In the center of Missouri, in the Ozark foothills, we stopped at an igloo called the Beer Hut. There weren’t many places around. We wanted a few beers when we camped at the state fairgrounds in Sedalia.
We paid twelve dollars to camp and the bathrooms were close by.
Sedalia is famous for Scott Joplin, whorehouses, and Yummy’s Donuts. It’s a pretty great place. It’s a gem inside America that is worth only a fingernail clipping of everything that we ever stole, but that isn’t all.
It’s also who we are.
I walked out of the Beer Hut carrying a twelve-pack of the cheapest beer I’d never heard of: Stag. A gray-bearded man emptied his cooler in the short parking lot.
“Uh,” he said.
His wife inside their truck looked on.
“Stag,” he said.
I wasn’t sure if this was derision or approval.
But I didn’t mind.
In camp, the brown bottles of Stag tasted bad. The caps were old-school.
Which meant they rust.
I wiped the mouth.
I’ll never know what that gray-bearded man meant but he gave me a good feeling about America.
A feeling that we could make America a less divided place. We could judge one another with an observation about a locally available beer made by the old Heileman Brewing Co. in far off Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and not hate everything about everyone else.
We could construct a Tent of America, camping for twelve dollars a night in the grand fairgrounds of our land and share a few beers. For breakfast, we could visit Yummy’s Donuts and we could all be happy together drinking cheap coffee for breakfast while reading the Sedalia Democrat in a Republican Sedalia.
We could hear the piano and the good times again.
And if you wanted to stay home you could.
Bram Riddlebarger is the author of two novels and several books of poems. His latest, Western Erotica Ho, is available from Trident Press. He lives in SE Ohio and tweets @B_Riddlebarger.