It was a cold, dark, and icy night as Daphne made her way toward Little Twig, Montana. The sun had set at 4:30 PM and there was hardly a sliver of moon to light the way into town. As she pulled up Main Street the sign on the bank read -2 degrees. The outfits in front of The Grand Saloon were all running with nobody in them as she pulled up beside them. Daphne decided to turn her outfit off since she was just coming in for a quick one. Making her way through the exhaust fumes, she entered the bar. As usual for this type of weather she was wearing her sister Deb’s long mink coat, a trapper’s hat and knee high boots. (There was no reason to forsake fashion in sub zero weather; none whatsoever.)
On nights like this, Daphne liked to imagine herself in an old 1930s Klondike movie like “Call of the Wild” with Clark Gable and Loretta Young. Her real life saloon was very much like those movie saloons that sat at the edge of the frontier. It was also very much like that bar at the edge of the galactic frontier in “Star Wars”. And like that outer space bar, all kinds of aliens from all kinds of different planets would meet, rub elbows , and occasionally get into a scuffle.
She stopped and cased the joint. As usual Ed who sticks to himself was sitting in the corner eating an oyster poor boy special. Jingo John sat in the rocking chair by the fire singing a old-timey tune to himself. That’s mostly because nobody wants to talk to him as he is not endowed with much for imaginative talk and usually has his underwear showing underneath his overalls. At the bar sat 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 Claudia, the sultry Mexican bartenderess, scribbled down what they owed. Daphne sidled up next to Carl. Just then a blast of cold air ushered in Sonny Stevens who sat down at the end of the bar.
“I’ll have a Cab and a blackened Caesar Salad to go, Claudia,” he said and then turns to Carl and Cal. “Cold enough for ya?”
They exchange the usual cold weather small talk like “It’s colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra” and should Daphne have to worry about not having her outfit running and how much diesel fumes can one inhale without getting woozy. That sort of talk. Then Carl and Cal put on their scotch caps, waved goodbye and went out the door.
Another blast of frigid air and Daphne’s friend Thelma entered the bar looking a lot like Lara from Dr. Zhivago with her white fur boots, white shearling coat, and Cossack hat followed by their friend Will who seemed to be the only one without a hat. Directly behind him Daphne’s husband, Cowboy Clay, saunters in. (Cowboy Clay always saunters; never merely walks). Clay had a black no frills scotch cap on with black silk wild rags around his neck.
For some reason they all started talking about getting free drinks from bar keeps and Daphne mentioned that she used to get free stuff all the time at the restaurant/bar in her office building at 57th and 7th in New York City. She wondered why there weren’t more free drinks given out here.
“It might be that you were twenty years younger, ” Sonny explains.
“No,” she smiled and sipped a very nice Steel “Stymie” Merlot that she was sharing with Thelma, ” I brought a lot of clients. I ate there a lot. I brought in business. As I do here.”
Getting a wicked look in his eye that she had seen before he replied, “Nah, it’s got to be that you are a lot older now.”
Daphne knew he was trying to push her buttons like he always managed to do. But this time she zipped her lip.
Claudia interrupted the disagreement and said, “Well, I got something worse to be called. 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.”
Daphne had to admit she had never heard the term “old blister” and she found it quite offensive. She asked Thelma if she had heard the term. Thelma shook her head and said “No, that’s a new one on me.”
Daphne turned to Cowboy Clay and Will and asked them if they had heard the term. They looked at each other and then down. After a pause, Will admitted he had heard the word. Cowboy Clay nodded and said, “Yeh, it’s kinda like being called an old hide. It’s a term of respect.”
“Oh, right,” Daphne 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. It’s not like the blister on your foot or on your butt doesn’t chafe and burn. Ha. Ha. And you want me to believe that “old hide” is also a term of respect? Okay, so maybe she’s a good hand to have around when the going gets tough, but isn’t it also akin to saying that”she looks like she’s been rode hard and put up wet?”
(Lots of chuckles from the guys).
Daphne continued, “You know what really galls me is that you guys have all these terms of endearment, I mean, “respect”, but women just don’t have the same terms of “respect” 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,” she huffs, “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 at the Vice President’s house. (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 old folks here,” he said laughing quietly to himself as he went out the door.
A light bulb went off in Daphne’s head. She 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?”
Everybody laughed and heartily agreed. With that the discussion was closed for the evening. Best way to end most of these banters was with a smile and a bit of wit and also the grace to wait to level the zinger until after the offender had left. Now Daphne felt more like Myrna Loy in “The Thin Man” or Roz Russell in “My Gal Friday” than Ma Kettle in “The Klondike”. And this made her very happy as she went back out into the icy night. She looked up and saw that the clouds had drifted away and the night was filled with stars. With a sigh at the beauty of it all, she slipped into her “limousine” and hummed to herself an old-timey ditty all the way back to the ranch.