The Rusty Spur

Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm
By: Doug Lund
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I just got off the phone with my South Dakota golf buddies; not to gloat about being out here where the weather is sunny and warm (even though it is) but to see if they were still playing in this odd month of January. Sure enough, two groups of them were waiting to tee off at Brandon Golf Course just like they did yesterday and last week. I could hear them snickering in the background..especially after I confessed that my clubs were still in the trunk having not been touched since leaving South Dakota other than to be moved around to make room for groceries. I don’t know if it’s fate or if somebody is sticking pins in a Doug Lund doll but I’m really laid up this time. The cough and cold that had been slowing me up have pretty much gone away but then, last Saturday while stepping out of the shower, the lower left side of my big back slipped into an awkward and excruciatingly painful position. It was all I could do to stand up, get dried off and schlump downstairs to the Advil bottle. The last time this happened was when I was mowing the lawn and stepped into a depression I wasn’t expecting to be there. It took months to heal. So now, I’m coping with my impairment with ample doses of Ibuprofen and Smirnoff..but I don’t see golf anywhere in the near future short of a miracle.

Speaking of adult beverages, Linda and I visited an old friend the other day; The Rusty Spur Saloon in Old Town Scottsdale.

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It’s the last of the old time watering holes in the valley. It began life in 1921 as the Farmer’s State Bank of Scottsdale. Then, just 12 years later, in the depths of the Depression, the governor of Arizona called for a “Bank Holiday” and that was the end of it. Farmer’s State Bank never reopened its doors..leaving lots of angry fruit and vegetable farmers in the valley high and dry.

The building housed the Chamber of Commerce and a real estate office for a time but in the 50’s it became the Rusty Spur where, it’s said, cowboy’s watered their horses with buckets of beer. Our desert daughter, Christy,  introduced us to the spur when we first started coming out here 16 years ago. Visitors to Old Town had no trouble finding the tiny tavern. You just had to listen for the non-stop live country music and watch for cigarette smoke wafting out the swinging front doors. You’re only chance of finding a place to sit down was to stand and wait patiently for a table or wall-side bench to open up. Once seated, our waitress came by to take our order and bring by a big bucket of salted in the shell peanuts to munch on and throw the shells to the floor.(A practice that has since ended after somebody in a position of authroity decided it to be a health hazard. No smoking anymore either, of course.)  

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The evening entertainment was, and still is, Phychobilly and the Rodeo Cowboys; a real fun time country band that, at Christy’s suggestion, let me get up and sing a few songs with them every year including Kawliga..the old Hank Williams and Charley Pride tune that  never fails to bring the crowd to its feet and the dance floor. Back then, the place had…what the Antiques Road Show appraisers would call; Patina.

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The big game animal heads, license plates (from every state) beer signs and photographs were covered with decades of dust and stale smoke. The rest room was…well, a place to do your business and get the hell out again. Ten years ago, Ron Anderson and his  wife, Susan,  took over the Spur and have since cleaned up some of the disgusting elements but kept the fun atmosphere including good food and live music every day and every night of the year. One notable absence now, though, is the skinny little old cowboy who never missed a night at the spur always sitting on a stool next to the bandstand. He was as much a part of the décor as the dollar bills pinned to the walls and ceiling.

Arizona 2012 024All the regulars knew Teddy who became sort of a celebrity..especially with Psychobilly’s band who’d invite him up to sing “Cheatin’ Heart” every night. I liked the way the band and the crowd treated Teddy with respect and applause. Sadly, Teddy Hanna went to that bar stool in the sky this last year. I also liked the way Ron permanently placed a photograph in Teddy’s honor over the place where Arizona’s singin’ cowboy spent so many hours. But the Spur still attracts it’s share of colorful characters..like this heavy set gent who uses a modified Louisville Slugger baseball bat for a cane.

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After leaving the Spur, we heard music of a different sort coming from across the street. It was this guy playing Jerry Lee Lewis stuff on his electric piano. He was remarkable. We sat listening, making requests and putting bills in his tip jar until it was time to move on.

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God, I love this town..even if I’m denied the joy of winter golf while my pals are playing at home.

It’s still worth the trip

7 Comments

  1. Cam Lind says:

    Heal, sing and have fun. Also a couple of cold ones. CL

  2. joanie says:

    O gosh, the great memories we have of the SPUR!! Sounds lilke a great day-wish we were there to share it with you guys!!

  3. grouse says:

    What you need for that back pain isn’t Advil. Trust me…(where have I said that before?) What you need is Aleve! The technical name is Naprox Sodium. It really, really works! Hobble down to the pharmacy, grocery store, and pick some up. The inflammation in your back will disappear (as the Mob song says “like the sun in the evening, it’ll disappear like the morning rainbow…then you’ll want to head up and go”). It really has been nice here. We’re all saving a lot of money by staying here. When you get back, you’ll be amazed at how tan we all are for this time of year, and how prosperous!
    Well, the wife’s flowers are coming up…Time to go watch her water ‘em.

  4. JD says:

    Read your blog this morning. Now I can’t get the lyrics of “Kawliga” out of my head… thanks a lot!

  5. Cookie says:

    If you haven’t already, you should check out the Arizona Opry in Apache Junction…especially next Monday evening, Jan. 16th. There will be a table of 12 representing the Class of 1966, Astoria High School. It would be great to ‘happen to run in to you and Linda in Arizona’. Don’t know us??? Don’t worry, we’ll recognize you !!

  6. Arlene says:

    If you check out the Az Opry check us out too as we are not too far from Apache Junction.

  7. Tom says:

    A few years ago, when Denny and I joined you for a couple of days of golf in Az., we had the prividedge of the Rusty Spur experience. You sang “Kawliga” with the band that night. That song performed by you that night had to be the best music that ever was heard in that place. An unforgettable time. Thanks, Tom

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