Friday, November 20, 2009

A Deadwood scene -- "...their hearts and minds soon follow"

One of the things many people in town liked about the Saloon Number 10 after Dio took it over was that she had turned it into a “lager beer saloon” which meant it was generally acceptable for just about anyone, including children and fairly respectable women to enter and socialize there. Only the most absolutely conventional and class-conscious ladies in town would hesitate to enter Dio’s place for fear of ruining their reputation or being accosted by some rough and vile individual.

Most of the saloons and booze parlors in town were not as accessible for everyone--and appropriately so. There were some mighty goddamn rough and ready places in town. But because all Dio served was lager beer (and other non-alcoholic libations), her patrons generally didn’t wind up being stupid drunk. Dio had got the idea from the German beer gardens she had seen in Cincinnati after the war, where families from the youngest to the oldest, as well as both ladies and gents could come in and sit downn to talk and sing, drink beer, have a meal, or dance and listen to the oom-pah music and folk songs of their homeland. Those Dutchmen back in the Queen City were always fond of telling anyone who cared to listen that “you can’t get drunk mit der lager bier.” Dio took that idea to heart, and put it to work to make her establishment different from all the others in town.

A customer at the No. 10 when Dio owned it. Note how sparsely it is furnished. Behind the gentleman is the only table and chairs in the place.

So Dio’s Saloon No. 10 was a place anyone could come in if they cared to, so long as they behaved and treated the other guests with courtesy, or at least didn’t harass ‘em any. The 10 offered no “ardent sprits,” and no gambling. Gamblers, con men, and notorious drunkards were of course welcome in her beer saloon--they simply weren’t permitted to engage in their usual pastimes. Likewise chippies, upstairs girls and dancers were never prohibited from entering to enjoy a beer and a bowl of venison stew in the dimly-lit, starkly simple confines of the 10--so long as they didn’t attempt to engage in any “frisky bizness” while there.

The simple rules of the house were enforced when necessary by Roku, as well as Dio herself. Dio offered a man a job at the 10 one time, but he declined, explaining, “I’m sorry M’am, but I just don’t feel quite right working with a woman who can out-shoot me, and another who can out-cuss me.”

After a few months, Dio also had taken on another security man--a fella from up north called Clay Kungler. Clay was there to act as back-up, especially when Roku was off working her other “job.” Clay was just about the toughest character Dio had met in a long time, but she found him damned likable. He had the kind of sense of humor that she appreciated. Dio had told Clay on one occasion that he was "an asshole of epic proportions," and being the sort of fellah he was, Clay looked on that as quite the compliment.

So anyhow, yeah, trouble happened now and then like it did in all the barrooms and saloons of Deadwood, but when it happened in the 10, it usually ended pretty quick.

Taking that into consideration, people got used to the idea that as long as they behaved well, anyone was welcome to go into Dio’s place. And they certainly did--like I said before, you’d find confidence men, card-sharps, booze-hounds and working gals in there for sure, but also miners, drifters, respectable ladies, young’uns, cowhands, soldiers, shopkeepers, outlaws and lawmen, all together and mostly being pretty civil. Most folks didn’t think much about it after a while, but every now and then, Miss Dio’s policies still had some surprising results.

Like the time that Hawk came in...

It was a pleasant Fall afternoon in the 10: Dio cleaning glasses behind the bar; Roku in her usual corner reading her paper; Clay was happily engaged in cleaning and oiling one of the big Colt Dragoons he habitually carried. The only customers were Kit, this real nice woman bullwhacker, and Maybelle, a pretty young lady who as a skilled swift, doin’ typesetting for the new printshop that Mr. Steeter had just started up.

Well sir, as they were all chit-chattin’, the door swung open and this immense shape loomed up, silhouetted by the light from the street. A certain...almost animal-like fragrance greeted the nostrils of those inside the bar. And in lumbered ol’ Hawk.

You remember Hawk, don’t you?

Big...very big.

Ugly...very, very ugly.

And with an ugly reputation. You will recall him shooting the Bella’s bartender in the leg with minimal provocation, harassing folks on the street--he had also been know to beat fellows up at the Gem just for fun, breaking arms like they were twigs. And he had been involved in some more shooting incidents with some men who he said had been trying to jump a claim he had up in the hills. He was pretty much an all-around disturbing presence.

