Gun and Booze ala Cat Ballou

Driving across country in the 70s was a rite of passage for hippie late-comers. Boston – Frisco could be driven in less than 50 hours, but a week on the backroads felt more like Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD. In 1974 my good friend Andy, a flaxen blonde coed from Harvard and I motored west in a drive-away station wagon. Our destination was Lodi, which was outside of Sacramento.

The fifth day we crossed the Colorado border into Utah on US Route 191. Night fell fast on the high plains. Darkness erased the desert scenery. Two-lanes of black asphalt straightlined into Roosevelt, Utah. A speck on the map,except I spotted the neon lights of THE ID LOUNGE. I insisted on having a beer at the bar.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Andy was a pot smoker. The coed agreed with him. She wanted to make time.

“I’m thirsty and we owe Freud the honor of drinking in his name.” I swerved off the road into the scrabble dirt parking lot. Mostly pick-ups. The clientele was a mix of farmers and cowboys. The jukebox was playing Merle Haggard’s MAMA TRIED. I ordered Olympias and sang along with Merle. Andy shook his head. He hated the way I tried to meld into the crowd like I came from nowhere.

Two men sat at the nearest table. A goat-roper challenged a sodbuster to an arm-wrestling contest. The prize was the next round. The cowboy lost, but said, “I might have lost that contest, but I could kick your ass in the alley out back.”

The farmer retorted with a sucker punch to the cowboys skull. A general melee ensued between the two camps. The coed fled the bar well before Andy and I figured that these people probably knew each other from childhood and if they didn’t have any trouble fighting each other then they would even be more freehanded when it came to stomping hippie strangers.

Leaving Roosevelt Utah for the first and last time of my life the coed said, “Smart move.”

“None of us got hurt.”

I could say that then because back in 1974 most bar fight were with fists.

All that could change in Arizona whose enlightened legislators have legalized carrying guns into a bar. The NRA is ecstatic, although anyone carrying a gun isn’t allowed to drink, making drinkers wonder why would a bar want armed non-drinkers in their establishments.

“Bad things happen in bars and restaurants. People want to carry a gun and if the facility owner doesn’t have a problem with it, there shouldn’t be a problem. If a person starts drinking and gets in a shootout and kills someone, of course they’re subject to criminal prosecution.”

Responsible drinking and responsible shooting.

“Motherfucker was looking at my beer wrong.”

Having been in many a bad-mannered bar I could also condone the occasional shooting of a big mouth as long as that big mouth wasn’t me, but until then I’m steering clear of drinking in Arizona bars. Unless of course I’m strapping, then I’m just as much a man as the next.

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