Showdown at the City Cafe 

When Big Six confronts Bubba, the skillets start flying.

click to enlarge THE RED SCARF

The following is an excerpt from “The Red Scarf,” Richard Mason's novel loosely based on his own childhood in Union County. It's published by August House. Ernest Dumas, another son of Union County, comments about this story:

“My cousin Bobby in Texas, who is about 75, remembers sitting in the car in front of Peg's Pool Hall one day when he was small and there was a big brawl involving the constable, Wing, and some roughnecks. One of them took the constable's gun and was about to shoot him but someone came to Wing's aid and subdued the fellow.”

Friday, November 24th, 1944

Norphlet is only about 650 people, but it was a whole bunch bigger during the oil boom of the 1920s. It ain't much of a town now. Most of the buildings are vacant, and me and my friends have a lot of fun playing war games in them. Of course, in a little, dinky town like Norphlet I know everybody by their first name, and they sure as heck know me, 'cause I'm their paperboy.

I passed the pool hall, which we call Peg's Place, the Red Star Drug Store, the Post Office, and there, right next to the Post Office, is the City Cafe. Old Mrs. Martin owns and runs the Cafe, which serves up a great blue-plate special usually featuring catfish or buffalo fish caught out of the Ouachita River. Me and Daddy go by there at least once a week to eat catfish. ... Well, I'll admit the City Cafe could use a little fixing up 'cause old Mrs. Martin can't see very good and she lets the Cafe get a little messy. Heck, it's more than a little messy, and Momma just shakes her head when Daddy tells her we're going to eat there. Momma ain't about to eat there.

Mrs. Martin is a really old widow woman of about 50, a kinda large woman who wears her gray hair in a big bun on the back of her head and never wears no lipstick or nothing. Her old blue checked dress that she wears most every day comes down to her ankles, and she wears rolled-up hose. She has a voice like a foghorn, and when she yells an order from out in the Cafe to Bubba, who is a-cooking back in the kitchen, he can hear her clear as a bell. Momma said Mrs. Martin's Pentecostal, and they don't allow no makeup or nothing like that. However, she does dip snuff and carries a little cup around to spit in, but I guess that's all right with the Pentecostals. Of course the snuff, stale beer and Bubba frying catfish in the kitchen without no fan makes the Cafe smell to high heaven, but, heck, nobody gives a durn 'cause the food's so good.

I smiled and almost laughed out loud as I looked at the plywood Mrs. Martin had nailed in the windows after the big fight last week. Heck, that brawl — I'm telling you it was one of the most exciting things Norphlet has seen in a heck of a long time. Dang, I wish I could've been there instead of just hearing about it. ...

You might know it was some of them sorry oilfield roughnecks that started it. ... This past week three of them roughnecks, who work on Mr. Crotty's drilling rig out near Snow Hill, came a-walking into the Cafe right before it closed. ...



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