There is a certain level of falseness, of pretention that is absolutely nerve grating for those of us more inclined toward a genuine nature and brutal honesty. And there is also a certain level of pure trashiness that those of us raised with propriety and our heads held at above average height cannot bear either. The balance of the two creates a particular distain for most beer hall social interaction, an expectation of disappointment or disgust rather than the proverbial good time. Enter here a good reason to avoid all manner of watering holes.
Frequently, just knowing the right dive or getting out of town and off the beaten path are the keys to finding those places where the patrons aren’t so busy trying to play the character they want so badly to be that the fakeness positively drips from every crevice or conversely the places where people are so raw and prideless that all manner of etiquette has fallen by the wayside in a landslide of degenerate trashiness and borderline criminality. And while the quest for new places that suit us got old years ago, last week it was triple digit hot and there we were in the blaze of afternoon sun, scorched and weary and looking for a shadowy place to light for an hour or two during our east Oklahoma roam.
Enter here Buffalo’s Mule Barn. The interior was calm and dark, quiet for a weekend day, decorated more like an roadside junk store than a bar and while small cast iron skillets serve as ashtrays, the can beer was served on granny crochet square coasters. I could not make up that lack of pretention if I wanted to and in this era of hipster irony mess, it bordered on refreshing to see something so genuinely quirky.
Before playing the longest game of pool ever owning to our combined rustiness and a piss poor break, I scribbled notes about our ride and Josh made conversation with one of the other four people at the bar. Another read a newspaper. The bartender played modern standards on the jukebox. They discussed a music festival in Tulsa as though Tulsa were another state, close enough to bring up but too far out of the way to bother but for anything really worthwhile.
I tried to imagine the bar full and bustling as I know it sometimes is, but couldn’t wrap my mind around it being more than snippets of broken quiet conversations, the dusty sunlight slipping through the Mexican blanket makeshift curtains, the lazy orange tabby asleep in the far window sill, all the peace of a comfortable living room and outside the river rolling by.