It was a cold, dark and icy night as I made my way into Little Twig, Montana from the ranch. The sun had set at 4:30 PM and there was hardly a sliver of moon to light the way into town. The sign on the bank read -2 degrees. The outfits in front of The Grand were all running with nobody in them as I pulled up beside them. I turned my outfit off since I was just coming in for a quick one. I entered the bar in my customary below zero regalia that consisted of my sister Deb’s mink coat, a trapper’s hat and knee high boots. (There is no reason to forsake fashion in sub zero weather; none whatsoever.)
I imagine myself in an old 1930s Klondike movie on nights like this. The saloon is at the edge of the frontier and there are the usual assortment of patrons that at times also reminds me of the bar in Star Wars where all kinds of aliens from all kinds of different planets meet, rub elbows, and occasionally get into a scuffle.
Over there in the corner sits Ed who sticks to himself and is eating an oyster poor boy special. Jingo John sits in the rocking chair by the fire singing a old-timey tune to himself. At the bar sit the regular happy hour duo of Cal and Carl who are just about to leave as it is a little after six and the drinks go up a buck. Behind the bar is Claudia, the sultry Mexican bartenderess writing up a ticket for Cal. I sit down next to Carl. Just then a blast of cold air ushers in Sonny Stevens who sits down at the end of the bar and orders a Cab and a blackened chicken Caesar salad to go.
We exchange the usual cold weather small talk like “It’s colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra” and did I have to worry about not having my outfit running and how much diesel fumes can you inhale without getting woozy. That sort of talk. Carl and Cal put on their scotch caps and leave.
Another blast of frigid air and my friend Thelma enters; looking like Lara from Dr. Zhivago with her white fur boots, shearling coat, and Cossack hat followed by our friend Will who seemed to be the only one without a hat. Directly behind him my husband, Cowboy Clay, saunters in. (Cowboy Clay always saunters; never merely walks). Clay has a black no frills scotch cap on with black silk wild rags around his neck.
For some reason we start talking about getting free drinks from bar keeps and I mention that I used to get free stuff all the time at the restaurant/bar below my office building at 57th and 7th in New York City.
“It might be a gender thing. But it also might be that you were twenty years younger, ” Sonny explains.
“No,” I smiled and sipped a very nice Steel “Stymie” Merlot that I was sharing with Thelma, “That’s because I brought a lot of clients who were movie and Broadway actors there. I brought in business. As I do here.”
Getting a wicked look in his eye that I had seen before he decided to push my buttons, “Nah, it’s got to be that you are a lot older now.”
Claudia interrupted the disagreement and said, “Well Daphne, being called “old” is better than than being called “an old blister. I remember the time that some guy called up here to make a dinner reservation and asked if the two old blisters were still bar tending. I told him “No, They’re all long gone.” So pretty soon he comes waltzing in and sees me. I ask him what he wants to drink. He gets this startled look on his face when he realizes that he talked to me on the phone and called me an old blister. It was good to see him squirm a bit.”
I have to admit I had never heard the term “old blister” and I found it quite offensive. I asked Thelma if she had heard the term. She shook her head and said “No, that’s a new one on me.”
I turned to Cowboy Clay and Will and asked them if they had heard the term. They looked at each other and there was a pause. Then Will admitted he had heard the word. Cowboy Clay nodded and said, “Yeh, it’s like being called an old hide. It’s a term of respect.”
“Oh, right,” I snorted, “a blister is a sign of respect. So, it’s a good thing. It’s not an irritating thing. It’s not that it makes you wince. By the way, is this blister on your foot or on your butt? And I don’t get old hide either. That’s another respectful term? Okay, maybe she’s a good hand to have around when the going gets tough, but isn’t it also akin to “she looks like she’s been rode hard and put up wet?” You know you guys all have these terms of endearment, I mean, respect, but women just don’t have the same terms for you guys. Old coot or stubborn jackass doesn’t really have the punch that old blister or old hide does.”
At this point Cowboy Clay sighs and says, “Daphne, why do you always make such a big deal about such a simple thing. It’s just an expression.”
“That’s not how my brain works and you know it,” I huff, “I want to know the meaning of things. I want to know these bar codes. And another thing, I don’t like the casual way men get away with insults while women usually get called bitches if they try having some fun.”
Well at this point another couple came in and the subject turned to going to Washington D.C. for a Christmas Party (see why this is a Star Wars bar with all kinds of types) so we dropped the “old blister” topic.
Soon Sonny got up to leave and he couldn’t resist getting in another jibe on the way out.
“Well I guess I’ll go home to my young wife and leave you folks here.”
A light bulb went off in my head. I grinned and said, “What is it about men that they think that a young wife makes them look like anything more than just an old blister?”
And with that the discussion was closed for the evening. Daphne had learned a valuable lesson in witty repartee, and so she hummed to herself an old-timey ditty all the way back to the ranch.