High on the Plains: Bad music and the country sensibility


Chad Christensen

There’s a guy in the pub, and when you shake his hand, he holds it for a long time. And he talks—a lot. And he does it as he holds you captive.

But the good thing is, I like what he has to say. It’s real and it’s genuine. Of course, some of it’s bullshit, but that’s expected. When you live in the hills, you’re bound to be colorful.

When he finally does let go of my hand it’s usually to buy a drink. And he always slaps his money down hard on the bar which make the bartenders jump. He finds this to be very—entertaining. I’m not sure what they think about this but they usually try to smile because—he’s old and crazy.

Now, I think he used to own a bar or maybe he still does. Or maybe his ex-wife owns it now and he just runs it. I don’t remember. I should know these things.

Anyways, he was telling me when he bartended he used to just give people drinks even if they ran out of money. Or sometimes they’d run up a tab and all they had was a debit card. “There wasn’t an ATM,” he said. “There still isn’t.” He’d just let em go. Tell em to come back sometime and make it right.

I’m remembering now. I think his ex-wife does own the bar.

Doesn’t matter. The guy’s full throttle and full of goofy stories which is—what I enjoy.

He’s got one about a couple of steers getting loose in the middle of some town. He pulled up to a stoplight and the back gate of the trailer just swung open. He looked in his side-view and saw them taking off down Main Street.

They wrangled most of them up but one felt courageous and ran into the residential area. It started running through people’s back yards and breaking through fences. Kids were everywhere screaming. The cops had to shoot it.

“Probably the most action they’ve seen,” he told me. I nodded—which seemed to encourage him.

He then proceeded to tell the bartender she had “nice boots.” She took the compliment (because they were nice boots) but then wagged her finger at him. He grinned and responded with, “Two more. This guy looks thirsty.”

And I was.

Several pseudo cowboys came in and I thought he was gonna lose it. “Their buckles are very, ah— shiny,” he told me. “Real country folk there.”

It got worse when they tried to play music. He turned around on his stool and started to verbally abuse them. I didn’t recognize the song—but the bartender told me (very enthusiastically) it was Luke Bryan. I shook my head in disapproval.

It was then that one of them decided to spit on him. Not a move I would have chosen, but a move none the less. And it was enough. I couldn’t even turn around fast enough before my friend swung. And as he swung, he didn’t even leave his bar stool.

The pseudo cowboy went straight down—FLOP— like something out of an old cartoon. At first, the other pseudo cowboys just stood there. Then finally they picked him up and dragged him outside. Luke Bryan was still playing and the entire bar watched them through the window. They looked lost—like they couldn’t remember where they parked.

“Bad music,” he told me. And then he got up and shook my hand. This time he didn’t hold it for very long.