Tumbleweed Smith
Tumbleweed Smith

Some years ago a man in a pickup was traveling on a ranch road south of Alpine. The man’s dog riding in the bed of the pickup saw a chicken and decided to jump out and chase it. The chicken outsmarted the dog and flew into a nearby tree. That chicken flying incident was the inspiration for the new movie, BLANCHE, which will have its premiere at the State Theater in Austin on July 28.

The man behind the movie is Sam Pfiester of Georgetown. He and his friend Steve Davis started talking about chickens and Sam recalled an incident that occurred in Fort Stockton during the 1950’s. Few homes had televisions and the Fort Stockton movie house had burned down, so entertainment depended a lot on people’s imagination. Beer joints were cultural centers where men gathered to discuss things.

They often made bets with each other, sometimes involving ridiculous things. One ignited the community’s interest. “It was between two fellows on whose chicken could fly the furthest,” says Sam, who used to live in Fort Stockton. “They enlisted a pilot who had an air service. Ranchers hired him to do predator control by shooting coyotes from his old Piper Cub. They made a deal with him to take the chickens to one thousand feet and throw them out of the plane. The one that stayed up the longest won the bet.

“A whole lot of people got involved and a lot of money was on the line. Unbeknownst to the owners of the chickens, the pilot had bet on one of the chickens. So as he was taking the chickens up he put the one he was betting against behind the pilot’s seat and plucked a few feathers. When he reached a thousand feet he threw out the chickens. One glided back to earth making large beautiful spirals, landed safely and walked away. The other one dropped like a rock and didn’t survive. Legend says the pilot had roast chicken that night. There were shouts of foul play.”

Sam and Steve wrote a screenplay about the bet. “It took a month to write, but much longer to convince people we were going to make a movie.” This is a movie made by amateurs, the first film most of the participants had ever done. The only people paid were the videographer and editor.

Sam’s brother Ed is a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles and in the movie he has filed a suit at the courthouse in Fort Davis on behalf of the lady whose chicken was chased by the dog in the pickup. “The suit, brought about by an animal rights group, alleges the dog caused a great deal of anxiety to the chicken, named Blanche.”

The movie trailer is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and includes interviews with the actors. Twelve days after the trailer was available for viewing 200,000 people all over the world looked at it. Sam is trying to get the movie in other theaters.

BLANCHE THE MOVIE was shot in two weeks around Alpine and Marfa by people with the West Texas can-do why-not attitude. “It’s a heartwarming and uplifting movie, rated PG, and is really about old friendships and caring about others,” says Sam.