Camp Rock & Roll – The Pioneer Inn and Caribou Ranch of Nederland

 

“I mean, how many places can you go where both you and your dog get arrested in the same day?”
 — An anonymous blogger expresses contrasting modern times in Nederland

From the collection of Thom Sontag. The Rudy Toot band rocks the Pioneer Inn in its early wilder days. Left to right: Bob 'Rudy' Kittle, Mickey 'Boom-Boom' McAdams, Thom Sontag, Russell Kortright, Dan Fogelberg.
From the collection of Thom Sontag. The Rudy Toot band rocks the Pioneer Inn in its early wilder days. Left to right: Bob 'Rudy' Kittle, Mickey 'Boom-Boom' McAdams, Thom Sontag, Russell Kortright, Dan Fogelberg.

There is a sepia poster circulated like a freak flag since the early 1970s, depicting a proudly ragtag group of young hippies, a couple of local dogs basking in the dusty street and two horses tied out in front of the weathered Pioneer Inn in Nederland, Colorado. Nederland at the time had a population of fewer than 500 old miners and cowboys and was gaining popularity with the new breed of artistic city escapees who weren’t quite welcomed by the locals. The sign on the Pioneer Inn read, “No longhairs or unkempt beards allowed,” but that didn’t deter two of the Nederland poster children (and their dog) from simply purchasing the place and becoming town business owners in 1972. The first thing new owners Bunny Spangler and her husband of that time, Art Yeotis, did was to take down that damn sign. Music was the soul food of the era and Bunny started booking bands regularly to cater to the younger clan of those wilder Ned nights, created in part by the newfound sense of freedom living in survival mode in minimal housing in a town with few rules and even less law-keepers.

At the same time, the PI (as the locals called the Pioneer Inn) was making history as the scene of Wild West barroom culture, one of the most-beloved and sought-after recording studios in the history of music was being built close to the mining ghost town of Caribou just above Nederland as an escape from the madness of the rock-and-roll industry. James Guercio opened the now-legendary Caribou Ranch recording studio in 1973, luring well-known, top-notch musicians to the paradisiacal getaway of almost 5,000 acres and some of the best recording equipment and sound in the West. It became a destination studio, and the partial list of recording artists is extensive: The Beach Boys, Chicago, Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills, Earth, Wind and Fire, Joe Walsh, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Elton John, Kris Kristofferson, John Lennon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Michael Murphey, Tony Orlando, Michael Jackson, Amy Grant, David Cassidy, Eddie Rabbit, Billy Joe Shaver, Rod Stewart and U2, to drop but a few of the names.

The PI provided a venue for the Caribou Ranch superstars to unravel and relax without being hassled by relentless fans, since the Nedheads were a private, close-knit community who knew how to keep a secret and not ask questions. After working all day in the studio, jamming on the porch, playing pool or riding horses, the musicians would head for the PI to unwind, meld with the locals and jam with the homeboys, who were glad and humbled to have the diverse and amazing talent on stage with them, even though most of the Nederland crew could hold their own in music finesse. Some were so talented, they were asked to show up for recording sessions.

Teresa Taylor lived in Nederland and worked her way from maid to kitchen staff at Caribou Ranch in the mid-’70s through 1981 and remembers that the music that started up at Caribou would wind up at the Pioneer Inn. “They’d sit in with who ever was playing,” she says of the recording artists. “I remember one Halloween party when Joe Walsh came in with a football helmet covered with silver foil and antennae and sat in with a local band. He wanted to be incognito. Everything was peace, love, Rocky Mountain high and John Denver … it was a very innocent time. There was great music and great people in the mountains … people like Stephen Stills, Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg … no one thought anything of it. We were all connected. Caribou was connected to Nederland and the locals were quite proud of the PI and they were very loyal and protective of it,” Teresa recalls. “Everyone got to party and they did their jobs. Caribou got to put it on the map. It wasn’t a known fact in Boulder about all the famous people playing at the PI.”

