Barroom Therapy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Mighty Jack's was the only bar in the town of Johnson Valley. In fact it was the only thing in town worthwhile of the town folks attention. It was a meeting hall, wedding chapel, court house and used for every purpose possible.

Submitted: September 15, 2016

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Submitted: September 15, 2016




Johnson Valley was in the midst of a heatwave unlike any they had ever experienced. The already dried up ground was one more blink of an eye from burning up. Everything was hot in the town. The temperature, the ground, the buildings, even the people. Summer was a brutal time for the valley, but this one was perhaps the worst on record.

The locals had taken to watching the news in the capitol, taking heed of what the weathermen had suggested. Keeping cool as possible. Do not drive anywhere or do anything but stay inside. People did take all those suggestions seriously, except one group. One group in town had no choice. They had to be out in the heat, their jobs and lively hood had required it of them. It was gonna have to be that way.

The farmers along the back roads of town had to keep working. They had crops that needed to be tended to and the cowboys as well were fixing fence and getting branding done earlier so they could focus on prepping for the winter. In the valley, it seemed as if the summer was especially hot, the winter was especially brutal. Winters in the valley were always with a windchill. Nothing came simple for the folks in the valley. 

When ever you needed to relieve the stress and get away from the brutality of the weather and just life in general, every one would head to Mighty Jack’s Tavern. Located right in the middle of town, next to Brown’s Market and the Post Office. Jack’s was the meeting place for everyone. City Council would meet once a month and with city funds, would buy out the booze in the bar. Everyone was involved with the running of Jack’s. The owner was a retired Cowboy who wanted to recreate the bars he had seen in old John Wayne westerns. SO he bought it and turned it into the ultimate Honky Tonk Experience.

Sawdust was covered all over the floor. The air was stagnant with whiskey and cigarette smoke. The music was always on the same three artists. Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, or the favorite of the town George Jones. The walls were lined with the type of alcohol you could get and around the bar were various posters of past events in the town. Rodeos and Advertisements for people and big events that were in town. Every year Moe Bandy would make a personal appearance. 

Johnson Valley was a blink your eyes and you would miss the business district of town. In what was the exact size of a 4x4 Square, the town on one side had Mighty Jacks’s, the Post Office and the only restaurant in town Margie’s. On the other side was The Dollar store, City Hall and the Sinclair station. Scattered around this little square was some the biggest and vast amount of farm land and ranches in the whole state. You drive a long I-455 north towards the Canadian border you could almost swear you witnessing history. Men and Women spending long hours in the fields, working until the sweat complete poured out of them. Sometimes avoiding meals, just to ensure the work was done. 

It was a quiet night at Jack's. Jack was tending the bar. He was a 65 year old man, leathery skin with long loose limbs. He was wearing a peal snap shirt with black Wrangler's. Sleeves were rolled up. He was humming along to George Jones. There were four people sitting at the bar. Two cowboys from the Circle JC were drinking Miller Lites. The town Mayor and Margie from the Cafe were sitting at the other end of the bar. Everyone seemed to be in their own world, so Jack just kept humming along to George Jones. 

The Mayor, feeling offput by the silence, stood up from his stool. He pulled a bandanna from his jacket pocket and wiped his brow. Looking around at the empty bar, he let out a loud laugh. 

"Well, by god is it hotter than hell in August." The Mayor said.

"It's August, Kurt," Jack said. "It's nice to have the wise and wonderful advice from our mayor." 

"I'm just saying I don't remember it ever being this hot," Kurt said.

"1985," One of the Cowboys said. "It was over 100 for three months straight." 

Jack turned to the Cowboy who spoke. Jeff was with his partner Ronnie. They were the two top hands for the Circle JC. Jeff was wearing a black Stetson with a blue button up shirt. Ronnie was wearing a Gray Stetson with a white shirt. Both were covered in sweat and dust. They were coated with the days work all over them. Jack nodded at the two Cowboys.

"That is true, I reckon." Jack said. "That was a brutal summer. But not as bad as 1975. Forest burned up pretty bad. Came within 10 miles of reaching town."

"I remember that, The ranchers were gonna get their tractors and make a fire line, but the Government came in and said no. Took to damn long for them to realize that they had made a mistake. Bastards." Ronnie said. 

"Ain't that the truth," Margie said. She walked over and took the seat next to Jeff. She nodded to Jack for a refill of her Coke and Rum. Jack took the glass and refilled it. Kurt took the seat next to Ronnie. George Jones stopped and Merle Haggard was telling her woman that he started loving her again. The music filled the the bar. No matter what the amount of people were in the bar, you could smell the smoke and stale whiskey in the air. 

