Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7, Towner, North Dakota , 8 p.m. (2nd entry)

If you want the low-down, go to the bar in Towner - that’s the Long Horn Bar downtown, cate corner to the Ranch House Restaurant and three blocks removed from Zion Luthern and St. Cecelia’s Catholic, both of which would do well to have as many attendees as Simon, the owner, has at the Long Horn. It was a low ceiling, low light, high smoking facility. Entering from the front, a long bar - Simon behind it - was to the right. Behind the bar, every kind of beer and whiskey. The walls elsewhere were covered with beer signs and pictures of scantily-clad women leaning or otherwise oogling cars or motorcycles. It wasn’t clear what it was that was causing them to oogle or why they couldn’t be fully clothed while doing so, but apparently there is a sub-specie of female in North Dakota that is desirous of having her picture taken this way. It doesn’t, at first glance, look like they would be warm enough dressed as they are in North Dakota most of the year, even though it is said these are hardy people around here. None of these women were actually in attendance so we, after making sure we had seen every picture so as to not show favoritism to one over the other, spent our time at the bar talking to Simon and a few of the locals.

Simon talked, even though he looked tired and didn’t like to look right at you when he did so. He didn’t smoke but was sharing the air with those who did, and the air was mostly smoke. So he shouldn’t be in the bar business too much longer if he is doing any breathing at work. We learned from him: the young are leaving, the farms are consolidating, the trains will not stop at the grain elevator unless a large minimal number of railcars are filled, he would rather live in Arizona, last winter was too long and too hard and that corporate farms are coming in and changing the way things are done.

Several patrons echoed these opinions and added information about: canola smelling bad, it taking seven round bales of hay to get a cow through winter, thirty million dollars worth of cows died during this hard last winter in the Minot area and the grain evac has made moving grain a whole lot easier. One of the friendlier chain-smoking patrons facing us and constantly enveloping David in smoke told us of his failed efforts to get his 16 year old daughter off meth. “It bothers me in a way and in another way, it don’t. I tried to help, kept her here for four months, didn’t let her run like her mama does, but she went home to her mama and got back on it. Done what I could. She’s got to want to quit.” He consumed six beers and 12 cigarettes while telling us this sad story of his fatigue and failure to help her get off drugs.

We bought the first two beers, and Simon gave us the second two. More friendly people. We didn’t offer advice to anybody about anything, just got the low-down while holding our breath. The pictures were not for sale. We didn’t want them anyway.

Dinner was at the Ranch House Restaurant. Hamburgers. You have to order the deluxe if you want something other than meat and bread. There is a lot to learn here.

Pat Sewell

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