Texas Living

Weird History: The Goat Mayors of Lajitas

By Peter Simek 2.23.23

Texas has had many colorful politicians — and I’m not even talking about the ones that gather in Austin. Throughout the history of the Old West, individuals of a questionable character found their way to political office. But perhaps no Texas politician has ever been less fit for office than the mayor of Lajitas, Clay Henry IV.

What makes Clay Henry unfit isn’t that he is part of a powerful political family that held power for generations in the tiny West Texas town. Nor is it that his father once won an election in which his only opponents were a wooden American Indian statue and a local dog. What makes Henry an unusual mayor — even in this out-of-the-way part of Texas, which prides itself on the unusual — is the simple fact that Clay Henry is a goat.

A Snowstorm and an ‘Election’

Clay Henry IV isn’t a goat in the way the word is typically used these days. Although he is the pride of Lajitas, no one would call him the greatest mayor of all time. He is a literal goat, with horns, hooves, bleating, and the rest. How he became mayor is a story that sounds like one of those apocryphal tall tales that come out of the Old West, only this one started in the 1980s.

At the time, Lajitas, a town of about 100 residents, was owned by a Houston businessperson named Walter M. Mischer. Mischer saw a future for Lajitas as a bustling resort community, and in 1986, he invited a group of his politician and businessperson friends from Houston to visit. Toward the end of the trip, a freak snowstorm hit the desert. They decided to pass the snowed-in hours like the Texans of old, saddling up at the Thirsty Goat Saloon.

The town, they decided, needed a proper municipal government. One of Mischer’s friends — a construction company owner from Houston named Tommy Steele — seemed like a good pick for the job, and so he and the town owner’s other buddies elected him mayor. But that upset one local man named Bill Ivey, whose family had lived in Lajitas for generations. If the people of Lajitas thought a Houstonian was fit enough to run their town, well then, Ivey claimed his goat would be able to do just as good a job. And what started as a silly, saloon-spirited idea turned into a full-fledged election campaign.

Hooves on the Campaign Trail

The Houston businessperson soon saw that Ivey was serious. The Lajitas local brought in his friend Jim Woodward from Uvalde to run his goat’s election campaign. Steele didn’t back, and he launched his own platform, promising to buy the town a snowplow if he was elected. When the press release announced the runoff between an out-of-towner and a beloved local goat, the campaign sparked national interest and earned coverage in most major U.S. newspapers.

Woodward proved an effective manager, securing regular radio interviews for Ivey and securing letters of support that poured in for his goat, named Clay Henry. But to the dismay of many, when the election finally took place, Houstonian Tommy Steele eked out a victory. The polling was not without controversy and claims of fraud against the out-of-towners. When the next election occurred, local support for Clay Henry held up, and the goat rode anti-development sentiment to a landslide victory.

The Goat of Political Scandal

Like many political families, it wasn’t long until scandal hit the Henrys. It didn’t help that one of the things that made Clay Henry so popular among the locals was what made him the namesake of the Thirsty Goat Saloon: Clay Henry could consume a certain adult beverage served in longneck bottles like no other creature in existence. When word of his talent got out after his election, tourists would come from far and wide to overserve Henry by passing longnecks through the bars of his mayoral cage, watching the goat take them in his teeth and guzzle them down in less than 10 seconds.

The trick, however, would also prove Clay Henry’s undoing. By 1992, Henry had a son, Clay Henry Jr., who had a thirst like his father’s and a political fate plucked straight from Greek tragedy. One day, during rutting season, the father and son (surely overserved) got into a brawl over a female goat they both fancied, and Clay Jr. mauled and killed his father. The son succeeded his father as mayor, and the story made the new mayor something of a local celebrity. He was featured on the TV show “The Streets of Laredo” and even appeared in a Sally Jessy Raphael segment in 1995. But Lajitas locals noticed that he was never quite the same after his father’s death, and soon the burdens of the office proved too much to bear, and Clay Henry Jr. left office in the late 1990s.

The Rise and Fall of Clay Henry III

For a few years, the town of Lajitas was without a goat mayor. Then in 2000, Clay Henry III reentered the local political scene to reassert his family’s legacy. Clay Henry III’s tenure was also not short on controversy. For one, no one was entirely sure if he was a direct descendent of the other Clay Henrys. Clay Henry III also won an election waged against a wooden American Indian statue from a local trading post and a local ranch dog named Clyde. For a few years, Clay Henry III sought to reestablish the kind of local politics Lajitas had become known for — raucous and rowdy with leadership provided by a goat with a penchant for longnecks. This, too, would prove to be the last of the Henry line’s downfall.

By 2001, the resorts had come to Lajitas, despite the generations of anti-development goat mayors. One Sunday in November of that year, the owner of one of the resorts wanted to show off Lajitas’ famous longneck-loving goat mayor to a few out-of-towners. The only problem? It was Sunday, and according to Lajitas’ blue laws, there were no longnecks for sale on Sundays. He asked locals if they would share one, they obliged, and the owner brought it to the mayor, who guzzled it down.

Hospitality aside, one of the men who had shared the precious Sunday longneck was upset that the resort owner wasted it on the goat. In a cruel, ironic twist, he decided to take his anger out on the mayor. Later that night, someone broke into the mayor’s cage and castrated him. Clay Henry III survived and continued to serve as mayor for a few more years.

But he wasn’t the same, and he soon stepped down. For several years, Lajitas was without a goat mayor — that was until Clay Henry IV was found and became mayor. And while no one is sure if the latest goat mayor is the genetic heir of Clay Henry IV, the town of Lajitas is led once again by an adorable, furry mayor.

Read more weird history — oddly, also sort of about goats — here.

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