Three young women looking for a fun night, walked into the only drinking establishment, within a half hour's drive, where they could buy a beer. One faction of residents of the small farming community had repeatedly defeated the other faction's attempts to turn the county from 'dry' to 'wet'.
Adjacent to the dry county was another county that also did not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages. However, just to the south of those two dry counties, The Little Brown Jug sat at the rear of a long wide parking lot. It was just barely over the line of those two adjoining counties. The residents of that county, few in number, were not quite so protective of their neighbor's morals. Thus, they allowed the sale and consummation of beer, on the premises.
A few steps inside the door of the bar, the blonde with long hair stopped and muttered, "Oh sheee-it," her southern accent drawing out the last word so it wouldn't sound quite so nasty. She tried to turn around as if she wanted to leave, but her companions pushed her forward so they could get inside the dimly lit bar with its large dancehall at the rear.
"Dahmn," the brunette added to her friend's comment. Her word also echoed a sweet southern drawl.
"What? What?" The question came from the third female. She lacked the heavy southern drawl, making each word sound short and clipped off at the end.
"Nevah min'," the blonde lowered her voice. "Let's go git a booth."
Four bar stools along the nearest short side of the rectangular bar were empty. Few men cared to sit with their back to the door. A few men, who appeared to be farmers or local workers, none of them dressed in anything better than jeans and work shirts, occupied several of the stools along the long side of the bar. Most wore some type of work boots, none showing a recent shine. Those who had removed their gimme caps sported white foreheads, as was often seen indoors on men who worked primarily outside all day long. They were relaxed, bending slightly forward with their forearms resting on the edge of the bar.
Farthest from the door, along the other short side of the bar, were four more barstools. Only one seat was occupied. A young man, dressed a little better than the other patrons, sat nursing his second beer of the evening. The young man had turned on the seat of his stool to lean against the nearby wall, rather than face the well of the bar, where the bartender was quietly motioning to each man along the long side asking if they were ready for another beer. This young man appeared relaxed, placing one leg across the seat of the next barstool, his well polished boot hung off the other side of the seat. The toe of his boot was slowly moving as if he was tapping his foot in time with the soulful song playing on the jukebox.
The young women chose one of several empty booths and settled on the hard wooden seats, waiting for the barmaid to take their order. They looked around for a moment, gauging their prospects for a little fun and checking out any men who might interest them or who might like to dance or show a girl a good time.
Informing the young woman who lacked a southern accent, the blonde said, "Tha only choice you git, Elaine, is beer on tap or in a bottle. An' ya have ta ask fer a glass." Her words were hard, as if she was disgusted or perhaps she was disappointed the dance floor was empty, although it was still early with an hour or two to go before full dark.
"Don't talk like that, Sue Ann, it's just that most don't wont a glass," the brunette chided her blonde friend's derogatory comment.
"I'm jist tellin' her, Louise. Don't jump down my throat." Sue Ann's words were a little harsh, compared to the ones she might have used before they walked into The Little Brown Jug.
"Well, don't be like that. Jist 'cause those men caint settle their differences, don't mean you and me has got to make some fer ourselves." Likewise, Louise's words were harsher than she had used only minutes before.
Elaine's head turned from Sue Ann to Louise surprised at the vehemence from both women. "What happened to make you two mad at each other?"
Louise waved her hand at the men along the bar, "Oh its jist them men. Neither one'll give in, which means Rebecca caint neither."
"It wudden her fault!" Sue Ann exclaimed.
Louise looked at her friend and slapped her hand on the table as the barmaid placed frosted mugs and bottles of beer in front of all three. "I didn't say it was. I'm jist sayin' she won't budge if they don't."
Even the sound of Louise's palm hitting the table did not cause a single man at the bar to take his attention from the young man leaning against the wall. Nor did the young man's attention waver from a particular man seated on the long side of the bar.
