Sunday, February 12, 2017

Livingston Dream Book #5

A Sunday morning drive south on US-89. An early morning fog hovering just above the Absarokas. Leaving Livingston and crossing the abandoned railroad tracks, the usual Sunday RV Yellowstone bound traffic has yet to clog the road. The fishing locals gather in the parking lot of Hatch Finders Fly Shop. Further down a small crowd of worshippers congregate outside the Adventist Church. I roll the windows down and take in the chilly winter air in my face and the sound of the sidewinding Yellowstone River which follows US-89 all the way to the north entrance of Yellowstone Park in Gardiner. The smell of breakfast food coming from the cluster of fast food joints reminds me that I only had coffee and a blueberry muffin on the way out of the hotel this morning. I roll the windows up and turn on the radio to KXLB out of Bozeman. I ride to the sound of Tom T.Hall’s “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” and start feeling comfortable in my skin again. Behind the wheel. The open road ahead. No other thoughts or worries in my mind other than to keep on driving. Or until I find a good enough reason to stop. Thirty minutes in, I catch a glimpse of the “Old Saloon” in a wide-spot off the road in Emigrant. A step back to another time. Serving Outlaws and Cowgirls since 1902 proclaims their motto. I cut off the engine and park in front of the horse rails. I step out of the car and turn on the alarm to the amusement of an old timer with tobacco stuffed cheeks sitting in a rocking chair and wearing a wide brimmed cowboy hat covered in dust. “There’s no need of that in here, pardner” and laughs at the notion adding: “You want me to water that here horse of yours?” and almost falls off the rocking chair laughing. Inside it looks like an old west saloon mixed with a small town dive bar atmosphere. A great pool table and a nice looking jukebox that’s playing Alan Jackson’s “Here In The Real World”. Two local cowboys are sitting at the bar talking, a Border Collie nestled at their feet.  I sit at a table and look at the breakfast menu as the bartender acknowledges me with a slight tip of his well-worn “Montana Grizzlies” baseball hat. An older couple is playing slot machines each in turn pulling each other’s lever. I order the Huevos Rancheros on the recommendation of the bartender with just a spike of extra green chile sauce and extra pico de gallo. A huge amount of stuffed animal heads adorn the walls. I rejoice in a most welcome taste bud enhancing authentic rural farming breakfast. As I finish eating I can’t help but overhear the conversation between the two cowboys about the upcoming Custer Ranch Rodeo and an indecision about a bank loan to buy a new goose neck trailer.  I stand up to leave and pay for my breakfast, leaving a five dollar tip under the coffee cup and tipping my baseball hat to the bartender and the two cowboys. Outside, the fog on the Absarokas has cleared and the sun is trying to peak through the emerging clouds. I turn the engine on and as I’m about to leave I take a glimpse of the old timer in the back yard playing corn hole with other old timers. He yells out to me: “Come back up again, pardner, and I will tend to your motorized horse again” and starts smiling. I tip my baseball hat at him and drive off north on US-89 back to Livingston. The southbound Yellowstone traffic has picked up. Drops of rain start falling smudging the windows. I roll my window down and smell the rain and the black dirt.  In my rear view the “Old Saloon” is getting smaller. But I think I can still hear and see the old timer laughing and smiling. I keep driving and smile back at him.    

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