“You have to keep your eye on a banjo player,” said the woman behind the counter of the little restaurant, a six-table joint that was a cross between a coffee shop and a pet store judging by the number of animals sitting around. It seemed like everyone at every table had a dog. I judged the woman’s age to be about 70, but judging a woman’s age is a risky business and I don’t recommend verbalizing your assessment out loud if you value your life.
I’d stopped by to caffeine-up on my way to Austin Texas, which is a long drive from where I was.”I married three banjo players at one time or another and they was all worth half a worthless dog,” she said “And I’ve never met a worthless dog, so they was 50% of not much.”
Best I could tell from customer’s talking, her name was Miss Eileen, and she loved dogs and only allowed people in her coffee shop who had a canine with them. I told her I had my Jack Russell in the truck and she made me go get him before she’d serve me a cup of coffee. She also had a habit of talking to no one in particular. Now and then she would curse under her breath, a habit that might make you wonder about her if you didn’t understand that she was probably talking to you if you happened to be the one listening, not that she really cared if you listened or not. She was going to say her piece as that piece came to her. That’s how it looked. Today’s topic was ex-husband banjo pickers.
“Banjo pickers are ramblers,” she said. “Don’t know why it took three of them for me learn that. You might wake up one morning and he’s gone and stays that way for a month. A string band in need of a picker won’t have to go without for long. A picker will just slide in and ride with them if it gives him a chance to play here and yonder.”
During her conversation she wiped the counter constantly, moving the MoonPie display several times. I noticed she only had banana MoonPies.
I waited for her to take a breath between sentences and asked her if she would like some other favors.
“You a banjo picker?” she asked, eyeing me as if I might skip paying for my coffee. “Cause you sure look like one.”
I assured I was no banjo picker, but I did say I had a bunch of MoonPies if she wanted some.
“So you just ride around in a truck full of MoonPies with a Jack Russell?” she grunted. “That’s the same thing as a banjo picker in my estimation. Maybe you ought to just break down and buy a banjo and learn to pick it.”
With that, I figured it might be a good time to leave, so I paid up, tipped her good, got ahold of Rudy, who was getting a little too friendly with a beagle under a table where three women were talking about church activities.
One of the women said, “Mister, you know your dog has a roaming eye.” She wasn’t happy about it either. “He was hitting on my little Betty here.”
“Ma’am,” I said, growing weary of people busting on Rudy and me. “You’re lucky he didn’t hit on your leg.” She looked shocked. The other women looked shocked. Even her beagle looked shocked.
Miss Eileen started laughing and coughing and then stopped and smiled at me, whispering, “I never liked them women or their smelly beagle. Coffee’s on me. And here’s a treat for your Jack.”
She gave me back my money and with it, a pork chop. I’m not sure where Miss Eileen’s no-name coffee shop will rank in all my travels, but Rudy will remember this place for the rest of his life.