The Ninemile House

The Ninemile House

was renowned for

its T-bones and prime rib.

Max Huff’s recipes,

 

Roquefort dressing,

spaghetti with grilled

garlic-buttered French bread.

Butterfly prawns shelled

 

by hand, and the fries

like the burger patties

were pressed fresh daily.

That menu from the sixties:

 

the relish tray olives,

peppers, and pickled

veggies were canned,

only the carrots, celery

 

sticks, and green onions

were raw unless you ordered

your meat rare. The salami

was rife with peppercorns

 

and paired with Sharp Cheddar

or Swiss on Club crackers.

Of course there was a bowl

of shredded Parmesan on

 

each table and bread sticks

for the spa-ghett. A spicy shrimp

cocktail kicked off the parade

of food, but many just came

 

to the old roadhouse for fun,

the full bar and music every

weekend, a honky-tonk juke

box was loaded with country

 

classics by Hank, Patsy, Johnny

Cash or Paycheck, George

and Tammy, Loretta, Buck

Owens and Porter Wagoner,

 

Charley Pride of Helena and

the Sons of the Pioneers, you

could play three for a quarter,

watch the jitterbuggers swing

 

around the bar, order a ditch,

tuck four bits under the pool

table side rail. Some nights

Lillian Young and her Youngins

 

might be fiddling around

a table, Brownie on the spoons,

or if you were lucky, staged-up

to deliver the Tennessee Waltz.

 

Wintertime the knotty pine

lit by lamp light and warmed

by oil and wood stoves felt

comfortable-cozy like Christmas

 

at home with the extended

fam. For better or worse

we knew how to get along.

Those days are long gone

 

for me, but I do grieve for

those who still called it home

after hearing it went up in flames

last night. I remember the wagon

 

wheels, the only lights at the bottom

of Cayuse Hill on any dark

night of the year inviting you in

for a beer, maybe a shot, some

 

country cheer, a conversation

before heading home, a last call,

a six-pack, or a chance to warm-up

in the neon glow elbow to elbow

 

with a row of straw cowboy hats

telling tales of steers or stumps

or mud or snow, some goddamn

broke down piece of shit rig,

 

and laughter would roar. Somebody

would order a round. The sound of ice

cubes tinkling in glass made me smile

like the cartoon Hamm’s bear fishing

 

there in the land of sky blue waters.

 

Mark Gibbons

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