Last Call: Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The Buggy Wheel
5704 Jacksboro Hwy, FW.
When in Sansom Park …

It’s official. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, we’re in a recession. “Finally!” says I. After all, we’ve only been talking about it for a year now. Long have I been waiting to exhale depressively and watch the heads of my draft beers scatter like so much pocket lint without feeling any (real) guilt.
As we all know, booze sales boom during a recession and/or depression, with beer as the major catalyst. Why beer, you ask? Well, because nothing fortifies a body for pounding the pavement like a refreshing blend of barley and hops. Seriously. That’s science talking, not me.
Situated along that stretch of Jacksboro Highway that rolls through beautiful Sansom Park is a killer “beer-and-wine bar,” the Buggy Wheel, where you can watch a game, shoot some pool, and, for the scandalously low price of $1.75 a pop, knock back bottles of Schlitz.
Walking inside the Wheel is a little like stepping into a roadside bric-a-brac emporium. There’s a lot of junk on the walls, and none of it is related. However, my research assistant, Lifters bassist Cliff Wright, posited that perhaps the autographed and framed Temptations photo was donated by the legendary R&B vocal group after performing there — back in the day, FYI, Jacksboro was a hotbed of hot-shit nightclubs.
Other than The Ballpark, the only other “beer-and-wine-only” place I’ve been to is in that shining metropolis of Longview, where my band and I played not long ago. The appropriate and awesome name of the dive was Benny’s (as in “Benzedrine,” I like to say). I walked in and ordered the usual, double-whiskey-soda, and the bartender icily replied in the kind of raspy voice that comes only from smoking two, three, 12 packs a day, “We don’t have whiskey. But you can bring your own. I’ll sell ya the soda.” I was almost as baffled by that as I was by the fact that I could bring my drinks out to the parking lot. I wasn’t disappointed. Far from it. Just weirded out in a Twilight Zone sort of way.
Kind of like I am by the idea of Sansom Park, another fifth-dimensional pocket plunked between the North Side and Lake Worth, between science and superstition, and apparently between areas where hard liquor can be served legally. The Wheel isn’t the only beer-and-wine-only joint on Jacksboro by the Park, BTW. There’s also the Wheel’s neighbor, The Wrangler, another roadside dive and also another excellent place to tip cheap 12-ouncers.
Anyplace like the Buggy Wheel, where Bud Light is curiously cheaper than Schlitz — and the Schlitz, as I’ve mentioned, is dirt-cheap — is not without its charms. The bar also is delightfully devoid of irony and/or hipsters. Initially, the service was as cold as the beer, which I have to chalk up to my own ineptness. Not only did I foolishly order whiskey in a beer-and-wine-only bar, I also attempted to open a tab in a place that’s cash-only — I had to run down the block to an ATM, leaving R.A. Wright there by himself awkwardly contemplating unpaid-for beers. Once I stopped being a bush-league tourist, the bartender was a little friendlier.
While Jacksboro’s days of secretive poker rooms, chicken-wire-covered stages, and gangland power struggles are long gone, there are a slew of hidden, ancient-looking dives in between the used car lots and sagging apartment buildings. Next stop: The Wrangler for its Sunday-night country jam. As they say: “When in Rome …”

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