Fanfare for a Common Man

stool_01I stopped for a beer in a place not far from Almost Iowa. The bar was small, no more than half a dozen stools and all six were empty, yet the bartender got annoyed when I sat down.

“You can’t sit there,” he said.

Looking around, I saw nothing to suggest the chair was occupied.  “Why not?” I asked.

“It’s been retired,” he said.

“You retire bar stools?”

“Just the one.”

I thought it odd but then the place was odd – in an all too ordinary sort of way.  Southern Minnesota is full of little businesses like this, stuck in time, stuck in the middle of nowhere and lingering on for no apparent reason.

“Maybe you should move it out of the way, so people don’t make the mistake,” I suggested.

“It wouldn’t be right,” he said, “it’s where Harvey sat.”


“What will you have?” he asked.


I nodded toward the bar’s only beer tap and observed, “I guess my options are limited.”


“Not so,” he said, “You can have tall or small.”

“Tall,” I said.

He poured my beer.

“Tell me something about Harvey?” I asked.

“What’s there to tell?”

“Was he a hero?”


“Did he die tragically?”

He stopped to ponder then said, “Nope.”

“Why retire his stool then?”

“I dunno,” the bartender said, “He came in every day about six o’clock for seventy years and drank without saying a word to anybody. That’s all I know.”

“And you retired his bar stool?”



“That’s got to count for something,” he said.

I pulled out another stool to sit down.

“You can’t sit there either,” he said.

“I though you only retired one stool.”

“We did but that one is being held.”


“Yeah, Paul will be out of rehab next week. It’s his stool.”

I just stared at him.

“I was just mess’n with you,” he said, “about Paul, I mean.”

Author: Almost Iowa

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