Sunday, May 16, 2010

Red Necks, White Socks & Blue Ribbon Beer

Now many of you who have read my blog know that I live in the Far Nort'land - where we have to wear mukluks in the winter to keep from getting frostbite on our toes, and in the summer we have to tie our children to concrete blocks to keep the mosquitoes from flying away with them. The area that I live in has been noted in many geographical studies as the worst place to live in the entire United States - weatherwise, that is. I certainly don't argue that point. But the one thing we do have here is good people. They're generally pretty friendly, always willing to help if you need it, and are good at looking out for one another.

One of the unique things in this area is that I think everybody is related - you know the type - third cousin twice removed or something like that. Most of the local residents can trace their families back about 4 or 5 generations to the point in time when this area was settled and the interesting fact is that the original settlers all came from the same place and were probably related back in the Old Country. Believe me, this makes for a unique community. So today I'm going to tell you about my little village.

First of all, Ole and I are imports. We don't have the long family history that everyone else does in the area as both of our families came from other locations. So watching the dynamics of some of the happenings in our village can get quite entertaining. Every little town has some interesting characters and some interesting businesses with stories about how they came to be.

The "centerpiece" business in our little town is, unfortunately, a bar called the Crowbar. It's seems to be somewhat "famous" or "infamous" depending on how you want to look at it. The Crowbar was originally built back in the 1906 as the bank in our little town. It's a fortress-like brick building with walls about 12 inches thick and originally measured about 20 x 24. Not very big. Here's the Crowbar BEFORE:

It closed in 1929 when many businesses failed and was sold in 1937 to a local couple who decided to open it as a tavern. It had a number of owners over the years and in 1974 was remodeled and the "back room" was added. It's now about four times its original size. Here's the Crowbar TODAY although you can't see the addition:

Now you know that a place like this has its local characters! Those that "own their own barstool" so to speak. The first one that comes to mind is a guy by the name of Budzo. In his 40s, not married and never has been. In fact I don't think he's ever even had a girlfriend and still lives at home with Mom and Dad. Before he opens his mouth and inserts alcohol, he is the quietest, meekest man you have ever met, and if a female says anything to him he blushes to the color of a stop sign. Now once the first beer has gone down the red fades to pink, and from then on doesn't appear anymore. By about the fourth beer Budzo is in full swing, conversing in "yell tone," laughing - no - guffawing at anything that is said, and dancing around the bar with his bottle in his hand considering himself to be the funniest thing on two feet. One night several winters ago his buddy, Charlie, took his keys away from him because Budzo was in no shape to drive home. Home is only four miles away on back country roads. Budzo got really upset, decided he was going go SHOW his buddy and decided to walk home. Charlie, being a bit more sensible but not being able to walk much better than Budzo, tried to get Budzo in his truck to give him a ride, but Budzo refused - he was going to walk. So he started down the snow-packed road with temps way below zero with Charlie following alongside in his pickup. Budzo took his share of spills from slipping on the snow, and eventually tumbled into the ditch in the deep snow and couldn't get out. Fortunately, Charlie was there to pull him out - otherwise Budzo probably would have frozen to death.

Speaking of ditches - we have pretty deep ditches in this part of the world. And our country gravel roads are built up quite high so that the snow will blow off them in the winter instead of piling up and blocking the road. The ditches are deep because there's a lot of water runoff in the spring from all the melting snow. Believe me, you don't want to go in the ditch in the spring for any reason because you WILL drown.

One night Budzo and Charlie were out joyriding in Charlie's 4-wheel drive pickup. This was in the spring of the year, about the end of March I think. The snow had been melting, and as it melts the water seeps under the snow running off into the ditches gradually filling them up because the culverts aren't open yet for the water to flow. Now having grown up here, Charlie and Budzo should have known better, but I think it had something to do with the 12-pack of Miller Lite that was sitting between them on the seat. There always seems to be some kind of a contest around here with the Locals to see who's got the BEST 4-wheel drive truck. Can you see the handwriting on the wall? Budzo "dared" Charlie, and then he "double dog dared" him and away they went - the challenge was to get through the ditch and out into the muddy field to do some "doughnuts" just to see how far he could get. Offroading, if you will. Well, Charlie gunned it - aimed for the ditch - broke through the snow and ended up spinning all four of his tires down in the bottom of the ditch with cold, icy snow water coming in the cracks of his doors and around his windows. Fortunately they landed wheels down, cab side up and managed to get the doors open and get out. They walked the mile or so to the Crowbar, wet to their waist, to get somebody to come and pull them out. Oh yes, they managed to save the beer. All in all, Budzo and Charlie can be quite entertaining on a good night.

