Victory At Vic's
Victory At Vic's
Which Way Is Left In Canada
by Chuck RitenouR
Victory At Vic's
We limped into Lewellen on Tuesday afternoon. Rooms were waiting for us at the Keever Courts Motel. The Keever Courts was a series of small block buildings with a front porch. Chuck and Penny had one to themselves and Tom shared one with Bean and me. The furnishings were rustic to say the least. On each porch was a small pile of cut fire wood which was to be used in the woodstove located in the center of the room should it get cold. Tom had a roll away bed and Bean and I had a double bed. The center of the mattress on the double bed sagged nearly to the floor. We took the mattress off the bed frame and used duct tape to strengthen the springs under it. It took nearly a half of a roll of tape, but we were finally able to both lay down without rolling to the center of the bed. We also had a small kitchen with a tiny, mold encrusted refrigerator, a sink with running water and a few dishes. It wasn't much but it was better than sleeping in the van and it was free. We unloaded our personal gear, clothes and such. Bean did her best to make it livable. Apparently, all the Keever Courts' maids had the day or year off.
Chuck came over and wanted to set up at Vic's. He peeked in our room and said our bed was much nicer than his and we should change rooms since he was the band leader. Tom started cursing Chuck under his breath, but loud enough for everyone to hear. Bean just laughed and handed him the left over roll of duct tape.
Vic's was empty with the exception of the bartender and Early Bird. It looked to me as if he had never left his bar stool since we left a few weeks ago. After setting up and getting a sound check, I went over and said hello to Early Bird. He introduced me to the bartender who poured me a tall Jack and water. "This here is Kelly,the Reb", Early Bird said. "He moved here from Alabama, guess he's hidin' from the law." Kelly laughed and said, "ain't we all." He said, "Early Bird told me y'all play under the stars and bars. Its been awhile since I seen it. Are y'all gonna put it up?" Chuck had been listening to our conversation and said, "Damned right, we're gonna put it up if I can find some wire or rope." Kelly said, "I've got just the thing." He came from behind the bar with a small spool of wire, the kind used for hanging pictures and such. Kelly was a few inches taller than Chuck and in a few minutes the Confederate Battle flag was dead center above the drum kit.The Jack Daniels flowed like a spring fed creek. Not one of us had had anything to eat. So, it was whiskey on a very empty stomach. Soon, we were surrounded by that warm glow that only good friends and good whiskey can bring.
I had been playing bass guitar now for about four weeks and it was getting easier. Until these few weeks, I hadn't played bass guitar much in over twelve years. Tom was a good guitarist and our voices blended well. Chuck was even a bit more mellow. Tom said, "You can blame that on the whiskey." We rehearsed that afternoon. Whiskey or not, we sounded like a band.
That evening, we had a great meal at Vic's and stumbled back to our rooms. There were no televisions in our rooms so we sat around picking guitars and singing. Chuck came over and brought a small helping of Tallahassee homegrown. In the middle of the night, a thunder storm arrived with all the fury of a Gulf Coast hurricane. We lost electricity and everyone settled in their beds. After a few minutes, we were all scrambling for pots and pans to catch the water leaking through the roof. Tom found an area of about six foot that had no water dripping and sat the roll away there. In a few minutes, he was sound asleep. Bean and I slept in the van on my rollaway mattress. I loved the sound of the rain on the roof of the van. Chuck and Penny somehow managed to sleep in their room. The morning brought a blue sky and summer heat.
Just as before, everyone for miles around came to see us play. Wednesday night after playing, we went down to the sandy beach on Lake Ogallala for another "polish luau". When we arrived, there were two huge bonfire about forty feet apart on the still damp beach. Kelly "the Reb" brought three cases of iced Coors beer in long neck bottles. Tom and I broke out our acoustic guitars and folks of Lewellen sang and danced until the sun came up. Tom met a single girl in her early thirties. We had breakfast at her place and later that day, Penny and Bean went to her place to do our laundry. It was four nights of packed dance floors, free food and drinks followed by polish luaus on the Lake Ogallala beach. We slept the days away while the folks of Lewellen went to work.
I hated to see Saturday night arrive. We played our asses off. We asked Vic if he'd mind if we played an extra set. That night we played until two in the morning to show our apprecation to the little town that had taken us in. We dedicated our last song to Kelly "the Reb". He stood behind the bar and cried as we sang "Dixie". Later as we were tearing down our equipment, I said good bye to Early Bird. Kelly "the Reb" poured me a tall glass of Jack and water. Early Bird said, "You boys are gettin' pretty damned good. I guess we won't be seeing you here again." I drank my drink down in one long swallow and said, "Early Bird, we ain't that damned good." He laughed and said," well, you'd be the only one that knows."
Early Bird was right. I knew. I knew this had just been a lull in the action. I knew the personnel dynamics were still not right. Chuck and Tom were still arguing over details and both were missing the big picture. We were out here on our own. Three men and two women barely scraping by from one week to the next and driving hundreds of miles between jobs. We were one accident, one illness, one lost gig away from begging on the streets for money to get home. At home, I was in a court battle with my daughter's mother and step-father to keep her last name the same as mine. There was a court date coming up and I had too save every penny I could to get there and back again. All I had left was hope. Vic's Supper Club and the folks in Lewellen, Nebraska had restored a small bit of hope. I was still hoping everything would somehow magically work itself out. Vic's Supper Club had been a victory. Sure, it was a small victory, but a victory none the less.