Dear Hearts and Gentle People – [Bullet Holes in the Ceiling]

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.

Old Jules

Ned Sublette:  Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other:


Dinah Shore 1949 – Dear Hearts and Gentle People


11 responses to “Dear Hearts and Gentle People – [Bullet Holes in the Ceiling]

  1. Well, this post was an eye-opener all over the place. Loved hearing the long version of that song I always thought was Willie’s. And, never imagined a gay bar would be so incestuously hostile. It wasn’t a case of mistaken assumptions in the other direction, was it?

    The Good Luck Duck

    • The Good Luck Duck: Good morning and thanks for the visit. Quemado’s a hostile place, generally. From WWII until today every graduating high school class has headed off to somewhere else, leaving behind only a culling of those who couldn’t find their way to the next town. So they stay, marry someone else who stayed, and keep the town going with their offspring. As for my partner’s reference to gay bars, it was an attempt to be funny at the expense of Bad Teeth and his relatives. I doubt there was any mistaken assumption on the part of anyone involved. Gracias, Jules

  2. Did you wink at them on the way out?

  3. I am not sure I understand, but it is a good post, good music and a good chuckle.

  4. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever been there – not the bar but the town.

  5. Good story Jules, as ever. Reminds me of a little hole in the wall in the middle of nowhere, northern New Mexico. You sure do bring back those memories for me.

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