Once again, it has proven valuable to hang out in Hunter. Last night we went bar hopping back and forth between Happy Cow and Riley’s, and I can’t remember how many times we crossed those railroad tracks. Between talking to friends, singing along to Gary Stewart on the jukebox and sinking longnecks someone put an X on our map and scribbled down the words: Dean’s Store.
Today we’re slowly rolling down FM 3353 towards Kingsbury and at a crossroads stand a couple of small wooden houses. Inside the one house that says Dean’s on the front lays a good ol’ honky-tonk waiting for you to enter. The rooster on the front porch parades in the sunlight, looking a bit down on his luck. Maybe he’s looking for a little action. Me, I’m happy sitting at the bar in the dim light with a cold Lonestar in front of me.
Ruth Vaden, today’s bartender, seems to be in a good mood too while we talk a bit about the upcoming Super Bowl. She tells us we’re more than welcome to scoot over for a serious barbeque and an all-night party this coming Sunday. I have never been here before but I immediately get the feeling of being in the company of old friends. I put another dollar in the jukebox, play another country song, and order an additional two dollar domestic.
Sometime’s life is good. Today, somewhere between Barbarossa and Kingsbury, life is great. Cheap beer, good music, friendly faces and the smell of wet hay. I will forever be in dept to the stranger who put the X on our map giving me the opportunity to experience this small town beer joint. Jerry Jeff Walker is playing on the jukebox singing about hill country rain, but today the sky is blue over Guadalupe County.
I watch the regulars come and go, listening to one particular regular who’s pouring bourbon into his travel mug with one hand, while waving his hat with the other. He tells me a drunken tale about his hat ornament. Apparently it is the genital bone of a raccoon. A couple at the bar ignores the raccoon slayer, and Ruth asks politely but firmly if he might not have a couple of other stops to make before he gets too drunk.
Patsy Cline is coming up on the jukebox as the raccoon slayer’s old car pulls out of the parking lot. The conversation with Ruth takes another turn as soon as Patsy starts singing. Or should I say as soon as Patsy and Ruth start singing. We clearly see eye to eye on the topic concerning the greatness of Patsy’s singing skills. It’s evident that Ruth is not very impressed with the way country music sounds today. She preferred the way they sang back in the days, when the undisputed king was Bob Wills. These were times when family traditions and values of the old agricultural society were central to the Texan way of life.
Ruth admits to liking some of the newer boys though, like Dale Watson. I agree with her, even though I have to say that as far as modern country music goes, Texans have continued to do it their own way and should never be compared to what’s coming out of this country’s music factories.
People around here like it simple and honest. Songs about something real. Something that one can relate to. They want to feel the same way they felt when they first heard Hank Williams on the Grand ol’ Opry. Or if they’re younger, the way they think they would have felt if they’d heard it. They want a voice that speaks their language, and that sings about their lives.
When I hear one of my favorite songs coming out of that jukebox I want to sing along. If I see someone else in the bar singing along to that same song I feel a connection. I feel we share some kind of understanding. We might have something to talk about. Some times there’s no need to talk at all. A silent nod from across the far side of the bar is all the understanding it takes. I tip my hat to Ruth as we leave and I hear her say,
“Y’all come back boys, you hear!”