So when he walked in, right away, Kit’s right hand instinctively went towards the the butt of her pistol. Maybelle--normally an irrepressibly loquacious lass--went dead silent for a change and shrunk into the shadows back by the beer tap. Both of the women looked expectantly at Dio and Roku, waiting to see how quickly the fireworks would start.

Dio glanced up from her work with the beer mugs...and smiled.

“Hawk!” she called out cheerfully.

“Hello Dio,” Hawk rumbled back in his grizzly-growl voice.

Roku peered over the top of her newspaper. “Howdy Hawk, nice to see ya again.”

Clay nodded pleasantly to Hawk and resumed oiling the cylinder on the Dragoon.

Dio took a glass and began filling it from the beer tap that protruded from the wall. “Hey, ye pestilence-ridden, stanky mess o' so-called human bein! How the hell are ye?”

Hawk caught the beer mug that Dio expertly slid down the bar to him. He pulled some coins out of his pocket and deftly pitched them into the open cigar box on the back counter. “

“I am doing good, thank ya Dio.”

Kit and maybelle were just plain flummoxed. They looked from Dio to Hawk and then from Hawk to Roku, who had risen from her chair--one of the few in the bar. After stretching like a tall, well-armed cat, Roku ambled over to the bar and was standing next to Hawk, signaling Dio to pour her a beer as well.

Roku never, ever would take a drink when trouble was about to start. In those situations, she always kept her hands free for duties other than holding a beer mug. But here she was holding a beer mug and casually sipping away, while standing next to the epitome of trouble, with a capital “T.”

To Kit and Maybelle, all these things simply made no sense.

Roku looked over at Hawk as she worked on her beer.

“Wheahs ya guns, Hawk?” She gestured at the middle section of the big man, which was noticeably lacking its usual compliment of hardware and leather.

Dio was frowning slightly. “Yeah, don' tell me ye turned Quaker on us, Hawk.”

Hawk grunted, in what presumably was a small laugh. “I dont need no guns, Roku--all I have to do is breath on them...”

Clay laughed, “Ha! I reckon so...I have smelt buffalo farts that were easier to take.”

But Roku frowned. She was appalled at Hawk’s lack of good sense in this matter. “Hawk, that ain’t good, a man like you goin’ about unarmed. There are evil thangs afoot in this town--did yah see the bloody hoss’s haid someone done left on the porch o’ the Red Bird saloon across the street?”

“No, didn't see it.” replied Hawk.

“Well, go on over there, take a good look, Hawk. somebody was sendin’ those boys who run that place a message, and it ain’t a friendly how-ya-doin’ kind o’ message neither.”

Hawk looked curious. Without a word he walked out of the No. 10, still carrying his beer and strolled over in the direction of the Red Bird.

Roku watched Hawk leave and commented, “Whew, Hawk’s gettin’ stankier than evah.”

Dio shrugged. “Well he has been spendin’ most o’ his time up at this claim he seems to be workin’ with some success. But he is convinced some some weasel-fuckers are tryin’ to jump his claim, so he has been purty much livin’ up there--workin’ hard, diggin’ an’ carryin’ gravel to wash it, lookin' fer color...never takin’ a chance to bathe nor even clean up a bit--yeah I ain’t ‘sprised he’s gone a bit more skunky than he had been.”

About then Hawk wandered back in, and set his now empty beer mug down on the bar.

“Damn, that is a mess over there,“ he commented drily. “Who in the hell would do something like that?”

Roku arched an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t be any of your handywork, would it, Hawk?”

Hawk shook his head, with an expression that indicated he took absolutely no offense at being asked such a question. “Not mine.” he grunted.

“Naw, that ain't Hawk's style,” added Dio. “He's the kind who if'n he wanted to intimidate those boys, he’d jus’ go in an’ shoot ‘em in the he did with Pel.”

Hawk did not seem inclined to argue with Dio about her opinion on the matter. Instead he reached over and patted Roku on her ample backside.

Kit drew in sharp breath. Surely this was not going to turn out well.

Instead Roku grinned an odd little grin and snorted, “Careful, now Hawk--that’s mah money makah.”

Dio grinned too. “Yep pard, you get too frisky there an’ I ain't responsible fer what might happen next.”

Hawk just laughed and then emitted a resounding burst of flatulence. “Damned beans,” he muttered.

Clay looked up from his gun cleaning. “Goddamit Hawk, don't stand so close to the stove when yah do that! Yah wanna blow this place up?”

A look of concern actually crossed Hawk’s face. “You think it might explode?”

