This might be Beth’s Bar and Grill, but it might not be Beth who serves us.
This morning our hostess, waitress, cook is a short, stubby, older looking than she is woman who wears house slippers and a blue apron. She screws up her face funny when she writes our order into her little spiral notebook, grasping the pencil tightly like a student with learning difficulties.
” Is that it? ” she says, looking at us as she reaches for our three menus as if she doesn’t want them to get away.
” That’s it, ” we say.
” We should have been higher, ” Weston says, ” the seismic was no good. ”
His dad nods. Max and I check our silverware for food the ex- con dishwasher didn’t take off.
This little Bar and Grill,in Benkleman, was in its heyday in the 1950’s when oil drilling in the Continental U.S. was strong and wheat and cattle brought good prices. The wallpaper, yellowed now, was new then and conversation was heady and animated. World War 2 was over and servicemen were back home with most of their limbs and some of their mental health intact.
” Disappointing, ” I add, the only coffee drinker in the group.
” If the oil isn’t there, it isn’t there, ” Neal reminds us.
When the food comes it is as plain as the building. There is no salsa or sprig of parsley to give the plate a fancy look. A man sitting at the table behind us is happy Beth is open on a Sunday morning with snow on the ground at seven in the morning. He has hot tea , reads his local newspaper, checks cattle futures and has his toast with a bit of orange marmalade. He appears to be a regular who is joined by a friend halfway through my eggs over easy.
There are three pool tables in the back of the restaurant and some evenings, under dropped lights, men will be here playing pool, watching football, and drinking beer, staying out of their wife’s house.
There is money in alcohol, not so much in food.
Dry holes, last time I looked, still cost me a fair bit of money.
Disappointed, but not dejected, we all leave Beth a good tip, even if we didn’t hit anything but dirt.