Back in 1968 we were in a coffeehouse in Houston, Texas, listening to folk singers. The place was called “Sand Mountain”. A percentage of the songs were sure enough folk songs, but occasionally a more recently minted piece of work was presented. Among our favorites was one called “The Man in the Big Hat is Buying”. It began, “In a bar in Arizona, on a sultry summer day, a cowboy came in off the road just to pass the time away”. It was written, and sung by Texas singer/songwriter Stephen Fromholz ( affectionately known as Frummox ) from Clifton, Texas. It went on; “His shirt was brown and faded, and his hat was wide and black, his pants that once were blue were gray, and had a pocket gone in back.” He led into the song saying that he’d been to Arizona and stopped in at a bar called Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, when this rancher had come in, and told stories of old cowboy days. “He had a finger missing from the hand that rolled a smoke, but when he smiled and talked of cowboys, you knew it weren’t no joke!” The chorus was, “The man with the big hat is buyin’ , drink up while the drinking is free… Drink to my compadres and me!” It’s a good song, with a good tune. We’ve sung it for years, never thinking that it might be a real place.
So last week when I went to Arizona for a weeklong intensive training course in French classical horsemanship, I had to make a pilgrimage. I drove up the road to Cave Creek, and there in all it’s glory, still standing, still very busy (mostly with “snowbirds”),was Harold’s Cave Creek Corral!