One of the more popular groups of the Pioneer’s early times was the Rudy Toot Band, which became the unofficial house band. Thom Sontag, former drummer for the Rudy Toots, thinks he got to Nederland in ’76. “I went out there to get away from the rock-and-roll industry in N.J., so I moved to Colorado, landed in Boulder, and realized I couldn’t afford it. I was living in a fleabag hotel when I was told to drive up Boulder Canyon because there were musicians up there in Ned. I’ll never forget the smell of the air was so sweet and, in the morning I walked out on the deck and there was Nederland and I knew it’s what I came out here for.” As a talented new drummer in town, he found himself in a band immediately. “Two of the most amazing moments for me was when I was in the Ned supermarket checking out and the guy in front of me is staring at me. I looked at him and it was Fogelberg. I’m staring at his face. At the time, I looked like Randy Meisner, the Eagle’s bass player, and Dan says, ‘Do I know you?’ I said, ‘no, but I know you.’ He took his bag of groceries and walked out the door. Then, many months later, the Rudy Toots are playing a gig up at the Stage Stop in Rollinsville (above Nederland) and Dan walks in with his guitar slung over his shoulder, walks up to Mickey the bass player and asks to sit in. Mickey points at me and says, ‘Ask the boss.’ Dan says, ‘Hey, I know you!’ For me to jam with Fogelberg was an amazing experience. It happened over a dozen times throughout the years.”

The days of Nederland’s after-hours wildness and fistfights may be long gone, along with notorious locals who had hippie nicknames like Meadow Bill, Cowboy Sam, Orange Dog, Red Ted and Karl the snarky PI bartender of few words who tattooed “restroom” on his arm so he could just point the way. Caribou closed its doors after a 1985 fire consumed the studio’s control room. The Pioneer Inn’s long-time owner Bunny Spangler recently sold the celebrated bar after 40 years to get on with a new life and the last remnant of that era  passed into a new generation of owners. Teresa Taylor attended the 40th reunion this past August, “The whole reason I wanted to go was just to hug Bunny and thank her. I don’t know how she did it all these years, but then she was the sober one. She kept it all together and she was the reason it stayed open that long. At the  25th reunion, we saw people we thought were dead. That was the one where everybody showed up. This 40th reunion had a lot of new locals.” Although the feral child of Boulder Canyon may have transformed and grown up somewhat, it is hoped that Nederland and the PI will always remain the redheaded wild stepchild in spirit.

Find Caribou Ranch and the Pioneer Inn on Facebook as well as:

www.caribouranchradio.com

www.pioneerinnnederland.net

In last month’s Mountain Music story, “Sing For Your Supper,” Hard Pressed’s website was regretfully listed incorrectly. Their correct url link is: www.reverbnation.com/hardpressed

Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living on an alley at the end of the road in Crested Butte’s paradise. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact dbelloise@gmail.com 

Breweries, Brewpubs and Beer Bars (Oh My!)

Steve Dressler, Head Brewer at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., puts a fine pour on a glass of Life & Limb
Steve Dressler, Head Brewer at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., puts a fine pour on a glass of Life & Limb.

We live in rad times. Proof of this can be found on the shelves of any decent liquor store, where the once homogeneous wall of light, and slightly less light beer, forced from the bowels of some cavernous monstrosity in St. Louis or Milwaukee, has been supplanted by a cornucopia of fresh, locally produced brews in an ever-widening selection of styles. Grab any two bottles of craft beer and you will find that, like snowflakes, each is unique. So too are the institutions that produce and sell these wonderful products.

Variety is the spice of life, and as with the beer they produce, craft brewers tend to create facilities that reflect personal style, creativity and marketing in equal parts. For the intrepid beer aficionado, intent on consuming new styles of beer in different places, the subtleties that differentiate one from the next can best be illustrated by breaking them into four categories, that of production brewery, the stalwart brewpub, the up-and-coming nanobrewery and the beer bar.

Production breweries, the workhorses of the craft industry, are primarily focused on producing volumes of beer for packaged distribution to the consumer. They hide themselves in light industrial areas across the West, in places where loading docks and forklifts are the norm. Despite this, the taprooms that operate in these facilities offer a chance to enjoy the freshest possible pints of product, while taking in the atmosphere of the place where it is made. Across Colorado, the number of these facilities that have evolved is staggering, with giants such as New Belgium, Lefthand, Avery and Odell’s in the Front Range being joined across the state by Ska, Oskar’s, Durango Brewing, Crazy Mountain and Telluride Brewing, to name just a few. I have many fond memories of visits to brewery taprooms, like riding to Lefthand for growlers on Saturday, the old roof-deck at Ska and not being able to find Avery on bike after sitting at Twisted Pine for a couple of hours (it’s just off of Arapaho).

