A beer joint. In the sticks. A cinderblock building. There were beat-up trucks parked in a dusty parking lot. No sign. Only a small Pabst Blue Ribbon marquee indicated this was a place where a man could break a dry spell.
My companions were old enough to be my grandfathers. I accepted their invitations to attend their private waterhole.
“We don’t want anyone to know it’s here,” said one old man whom I will call Billy. Although that is not his name. It is Ted Carter.
“Otherwise, people will ruin it,” said his cohort.
It was a dank place. A lot like the place where Miss Wanda sold me my very first beer when I was 14.
Yes, I realize 14 is way too young to consume libation. I also realize that if Wanda had done such a thing today, she would be rotting beneath Tutwiler Prison. But those were different times.
Wanda gave me an ice-cold Miller High Life in exchange for a song played on my guitar. She asked me to sing to the barroom
because—how’s this for irony?— her mother heard me sing in church once.
I sang “Hello Walls.” I tried to make my voice do like Faron Young’s voice did.
We opened the door. The old men assumed their barstools. The place smelled like someone’s crawl space.
There was a tiny plywood stage in the corner. An old guy with a ponytail was picking and singing Vern Gosdin’s “Set’em Up Joe.”
I ordered a Miller High Life, just to see if the spirit of Wanda lived on.
“We don’t carry High Life,” said the bartender. She was young and full-faced. But in a pleasing way.
My two partners ordered Bud Lights. I ordered a Budweiser. The girl called out. “I need two Bud Lights and one beer!”
The other bartender was nicknamed “Tiny.” He weighed roughly 250 lbs., and his arms were the size of…