January 18, 2019

We Don’t Serve Miners!

Prior to the discovery of gold in California, a castaway Christian congregation, led by a Mr. Brigham Young, set up shop at most of Utah’s good watering holes. Mr. Young’s followers were farmers. They did not drink, at least not in the vernacular sense of the word. However, after the 1849 discovery of gold in California, waves of fortune hunters started showing up at the Utah watering holes. These fortune hunters were miners. In the vernacular sense of the word, they were drinkers, much like Jim and I. The farmers had adopted a no-drinking policy, and since the farmers were there first, they got to call the shots (not the vernacular ones). Perhaps the farmers felt they did not need refreshments after a hard day of sowing and reaping and chose to use their grain for food–I have heard of others doing this. Whatever the case, over time, they were forced to work out a compromise with the relentless waves of miners.

The effects of the compromise between the farmers and miners became a reality to Jim and I as we attempted to exercise our god-given right to a cold beer. A drive through the scenic town of Kanab brought us to a convenience market, a name I still dispute, since they did not sell condoms or ammunition–much less, as it turned out, beer.

When we asked where we might find the necessities of life, we were directed to a display of pork rinds and corn nuts and an exceptionally large gondola of disposable diapers.

Questioning of the pimple-faced lad behind the counter revealed that a beer could only be had at the state-owned liquor store down the street. It opened for two hours a day, and, as you might have guessed, it was now closed. To my further exasperation, we were told that it would probably run $10 for a six-pack. Apparently, it is the practice in Utah for the liquor store to hold up the customer, an unusual custom by our observation.

“Is there a place nearby that serves beer?” I asked the lad.

“That place across the street with no windows,” he said as he pointed to a gray slump block structure, four lanes over.

Jim and I agreed the boy possessed what amounted by local standards a vat of knowledge on the subject of adult beverages. Solid evidence that the Utah school system was working, in spite of outside pressures. We took his advice and dodged across the four lanes to the beer bunker.

“Are you a member?” the guy at the door asked.

“Of what?” we asked.

“No problem,” he said, “just check in at the bar.”

As it turned out, it was a private club and a membership could be purchased for a period of one year, or you could buy a temporary permit for a two-week period, although it escaped us why one would only drink for two weeks at a time. Perhaps this membership was designed for the traveling business professional or visiting clergy so they would know when it was time to go back to work or home to the wives.

There was an alternative to membership. We could find a current member to sponsor us. For the life of me I can’t figure out why anybody would do such a thing. Webster’s defines sponsor as, “someone who assumes responsibility for, or endorses, some person or thing.” I would never have considered a bar to be the ideal place to engage in such underwriting. Nevertheless, with typical Utah hospitality, securing a sponsorship proved to be incredibly easy. When the bartender asked if anyone was interested in sponsoring us, a ruckus began between four bloodshot hats at the bar.

Eventually one of the hats stood up and announced his willingness to assume the risk. He flashed a jack-o-lantern smile and then informed us that it was customary to buy your sponsor a drink. I was later to learn that sponsoring guests amounts to a part-time job for some of the locals.

So there it is–a lesson learned–as is always the case with this publication. The watering holes in this arid land can be few and far between, and keep in mind when traveling north from the Baja that they still don’t serve miners.

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