The Beer Joint

A long overdue homage to a cornerstone of Texas culture.

The photographs on these pages remind me of my first beer joint, on the outskirts of Kermit, near the New Mexico border. It was a converted “filling station,” with the dry gasoline pumps still standing out front; though I’ve long forgotten its name, it was there—in the summer of 1943, at age fourteen—that I originally got myself all vomity drunk and required the assistance of older heads in the oil field crew to make it back to the bunkhouse. A jukebox cried out the wartime’s country songs of the period ( Each Night at Nine, Soldier’s Last Letter) and on the tiny dance floor a young roughneck wearing a wispy blond mustache awarded a lady old enough to be his mother the first French kiss I ever saw. I went back as soon as I healed, and for many nights thereafter. You might say I grew up in beer joints and early learned their many uses.

After work, the grunge of the oil patch under our fingernails and its greasy scents in our pores, we

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