After the War, but before I was born in 1949, my still-single dad, Skip Lael, was a rodeo cowboy, a bull-rider, to be exact.
He and my Uncle Jack Lael, who was a champion bronc rider, were headed back East, probably driving an old truck held together by spit and good intentions, to ride at the famous Madison Square Garden, in New York.
Passing through Montana, they stopped at a rundown, roadside bar, probably for a piece of pie and a mug of beer, and found the place pretty empty, except for the bartender and a little, tiny fella seat at the end of the bar, shoulders hunched, nursing a whiskey. He was clearly drunk, but looked peaceable enough, so my dad and uncle said howdy and didn’t try to take the conversation further—which proved to be a wise decision.
You see, two men burst into the bar, and they were huge, as in ‘big enough to fight bear with a switch’ as the old saying goes.
One of them stepped up, patted either Dad or Uncle Jack on the shoulder and said kindly, no doubt in an effort to prevent misguided heroism on their part, “Now friend, I would advise you to stay out of this.”
The other addressed the little old man at the far end of the bar, saying
something like, “Pa, Ma wants you home for supper, and she sent us to fetch you.”
When the old man didn’t move, the towering, thick-chested, broad-shouldered brothers moved to his sides and took him by the elbows, meaning to haul him out of that seedy tavern and on home to Ma, where supper was waiting.
Trouble is, Pa took issue, and for a little guy, he moved like a tornado trapped in a narrow canyon, spinning, kicking, slugging and cursing.
Enormous though they were, these two men had one devil of a time getting Pa to cooperate. Although they eventually prevailed, they had claw marks, bruises, split lips, black eyes and plenty of blood to prove it.
Dad and Uncle Jack watched, sipped their beer, consumed their slices of pie, and told that story for years.
I eventually used it in one of my books, “The Bridegroom.”