Thursday Think Tank: Bad Bar Bands and Cowboy Brawls

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At a certain point her table decided they needed some air, and stepped outside. The Buckboard had these massive windows on the front of the bar that allowed you to see outside to the front parking lot. As I stood playing “Brown Eyed Girl,” I saw my wife and her friends standing on the front porch of the bar, chatting and smiling.

Enter the villain of our story…

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It’s 4th of July, and I don’t have any great 4th of July stories. I mean I could tell about the time that my Mom and her best friend took 4 of us children to a Native American reservation to purchase illegal fireworks for their husbands, but aside from the ludicrous premise, it was a relatively uneventful trip.

So instead I thought I might focus on one of my redneckiest of experiences growing up in Small Town, USA. When I throw a term like “redneck” around, understand that I do not imply any negative connotations. While I may have traded in my blue collar roots for what is now a very white collar, climate controlled, callus-free life, it doesn’t mean I don’t hold tremendous admiration for folks who live that life. I think most of them are proud of the “redneck” moniker in terms of the positive aspects of the label, and I hold those aspects near and dear to my heart.

Now about that time I almost got my ass kicked by a bar full of cowboy rednecks…

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Tangent: Before I go any further, I just wanted to let you know that my stories are real. I may embellish a detail or two for the sake of telling a good story, and I may get a fact or two wrong due to the passing of time, but overall the stories mostly happened the way I detail them. In almost every case I have witnesses, and in the case of this story I’ve easily got 150.

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I used to play in a bar band. Two of my absolute best friends in the world and I started “jamming” in my Dad’s shop when I was 12 or 13, and we eventually formed a cover band that played the local circuit of dive bars and honky-tonks. We got pretty good, and the owners of the various establishments would book us every weekend to play classic rock and country tunes for folks to dance to.

We were kind of a big deal.

In the valley that I grew up in, the most coveted gig for a cover band was Rodeo Weekend. Each year our town throws a massive county fair, complete with one of the largest rodeos in the state. Cowboys and cowgirls (cowpeople?) come from all over the nation to compete, and the event draws thousands of people over a week or two of events.

If you were in a band, it was an accomplishment just to get booked anywhere in town on Rodeo Weekend, but you knew you had truly arrived if you played the largest bar in town known as, The Buckboard Saloon.

The Buckboard was a large honky-tonk filled with pool tables, a large dance floor, and at least 30-40 tables. On most weekends it was packed with locals, but on Rodeo Weekend the place was usually standing room only and filled with Stetson hats, giant belt buckles, and cowboy boots as far as the eye could see. I’d guess around 200 people in total, but again… it was a long time ago.

The year this story takes place, my band, Longshot, got the gig. We were a really tight band by this point, and we played everything from “Friends in Low Places” to “Brown Eyed Girl” and even a Beastie Boys song or two.

We strapped in for our 3 hour gig, and after shaking off the nerves, we had the crowd singing along to everything we played. They were rowdy, they were wild, and the were drinking. A LOT.

I was newly married at the time, and my wife was in attendance with several other band wives and girlfriends. She was raised in the same town as me, so the level of drinking and rowdiness was not anything new to her. They sat at their own table, talking and occasionally dancing, but for the most part they just sort of kept to themselves.

At a certain point her table decided they needed some air, and stepped outside. The Buckboard had these massive windows on the front of the bar that allowed you to see outside to the front parking lot. As I stood playing “Brown Eyed Girl,” I saw my wife and her friends standing on the front porch of the bar, chatting and smiling.

Enter the villain of our story…

If I wrote what was about to happen for a movie script, I’d have it thrown back in my face as being cliché drivel, but a drunk cowboy IN A BLACK COWBOY HAT, BLACK SHIRT, AND BLACK BOOTS walked up behind my wife. With the nearly floor to ceiling windows, I watched in mild anger as he put his arms around my wife in a drunken hug and said something into her ear. Now my wife is no slouch, and can hold her own in just about any situation, so I wasn’t too worried initially. She spun out of his grasp, clearly said something less-than-encouraging to him about his advances, and then turned back to her friends.

That’s when he grabbed her again. This time it was much more of a bear hug, and though she struggled, she couldn’t break free.

Before my band even knew what was happening, I had removed my guitar, and was bolting across the dance floor for the door. I was about to murder someone.

The large windows must have provided him a few of my body erupting into flames of rage, because by the time I busted through the front door out into the cool night air, he was nowhere to be found. I asked my wife where he had gone, but she and her friends were so concerned with making sure she was okay that they hadn’t paid attention. I asked several people in the parking lot, but most were too intoxicated to stand, let alone provide useful insight into where their drunken brother had run off to.

I was livid. I saw red. I knew there was only one thing left to do.

I had to challenge the entire bar to a fight.

I stormed back into The Buckboard Saloon, and yelled, “HEY! If anyone feels like touching my wife, why don’t you let me know so that I can kick your ass right now in front of everyone. Who touched my wife?!?!? If nobody wants to fess up, how about I just kick ALL of your asses!?!?!”

So let’s record scratch this blog post for a moment and let me explain something:

Not only was this a stupid thing to do just based on numbers alone, and the fact that at least half of the people in that bar (including the women) were the most blue-collar, hard-working, physically-capable people you could find, but also because of one glaring omission on my part…

I had never thrown a single punch in anger in my life. That’s right. I had never been in a single fight in my 20 years on this planet. I was a big guy growing up, and between that and my comedic personality, I had just never been in a situation that required fists to be thrown in anger.

So I was what the doctors and scientists of this world refer to as “an idiot.” I realized my stupidity as the words crossed my lips, but it was too late. I said them all. Loudly.

To my surprise, nobody took me up on my offer. Maybe they felt I looked just a bit to crazed to mess with at this stage. Maybe they saw my friends standing behind me. Maybe my wife wrote “he’s never been in a real fight, please don’t waste your time” on a dry erase board and held it up behind me. Whatever the reason, nobody said a word, and eventually we all just sort of turned and walked back to the stage.

I never did find that guy but it’s okay, because I don’t know what I would have done to him. Probably not much.

The lead singer of our band did get a call the next day from the owner of The Buckboard who said, “If you guys are going to come back for night 2, Dave isn’t going to start any trouble is he?”

We played night 2, and nothing much at all happened. People drank, people danced, and people kept their hands where they belonged.

My friends will occasionally bring that story up, usually in a very sarcastic manner.

“Hey, Dave, I think I saw someone wink at your wife. You had better go fight a bar.”

“Hey, Johnson, you fought a bar full of cowboys recently? I know a place if you’re itching for a fight.”

As for The Buckboard Saloon, it is now a Chinese food restaurant. I doubt stories come out of it like mine anymore, but I sometimes imagine that the guy who grabbed my wife that night ate there once and got really bad diarrhea from an expired egg roll.

Or at least got a fortuneless fortune cookie.

If you live in the States, have a safe and fun 4th of July!

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Testosterone and youthful ignorance can make us do really dumb things. I tried to fight an entire bar full of cowboys. Got any dumb stories from your youth? Share them in the comments below!

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