The tower glockenspiel, a massive clock with miniature animated figures that move around beneath its dial every hour, is most often found in medieval downtowns in Bavaria and Switzerland, but it can also be found in other parts of Europe. Rarely constructed in the United States, the majority of them are found in locations that attempt to channel the flavors of schnitzel and sausage: one may be found in New Ulm, Minnesota, another in Mount Angel, Oregon, and a third in a German meat store in Muenster, Texas.

The Cotton Belt Hotel Clock Tower glockenspiel in the city of Grapevine, Texas, is the newest addition to the American glock collection. In contrast to past glockenspiels, its robots are not lederhosen-clad Germans, but gun-toting cowboys from the Lone Star State instead. Their major debut, which had been years in the making, took place on May 18, 2012.

Every day, just before noon and 6 p.m., the Wild West meets Olde World Europe in Grapevine, a schedule designed to bring tourists downtown for lunch and dinner. It’s 75 feet up and two nine-foot-tall robotic cowboys come out from either side of the clock tower, their chaps blowing in the breeze (they stay inside in the event of a storm or particularly strong wind).

Because their voices are amplified via loudspeakers, it is evident that they have both arrived in Grapevine with the intention of robbing the same train. Their six-shooters come to life after some brief name-calling and with the herky-jerky movements that we have come to expect from our robots. They then begin to blast each other.

The winner is determined by a computer random selection (and even the loser is not seriously injured), and the two robots realize that their fight has caused them to miss the train, and they re-enter the clock tower as the best of friends, having learnt that crime does not pay well. As the assembled throng, which is seated on bleachers in a viewing plaza across the street, disperses, it is filled with the satisfaction of a successful conclusion and the desire to dine in one of Grapevine’s downtown restaurants.

Approximately the same amount as a modest-sized Grapevine home was spent on the construction of the robots in Ohio. Contrary to popular belief, Grapevine is a Texas town where no Old West gunfights have ever taken place; the glockenspiel cowboys and train heist are both complete fabrications. The town is best known as the gateway to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport — and now for a robot glockenspiel with a rootin’-tootin’ sound.

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