Now we've got another young man (Young Fitz) who is third generation owner of a local gravel pit. Grandpa Fitz was also heavily involved in city politics for many years and had his little "groupies" that would say yes to anything he wanted. In other words, he "owned" the town, or thought he did. This attitude followed through to his son, (Dad Fitz) and on to his grandson (Young Fitz). It didn't make any difference if it benefited the town or not, if it benefited the Fitz's, then it was good. Grandpa Fitz would drive down the main street in his truck, decide he needed to stop at the local watering hole, stop his car in the middle of the street, open the door and not shut it, and walk into the bar and sit there for the afternoon. In the meantime his truck would remain in the middle of the street, door open, engine idling, and if you came down the street you better drive AROUND his truck, because it wasn't moving. Grandpa Fitz is long gone, but Dad Fitz does the same thing as does Young Fitz. And you better not say anything to them beause they have "the right." It becomes very interesting at this time of year when the big sugar beet trucks come down main street and try to get around the Fitz pickup with the doors hanging open!!

Then there's Howie, who at one time ran the local cafe along with a furnace and A/C repair shop. Howie had been a cook in the Army so he could fry a pretty mean burger with onions. He also had his local "following," of which my father was one. There was a certain group of men that would go to the cafe every morning for coffee and doughnuts. If Howie was out on a furnace call, you just helped yourself and left the money on the counter. The guys made their own coffee if the pot ran dry, bussed their own tables, and even fried their own hamburgers and onions if it was lunch time. Every morning my Father would go downtown under the ruse of "getting the mail." But somehow there was always a stop at the cafe for coffee and doughnuts, and several hours later he would arrive home with the mail and all the latest gossip. My Mother often said that she didn't have to talk on the phone with anyone to find out what was going on - the cafe guys always knew the latest goings-on. My Father would always imbibe on one of Howie's rolls, much to the chagrin of my Mother because my Father was diabetic and all the sweets were a real no-no. Howie ran the restaurant in this manner for many years until he decided to retire and sold out to an "outsider."

The new guy - I think his name was Marvin - an unmarried guy, took over and it wasn't long before he had all the ladies of the town entertained. The guys quit going to the cafe for coffee because there were "hints" that Marvin was of "another persuasion." Marvin started throwing card parties for the ladies several afternoons a week, bingo one afternoon, you get the idea. It wasn't long before Marvin proved he was NOT of "another persuasion" and ran off with the bus driver's wife to parts unknown, never to be heard of again. I think the bank foreclosed on the cafe and it never opened again.

Then, a number of years ago, there was something called The 100 Club. This was kind of a hush-hush deal - but like all other hush-hush deals - everybody knew about it but nobody talked about it, at least openly. Once a month The 100 Club would hold a "social" in the community center. There was a live band, food and set-ups because you had to BYOB. When you entered the door the guys threw their car keys into a basket. At the end of the evening there was a drawing - get the jist? It was called The 100 Club because there were 50 couples that paid their membership dues; membership was by invitation only. You had to be "approved" by the Board. Ole chuckles when he thinks about it - he says there's an entire generation of folks running around this community who KNOW who their mothers are, but aren't real sure who their fathers are!! Oh, what a little Peyton Place we had.

Well, I think that's enough for today.
Love, Lena


Marge said...

And everyone talks about "the younger generation" today! It has never been just the younger generation, has it! I love your small town need to keep writing them, and maybe compile them into a book! Funny stuff, my friend!

~ Sil in Corea said...

Heheheheheh!!! There was a "wife-swapping" club like that in my home town, too. One of the founding members was the local garbage collector who had a side business as a real estate agent. Yeah! Strange combo. He chased my mom around the woodshed one day, and we did our own dump-runs after that.