The Devil’s Backbone Tavern, Fischer, Texas


Mortality is not regularly a young man’s game. Words and phrases such as “lasting impact” and “legacy” are usually reserved for those who have lived long enough to have created one without thinking all that much about it, or those unfortunate enough to meet their demise all too early. The idea that a legacy is something shared well after a person has left a setting either physically or in spirit contributes to the weight of the words used to describe what has been left behind. Ultimately, the name and the brand that one burnishes is indicative of the presence that have in a place and time of the lives surrounding it. Legacy is about creating something lasting well past the experience of one generation; something of a tradition that is handed down through time.

This week’s location in many ways has made it’s mark in earning the stripes of becoming a Texas staple. We made it to Fischer, Texas to stop over at The Devil’s Backbone Tavern, home of The Oldest Shuffleboard in Texas, as well as a laid back welcoming staff ready to share a story or two. The biker friendly dive is situated along a section of Highway known as “The Devil’s Backbone” for the highway’s twisting stretch of road and sweeping vistas that some claim to be Texas’ most haunted stretch of land.

My father has for longer than I have known him loved motorcycles. Something appeals to him about the open air and the freedom of speed along the open road. As a child, I remember going for rides with him, feeling the weight of the TxDOT approved helmet shielding me from the majority of elements. There is something exhilarating about the power of a motorcycle under you.

In my 20’s, I tried taking a motorcycle license course at a local Community College that would teach me the skills I would need to operate a motorcycle in the State of Texas. It was a full day course, half of which was spent indoors studying material and testing, the second half was a practical exam. I made it through the morning session, then it was time to “pony” up for the practical. I remember that the pavement was recently slicked by a light rain shower and that there was a real part of me with a healthy fear of tipping one of these loaner motorcycles over and being responsible for the bill. The class lined up alongside one another to check out the gear functions of the motorcycle.

When operating a motorcycle, statistically, it’s less likely the speed that ever hurts someone. It’s the acceleration and the stopping. Practically, as someone who works in risk management, the logic is not lost on me. However, as we all started lining the motorcycles up, I wasn’t the greatest at shifting gears, and the bike, while it should have been in neutral, was jumping forward because it was in first gear. Maybe it was logic, or a healthy amount of respect/fear that kicked in, but I opted to tap out. I wanted so badly to share in that love of motorcycles with my father, but learned that in that moment, I wasn’t ready for that experience.

The songwriter Todd Snider penned a song for The Devil’s Backbone Tavern, a ballad that tells a story of a young musician getting lost on the way to another town and instead finding himself in the small dancehall performing each week. There is a nod to Eddie Van Halen and The Van Halen Band that you should for sure listen to the record to find out about. While “The Ballad of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern” is on a live album not pressed to vinyl, I wanted to feature the Portland troubadour who in many ways put this place on our map today for the blog.

I picked up an anniversary pressing of Snider’s “Songs For The Daily Planet” which includes our featured track “I Spoke As A Child”. I was fortunate enough to see Todd perform a couple of years ago at the insistence of a friend/co-worker (Thanks Bubs!) and I honestly had an amazing time. Todd is a pretty consistent touring musician, who has some upcoming shows in Tomball for all of the Houston folks who follow the blog. I suggest you look into finding a show and having a great time. Todd is warm, funny, and relatable in story and song.

“I Spoke As A Child” stands out to me in the things that we place value in. From an early age, we teach our kids that they need good grades to get into good higher education schools, to find a good job and to live a good life. Sometimes to the point that we over program our own lives thinking that we will get ahead or be able to leave a stronger legacy. We juggle, as Snider sings “Debts and Doubts and Worries hanging over my head”. While I am thankful that I may not have all of that equation to constantly fight off, I am working on changing that narrative in my own life. I am focusing more on being intentional and meaningful in my words and actions, while also prioritizing the art of making time to relax. I think it’s the only way that I will be able to make it to a point that whenever I am unpredictably called elsewhere, it’s the kind of life people might remember long after I am gone.

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