Back in The Day
The Old Hand writes (having changed the names in this story, to protect both the innocent and the guilty) :
“Miss Fisk had a small 3.2 bar just outside the town limits — clean, quiet, befitting the gray-haired, innocent looking old lady. She lived in the far end of the building: a small kitchen/office, and her bedroom.
“She treated the barroom itself as her living room. Wipe your feet on the mat before entering. A small oak bar, 10 stools, three booths, and six tables. There was the front door, and a door leading to her living quarters, and a door with a restroom sign above it.
“But once you went through that door with the restroom sign, you were outside in the parking lot and about a hundred feet from a gray, wooden, two-holed outhouse. There weren’t too many bars left that didn’t have inside facilities, but Miss Fisk did not like the idea of cleaning an inside restroom.
“Her clientele was carefully picked. She allowed no rowdies, no drunks, no one she suspected of spending money on liquor when his family was going hungry, no unescorted females; there was no swearing, no Bible thumping, and no children. And once she banned you, you were banned for life.
“Since there was never many customers in her place, you had to wonder how she made ends meet — but she had her ways. For instance, there were the poker games, big stakes, that started every Saturday afternoon. The house took a draw out of each pot. And when the chaff got separated from the wheat, this sweet old lady sat in and showed the boys how to play poker.
“Then there was the Minnesota liquor law. Only liquor stores could sell whiskey by the bottle, and liquor stores closed at 8 p.m. six nights and never opened on Sunday. That left a lot of hours for thirsty people who wanted to buy more whiskey.
“Now, a 3.2 bar couldn’t sell even a glass of strong beer, let alone a shot of whiskey, and heaven forbid a bottle of whiskey — but Miss Fisk saw a need and filled it. She pushed more illegally sold bottles out the back door during the off-hours than the Judge’s liquor store in town ever hoped to sell legally. And for a bigger profit, tax-free.
“Gros Jean, the township marshal, knew of all this, but he would never do anything about her sidelines, because he figured, like everyone, that she was filling some valuable needs for the community. Plus, he had been unopposed in his running for office for almost two decades, and he liked his job. It supplied him with a good living and a new car every few years.
“It was the last new car that got Bantam Denis the idea that maybe there was more to the job than just the salary, so Banty decided to run against Gros Jean. A week or so before the election, he stopped into Miss Fisk’s bar, and even though he had been banned several years before, he ordered a beer. He was refused. So he went and dumped everybody’s glass of beer on the floor as he ranted as to how, when he was elected, he would stop the Saturday poker games and stop her back-door peddling of whiskey, maybe even take away her 3.2 license. Unless! He went and whispered something in her ear.
“In spite of the fact that the kickback he wanted from her was less than what she was paying Gros Jean, she held the door open while several customers threw Banty out.
“Banty held off a few nights before getting his revenge. He waited in the dark until Miss Fisk and Jen, girlfriend of Earl the bartender, went to the outhouse. Once they were inside, he took the board into which he had started four nails, and, placing it crosswise, he hammered it to the door frame, making it impossible to push the door open.
“The two women screamed and tried to get out. He jumped into his pickup and started bumping the outhouse — not enough to tip it over, just enough to scare the . . . etc. Then he drove out quickly. Nobody inside the bar heard the commotion, and it wasn’t until almost a hour later, when someone walked out to use the outhouse, that their predicament was discovered.
“Naturally, everyone knew who had pulled the trick — but as Gros Jean pointed out, there was no evidence . . . and maybe not even a law against nailing an outhouse door closed.
“But come the election results, Miss Fisk had her faith in mankind restored. Twice the usual number of people had voted, and Banty ended up with just two votes. No, it wasn’t his mother who cast the other vote for him. She had made it clear before the election that she wouldn’t vote for her son even if he were the only one running. The second vote was cast by an angry wife of one of the habitual losers in the Saturday poker games.
“And the very next day after getting locked in the outhouse, Miss Fisk used some of her ill-gotten gains to have an addition built on her building: a unisex restroom with all the modern conveniences. Of course, though, the old gray outhouse out back was left standing, because there were some habits her regular customers just couldn’t break.
“The only change in the outhouse was that somebody had found the board Banty had used and painted the words ‘BANTY’S JAILHOUSE’ on it and nailed it over the door.
“The bar and outhouse stood for several more years, until the Highway Department bought it for a highway expansion and knocked it down.
“Miss Fisk started another bar high on a hill which overlooked where the old bar had been, but it just wasn’t the same. For one thing, the building code decreed it had to have both a Men’s Room and a Ladies’ Room inside the building, requiring a lot of cleaning never needed when all she had was the old outhouse.
Published Bulletin Board & Onward 1/14/17