jeans, a black cut-off shirt over a barrel chest and the kind of cheekbones that suggest Indian blood.

The "family" is Tommy's: his wife, two gorgeous daughters, a handsome son, and then another fellow pounding away on the electric bass.

And the supernatural?

Well, you ought to see this crowd. Young and old, blue collar and white, Anglo and Chicano, even a table of young folks from one of the state schools for the disabled who are bouncing around the floor with enough energy to make John Travolta look like a piker.

Tommy and family are so supernatural that even my wife is relaxed and smiling as I glide her across the floor. She's been afraid to dance with me since I tried to do the polka wearing hiking boots at the German Club in Indianapolis many years ago.

Even I can look good on this dance floor, which one of the waitresses has just sprinkled with that powder that makes any surface slick and slippery.

There's one couple dancing here who are the envy of us all.

They're each a little bulky, but to see them is to understand the concept of twin-whatever-it-is suspension on cars and trucks. Their feet are making wonderful music, but from the waist up, they're floating on air.

They're absolutely marvelous. "We've only been at it five years," the woman tells my wife.

During the evening, Tommy mixes country and western with some solid rock and roll, interspersed with guest singers from the audience who are so good they have to be ringers. At the end of the second set, after an exuberant rendition of the Mexican Hat Dance, Tommy offers everyone a chance to dip into his coffee can for a purple feather as a memento.

It's a 1960s happening in a Texas roadhouse.

So the next time you read one of those pieces about the death of Texas Chic, think of Tommy and the Short Horn Lounge, and don't be embarrassed if you start to reach for your cowboy hat and put those feet to dancing.

Nothing truly Texan ever really dies.