Aug 2, 2023–In one of those anomalous alignments of the universe, I’ve been asked several times recently how I came to live, work, and write in the Texas Hill Country.
There’s a romantic version, a Hitchhiker’s Guide version, and a screenplay version of my origin story.
But probably the true catalyst is that I wrote a song. A silly song called Rocky Mountain Oysters, described in one compilation album’s needlessly descriptive liner notes as “A hilarious account of the edible fringe benefits enjoyed by rural families during the emasculation of certain farm animals raised for market.”
Back in the 1970s I performed the song for a friend of mine who was playing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That friend was Bill Smallwood. Thinking “this is something the world needs to hear,” he learned the song and began performing it with his family band as he traveled the country, including Texas.
At Luckenbach an entrepreneurial Texan named Sam Lewis heard Smallwood do the song, and it sparked the idea of starting The Original Rocky Mountain Oyster Cook-Off in San Angelo. This was during the ascendency of the notorious chili cookoffs in Terlingua. But no one had ever based an event on bovine testicles.
The Cook-Off began around 1979, and went on for more years than it needed to. One year I was a celebrity judge, and I think the trophy went to Oysters on the Half Shell, which as you can imagine was all in the presentation.
The event ran its course, and the world moved on to rap and hip-hop. As I was cleaning out our barn once again, I came across a 45-rpm record of the song. It made me laugh. Since DJs of the era would not play a song longer than three minutes, the time stamp on the label read 2:70. And there is no B side–only Side 1 and Side A. Think about it.
So, apropos of nothing, here are the lyrics to my hit song “Rocky Mountain Oysters, copyright 1974 by Phil Houseal.
You can’t buy ‘em at McDonalds
You won’t find ‘em at the H•E•B
While some may call them meatballs
They don’t come from Italy
They’re the only nut I know of, that doesn’t grow on trees
They’re called Rocky Mountain Oysters,
But they’ve never seen the sea!
No there ain’t no oceans ‘round San Angelo [or insert name of local town]
And few mountains to be found
And while you might spy an oyster or two,
They’re the kind that just hang around
Now I know y’all know that when they butcher a hog
They use everything but the squeal
But did you know at this very moment
You’re eating his sex appeal?
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Ain’t Chicken of the Sea
They don’t have 31 Flavors
Just cattle, hogs, and sheep
In Maine you can eat lobster
Or have shrimp in New Orleans
But a Rocky Mountain Oyster is
A Southwest delicacy
Did you ever wonder why those animals
Raise such a din?
Like how come hogs grunt so much
And what eggs on a hen?
Do you want to know why a rooster crows
And why a steer goes Moo?
Well you’d grunt and cackle and beller and bawl
If we ate that part of you!
Now this song ain’t supposed to make you sad
No it shouldn’t do that at all
And I sure do hope it don’t make you sick
So you have to take Pepto-Bismal
And don’t think about the lambs and the calves and the pigs that’ll never be
But try to imagine what the animals would say
If they could talk to you and me
[Spoken in falsetto]
Rocky Mountain Oysters
I’m sure that they taste fine
I don’t care if you eat ‘em
But why’d you have to eat mine?
Why don’t you stick to frog legs
And mushrooms and other stuff
There’s gotta be something that tastes so good
But doesn’t quite hurt so much!
My deepest apologies. Go ahead and judge me.
You can hear it on YouTube
Phil Houseal is a writer and owner of Full House PR, www.FullHousePR.com.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.