As he rested his head on the pillow of the hospital bed, he thought he could hear the piano music, laughter and applause coming from Nellie’s Leggs. He remembered when the saloon was first opened. Ten-years ago it was just called the “Leggs Saloon” after its owner, Daniel Leggs. Then Daniel Leggs married Nellie Juggnutz. Daniel’s first thought was to add Nellie’s last name to the Saloon but the “Juggnutz Leggs Saloon” might not sound much like an attractant to the local patrons. He opted for “Nellie” instead which his bride agreed with, and her name was added. Victor Vlack bought the place after Leggs died from tuberculosis and his wife Nellie moved back to Arizona. The sounds of the night brought him back from his reverie. He could definitely hear cheers. One of these days he was going to check out what this ‘pole dancing’ was–if his wife Miranda let him.
The cheers were, of course, for the ladies as they removed an article of clothing and swung a leg-extended-arc around one of the poles. Christie Wooly’s routine was a hit and the boozy patrons climbed over each other to catch the tossed garments. The man who caught a shirt, garter, stocking or skirt would get a free drink upon its surrender. The burley bouncer would then retrieve the clothes. A knuckled fist to the head of any reluctant patron guaranteed the strippers’ garments return for the next show. There were three shows a night beginning at seven o’clock. Boda and Rhodes were regular patrons but their main mission was to help keep the peace and perhaps intimidate the occasional farmhand.
Rhodes was eyeing Clement Downs who had imbibed too many beers by ten o’clock. His friend was urging Clem to leave with him but Downs was immovable. Rhodes decided to push their buttons. They were from the Conner spread and he remembered them pointing rifles at him and his men a few weeks back. He turned to Boda.
“Back me up. Watch the second guy. I’m goin’ after Clem. They’re both wearin’ guns so we might get lucky and get them to draw on us.”
“Whooeee!” Clem Downs raised his beer glass in salute to Christie as she threw her vest to the audience. The piano player watched her intently to time his music to her moves.
Rhodes moved next to him and then rammed his shoulder into Clem’s back. “Watch where ya goin’ fat boy.” Rhodes watched Clem’s beer glass shatter on the floor splattering the pant legs of two seated card players.
“Hey. You made me drop my beer.” Clem staggered a little from his alcoholic instability. “You owe me a beer. And who you callin’ fat. You’re as big as me.” Clem made an attempt at pushing Rhodes but stumbled and bounced against the bar.
“You insultin’ me? Look at you. You’re a drunkin’ slob.” Rhodes knocked Clem’s hat to the floor and stepped on it.
“Pick up my hat.” Clem was shouting to be heard over the dance audience and the piano.
“Clem, stay calm. Easy does it. Let’s go home.” Conner’s second man tried to coax Clem away.
“I say pick up my hat. Don’t let me force ya.”
“How ya goin’ta force me you pig farmer.” Rhodes pushed him on the chest with his palm.
The piano player stopped. Ten card players and the men at the nearby three tables got up and headed out the door.
“Clem. Don’t. Let me take you outta here. C’mon….” The second man hit the floor unconscious from Boda’s pistol whack to the head.
“Whaddya do that fer. He’s my friend. You’re packin’ a gun and you better go fer it.”
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