My wife and I hate to miss a Packers game when we’re traveling. On a recent trip, we found ourselves well off of the beaten path when, with five minutes to go before kickoff, we stumbled across a tiny bar in a remote area of a Southern state.
It was sketchy enough that I decided to have my wife (and small dog) wait in the car while I “checked things out.” I opened the front door and all conversations stopped as heads swiveled in my direction — seven people at the bar, a woman tending the bar and a man with a ZZ Top beard and overalls sitting next to the front door at a small table. On top of the table was a small dog on a pillow and a large number of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. The looks were not unfriendly, but I must admit that “Dueling Banjos” was playing in my head, and thoughts of Ned Beatty raced through my mind.
Thirty seconds later, any tension was broken when the gal behind the bar asked if I “needed to take a pee” and directed me to the men’s room. I responded that I did, and was met with smiles all around, followed by directions. On my way, I asked if the inactive TV could be turned on and switched to the Packers game. When I came out, the game was on. I went out, got my wife and dog, and we settled in to watch the game.
Preconceived notions turned upside down, we had a great afternoon. We bought a round for the house (10 beers, including mine, was $13 — $20 with the tip), and I spent the next three hours thanking one patron or another for beer after generous beer.
One gentleman, Kurt, had no interest in the game but loved to talk. He shared his family history, including the story of his father being a lifelong coal miner in Harlan County, Kentucky, and it was fascinating. I mentioned to him how nice everyone was, and he responded with a simple, but powerful, comment:
“Most of us are too old to fight and too slow to run, so it’s just easier for everyone to be nice to each other.”
Great life philosophy. Southern brilliance.