Heart Searching: Dallas cowboys touch down: On a visit to Texas, Lyndsay Russell dusted down her jeans and hung on to her hat at the Borrowed Money night-club

'YOU should go out an' git yerself a cool dude.' How odd. You ask the concierge of a top hotel in Dallas where a single girl should spend Saturday night - and all he can suggest is drinking some fancy beer?

'I'm talking Dallas cowboys'. I see, he means the professional footballers? 'Nah, real cowboys. You'll find them at the Borrowed Money night-club. It's the hottest spot in Texas and believe me, Texas is hot.' I did believe him. Even at night, the heat prohibited most activities.

'The clientele is a mix. Ranch owners, cattle drivers and oil barons.' With visions of meeting Clint Onassis-Eastwood, he had given me the means to 'make my day' or at least my evening. The question was, did I feel lucky?

The neon sign 'Borrowed Money' flashed dollars. The valet parking sign stated: 'dollars 3 - unescorted ladies complimentary'. How charming. But there was nothing very complimentary to be said about the two young girls ahead of me in the queue. Well, not if you are female. Wearing leather micro-skirts, fringed sequinned jackets and white stiletto-heeled cowboy boots, they looked like backing singers out to upstage Dolly Parton.

'Bear', the massive doorman barred their way. He grunted: 'You gals over 21?' Of course not. You could see their diapers. 'Umm. Sure, here's my ID'. Squinting in the darkness, he gave it a cursory glance before handing it back. 'No way. That's not you'. Without missing a beat the girl handed him another. 'That's the one I was saving for my friend. This is me'. She gave him a cute smile - he pointed to the exit door. Simpering did not work on The Bear.

First impressions on entering the vast club were bewildering. A sea of bobbing cowboy hats in flashing disco lighting. The band wailed incessantly about some 'woman gone did me wrong' and handsome couples dressed in glitzy fringed shirts and neckties were doing a two-step on the dancefloor.

Long-forgotten images of the television programme Dallas returned to my mind. But something was wrong. Imagine the Southfork barbecue with the folks on Ecstasy. 'It's progressive country,' explained a neighbouring male hunk. 'That's a cross between a two-step and a jitterbug'. He lifted his hat as he spoke, biceps bulging.

'Are you a real cowboy?' I asked tentatively. 'Sure,' he replied, chewing on a cheroot. Things were looking up. 'Well, that is, I am in my heart.' So what did the man really do? 'I'm a company accountant.' A major disappointment. 'But hey, it's a leather company' he yelled at my dust tracks. Close. But not close enough.

The owner of the club sat alone and aloof, eyeing the now-smooching couples. With white hair and moustache, he looked like General Custer surveying the last one-night stand.

I got the feeling he named the club 'Borrowed Money' because he had been forced to raise the cash to buy it back after a particularly bad gambling spree in a saloon bar.

Whatever the story behind the club, the waitress serving looked like she was on borrowed time. She slopped my beer down with a tired expression; her teased blonde hair so lacquered, it actually scratched my face.

Perhaps she could she point me out a professional rancher? 'Here - I'm a real cowboy' interrupted a tough-looking guy next to me. Really? How can a newcomer tell?

'Easy, lady. First, check the boots. None of that fancy pointed crap. They've got to be ropers'. I discovered these were the round-ended type worn when roping steer.

'Next, the jeans. Not Levis. Wranglers. They give more room in the thigh for when you're in the saddle'. He suggestively stroked his leg to illustrate his point.

'Then, check out the size of their silver belt buckle. After, look at the man's butt'. He pointed to the can of snuff bulging out of his back pocket. 'Alternatively, it could be a tin of chew tobacco. 'Next, check out the shirt. It should be button-down and heavily starched. Finally, the hat. White straw between Easter and Labor day, then a felt for winter'. So that is it then? He was one?

'Naw, he should really be a gentleman - an' I guess I'm not' He suddenly slapped me hard on the bottom. 'Yeehaw] Atta girl]' This guy had the manners of an outlaw.

'Leave her alone,' said Gary, who was not a cowboy either, but a teacher. 'Honestly, the closest most of these 'cowboys' get to steer is eating steak,' he sniffed.

'And watch out for the lines they give you.' Such as? 'Such as: 'I won this belt buckle in a rodeo'.' So what are the chances of finding the real thing? 'Gimme a break. They're not cowboys, they're village boys.'

A woman slinked over dripping with rhinestones. More Rodeo Drive than rodeo. 'Honey, don't listen to him. There are real ones here. You've just gotta dig deep'. She kindly suggested trying some other country joints with names I couldn't quite catch like 'Denim and Diamonds', 'Spangles and Spanners' or something.

Still, wary of heading off in search of new frontiers, I thought maybe my luck was failing because I didn't look like a real cowgirl. Fishing a pink handkerchief from the depths of my handbag, I tied it round my neck, stuck my fingers in my jeans belt, and struck a mean pose at the bar.

'Howdy ma'am. My name's Chuck'. Looks and sounds promising. Check out the roper boots? Yes. Check out the Wrangler jeans? Yes. Check out the butt? Yes, yes, yes. He looked the part. With a Texan drawl that savoured every word, he said: 'Rumour has it that you're a foreigner keen to meet a real cowboy?

'Now you've gotta understand it's what's inside a man that makes him one. He must appreciate the country, be a strong individual, like country music, enjoy hunting and riding and be a gentleman.'

Going straight for the kill, I asked him what he did for a living. He smiled 'Police - special squad'. Oh dear. Still, he did look so impressive in his cowboy hat. Then it came in a blinding flash - McCloud. I visualised Chuck galloping down the high street like the marshall in the television series. He passed with flying colours. 'You care to dance ma'am?' You bet. But suddenly, the dance floor emptied. 'Git ready for the Cowboy's Tightest Jeans Competition' yelled the compere. There then followed one of the strangest sights I have ever seen.

Six butch men in full cowboy gear started to gyrate in the centre of the dancefloor. As they strutted around, preening like cockerels, the girls went crazy. 'Look at him move,' giggled a bare-midriffed chick.

Talk about a cattle market in reverse. It was fun. As BJ and Rusty shared first prize, the band started up again. But before I could shout 'rawhide', I was whisked into a two-step by a total stranger.

It seemed an impossible dance. He led one way, my body went the other. Toe crunch, toe crunch toe toe toe. He turned out to be a scuba diver who, despite his ten-gallon hat, admitted he had never even been on a horse.

'Don't sea-horses count?' he asked, lurching in the opposite direction. At that point, the dollar dropped. It was not my inexperience at the two-step - he was drunk.

'I love country dancin',' he leered, 'you don't sweat as much and you get a lot closer'. Deliberately stamping on his snakeskin boot, I marched off to Stand By My Man. Alas, I had left it too late. Glancing out of the window, I could see he had gone.

Maybe his pick-up truck had picked up someone else - who knows. But like Clint Eastwood, I would like to believe he had ridden off into the horizon alone. Whatever, it was time to call it a night. In only three hours, I had already met the good, the bad and the lousy.

(Photograph omitted)

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