The best bordello in Texas dated back to 1915, when Jessie Williams purchased an old farmhouse on 12 acres on the border of La Grange, where it existed in harmony with the law and local citizens for nearly 50 years. During the Depression, the girls traded services for farm goods and livestock. So many chickens were received that hen houses were set up for poultry and egg production – hence the name Chicken Ranch. In 1960 Edna Milton purchased the property from Miss Jessie’s estate and did a first-class remodelling job. It was under Miss Edna’s direction that the house of prostitution reached its greatest fame. In 1973 Marvin Zindler, a Houston TV newsman, mounted a campaign to close the Chicken Ranch. Jim Flournoy, former Texas Ranger and country sheriff since 1946, cited charitable work, saved marriages, and local acceptance and refused to close it. Zindler directed his TV attack on the Governor, who called Sheriff Jim. He in turn placed the call that quietly ended the Chicken Ranch’s 58-year history.
This happy-go-lucky view of small-town vice and state-wide political side-stepping recounts the good times and the demise of the Chicken Ranch, known since the 1850s as one of the better pleasure palaces in all of Texas. The rural community of Gilbert has long tolerated, secretly relished, and certainly patronised Miss Mona’s cosy homelike bordello. Governors, senators, mayors, and even victorious college football teams-sponsored by an alumnus-frequented the Chicken Ranch until that puritan nemesis Watchdog focused his television cameras and righteous indignation on the institution.
Shy and Amber arrive at Chicken Ranch knowing full well what goes on there. They’ve been used, had hard luck, and are lonely. They confide to Miss Mona that they have never done anything professional but plead for the chance to get some money together for a fresh start. Mona is taken with their honesty, hires them on, and sees to their training. She can use the extra help for the upcoming Texas Aggies/ Longhorn football-game party. The alumni associates of each school traditionally treat the winners of the annual rivalry to a night of frolicking at the Ranch. Some important political and business leaders are involved, too. (Miss Mona always has the right people to call on for advice).
Things are pretty much as they have been for 58 years-until Melvin P. Thorpe, a Houston TV reporter and do-gooder, sets out to spoil everybody’s fun. His Watchdog exposés do little to prompt Sheriff Dodd to close the Chicken Ranch. In fact, when Melvin visits the Ranch, Sheriff Dodd runs him off. It seems there is a romantic interest between the sheriff and Mona. In retaliation, Melvin raids the Ranch with his camera crew. The surprise visit proves embarrassing for all the above. Chicken Ranch is now too public to remain open in face of the state law against prostitution. Melvin P. Thorpe wins again. The girls ponder their futures as they await the bus from Amarillo. Mona and Sheriff Dodd pause for a moment of nostalgia before locking up after the girls have gone.
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