Hard work and dedication is what has made Ray Cotton what he is today – a successful business man.

Cotton, 83, opened a nightclub in Orange in 1981.

“I am not a good advice taker,” Cotton said referring to opening the club which was met with opposition.

However, he opened the club and it was a success until a fire caused them to close, but Cotton would not be defeated and it was not the last time people would gather at his club. Cotton rebuilt, but once again it burned to the ground.

This time, when he made a new start in 1991 he would to Vinton,La. The property where the club is located grew to include a truck stop by 1992 and continued to grow with a restaurant, motel, casino and training facility for horses. Not everything is bigger in Texas, the Longhorn Club is 38,000 square feet and includes an indoor bull riding arena. The bands performing at the club are not the average type but are actual music “stars.”

Upcoming acts include Chris Cagle on August 17, James Wesley on Sept. 7, the Bayou Boys on Sept. 14 and Marty Stuart on October 12.

Over the years, many people have gone through the doors of the Longhorn Club to experience life mixed with music, dance and a whole lot of fun.

“Everybody has a story about the Longhorn,” he said with a chuckle and a twinkle in his eye.

Not being able to dance is not an issue. Starting August 31, every Friday night there will be free dance lessons. Also every Friday night, there is indoor bull riding. Some of the riders are members of the Professional Bull Riders circuit, while others may be fresh off the ranch.

For those not wanting to take a ride on the wild side or just need to practice, there is the mechanical bull as well.

The latest venture at the Longhorn is the addition of the training facility and track. The Longhorn has 160 stalls which can be rented. The training facility has an 8-horse panel Equsizier which is unique to the area. In addition, on the property is a track, and a swimming hole for horses.

Something else to add a little fun at the track is the Jackpot Races at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The quarter horses are separated into categories by age, speed index and performance history. The purse distribution for four horses or less is winner takes all of the entry money collected with the exception of the office and jockey fee.  However, with up to six horses the winner takes 70 percent while second place earns the owner 30 percent of the pot.

Cotton rarely takes a vacation and instead would rather work. He said he once took a vacation three years ago with his wife, Dorothy to Alaska, but would have rather been working.

Cotton doesn’t hunt or fish, but enjoys his life the way it is.

“Working is where I find my enjoyment,” he said.

He added he feels today’s society is riddled with a disease he calls, “lazy-itis.”

His dedicated employees boast of their many years working for the man with the warm smile and kind heart.

Cotton is quick to admit, he could not have done it all by himself, and is grateful for the hard work of his daughter, Tina Cotton. The girl from Bridge City is the “driving force” behind the business.

Together they are not only working on renovating the current structures, but are going to open a new restaurant on the property which will be more  of an “upper scale” place where people can take their families. Plus, there will  be a back room for catered events. In addition, Cotton has plans to build a Best Western motel nearby.

The one thing in Cotton’s life that remains the same is the love of his life, his wife Dorothy. Cotton joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old. Following his discharge and a few years later, he met the woman he would spend his life with.  To date, they have been married 56 years and their family has grown to include three children and five grandchildren.

Cotton said he may retire next year, but time will only tell just how much.

Tina and Ray Cotton pose at a birthday celebration. Record Archive Photo.