It’s almost High Noon in Grapevine, Texas.
The Cotton Belt Hotel Clock Tower, 127 feet in the air, is about to strike.
But wait! What’s that? It’s Nat Barrett, a young cowboy with robbery on his mind. And Willy Majors, who has long lived outside the law, looking to make one last heist when the next train rumbles through.
The two — bigger than life — have been bellying up to the saloon bar but step outside to anticipate the train. They begin arguing. The wind ruffles Willy’s pant legs and Nat’s chaps. Guns are pulled!. It’s a shootout! Who’s hurt? Who’s left standing? And what about the loot?
To find out, you’ll have to visit Grapevine, where these 9-feet-tall would-be train robbers battle it out at noon and 6 p.m. each day, always with an unscripted finale. Nat and Willy, circa 1890, are characters in a glockenspiel that keeps onlookers entertained and reflects the Western lore visitors expect to find in a Texas town.
Each has a “history,” fabricated, of course. Nat was born on the prairie in 1861. He left home at 16, determined to make enough money driving cattle to buy his own ranch. The intrusion of the railroads ended that. Willy, a lifelong drifter, was born to an itinerant family in 1829. He’s a gambler and a robber but has never hurt anyone. To both the $60,000 on the inbound train (worth about $1.5 million today) is the ticket to a better life. Both learn that crime doesn’t pay.
Nat, Willy, the Cotton Belt Hotel and its Clock Tower are all part of the new Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau Headquarters and Museum Complex that opened on Main Street in mid-May. The complex represents Texas architecture from the 1870s through 1915. It’s a tribute to the agricultural and commercial heritage of the city and includes six storefronts, each representing a significant period in its history.
Grapevine, a city of about 47,000 halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, can accommodate groups of up to 6,500 people.
** Note: When wind gusts exceed 25 mph a half-hour before the shootout, Nat and Willy stay indoors. To see them in action, CLICK HERE.