While production breweries dominate annual production of craft brew by volume, by far the widest scope of small-batch beer comes from your favorite local brewpub, an American icon. These span the spectrum of style, but generally pair beer produced on premise (or elsewhere, in some cases) with a restaurant business. This is no easy task, as the two halves of the business, beer and food, operate on different frequencies. With the two in synch, the brewpub can function like the human brain, with each hemisphere specializing in the tasks that it is best suited to, and producing better results as a system than either half could alone. This delicate balance is rare, and finding really kick-ass beer paired with good food and service is not always a given. Style combinations vary widely, from great brew and steaks at Chama River Brewing in Albuquerque, NM, to fine pints and pizza at Amica’s in Salida, CO. Some brewpubs, like Tommyknocker in Idaho Springs, CO, have managed to pull off the triple crown of brewing feats, operating a brewpub and distributing beer on a wide scale. Increasing numbers of followers are coming to market every day, and finding offerings on the shelf from Wynkoop, Steamworks, Pug Ryan’s, Silverton and Eddyline are a real treat.

By far the newest entrant to craft brewing is the nanobrewery. While definitions vary, the “nano” generally produces modest amounts of beer in a few styles on a small-commercial or large home-built system. Run by brewers that may be operating part time, they distinguish themselves by having total freedom as to the styles of beer they produce, the volumes or changes they make from batch to batch. In essence, brewing at this scale represents the freest from of commercial brewing, meeting the requirements for legal sale, while flying under many of the constraints to variation that volume production introduces. A couple of my favorites are the Ourayle House in Ouray, CO, and Revolution Brewing out in Paonia, CO. The number of nanos out there is growing every day, and lacking large marketing budgets, sometimes these are hard for the intrepid beer writer to discover. Any tips as to where I can find these businesses flourishing and their beer flowing would be greatly appreciated.

And last, but certainly not least, for sheer quantity of beer styles on tap, one must give credit to the beer bar owner/operator. Wither an independent like Lady Falconburgh’s in Durango, CO, with 40 taps featuring selections both local and international, or a “captive” beer bar, like the (Breckenridge Brewery) Ale House in Grand Junction, serving both Breck beers and a strong selection of guest taps, nowhere else can whim and fancy for beer in varying style be met on such an uncompromising scale.

Enthusiastic homebrewer Erich Hennig lives and works in Durango, CO. Drop him a note at beer@mountaingazette.com  

Sad River Roundup

Ride along on a modern day cattle driveIt may be the longest cattle drive anyone does anymore. The cows have been on the mountain for four months or more, getting fat eating every blessed chewable thing they can reach. Just about every cattleman in the nation would truck their animals as far as these critters will have to walk to winter pasture. They are hamburger plants, not distance runners. You’d have to be crazy to trail a herd right down the main north-south corridor from Telluride to anywhere. The Switzers are that kind of ranching family though, a little different. They aren’t mountain people in that the fanatic spiritualism that runs in a streak through the clan is a product of dwelling for generations in an ascetic vacuum of empty desert. Great-grandfather Switzer had bought a piece of McElmo Canyon and the badlands beyond that was the size of a county in Vermont. He also locked up most of the grazing leases in West Fork of the Dolores River Valley. They say he had the same jihadi gleam in his eye as the current crop of Switzers, who are in close and immediate communication with the Lord and recognize a sinner by the look on his face. If you think you might have that look, head the other way.

The route takes the cows right through the middle of the town of Dolores. By then, the herd has been trailing for days, off and on. It used to be there were more places big enough to park a congregation of cattle that size and let them eat and rest, but most of those places have been carved up. Now you have to push the cows a little harder than cows would naturally go. It takes all fifty Switzers cowboying and every body they can find who can ride a horse to keep them grouped. A lot of people help willingly, as it is, after all, probably the longest cattle drive anyone does anymore and the authenticity of the experience is unquestionable.

The thing about herding cattle is to understand that one thing they do well is walk around. They don’t go fast, but they go willingly, for the most part, and would be going somewhere after a while even without your encouragement. Your job is to point them. A cowboy galloping around shouting “Yeeha” doesn’t speed up a herd one bit. It might just scatter them like a rack of billiard balls and you’d be the next two hours coaxing the calves out of the thickets. Just gently get them all going the same direction. Sit back and watch the parade. If you’ve got good dogs, you can just idle along in the truck if you’ve only got a few cows. The Switzers had hundreds.

