Somewhere in the hills outside of Austin on a very hot Saturday in August, my friend Carlos and I stopped at a roadside bar for a beer.  The place was small, set parallel to the highway and barely clear of the right of way.  Out back was a large deck shaded by liveoaks.  Picnic tables were scattered around the deck, and each one had a coffee can filled with sand, makeshift ash trays.  There was a large dancehall across a pasture and an about-to-fall-down barn next door.

Even though the day was hot, it was pleasant on that shady deck.  We walked up to the double-loaded bar (the other side opened to the inside of the bar) and ordered a couple of Shiners. Almost as soon as we’d arrived, we’d caught the attention of a man at the bar.  I think he’d been talking with some other patrons and shifted his attention to us (those other patrons should have paid for our beer for the favor we’d done.)

“Say, where are you folks from?” was his opening line.

We told him – Lubbock (me) and Seagoville (Carlos).

He had a story about Lubbock; his ex-wife was from there, or went to school there.  Or maybe she lived there now.  It was a little unclear.  She was a doctor.  And he was, too, although he was now retired.

“Say, where are you folks from?” was his next question.

Lubbock (me) and the Dallas area (Carlos).

Naturally, that triggered a story about how the town we were in – the very town! – was for sale.  If we were interested.  It included the bar, the dancehall, and a house across the road.  The price had been something and was now something else.  Lower, maybe, but it could have been higher.  He knew a guy, if we were interested.  Just let him know.

“Say, where are you folks from?”

Lubbock (me) and Dallas (Carlos).

“What do you do there?”

Carlos said he was in economic development.  The guy told us, with a tone that made it sound like the very first time he’d mentioned it to us, that the town we were in – the very town! – was for sale.  In case we were interested.  He knew a guy.  The place was a good deal – the bar did a good business, especially in good weather, when there were a lot of motorcycle riders that came through.  Except for the night before when some Mexicans had stopped and there was nearly trouble.   You know how Mexicans are, he said.  Carlos, with maybe just a hint of irony, admitted that he did, actually, know how Mexicans are.

“And you, pretty lady – what is it you do?”

I told him I was a poet, which usually ends the questioning.  He did, however, have a follow-up inquiry:

“Say, where are you folks from?”

Lubbock, metroplex.

That round of responses reminded him to tell us about Luckenbach – this narrative was so convoluted that it made all the previous ones seem coherent.  Something about his mother, his stepdad, land squabbles, speaking German, a Kaiser, perhaps a posse or three.  And then, something reminded him of an important question he’d somehow failed to ask us:

“Say, where are you folks from?”

Lubbock, north Texas.

Lubbock?  Texas Tech?  His ex-wife had gone to Tech.  Good school.  She’s a doctor.  He, also, is a doctor, although he’s retired now which is a good thing since the damn Democrats are going to ruin healthcare.  He’s never been to Lubbock, but he might make it up there someday.  He’d look us up when he got there.  He introduced himself, and we told him our names.  Naturally, now that he knew our names, there was one more bit of information he needed.

“Say, where are you folks from?”

Lubbock, Laredo.

Wait – he’s from Laredo and you, pretty lady, are from Lubbock?  How’s that work?  Those places are pretty far apart, but you two are…together?  Really?

It worked fine, we assured him.  Things with us couldn’t be better.  We were having a great weekend, enjoying a beer in the shade.  We told him we’d heard the town was for sale.

It was for sale – turns out our information was correct.  He knew a guy, if we were interested.  It’d be a great opportunity, as it included everything but the barn next door.  We should probably think about it.

It was time to head back toward Austin, so for entertainment purposes, we asked him for directions.  He gave very detailed instructions that I am positive would have, if we’d followed them, landed us Tucson instead of Austin.  As we started to walk away, he had just one more question:

“Say, where are you folks from?”

Lubbock, Seagoville.

He shook Carlos’s hand, hugged me, called me Pretty Lady one last time, and turned his attention to some people who had just arrived.

As we walked away, we could hear, “Say, where are you folks from?”

4 thoughts on ““Say…”

  1. Now somewhere in hill country south of Austin, there was a pretty lady named Melinda Green (Harvey),
    Then one day her man ran off with another guy
    Hit poor Melinda in the eye,
    Melinda didn’t like that she said
    I’m gonna get that guy
    So one day she walked down 6th Street and plopped herself down at the bar in a local saloon…

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