Seven Rain Drops On A Brick

Posted: September 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Patti Paige, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. The Tennessee Waltz, Walkin’ After Midnight, Cry, Cry, Cry, when I hear these songs and voices, I’m immediately taken back to the smells of stale smoke, spilled beer, greasy burgers and the sounds of the shuffle board table in the background. I can hear their voices pleasantly booming from a Wurlitzer or Rock-ola jukebox by the tavern front door.  

I went everywhere with my Dad, it was my preschool. My preschool was construction sites, hunting, fishing and rainy day afternoon beer joints. Sometimes people in our town would call them taverns but lets call a spade a spade, they were beer joints. That was all that was sold there to drink besides “pop”. This was mid 1950’s Iowa, there was no hard liquor in taverns. You had to get that at State liquor stores. So what we had were beer joints, it wasn’t correct to call them a tavern or bar, although they did anyway. And like all good beer joints they had jukeboxes. Marshall’s Tavern, The South Side Tap, The Blue Moon Saloon, I got to know most of those joints at a very young age.

Before I started school, Dad would take me to work with him on the days there was no one at home to watch me. He was self employed so taking me to work was no problem. At a very early age I learned to stay out of the way of cement trucks, bulldozers and men swinging long planks and 2 by 4’s. Very quickly I caught on to not walking under ladders while there was shingling going on overhead. I had the run of a construction site by the time I was four years old, whether it was a new house basement being dug and formed or yards of concrete for a livestock feeding floor being poured.

 But it always happened the same way. We would be at the job site and it would start to rain. Work wouldn’t stop immediately, the rule was, “seven drops to the brick”. That being, if you could count seven rain drops on an area the size of a brick, and usually there was a real brick available to gauge by, work could stop. Work just stopped, we couldn’t leave the job site yet. If it kept raining all morning until noon, we would leave and go home. If it rained that much, it was too muddy to continue work that afternoon anyway. At noon and raining, we’d hop into what I remember as a 1950 Chevy and head ‘home”. But not only did my father “drinks a’bit”, he smoked, he smoked Camels. On the way through town he’d say “got to pull in here, I need some smokes, sit tight, I’ll be right back”. I’d sit and wait for him for 20 or 30 minutes, sometimes he would be right back, if he wasn’t I’d swing open the heavy ol’Chevy door and wander into the beer joint. That’s where it hits me, opening the brass handled bell ringing door, and being blasted in the face by five sensations at once. The smell of stale smoke, beer, burgers, cool air conditioning and hearing the sound of someone like Patti Paige and the Tennessee Waltz from the jukebox.

A little fellow my size walking into the place usually attracted attention from the other patrons. I was bashful and wouldn’t look or talk to any of them until I found my old man and crawled up on the bar stool next to him. I liked this because then I’d be given a big bottle of Coke or Pepsi and a handful of peanuts from the barmaid or bartender. “Treated like gold” would be the expression to describe it as I remember. Evidently not many fellas my size peeked up over the bar like I did. The barmaid would always try to make small talk with me while the old man discussed a new job, politics or fishing with whoever the hell it was that was causing him to forget about his “partner” waiting outdoors in the car. Even as a child it pissed me off that he’d very seldom “be right back”. 

They say that smell is one of the strongest senses that our mind remembers and it remembers it the most precisely. Catching a familiar smell can bring back some of our most obscure memories or some of our most intense. As a young adult I clung to those memories and sought out those smells and found solace in them. It took years to air out those scents from my head. I am a child of the 60’s and I still listen to and cherish the era of the 60’s singers and music. I am not a lover of country music. But there is nothing that takes me as quickly back to my childhood and memories of rainy afternoons with my father as that damn old country jukebox music of the 50’s. I wish I’d never put on that cd of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits this morning.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Well, this is mighty fine reading. Followed that little guy every step of the way, and enjoyed every word. Amazing how music triggers such emotional memories. Part of me wants to know if this is based on fact or is purely fictional, but mostly it really doesn’t matter. Very nice, either way.



  2. Brilliant writing of your memories, J! Wow. This was a privilege to read! What a childhood you had! And it IS very interesting how a song can take us back decades…to sights, sounds, smells, feelings. (good, bad, or ugly)
    I have the same “thing”…not a huge fan of country music…but, I remember my Dad listening to certain songs and by the songs he played I knew how he was feeling. As a preschooler, the sad songs always “got to me”…even tho’ I didn’t understand why Patsy and Hank and my Dad were so sad…I still got the emotion and it made me cry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it seems the best country singers are the ones that can sing the sad songs and have a special way of conveying the sadness and the pain. I guess the Blues have that affect also. but Patsy and Hank really knew, probably because they were really experiencing it for some tragic reason or the other. People like your or my father related for the same reasons because they experienced the same pain. Of course when we hear the music we think of our dads and feel the melancholy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. Did you find it a tough thing…to find out your dad experienced melancholy?!


        • No, it explained a lot of behaviors and the kind of life he led. I didn’t realize what was going on with him until after he died and I was a grown man with a family. How about you?

          Liked by 1 person

        • No. Like you said, it explained a lot of behaviors. I’m not sure how well I got to know my parents. (their choice) But, sadly, I don’t think they really ever knew me. But, I know they did the best they could with their backgrounds, struggles, and with having eight children, etc.
          Hope you had a good whee-kend!
          HUGS!!! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Wow , big family! There were 5 kids in mine but the oldest two kids were 10 and 12 years older than I, so I hardly knew them. My mom worked as a Registered Nursed back when it took 4 years of college, my Dad did just about everything, amazingly talented in many fields but he could not stand working for anyone so he was self employed his whole career, had many ups and downs, very interesting character. His interests ranged from owning a Donkey Baseball Team to building Military Camps and Airfields during WWII. Spent his time while I lived with him hunting, fishing, flying, farming, drinking and occasionally building a new house for someone. Died without much monetarily but was very wise and had a thousand experiences. I just think he wanted to run away and join a circus but had too many children to take care of…..

          Liked by 1 person

        • Your Dad sounds like a VERY interesting man! You should write down more of his stories and your memories. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • And you with some many siblings, I’m sure you have a tale or two, also! 😀

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, yes…a tale or two or a million! 😉 😛


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