They got to town about noon that year, spread out for half a mile. Railroad Avenue was pretty much solid cow from one end to the other, and the early crowd at the Hollywood Bar & Cafe drug off their stools to watch the longest cattle drive in the country troop buy.

Among the blurrier spectators, Dexter B. had found it was safer to drink early in the day, as the various agencies charged with enforcement of restraining orders and arrest warrants didn’t seem to get fired up till late afternoon. That’s when they had chased him into the alley and cuffed him the last two times anyway. Dexter is a flight risk the same way a homing pigeon is. If you need to drop a leaned-over tree that’s otherwise going get in bed with you some windy evening, Dexter is who you would call, only you wouldn’t call him, you’d just go down to the Hollywood and maybe knock back a couple of drafts while you talked it over. Dexter is a mountain person. He knew that the deputies couldn’t get around town any better than anyone else. Not when there were two dozen four-footed animals in town for every person, and that’s not factoring in the dogs. The cops wouldn’t be motoring by.

If you could get to the north-side streets, you could drive around the herd’s flank and proceed a couple of blocks toward or away from the center of town. Leaving the city limits was like going the wrong way at the Hajj. A lot of the locals were creeping down side streets trying to get to the bank, the market or the bar. One of these was Mark Morane in his flashy Jeep, running a little late. Mark leaves his Jeep in town on nice days and switches to his motorcycle, which he keeps in a garage on Fourth Street, for the last five miles in to his office. Born and raised nearby, Mark is a lawyer, which is not a well-represented population among mountain people. Mark is no exception to this generalization and, birthplace notwithstanding, would be a dense-atmosphere-sucking flatlander if he lived to be a thousand. He can’t help it.

Immobilized in the stream of steers that day were a number of automobiles that had encountered the bovine frontal system in the middle town and become embedded in its flow. Southbound vehicles could sustain a walking pace while watching a shifting vista of four-to-six shit-smeared cattle bottoms like a drive-in movie. Northbound wasn’t going much of anywhere, and this group included Victor, who was headed up to the West Fork in the strangest thing he had ever driven, and that included just about anything with wheels or tracks. It was a 1974 NATO military fire truck built on a German Unimog chassis. The Unimog was an internet purchase, kind of an impulse thing, bought by the owner of a resort that is so far from the nearest fire department you may as well not bother calling. The Unimog had been delivered “as is” on the back of a flatbed, from a shipyard in Baltimore.

Luckily, its driver was a genius of the physical. Last month, when somebody put his truck in the ditch and his equipment trailer like a barricade across the rest of the road, Victor loaded up a bunch of timbers and built a road right over the damn thing and got the valley’s commuting population home that night. This morning, he had poured a quart of Baltic seawater out of the fuel filter of the Unimog, purged the fuel system and rebuilt the throttle linkage with a piece of wire he found on the ground.

Born on a ranch in Chihuahua, his size put him in the position of jockey for the family’s race horses, till, still in his twenties, he was too old. He was fluent in Spanish, diesel and horse. A mountain person, he knew the Unimog had been mistreated. As it stood 37 hands at the shoulder and was skittish and ill-tempered, he wasn’t about to push it.

There’s not a lot of foot traffic when the herd is coming through and it’s best to watch your step for a couple of days afterward. This day, one of the scarce pedestrians was Patricia the Yoga Instructor, tall and lovely beyond words, to whom cows may carry some sort of bleed-over sanctity from a geographic proximity to Hinduism of the “sacred cow” type, which has some kind of vague association with Yoga. At least their outfits are the same. You might think she was walking among the herd because they are a natural thing, like a mayfly hatch, which is to be neither applauded nor decried, but simply lived through, endured. Patricia seemed to be, at times, only lightly tethered to the earth. Bright fires of health shown out through her skin and blobs of inadvertently jellified males bobbed in her wake. She didn’t seem to notice, but despite her ethereal aspect, Patricia, a mountain person, was actually strong as an ox and quick as a snake. She was also well used to walking through cow shit and simply didn’t want to be late for her class. Among the herefords, Patricia stood out like a statue of Madonna on the backs of the Penitents.

It all might have played out peaceably but for the Lady in the Burgundy Escalade. The car shined like a new penny except where it was streaked with fresh cow excrement to the tops of the windows. She must have been doing ninety down the stretch of 145 that had served as the herd’s latrine for the last couple of days. There was nobody else in the car, but if you don’t think the situation was explosive, it had Texas plates.

