The Myth of Jones: A column
By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – Comes now the Weekend of the Wieners, the dog days, the event that made Buda famous, such as it is. Buda becomes a destination thanks to funny sport, clever movie show posters, and, above everything else, a thoroughly engaged Lions Club.
The rest of us watch, wander and wonder around the scene in City Park, where the weekend of wiener dog races grew to such proportions last year that the Lions really couldn’t estimate the crowd, other than to say it was about as much as they could handle. Ballpark it at about 20,000 total. The Main Street restaurants like the extra money, even if it means they work a lot harder.
But it’s the Buda Lions who push, pull, prod and promote to make the weekend such an easy pleasure. Wiener Dog Weekend is at once crowded and cozy, largely because the Lions Club doesn’t try to gag us with sap and sugar. They just put on the show and leave us alone.
So often, the assembly of a crowd makes promoters contrive to tug at heartstrings and affect some kind of teary pathos. It happens at ball games, political conventions, and big concert happenings. The showboats can’t resist touting some higher moral or emotional purposes, no matter how remote they may be.
But the Lions bring thousands to Buda, tens of thousands, and never make you suspect that you’re having a good time for a larger cause. Sentimentality takes a holiday at the wiener dog races. Sentimentality should take more holidays, about 300 more every year.
You wouldn’t know it if you didn’t ask, but the Lions Club is raising money to buy eyeglasses for children, fund scholarships and send kids to summer camp. Think about little kids in school, maybe they come from less fortunate families and can’t afford eyeglasses, so they can’t see the blackboard or read the book right in front of them. They really need help, and the Lions bring it.
But the Lions won’t make you go there this weekend. You’ll just think you’re watching the goofy races, saying howdy to your friends and breathing the happening. You’ll just think you’re walking through Buda’s day in the sun.
It’s not just good, clean fun. It’s unfailing, under-stated good taste, which too frequently goes away whenever an audience appears. You can’t even go to a high school football game anymore without feeling like you’ve endured a church service before kick-off. Evidently, high school football is supposed to be an appropriate venue for solemn observances.
The Buda Lions are there, too, by the way. They’ve run the concessions at Bob Shelton Stadium forever, and that can’t be the most coveted duty because they can’t see the game from under the home seating. Every year, Lions raise thousands of dollars that way, turning much of it over to the school district and using the rest for their service projects.
So, the Buda Lions are key players in the wiener dog races and the high school football games, two of the most fun activities around here. Notice a pattern? We need the Buda Lions to show up in more places around town.
Of course, wiener dog races severely constrain the surrounding tone. They simply don’t lend themselves to moments of quiet reflection. The minor extent to which the Lions dress the races in pomp and circumstance is part of the joke. That sort of just-for-fun setting gives Buda a good name, or at least a recognizable name.
Five years ago, with Cabela’s coming to town, Buda made a successful bid for official designation as “The Outdoor Capital of Texas,” which is almost as funny as a wiener dog race. Designations of that sort first go through the House committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism, where concerned citizens campaign for important causes like naming the Dutch Oven as “The Official Cooking Utensil of Texas,” or the Blue Lacy as “The Official Dog of Texas.”
The committee chair is a gentleman from Kerrville named Harvey Hilderbran, who likes to practice his knowledge of all things Texacana on the applicants (“You’re from Snook, Texas? That’s Burleson County, isn’t it? About 15 miles from College Station. What’s the name of the place where they make the chicken fried bacon?”).
So Patrick Rose, the local state representative, went to the committee so he could vouch for Buda as the state’s outdoor capital. And Hilderbran immediately began asking Rose about Buda’s wiener dog races. Before that day and since, the outdoor capital of Texas is much better known for the wiener dogs.