John Gill used to say, "Lou Lou Barker is back in town! Summer can begin!" He would give me that big Gill grin, and I would feel special. John had a way with words and a way with women. He certainly knew how to make a girl feel special, and I was not immune to his charm. I think at some point that every woman in RR has had a crush on John. He was just special. I guess you could say that he was a "ladies’ man" (although I can see Annettes’s eyes rolling now). My 18th summer, I got to experience the charm of the Gills first hand.
John was the original Texas Red in RR. He was also one of the original jeep drivers in RR (the job of jeep driver in itself was alluring to the girls). He built a building for his jeep office and bunkhouse for his jeep drivers probably in the early 60’s. That building eventually became Texas Reds Steakhouse. I don’t remember John being there much and never working – he kind of came and went. TRs was a family-ran business - his brother, Bill, and sister, Martha, ran TR’s back in my younger day. Bill and his wife, Annette, ran TRs for years – all with the help of their children. We all took a turn at working at TRs. It was a fun place to be and a fun place to work. Bill Gill probably put most of us through college.
I guess you could say John was a handsome man, but I’m not sure it was his looks that drew the girls. He had red hair and a red beard. He had a quick laugh, lots of funny sayings, and a quick wit. He was a big tease and a bit of a rebel. I don’t really know what he did for a living – there was always talk that he was a stuntman in movies, but I think he was more of a wrangler for movies – rounding up whatever the movie people needed for making a movie. What ever he did for the Hollywood types, well, it just added to his allure. I don’t know what else to say about John, but he was just Kewl! Even the guys thought he was cool.
So my 18th summer, John spent quite a bit of time in RR and I got to know him a little more. I was working at TRs and as most of us young girls, I had a crush on John’s nephew, Ricky. His nephew, Ralph, who worked in the bar, was just pretty hunky too. They were more my age, but didn’t normally pay too much attention to me (young men being more interested in things that I was not interested in). John had a motorcycle. One day he pulled up beside me and offered me a helmet. I climbed on, and we were off we on a great adventure and a good friendship. Because of John’s reputation as a "ladies’ man," I’m sure that the reputation of any woman who climbed on to John’s motorcycle went downhill. But let me just say up front that John was always a gentleman with me. There was never even a kiss much less anything sexual. That didn’t stop me from having a huge crush on him. I don’t know how he was with other girls. I just know he made me feel beautiful and special. He made me laugh, and I had a great time with him. I wrote to my dad (who had already gone home for the summer) to tell him that I had been "running around with John Gill." Dad wrote back and said that it was fine with him as long as John did not call him "dad!" You see, Dad and John were the same age.
We were over exploring Elizabethtown one day when a family of tourist pulled up. John went into his "jeep driver" mode telling them stories that had them entranced. Then he did something really funny. He reached over and put his arm around me and pulled me close – obviously not a father/daughter relation. I went along with John because I knew what he was up to. The look on the tourists’ face was a bit shocked – which was exactly the reaction John was hoping for. I think he liked getting a rise out of people.
One evening at the Lode, John was there with a beautiful woman his own age. She was hanging all over him. He was cool. When I happened by to say hi, he pulled me into his arms and gave me a big hug – much to the woman’s irritation. With a very pouty face she said, "Why John, I think you would just give me away!" So very smoothly John replied, "Why, I would never give you away!" The woman began to brighten. Then John added, "But I might trade you for a good pony and saddle!" He looked at me with that handsome Texas Red’s smile, and we both burst out laughing. I was no fool. The woman was pretty angry, but it seemed more directed toward me, so I high-tailed it out of there. I’m sure John charmed his way back into her good graces.
There was never a dull moment with John. He just made life fun.