Papa Joe’s Wants Billy Joe Shaver Back

The Statesman
Friday, April 06, 2007

LORENA — Gloria Tambling says people have been making conjectures about what song Billy Joe Shaver will write now that he’s been accused of shooting a guy in the cheek on the back patio of her usually friendly little beer joint.

“We were makin’ jokes about the kind of song he’d write about this ’cause he writes songs about everything,” said Tambling, who has owned Papa Joe’s Texas Saloon, which is a few miles south of Waco on the Interstate 35 access road, for about 13 years. “ ‘Course, it’s not humorous.”

Probably not. But that didn’t keep me from suggesting the title “He Had it Comin,’ So I Must Be Goin.’ ” Not that Billy Coker, 50, necessarily had it coming when he was shot with a pistol Saturday night after he and Shaver walked out of the bar. But it sounded like one of those trains, planes and momma’s in jail song titles that country musicians come up with.

Tambling says she’s not sure what precipitated the incident. She says she, Coker, Shaver and about five other people were gathered around a table swapping lies before things went to hell.

What was the problem? “To tell you the truth, I have no idea,” Tambling said. “I was sitting at the table talking with ’em. There were about eight of us at the table telling stories. And they (Shaver and Coker) left. And I don’t know who went out first. I heard no words exchanged at the table.”

After the two proceeded through the back door, which was decorated with red Christmas lights, Tambling heard a pop.

“ ‘What fool’s out there poppin’ fireworks in the city limits?’ is what I thought,” she said. “And then after that, he (Coker) came in bleeding. I never saw Billy Joe again. We called 911.”

That brought a bunch of police cars — seven in all, according to some at the bar.

“Looked like we had a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre out here,” Tambling said.

She’s tired of the publicity the shooting has brought. “I had a phone call from an area code I don’t even know where it was; wanted to know if I sold T-shirts,” she said. She says she heard Coker got out of the hospital Tuesday.

“Just put in there for everybody to come up and visit with us,” said an old boy in a cowboy hat who wouldn’t give his name.

“And leave your firearms at home,” Gloria added.

Currently, the tables in the beer joint are decorated with Easter baskets filled with plastic eggs. A more permanent decoration is a Western brothel facade that takes up one wall and features cutouts of well-endowed hookers standing in windows.

According to information released with the arrest warrant, a witness said Shaver asked Coker, “Where do you want it?” before he shot him. Man, that’s a tough choice.

Lorena Police Chief John Moran said in the affidavit that Coker told him that he and Shaver were talking for an hour before they discovered that Shaver’s wife, Wanda, had been married to Coker’s cousin, now deceased. Coker said the attack was unprovoked. Witnesses say that before the two men went outside to settle their differences, Coker had been stirring his drink with a knife. What kind of knife?

The old boy in the cowboy hat who wouldn’t give his name pulled out a folding knife to show what kind of knife Coker was using. “It was a huntin’ knife,” he said.

The shooting postponed a performance by a band called Neon Texas. “They started playing after all the police officers left,” Tambling said.

She says Shaver, an infrequent visitor to the bar, is still welcome even though he has been charged with aggravated assault and carrying a gun into a place that sells alcohol. She figures that he won’t come back packing heat.

“Well, of course; he will never do it again,” she said.” We always thought it was just a special occasion when Billy Joe came.”

I guess you could call Saturday night at Papa Joe’s a special occasion because, the regulars say, there’s rarely any excitement. It is basically an old fogy’s bar. So much so that they keep a pair of reading glasses over by the jukebox so people can read the song titles.

“You can’t even stir up a fight,” the old boy in the cowboy hat said. “Hell, everybody in here knows each other.”

No telling what’s going to happen to Shaver, who has lived in Waco for years.

“He’s already done 20 years in Waco. What more can they do to him?” quipped Joe Turner of Austin, who is Shaver’s attorney. “I think he’s suffered enough.”

Leave a Reply