DALLAS – The way Bobby Williams tells it, his ranch on 100 acres of rural piney hills in East Texas was supposed to be a quiet way to enjoy retirement after a career in the insurance business.
But for years now, he's instead woken up to the roaring engines of all-terrain vehicles, midnight fireworks shows and thousands of drunken revelers who every so often gather across the narrow county road from his property at events like the "Texas Redneck Games" and the "Texas Redneck Muddy Gras."
"We're just a nice calm community and nobody can get any rest, nobody can get any sleep," says Williams, 76. "We've got a problem and I don't know what we're ever going to do to get rid of it. We need something to ban these things."
The latest event ended Sunday with more than 50 arrests and citations, and authorities said Wednesday that they're considering charges against the show's organizer.
Modeled after similar games that have been going in Georgia for more than a decade, the four-day "Redneck Games" took place about 70 miles southeast of Dallas and included an estimated 6,000 people, live music and competitions such as an ugly "butt-crack contest" and the "Mattress Chunk."
The goal in the mattress contest was to see how far a team of two people could throw a mattress from the back of a pickup truck.
By the time the event was over, more than 54 arrests and citations had been issued on charges ranging from public intoxication to speeding, according to the Henderson County Sheriff's Department. Officials are considering charges against the organizer and landowners where the event was held.
"I'm an old fuddy duddy and all that, but you got a vehicle, you got alcohol, and you got illegal dumping, and you're making a contest out of that?" said Lt. Pat McWilliams, public information officer for the sheriff's department. "We are very fortunate that we didn't have a fatality."
McWilliams said the organizer, Oscar Still of Kilgore, could face a misdemeanor charge for not having a permit. Telephone messages left with Still weren't immediately returned Wednesday.
Texas law requires any gathering of more than 2,500 people to get a permit, which McWilliams said Still didn't have.
Adults had to pay an admission fee of $25 plus $15 for each ATV. Children were free.
McWilliams said the misdemeanor charge carries a fine of $1,000 and 90 days in county jail.
He said it was less clear if there was any wrongdoing by Garland Pool, the owner of the 3,000 acre Pool Ranch ATV Park, a mix of sand, mud bog, prairie and forest where the events were held.
The Pool family was described by many as longtime residents in the area.
Pool, who lives about 5 miles from the ATV ranch, said he was aware of neighbor complaints but hadn't heard anything from the sheriff's department.
"That's all I know. Since I leased the property I'm not in charge of whatever happens out there," he said. "Maybe the neighbors don't particularly like the traffic, but it seems like most of the businesses in town had a lot of success."
During the event, some two dozen troopers with the Department of Public Safety, a dozen agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, 38 sheriff's deputies and other local law enforcement were on hand at one point or another to maintain crowd control, McWilliams said.
On its Web site, the Redneck Games has a list of rules, including no underage drinking, a 10 mph speed limit and no fence cutting. "Being a REDNECK is allowed.....IGNORANCE is not," according to rule No. 5.
There were other competitions, including one to see which guy could throw an engine starter the farthest and a "Daisy Duke Show-Off" for women in cut-off blue jeans. Cash prizes ranged from $40 up to $200 per contest.
Williams said he and about 100 neighbors have started a petition to stop the gatherings. But he's not too optimistic, he said as a work detail made up of local inmates picked up discarded beer cans, bags of trash and hamburger wrappers across the street.
"We need someone to tell the people they can't do this, they can't destroy our lives," he said.