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. Daphne entered the bar in her customary below zero regalia that consisted of her 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.)
Daphne would imagine herself in an old 1930s Klondike movie on nights like this (like “Call of the Wild” with Clark Gable and Loretta Young.) The saloon is at the edge of the frontier and there are the usual assortment of patrons that at times also reminds her 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. Daphne sidles up 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.
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 enters; looking like Lara from Dr. Zhivago with her white fur boots, 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 has a black no frills scotch cap on with black silk wild rags around his neck.
For some reason they all start 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 below her 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,” she smiled and sipped a very nice Steel “Stymie” Merlot that she 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 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 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.”
Daphne 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,” she 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 like the blister on your foot or on your butt is a nice thing to have? And I don’t get how old hide is a term of respect. Okay, 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?” You what galls me is that you guys all have 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 she felt more like Myrna Loy in “The Thin Man” or Roz Russell in “My Gal Friday” than Ma Kettle in the Klondike. Daphne was happy and so hummed to herself an old-timey ditty all the way back to the ranch.