Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.
It must have been an Eve, Christmas or New Year, 1996 or 1997. Keith and I, or Mel and I were partnered that trip and the cold, or the mud drove us into town. We got a room in the motel you see just beyond the cafe with the chuckwagon on the roof. Quemado was dead, every business in town shut down except the bar underneath the yellow sign on the right side of the picture.
Sometime after dark we wandered across the highway to the bar. A couple of pickups were parked in front and we hoped there’d be a hamburger and beer to be had. At least we figured it would be warmer than the motel room.
We stepped up to the bar and examined the half-dozen other customers through the smoke as we pulled off our coats. Behind the bar a guy probably named Bad Teeth was grinning, looking us over. Same as everyone else in there, all of whom appeared to be ten-generations of first cousins inter-married to Bad Teeth’s ancestors.
“Any chance of getting something to eat?” The faint odor of hamburgers lingered in the background.
Bad Teeth just grinned and looked past me at the badasses huddled over one of the tables. “You won’t be here that long.”
“Long enough for a beer, anyway.” My partner was showing signs of irritation.
“Only certain kinds of people come in here.” My eyes followed where Bad Teeth was pointing at the cluster of bullet holes in the ceiling. “Nobody else stays long.”
But my partner, Mister Wiseass, wasn’t looking at the ceiling. He was letting his gaze size up all the drinkers, them doing the same to us. ”Gay bar in Quemado?” He poked me in the ribs with his elbow, laughing. “He’s right. If anyplace else was open we ought to go there.”
The door was only a few steps away. I grabbed his arm and headed for it. “Let’s go there anyway. The smoke’s stuffing up my sinuses.” I suppose we’d have just been too much trouble. Nobody followed us out to the street.
Or maybe it really was a gay bar. I’m happy enough not knowing.
Bad judgement was driving to Quemado instead of another 80 miles to Springerville, AZ, if we wanted something as complicated as a hamburger. Just saying.
When Ned Sublette used to sing the song linked below at a honkytonk out on the West Mesa in Albuquerque he always got out alive. Maybe all those cowboys were just glad someone finally said it.
Ned Sublette: Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other:
Dinah Shore 1949 – Dear Hearts and Gentle People