Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Longhorn

Photographs and paintings of old west cowboys and cattle compete with western desert landscapes. A chief’s portrait shows a proud face looking off to a hard future for his people – winters filled with too much alcohol and too little justice or mercy, not trusting a white man’s God.

Touhy and Mannheim is a far cry from the Colorado or Rio Grande rivers of nineteenth century lore. The hostess has a Russian accent. The Longhorn is a sports bar and steakhouse. Country and Western music plays too loud from the speakers.

Stetsons rest on pegs on shelves, never worn but dedicated to memories of old cowboys, Hollywood western adventures, and old radio and TV dramas. Where are you now Gene Autry and Roy Rogers? Moldering in a round, gray tin can in a back lot studio warehouse? And you Red Ryder and Range Rider? Have your horses long ago faded into the Montana sage brush or the foothills of Wyoming? Does the Rifleman still polish his Winchester on some distant shore along the River Styx? Do the Maverick brothers ply their trade on riverboats ‘twixt Natchez and New Orleans? Where are you Wyatt Earp in these days of outlaws and urban terrorists?

A good hamburger or steak will have to suffice as a reminder of pioneer days, while life travels onward toward distant stars and a business lunch in a post Great Recession Chicago where, as far as a western facing eye can see, stand the ‘burbs, one after another, and houses, the last cash crop of the Midwest Promised Land.