Monday, June 4, 2018

A Hot Time in the Old Town

A Hot Night in Texas

Quote from A Killing at Cotton Hill:

“The Two Dog is about as low a dive as you’ll find. Fifteen feet outside the city limits, it looks like it was built out of rotten lumber that someone discarded after tearing down the oldest house in town, which is exactly what happened. The interior is strung with blue lights behind the bar. It has a dance floor big enough for two couples and an old-fashioned jukebox with tunes that represent the worst of 50’s and 60’s country and rock. I don’t know whether Oscar can’t afford to update the music or if he’s just stuck in time.”
This description comes from the first Samuel Craddock book, A Killing at Cotton Hill. Just as series books are set in the town where my grandparents lived when I was a child, the Two Dog Bar is based on an actual place right outside of town.
My grandparents owned a small general store and bar (of sorts) on the edge of town, and they lived above it. I stayed there many times as a child. That two-story structure figures in many of my early memories. I had about a dozen first cousins, and we were always up to something. We would climb onto the roof of the substantial doghouse and torment the dog, and push each other off into the dog’s pen, to be soundly licked. It was the scene of chinaberry fights in the back yard. For the uninitiated, chinaberries are hard little non-edible ocher-colored berries that, if thrown hard enough, leave a bruise on a child’s skin. My cousins and I didn’t care. We built forts out of old bricks that were lying around from some project or other, hid behind the forts, and pelted each other with berries. The only rule was not to aim for anyone’s eyes. Somebody usually ended up squalling and complaining to a grown-up. The remedy? “You’re fine. Go back outside.”
Photo of me as a one-year-old outside the old place.:

Photo of me at 3 years old, so you can see more of what I looked like. I had a happy childhood.
            As for the bar adjoining the grocery store, it was countertop with a few stools where people either drank Cokes (we called any fizzy drink a Coke) or beer—Lone Star or Pearl. There was a radio sitting on the counter, and on summer afternoon, there was always a baseball game on.
Photo of my grandparents at the "bar."

But that isn’t where the Two Dog Bar comes from. It is based on a bar that sat across the highway from my grandparents’ place,  about fifty yards farther from town and frequented only by black folks. During the day, it looked like a run-down shack. Weekend nights were a different matter. It was lit up from lights strung across the front, and old cars and trucks were parked haphazardly in the front. On hot summer nights, my cousins and I would play outside and hear the rhythm and blues music coming from the place. We would make up dances to go with the music. One of my cousins bragged that he knew how the people who went there danced. He said they did a dance called the airplane, with their arms held out to their sides. And he would soar around the yard, pretending to be dancing. Oh, that place seemed exotic! To this day blues music is in my blood.
Eventually the night club fell into ruin and my grandparents sold the grocery store and moved to the house that I base Samuel’s house on. The grocery store has changed hands many times, eventually becoming a rustic steakhouse. But every time I roll through town, I stop and take a look at it. If I listen hard enough, I can almost hear the music coming from across the highway, and I am full of wonder that such a simple structure could feed a lifetime of imagination.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Memories and imagination. Thanks for sharing a great post, Terry.

Terry said...

It was one of the easiest posts I've written. Straight from the heart.

Vinnie Hansen said...

Enjoyed this. It's been so long since I read the first book, that I'd forgotten the bar description.

Terry said...

Thanks for posting, Vinnie.

Unknown said...

Great memories to have.

Pat Dusenbury said...

Great memories - and since I just read A Reckoning in the Back Country, I can see the bar and almost hear the music

Heather Haven said...

Was here earlier and missed the comments section! Back I came. I love knowing some of the things that have made Terry the treasure she is. It all started at her grandparents' bar! How apropos, if you know Terry. Great blog.

Susan C Shea said...

Wonderful how your warm memories have fed your wonderful fiction about a small Texas community.

Terry said...

Strange how much you remember all those little things that happened when you were least I do.

Cynthia Sample said...

You completely took me back to that place and time, just like you do with every Samuel Craddock book. Thanks for the journey.