Before the evening was over, the three young women would no longer use the mugs, they would drink their beer directly from the bottle as the men at the bar were doing. Before they could lift their bottles to fill their frosty mugs, however, their attention was drawn to the men at the bar.
The young man with the polished boots did not move his head or his leg, nor did he lift his bottle for a swallow of beer before or after he spoke. "Jake, is she coming home tonight?"
"I don't think so, Clay." Only by seeing one of the men on the long side of the bar shaking his head, could Elaine determine who had spoken. Other than the movement of his head, the man's posture did not change.
"That's my baby she's carrying!" Clay declared. His voice was just a little louder than necessary, but he wanted everyone to hear what he said.
"She ain't sure it is, Clay." Jake's response was similarly loud enough for every man along the bar to hear.
Clay dropped his leg off the adjacent bar stool, stood, and glared at the man who had responded to his declaration. He walked around the corner of the bar, passed by the men who sat with their forearms resting on the edge of the bar. He paused for a moment behind the largest of the four men and patted him on the back and spoke quietly, "Tell her I love her, Jake. Just tell her that. I need my wife to come home."
The man to whom Clay had spoken did not turn to acknowledge the younger man. Instead, he nodded his head and picked up his beer, drained it and very gently placed the empty bottle on top of the wooden bar, while the young man walked toward the door.
As the door banged closed behind Clay, Jake stood, stretched, and placed his hands on the back of the two men who had sat beside him, "I'll see you fellas in a day or two." Both men nodded, gave wordless grunts of acceptance of their friend's comment, and the big man turned to walk toward the front door.
However, Jake stopped behind another man farther down the bar and clamped his hand on the man's shoulder. He squeezed gently, "Don't be late for supper, Joel. Mom don't need to be up late waitin' fer you to show up."
When the door once again banged shut, it was as if a pall had lifted from the room, the jukebox began playing a foot-stomping song that sounded several decibels louder than the one just ended. Most of the men at the bar leaned against the backs of their seats and looked around to see who had walked into the bar, to whom they could now give their attention.
A couple from the booth behind the three young women walked to the dance floor and began to dance. Two couples from tables on the far side of the large room rose from their seats and joined the first couple. The waitress called out an order to the bartender. The front door opened to admit two more couples, all four of them laughing at something said as they walked inside, or a private joke. They carried with them, the expectation they were going to enjoy themselves. The fun of a Saturday night at The Little Brown Jug had just begun.
Elaine looked around at the changed atmosphere inside the building and watched both of the other women with whom she shared the booth. Their shoulders straightened and smiles began to spread across their faces. To Elaine it appeared everyone was awakening from a deep depressive trance.
"Can you tell me what that was all about?" Elaine looked at Sue Ann and then Louise, neither of whom was giving their attention to Elaine.
"Later, darlin'," Sue Ann responded as she patted Elaine's hand then offered her other hand to the man who stood in front of their table. "I'm gonna go dance with Charlie."
Music from the jukebox grew louder as the bar and dancehall filled with young and old dancers. Rarely was a stranger seen in The Little Brown Jug. Hard working farm families met friends, talked about the weather, bragged about their fields of growing crops, and bottles of beer soothed parched throats.
When a couple slipped out the side door for a few minutes of fresh air, no one remarked when they returned, not even if the man had a smudge of lipstick on his mouth. After all, farming communities are far removed from larger cities where entertainment opportunities were varied.
It was many hours later when Elaine heard the first few details of the story that caused Clay Hogan and Jake Westerman to exchange words. It was a complicated story. Many of the details were argued about, but everyone had an opinion. It was a story about Rebecca Westerman Hogan and the pregnancy her doctor had just confirmed.
"Oh gawd," Sue Ann moaned as she walked into the living room taking careful steps across the room until she reached the short bar which separated the living room from the kitchen. She twisted the seat of the vacant tall stool and flopped down, but closed her eyes and moaned.
"I know, me too." Louise commiserated with her friend. "I thought you might go home with Charlie."
.... There is more of this story ...