In a Sow’s Ear 10-12-09
I’m not exactly sure what gentrification means. It sounds a little like a bad disease. I think it means something like this: Some newcomers look around and feel divinely inspired to help locals (the simple folk, especially cowboys) rise above their unrefined social levels.
Take the small-town bar (The Tall Boot) that has been purchased by wealthy buyers from a City. To uplift the joint’s ambiance, the new proprietor tells a cowboy he can’t bring his sheepdog into the place. Now, many small-town western bars not only allow dogs, they provide water bowls and, in one instance, the canine is provided with his own bar stool. Padded. A large mutt of unknown ancestry, the woofer, perches on the stool and listens to conversations. Customers feel they can tell him (his name is Freud) any secret without worry that he’ll blab.
So, when the cowpoke’s sheepdog is refused entrance to The Tall Boot, the puncher departs, never to return. Neither do any of his cowboy friends. Since ranch hands and other country folk comprise the bulk of the establishment’s clientele, the new owner goes belly up.
Something similar happened the time a bunch of cowboys – having just finished shipping a potload of cattle – trooped into a restaurant recently acquired by a chap from an east coast City. The bull shippers are looking forward to a steak dinner and a convivial evening (yes, cowboys know what convivial means). The new uppity owner observes that “you cowpersons might at least go home and shower before coming here.” No one of local persuasion ever again darkens that door.
The topper story happens in another small western town. New owners of a falling down, but historic hotel, bring the old building back to life. Refurbished to a fare-thee-well, it reverts to its earlier western glory (where Jenny Lind was said to have lodged). The new managers are so impressed with their achievements, they introduce brand new regulations.
A local rancher brings his wife and friends to dine in the gorgeous renovated dining room. (It even has cloth napkins and stemmed water glasses!) But Sir Rancher is refused entrance because he is not wearing a tie. (Apparently, a wildrag isn’t considered posh enough.)
It turns out the hotel’s proprietors have refused the biggest rancher in the county. He spreads the word; the result is a boycott. The “no tie” rule is rescinded.
On the other hand some of the newer settlers in small towns intend to let you know they love you, love you, love you. Take the eager fellow who marches into a Post Office and begins conversing in a voice loud enough to wake King Tut. He (the eager fellow, not King Tut) passionately wants to become everybody’s new best friend. Leaning on the counter, Mr. Loudmouth yells at the Postmistress, “Hello, my name’s Arlan, what’s yours? Are you the postmaster or would that be postmistress? Ha, ha, ha. I sure do like
small towns. I’m from (mentioning a West Coast City).
Loudmouth turns to one of the other patrons, “I didn’t like it where I used to live, in fact, I hated it; the people aren’t friendly. In small towns, the people are friendly.”
Looking around, Mr. Babblemouth spies another customer. He looms over her and yells, “Where you from? I’m from (another mention of the West Coast City).”
Turning to yet a third individual who happens to be wearing a cowboy hat, Mr. Loud shouts, “You from here? Have you lived here all your life?”
The cowboy drawls, “Well, now, I reckon I’ve lived here long enough not to bother answering stupid questions.”
Conclusion: Country folk, especially cowboys, are hard to gentrify.
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