There are pockets of a toxic gas that chemists refer to as nobium-bromine-butane, nobrotane or nobrane for short, which leak from depleted oil wells and gather in invisible bubbles across the state of Texas. Though mostly concentrated around Crawford, hazardous nobrane enrichments occur randomly statewide and many, if not most, of the states residents have suffered the effects of nobrane poisoning. Loss of brain tissue is immediate and dramatic and the resulting voids are often inflated with an indelible sense of self-worth. In its end stages, nobrane poisoning can result in “Texas Vertigo,” the chronic sensation that the world is revolving around you. The lady in the Caddy weaved right then left, gunning the ponderous, careening burgundy tank around one group of cattle and another, gaining a cow length each time till she came up short against a solid wall of shitty rumps. This was ridiculous. She gave a tap on the horn.

She gave another tap, then two more solid honks, then, with a fury that was palpable through the grape-colored skin of the preposterous auto, she mercilessly straight-armed the horn button, lurching the car forward while screaming noiselessly at the windshield.

The effect was spectacular. Cows scattered from the epicenter as if launched by catapult. A dozen turned left up Fourth Street toward the bridge and a similar number did a complete about face and were galloping upstream, creating havoc among the following herd. Cows in front of the Escalade were climbing over one another and one big calf went down in the rush. When it scrambled to its feet, it was under the Unimog, which presented the calf with a situation for which there was no behavioral precedent. It began to bawl at terrific volume and throw its 50-pound head-bone against the empty 200-gallon water storage tank on the underbelly of the Unimog, making a noise that was not of this world. The lady was still leaning on the horn, perhaps frozen there by the magnitude of the reaction, but the call of the Escalade was now lost in the din.

In the vicinity of Eighth Street and still gaining speed southward now flew Jacob Switzer at full gallop on a horse the size of a locomotive. Sparks flew off the pavement where the giant’s hooves touched down and, passing Seventh, Jacob grabbed his coiled lariat, stiff as a cable by design, from where it hung next to the saddle horn and began to whip the flying steed across its flanks. He wrenched his mount’s head up when he was fifty feet from the Escalade and set it back on its haunches where it slid to a stop directly adjacent the Caddy’s left front tire. Raising the coiled lariat over his head, he smote the hood of the car with the terrible strength a just and all-powerful God had given him. It left, the first time, a crescent-shaped dent that would hold a gallon of water. “You.” “Stupid.” “Stupid.” “Stupid.” “Bitch.”  Jacob intoned, beating on the hood with every word. Then, considerably calmed, he headed up after the group of cattle that had taken off toward Mancos.

Forty head of stampeding cattle were southbound at a high rate of speed along First North. It looked for a moment as if it might be the end of Patricia, trampled two blocks from her house, but she turned to meet them and raised her hands in front of her, palms out, as if delivering a blessing on the multitude. She floated a couple of feet to the right or left as the circumstances dictated and the thundering pack flowed around her like water.

Mark wasn’t so lucky. Oblivious to the ruckus, he had just opened the door of his Jeep and had one foot on the ground when 980 pounds of terrified beef smacked into the door two inches from the handle. The impact flattened the door against the body of the Jeep and jerked Mark out of it. He was deposited face up and perfectly centered for an instant across the backbone of the rampaging steer. There he stayed for four or five seconds, certainly not long enough to make the buzzer, but adequate time to carry him to the reviewing platform in front of the Hollywood Bar & Cafe.

“This your first rodeo?” asked Dexter.

“That was a tough draw, Mark,” said another.

Victor got out of the Unimog fire truck and was amazed to find he could not extricate the calf from under his rig. It was totally blinded and beating itself slowly to death repeating the opening bars of the Dirge for Martian Gong. The racket was making it hard to think. Victor had the inspiration then that he might motor slowly to the park, where the bar ditch was three feet deep and drive right down the ditch with wheels on either side, effectively raising the Unimog off the calf. His path took him and the stumbling calf right in front of the gallery outside the Hollywood.

“Hey Victor,” shouted Dexter, “I hope you’re not expecting that little calf to pack yer goofy rig all the way to Dunton.”

Cooper lives near Dolores, Colorado, in a state of disgruntled bemusement. He lists his occupation as “fabricator,” which just about covers it. His last story for the Gazette was “High Water,” which appeared in #178. 

