Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Night I Was Run Out of Town.

About 12 miles south-east of Council Bluffs, Iowa is the small village of Treynor. Its existence is sustained by local farmers who can purchase farm tools, feed, and seed without having to travel into the big city. It had an American Legion Hall with a bar in front of an assembly hall where local young farm couples got married. So it’s a place to drink, like that bar in Boston called Cheers; a neighborhood bar. Only the neighborhood was a radius of 5 miles of rolling hill farm land.

The bar held nary an iota of sophistication. Beer and shots were the swill of choice. Order a Gimlet and you would see the bartender flinch then move hesitantly towards the seldom used, dusty liquor bottles that sat in front the mottled mirror. And you would almost see his mind’s gears whirling to recall the exotic ingredients and portions. The other patrons nearby the fancy-drink-ordering customer would sneak a startled furtive glance at who was disturbing the peace, then stare down at their drinks in order to hide a slight smirk. People do try to be polite in Iowa.

The reason I was privy to these observations can be found by examining the interests of teen age boys when looking for something to do on a Saturday night. Having access to beer was usually a prime mover, and the wedding parties which took place in the assembly hall behind the narrow bar room attracted single women looking to dance.

Because Treynor was so small, there never was a need to get an invitation to attend the festivities in the back room. We would try to buy a beer at the crowded bar, hoping the bartender would be so harried in trying to serve the wedding party that he would not notice or not care enough to take notice of our fuzzy cheeks. We had some, but limited success using this tactic. A better tactic was to give one of the bar bums $1 to buy you a 75 cent beer.

It was fun to watch the wedding party dance and in general whoop it up to a live band whose repertoire included a generous number of polkas. The bride and bridesmaids typically wore 50’s styled ruffled dresses that came down about 4 inches below the knee, pooched out with starchy layers of petticoats, nothing too elegant or pretentious.

The groom with his farmer’s tan now in full view, presented an impression of awkwardness that is difficult to describe. A farmer’s face above the eyebrows is white enough to make any fair skinned maiden envious, and a sharp contrast to the ruddiness below. Add a powder blue tuxedo to the mix and the red, white, and blue is on full display.

To get away from the noise and gaiety, I would occasionally go outside and enjoy the cool night air. One time, I saw someone was fighting with my friend Ray. Ray was a skinny and mouthy teen who frequently found ways to get in trouble in school. Still the guy having the upper hand with him was a stranger. Without a lot of thought I jumped on the guy’s back to pull him away.

Bam! Bam! Bam! I was being hit with something other than a fist. I soon discovered it was a blackjack. Turns out the stranger was a deputy sheriff wearing faded jeans and a plaid shirt. He pointed to his chest. “You see this,” he said. I looked and sure enough it was a badge. I quickly explained, “No, I didn’t. All I saw was your back while you were beating up my friend.”

That seems to placate him enough so as to not throw me in jail. But, he then puffed himself up, reminiscent of Don Knotts, playing Barney Fife, and ordered Ray and myself out of town.

Luckily, Ray had a car. I got in and we headed out, westward bound. “Wow”, I thought, “I’ve just been run out of town. How many people could say that?” I couldn’t help feel some pride and I ignored the persisting sting of the blackjack.


dguzman said...

Great post, Dad-E, both in your vivid recollections and in your referencing of my favorite Barney Fife line, "Nip it in the bud!" Brilliant.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Did they used to call a nightstick, a blackjack? Because I'm pretty sure hitting you with a jack and an ace wouldn't hurt all that much.

Dad E said...


GKL-A blackjack is quite different than a nightstick, especially since a blackjack can be easily hidden in a pocket.