It was another cold, dark, and howling night in Little Twig, Montana. No longer below zero, the wind had picked up again and slapped Daphne in the butt as she literally blew into the saloon. At the end of the bar in his usual spot stood Cowboy Clay with his Chardonnay. Carl nursed a whiskey a seat down from where Clay stood and Soot was to the right of Clay also sipping a whiskey. One bar stool next to Carl was open and Daphne slid in and threw off her long down coat. Claudia had already poured her a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and set it down in front of her. Daphne pulled out her cell phone and placed it on the bar.
Daphne: I waiting for one more call and then I’m done for the day.
Soot: I’m getting rid of my cell phone. We never needed them before. Why should we now?
Clay: Well what happens when you get stuck in a ditch?
Soot: Well, maybe I wouldn’t have gone anywhere where I’d get stuck with no way of telling anybody where I am. Maybe these phones just cause people to be reckless. What did ya think about that?
Carl: You could be right, Soot.
Clay: I don’t know. I think people are going to be stupid whether they’ve got a phone or not.
With that the first round of the Philosophy Club finished and it was on to the next round. Continue reading →
After a long and frustrating day of baling hay (too wet, too dry), my husband goes to town for some beers. There he usually runs into an assortment of fellows who will invariably give him the latest shocking examples of evil government doings gleaned from somewhere in the Fat Cat News.
“The IRS is gonna charge our athletes $9000 for winning a gold medal!” a wizened fellow exclaims.
“That ain’t right. Gud dam gubmint ” grumbles a guy in a green cap as he slams his beer glass down on the bar, “Why they are fighting for us over there.”
“Get the ropes! String ’em up”, two more guys yell out as the crowd now becomes tense and restless, grumbling about lack of good swinging trees because of the gd tree huggers. Continue reading →
Continuing my series on Bar Codes and Saloon Life, I went to check out the annual Yellowstone Boat Float. Last night was the start of the Boat Float where young people man rubber rafts, fishing boats, makeshift vessels made of oil drums and plastic bottles. It’s a three day drinking affair. Every night they land their vessels and drink some more, listen to bands, and get arrested. The town folk come to watch. And sometimes it is dangerous and there is always somebody that gets in trouble on the river or at the parties. Ah Jack London would be in heaven.
“In the saloons life was different. Men talked with great voices, laughed great laughs, and there was an atmosphere of greatness. Here was something more than the common-every-day where nothing happened. Here life was always very live, and, sometimes, even lurid…Terrible [saloons] might be, but then that only meant they were terribly wonderful…In the same way pirates, and shipwrecks, and battles were terrible; and what healthy boy wouldn’t give his immortal soul to participate in such affairs?”
And lo and behold, there was very much a pirate theme to many of the rafts. Pirate flags flew proudly in the wind. Pirate hats adorned many heads. There were Indians and Vikings. There was a guy packing some heat. Of course some of this dangerous behavior was undercut by a lot of cute dogs some with their own life vests and some with, yes, pirate hats and Viking horns.
I’m still editing some movies of the event, but until then here are some pictures to enjoy.
I picked up a book at a student book store in New Orleans because it’s title leaped out at me. “Faces Along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman’s Saloon 1870- 1920” by Madelon Powers. It’s an academic, well foot-noted but not dry analysis of the saloon culture that arose in the U.S. with industrialization. Various middle class progressive reformers like the “Committee of Fifty” comprised mostly of clergymen and academics studied this culture partially to figure out how to create substitutes for it. They tried to take the energy of the informal working groups in saloons and shovel them into union halls and temperance tearooms. But the saloons prevailed until prohibition. They served as a way of self-organization and a way of integrating into American life. They followed a tradition that Alexis de Tocqueville noted earlier. He called it “the art of association”. He observed that Americans seemed obsessed with material acquisition and individualism. The only thing tempering this dangerous self-interest was their equal tendency to form voluntary associations. And Powers includes saloon life as a form of voluntary association much like joining lodges, political parties, church groups, and Social Aid and Pleasure clubs like the ones that still exist in New Orleans. Continue reading →
“Them People” – News from the Saloon – Updated
Conversation at the bar:
“Did you see those mass demonstrations in Madrid? And the cops were brutal. But the people kept coming. ” says the anarchist rancher gal.
“Them people ought to accept austerity,” says neighbor guy.
“What is austerity?” anarchist ranch gal asks, suppressing a Cheshire Cat grin.
Deer in Headlights describes look from neighbor guy.
Continue reading →
Posted in Montana Life, Social Commentary, The Accidental Activist
Tagged austerity, Counterpunch, EU, Italy, Montana, saloons, Spain, Tom Gill