On Resurrection

vA saloon from a lifetime ago

A Dive

I left 25 years ago, and except for occasional news about former

acquaintances, a few obituaries in quirky rags of various hues and distributions and one casual mention of the town’s oldest dive bar finally burning down, I’ve gone years at a stretch without thinking of my time here. Even now, I’m only stretching my legs before continuing a long drive back to my current life.

This place was once my hometown. It was one of the first destination ski resorts in North America, and like most “last best” towns betrayed by travel mags out to make a buck, it suffers the afflictions common to other pick-your-poison elite retreat/real estate development zones that dot the Mountain West. The streets are familiar, but the stores are up-scale and mostly empty of shoppers, seasonal-worker safehouses I once hung out in are gingerbread restoration projects geared to flip on the next boom cycle, dogs are on leashes and so are most of the people I meet. I’ve had about enough nostalgia for one walk and am heading back to my truck to get the hell out of town, when I look up and the unmistakable facade of the old bar materializes from the mists of my memories.

Through a Glass

Like the rusty prow of a cargo ship moored among yachts, unpretentious but imposing, it rises above its neighbors. The barn-shaped roofline still defines the block, and the front door is just as unassuming as the last time I stepped in after a long night-shift to sip one beer before closing time. Only problem I can see with having a cold one before leaving town is that, according to a reputable source, this dive burned down about five years ago. Temporarily suspending disbelief, I open the door, and confront another problem — the entry hallway that used to smell like spilled beer and vomit is clean, carpeted. There are posters on the walls, and a revealing light that makes me want to turn and leave before I reach the inner door. Thinking that this feels like the start of a long trip toward the bright light that supposedly awaits all mortals, I push open the final door.

There are the exposed log beams that have long supported the second floor’s mysterious goings-on. A few tables sit empty in dim corners. A small television emits stale scenes from a wall at the far end of the bar. The pool tables are in the places I remember, and the row of stools could be propping up the same cast of characters who used to nod in my direction before turning back to their own stories. I look down, and there is an old dog, lying just inside the door where an unobservant tourist might kick him and cause the bar’s regulars to raise their own defenses. I step over the sleeping dog, and head for an empty section along the bar. No heads turn, which can be a good sign when you have no acquaintances in a place like this.

Darkly

No taps. Bottles of swill beer lined up on the back-bar, and in front of the patrons. The bartender sidles over, and I ask for his darkest brew. He pulls a can of Guinness from one of the wooden-framed coolers I remember, sets it and a cold glass in front of me. I mention that it’s been a long time since I passed this way, and it seems not much has changed, at least in here. He nods, and says with a half-apologetic smile of long practice, “No, except that you can’t smoke here anymore.” My lack of reaction must encourage him to add, “Smells better, anyway, for working in here all day.”

I nod, and he grabs more beers to replace empties down the bar, where guys about my age are solving the budget, reducing taxation, restarting the economy and greeting a recently returned regular in a swirl of barstool bonhomie I figured had gone up in smoke when this bar burned to the ground. Next pass, I’ll try to ask the bartender about the story of a fire, but for now the fine tawny head of the stout in front of me demands attention.

Through the dark glass, I see ghosts of the naïveté that once eyed me from the back-bar mirror while I sorted through the temptations, vicissitudes and possibilities of a wide-open ski-town in full roar. The other old guys down the bar must’ve been young then too, and we may have roared together or butted heads a few times many beers ago. More and more these days, I wander through my old haunts this way, looking and listening for familiar markers that say whether the old ways were just passing fads, or are as venerable as some old buildings and the mountains that surround them.

In the spreading glow of the nearly empty glass, a decision must be made. To move down the bar, ask about a few friends that might have survived to become one of the late-afternoon regulars at this old bar from my half-remembered past, or to quietly pay up and move outside into the late afternoon’s light. On the edge of town, I could drive past more history, and in the next town, see if that one friend still lives in the house I helped him finish. There we could search for more memories, or I can move on through the high sage desert to a dirt road I once drove to its end, where coyotes howled me into the dawn of a new day.

As the bartender comes my way, I glance through the bottom of my glass once more, and a certain amount of clarity returns as the old dog by the door glances up and waits.

Long-time contributor B. Frank is currently traveling incognito through climes hotter than Dante’s imagination. He is the author of “Livin’ the Dream: Testing the Ragged Edge of Machismo” (Raven’s Eye Press, 2010) and occasionally scribbles The Ragged Edge missives to MG readers. 

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