Jeff reached into his pocket and pulled out a picture. He stared at it for a couple of moments before putting it down. 

"You all remember Mona Kincaid?" Jeff asked.

Kurt and Ronnie nodded their heads yes. Margie and Jack had to pause before they nodded her heads yes. Jeff smiled before he started speaking again.

"Today was her birthday. She would have been 33 today. Been gone for 5 years." Jeff said. 

"I miss her," Ronnie said. "She and her sister Norma were big supporters of the Rodeo out at Kennedy's farm. Every year they would help put on the concessions every year and seek donations. Mona was a beautiful gal."

"Yeah she was one of my favorite waitresses at the cafe," Margie said. "Beautiful brown hair beauty. Great smile and she would always come up with some of the goofiest facts out there." 

"Their mother was a wonderful woman," Kurt said.

"You always liked older women, Kurt," Jack said.

"The older the violin, the sweeter the music." Kurt said.

"Let me ask you all something," Jack said.

"What is that?" Jeff and Ronnie asked.

"How would you feel about me adding on to the bar? I'm thinking of building a bigger dance floor. Something that makes more families come in." Jack said.

"Every family comes in here from 25 miles," Jeff said. 

"Yeah, this is the only place in town to do anything. No offense Margie," Ronnie said. 

"I can feed everybody, but Jack can entertain them." Margie said.

"The city council is meeting next week, we wanna bring in a new store into Johnson Valley." Kurt said. 

"What store?" Jack said.

"Target," Kurt said.

Margie smiled, while the men all groaned. Margie turned to face the men. 

"What is wrong with Target?" Margie asked.

"A lot of things," Jack said.

"Where in the hell would you put a Target in this town?" Jeff said. 

"We would find the place for it," Kurt said. 

Jeff turned to look at Kurt. Kurt was a pudgy man with a crew cut. He fancied himself a rancher and tried to make it known that he was the best of both world. Margie was a blonde hair beauty who had seen better days. She was a beauty queen who had aged horribly. Leathery skin and a biker queen tank top and blue jeans with holes in them. 

"It's nice to know our Mayor is a whore," Ronnie said.

"How are things at the Circle JC?" Jack asked.

"Not to bad," Jeff said. "Finished the fences out at the back 40. We're gonna fix up the corral and bring in a herd of horses from New Mexico. Mr Urich made a good deal for them. Mustangs. Hopefully have them next week. Pete Jenkins is going to bring them in on a trailer."

"I'm surprised. Urich has never been interested in horses." Jack said.

"Kinda surprised ourselves," Ronnie said. "He's wanting to expand from cattle. Prices have been way low, not even worth raising them fat bastards."

"I hope he does," Margie said. "Those are the best burgers in the state."

"They really are," Jack said. He turned to look at Jeff and said "Grass fed." Jeff nodded his head. Jack went back to wiping down the counter. 

Kurt looked at everyone in the bar. "I wanna remind you all that a week from Thursday is the LIbrary Association meeting. We're gonna be talking bout who we wanna bring in as a special guest this year. Everybody come on down." Kurt said.

"Who are they thinking it's gonna be?" Margie said. 

"Well, I think they were considering Red Stegall or Michael Martin Murphy." Kurt said.

"I like Murphy better," Ronnie said. Jeff nodded his head too. "He has a better voice," Jeff said.

"That is for sure," Jack said. "He sang that song about the lost horse."

"Yeah, he did." Kurt said. "The hell was it called?" Kurt asked.

"Wildfire," Margie said. "Love that song about that horse. Never thought about horses were that smart. He wanders around and gets stranded in a fire." 

"That wasn't the song," Jack said. "The horse wandered around and got lost in a cold winter night." 

"Nah that doesn't soung right," Kurt said.

"Your a politician," Jeff said. "You will say what ever you want." 

"As long as they are aware where I stand on all the issues." Kurt said.

"Damn it's hot," Margie said. 

"It is still gonna be a hot son of a bitch," Jack said.

"Ain't that the truth," Jeff said.

The group sat there. Nursing their drinks and asorbing all the heat from the weather and the smoke in the bar. Barroom therapy was a place where nothing ever really got resolved. But it was a fun place to go and throw your problems around. 


© Copyright 2018 Robert Logan. All rights reserved.

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