Dio’s expression was one of deadly seriousness. “Look, if you catch yer ass on far fartin near m' stove...I ain't puttin’ it out.

Now at last Hawk looked hurt and offended. “You mean you would let it burn? Glad y’all like me so much.”

Everyone in the saloon, including Maybelle and Kit were now laughing.

Dio at the No. Ten

Dio went on, “Probbly not. Mostly jus cuz I'd be curious to see how long it would take before the sensation o’ yer buttocks bein’ aflame would take to mosey on up to yer tiny lil’ critter brain...”

“Might take a while,” interjected Clay.

“Oh not as long as ye might think,” stated Dio in a deadly earnest tone. “I'm bettin’ two, three days, tops.”

Roku was now doubled over with laughter.

Dio sighed and leaned on the counter behind the bar, gazing at Hawk with a strangely wistful look.

“Seriously pard..why ain't ye packin iron?”

“Someone stole it while I was passed out drunk the other night,” grumbled Hawk.

Dio tried not to sigh again...but she did anyway. “Look, you know theys more'n a few folks would kill to get that claim o’ your'n. An’ the critter they'd have to kill to get it, happens to be you.”

Hawk shrugged, but you could tell he was processing what Dio was saying. “Hmmm...guess I am going to have to invest in another shootin’ iron.

“Who knows?” added Clay. “Might it be that perhaps there’s some connection between yer pistol disappearin’ and someone is maybe fixin’ to jump yer claim?”

Hawk furowed his brow. “Hmmm...could be...I went down to Mort’s store to buy a knife, but twas locked up...”

“Hawk...pard...all joshin’ aside,” said Dio in a tired,voice, “I really wish ye'd get ye a new six-shooter, an’ sooner rather than later,”

Hawk suddenly grinned, “Hey, maybe if I catch the right person passed out I wont have to buy one!”

Dio picked up the empty mug that Hawk had left on the bar, weighed it in her hand for moment... and then threw it with all her might at the far wall by the stove, where it shattered into a dozen pieces. “Holy Moses on the fuckin’ mountain! Look here, you cheap, tightfisted baboon! A goddam gun don't cost that much! Just stop foolin’ around an’ get yerself armed like someone who has got more brains than a prairie dog who had his haid stepped on by a draft hoss!”

Hawk looked unsure how to react. Then he shrugged. “Well...if y’all insist, I guess I will go get myself one...since y’all care so much for me and ever’thing.”

Dio nodded and answered quietly, “Damn right I insist, ye overgrown, dirt-eatin feckless rapscallion...”

“And whilst ya at it, Hawk, get a damn haircut,” said Roku.

“And a bath,” added Dio. “And a clean shirt!”

Hawk looked shocked. “A bath??!!”

Dio wagged her finger at him. “Yes! A bath! With hot water, and with soap!"

Clay nodded. “Oh, and yah might get some kerosene too, to kill what ever might be living in that beard of yours.”

Dio had picked up a broom and was sweeping he broken mug out the door into the street. “I mean goddam, Hawk, I spent a couple years with buff’lo hunters, an’ we smelt better than you do right now!”

Hawk raised up an arm and took a sniff. “Damn. Is sorta ripe there. If I get me a bath, will you kiss me?”

Everyone laughed again at this, including Dio. “Naw. But I tell you what. You get ye a bath, a clean shirt, an’ new firearm, and then, if’n ye do ignite yerself fartin’ near a open flame, I promise I shall do m’ utmost to extinguish ye.”

Hawk thought about this a moment. “Fair enough.” he nodded, and stalked out purposefully.

The room was quiet for a spell after the big man had left. And then Kit finally spoke up.

"Dio...when did you all decide that Hawk isn’t such a bad fella after all...and how did you get to where you can be laughin’ n’ jokin’ around with him like that. Other times I seen him, if anyone had talked to him like you n’ Clay n’ Roku just done, he’d a ripped their arm outta its socket an beat ‘em o’er the head with it.”

“No kidding," agreed Maybelle, who finally seemed to have found her voice again.

Dio finished sweeping the last piece of broken mug out the door. “Well, Hon it’s like this...when I found out that someone was tryin’ to weasel Hawk outta his claim, I kinda started lookin’ at him a bit different. Simple fact o’ the matter is that they ain't that many o’ the small time claim holders left now...I’m guessin’ the fellers who are trying to get him off his claim are workin ‘fer one o’ the big mine operators. Hawk’s been here almost since the rush’ I guess I'm a sentimental ol’ fool...but goddam, I would hate to see him get kilt or disappeared, an’ his claim get gobbled up by some big-ass minin’ company."

