As the latest edition of the iconic Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo comes to fore, a dedicated group of bidders whose auction victories help further the education of agriculture-inspired teenagers all over the Texas Gulf Coast is loaded for bear – er – pig!
We’re talking here about the 189 Club Inc., a non-profit group that got its name from a dedicated livestock show supporter – HPD Solo Motorcycle Officer Jim Irby.
The man club members call “Jimmy” wore HPD Badge No. 189, which is how the club got its name.
Officer Irby lost his life in the line of duty on June 27, 1990 when he was murdered in cold blood by a lifelong low-life criminal named Carl Wayne Buntion, a man who received nine paroles from the State of Texas during his infamous career of crime.
The Real Beneficiaries
Club President George Arnold said supposedly the club is limited to 189 members who pay an initial fee of $250 with $100 annual fees thereafter. But Arnold stressed that the club is welcoming new members and doesn’t believe it necessary to hold fast to the 189 limit.
“Almost everybody is a member of the (livestock) show, ” Arnold said, “but others are not. But they donate to the cause. ”
That cause is spending money in auctions that benefit the teenage participants. Arnold said the club has bidding strategies that enable partnerships with other bidders in the Champion categories.
This is often called more bang for the buck. The bottom line is “the money we spend goes to the kids, ” the club president said.
Club 189 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Platt went into further detail. “We now buy with other people, ” Platt explained. “You can have four members in a buying party. There can be three people in a buying party and let the club be the fourth.
“This allows us to go to the front of the auction. Bidding is now different than it was in the beginning. You can make your money go a lot further. You know the bidding and don’t get over anxious.
“We figure out where we want to spend our money and what we want to spend. It could be on a Premier or a Champion. We put their money with ours and two or three others and we’re better off in the long run.
“Now we get the recognition of being Champion buyers and Premium buyers. ”
The 189 Club has provided the Badge & Gun with a membership application blank for the convenience of any Union member who wants to join the club.
HPOU First Vice President Doug Griffith said, “When I began to work with the Calf Scramble Posse, I was asked if I would be interested in joining the 189 Club.
“I did not know what that meant at the time, but quickly found out that it had to do with honoring the memory of Jim Irby, who had been a member of the Posse. I was informed that Jim loved the Rodeo and had participated in many different aspects of it.
Jimmy’s Heart at the Rodeo
“It meant even more now that I know the entire Irby family and consider his son Cody, daughter Cally and wife Maura friends. I had the privilege of escorting the Irby family to trial every day during the retrial of Jim’s killer.
“I keep in touch with the family and know that they are happy that Jim’s memory lives on with the Rodeo and the 189 Club. I am proud to be a member of the 189 Club! ”
Arnold said most club members come from the Calf Scramble, which is where Jimmy Irby put his heart for a number of years.
When Irby was still alive, a group of livestock show activists began the tradition of attending the pig auction, buying a pig, barbecuing it and serving it to Calf Scramble participants in what was termed “the pig-out. ”
Arnold said, “When Jimmy died we decided to do something for Jimmy and we formed the 189 Club. We cleared it with HPD to do the badge with the pig on it. The membership has grown and grown and we just keep going from year to year. ”
The badge (pictured herewith) depicts a pig with the No. 189 prominently displayed. This is one more way to make sure Jim Irby’s sacrifice is never forgotten.
During an Irby-initiated traffic stop about 8 p. m. Buntion, a passenger in the suspect car, got out and shot Irby once with a pistol and twice more as the dying officer lay helplessly on the ground near his motorcycle.
In retired Homicide Lt. Nelson Zoch’s book, Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City, Buntion’s murder of Irby went down as one of the bloodiest, cold-blooded murder in the history of the 112 Houston officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Though the Texas criminal justice system, Buntion has gotten every break one could expect for a man who received nine paroles over the 29 years of his adult life. He first received the death penalty in 1991, which was reversed on a technicality that set the stage for a retrial in 2014.
Buntion once again got sentenced to Death Row, but those in HPD and the 189 Club who knew Irby believe that Buntion, 72, will die of natural causes before he is officially administered the death penalty.