Maybelle and Kit both looked thoughtful. Finally Maybelle spoke up again. “Allright, so I understand why you are treatin’ him as you do, rather than trying to shoot him--which is what most folks seem to think he deserves. But how in the world did you get him to behave as he was just now? Is that how he has responded to you treating him with some decency and consideration?”

Dio looked at Maybelle and smiled. She always had a soft spot for optimists and naive Mary Sunshine-types who thought that human kindness could re-make the world--even if they were dead-ass, one-hundred percent wrong about that.

“Oh no, Hon, Nothin’ o the sort. Hawk’s been acting different since a encounter I had with him a couple weeks ago.”

“Oh? What happened?” asked Kit.

“Well, Hon, I was walkin’ up Lee street an’ I seen him across the bridge by town hall, talkin' with Miz Mahaila, acting all kinda blustery an’ such.”

”What did you say to him, Dio?”

“Oh, hell’s britches, Hon, I din’t say nothin. I simply went up to him an’ kicked him square in the testicles, just as hard as I fuckin’ could."

“Oh my Lord! What did he do then?”

“Well...I din’t see it, bein’ as I was runnin’ like Hell, about as fast as m' stubby lil' laigs could carry know, as a matter o’ principle an’ self preservation. But accordin’ to Mah, he sorta sunk to his knees, groaned a little bit, an’ then tipped over. An’ ever since, he has behaved hisself like a real gennleman in m’ presence.”


  1. Thank you for a good laugh on a Friday morning.

    Those Dutchmen were lying, though. I've seen too many yahoos get drunk on der lager bier.

  2. Yes,I was wondering about the "Youre not going to be drunk" statement.
    Maybe they though it because the difference is large if you drink whiskey with about 40 % alc , or a lager beer with 10-14% (I think that would be a lager beer- but there is beer with less aclohol aswell).

    Or, the beer back then was not as good as the beer we have now :-P

    It was great to read about Hawk again.
    We had alot of fun :)

  3. Hey Rhia and Deac,

    Rhia, I'm glad I ave you a little chuckle to help you get through your Friday.

    I included that comment because,
    A. it's fun
    B. I have actually seen a quote from a 19th century German American doctor who stated that it was scientifically impossible to get drunk on lager beer. There is another story about a Cincinnati man in the late 19th century who lived on nothing but beer.

    Unfortunately, I don't have the citation to give you, so I'll give you this one:

    The key to this is your definition of "drunk"which in the late 19th century was undoubtedly different from what we would consider inebriation.

    The other thing to keep in mind was that the first and second generation German immigrants in the US were very attached to their culture, which included beer drinking. The argument that beer wasn't intoxicating was in response to the temperance movement, which they perceived as being "anti-immigrant."

    Fun stuff eh?

    And yes, Deac, I miss Hawk too.

  4. Ha! Excellent! And well done you, that ape needed a knee to the nuts and you were just the woman for the job!

    But why do you say you miss him?

    Also, excellent writing! Lovely sense of atmosphere and place and the relaxed, easy pace was a true delight!

  5. Hey HB,

    Yes, the behavior modification moment--which was something we actually rp'ed out, with me surprising Hawk with that action (techncially god-moding, I know) but bless his heart, Hawk's typist played along and rp'd collapsing with a groan, clutching his nether regions--that is why I chose the title for this story, which is the second half of the old diplomatic mantra, "When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds soon follow."

    As for the comment about missing him, well you see, Hawk's typist is one of the folks that has moved on to other rp venues. No need to go into the reasons why--like Papaw said, life is a series of meetings and partings. But he's a good guy, and I hope he's having fun in other locales.

    And I am glad you liked the sense of atmosphere. If I was more disciplined in my writing I would probably edit most of that stuff out, but hell, I enjoy writing it. I'm savoring the moment and in my mind, I am picturing the setting and the people--even the smells and the lighting--while I put it into words. And I am also hoping that you the reader, can draw on my verbosity to get a sense of what I see in my head.

  6. Noooo, don't cut it out! My favourite book in a loooong while has been Atonement and the first 2/3rds are set in a few hours of one day - I LOVE descriptions like that, descriptions that pull me tottaly in until I'm there with the characters.

  7. well, I appreciate that feedback--I always try to follow the advice of my friendly neighborhood half-man/half-antelope