I worked at the Buckhorn Bar, or the Buck, from 1988 to 1993. It was a great job to put me through college. The hours were flexible and didn’t conflict with classes. I met a lot of great people there, including my husband (story below). I wrote a story about working there.
If you say the Buck or the Buckhorn to people in Laramie, you most often will get a knowing look or a shake of the head in return. The Buck is one of those places of legend. It’s been in existence over 100 years and is on the Register of Historic Places. It was one of the first bars in Laramie after the infamous tent bar the Bucket of Blood, which had bodies buried under the dirt floor. It’s right by the railroad tracks, and there was at one time a brothel on the second floor, now the Parlour Bar. It has a real bullet hole in the mirror ~ some idjet got jealous over a woman and stood in the alley across the street and shot into a bar full of people, before I worked there, thank goodness.
The great thing about the Buck is that all kinds come there. In one corner you’ll have the regulars, some of which look a little rough around the edges and are in fact a little rough around the edges. In another corner you’ll have a couple of cowboys and then a group of college students and then some bikers and then a couple of businessmen, maybe even a college professor or two. And everyone gets along. It isn’t a family place, but it’s a “family place” because the place is a lot of people’s family.
Imagine Cheers set in the declining West. That includes the feeling many people get there. I worked alone on Sunday afternoons, but I never worried about things. If I needed a case of beer brought up from the basement, I’d get one of the regulars to do it, since they pitched in with bartending every once in a while anyway. If there was a fight, which was rare, a regular would break it up. People would get 86’d for life for a month or two, and then they’d be let back in.
It’s been owned by the Hopkins family for a long time. What a great bunch. I didn’t know Johnney, the Patriarch, very well, but the very nice mom Pauline did the books ~ probably still does ~ and Mike ran the place. Mike’s a great guy ~ very congenial, wonderfully nice. He even ran for city council once. A lot of the same people work there for years. Bea was a fixture, with her “red” hair and brusque attitude. She still goes down to the Eagle’s Club, but she must be older than dirt.
I worked there with a wonderful gal named Lauri. She’s short and blonde and doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Think Cheers Carla, but with more authority. She was and is such a great friend, and that’s the reason I ended up there last night for shifters. Lauri was visiting so we went to revisit the scene of the crime. It had not changed a whit. Sure, there were some new faces but they were cut out of a mold. Such a good time. Then we went next door the Mexican restaurant El Conquistador (YUM) and sobered up. How’s that for a Monday night’s entertainment?
The Buck has a special place in my heart, not least of all this last story. Not a week after I turned 19 (the drinking age was 19 then), I interviewed with Mike for a job as bartender. I made sure to wear lots of pink. It got me the job. My very first Friday working, the bouncer who was a football player had to take someone down who was waving a gun. No one shot, though. But, this one very tall, very handsome, very nice guy came in with two friends, a man and a woman. The very tall guy came up to the bar and ordered drinks and chatted with me for a minute. He then took the drinks back to the table and told his two companions that if I ever quit dating the guy I was seeing, he’d marry me. And it’s not just a story ~ I have corroboration. I found out his name was Lurch. Every week, we would do a drawing, and the next week a Steve Linse won it. I asked Lauri, “Who that heck is that?” “Lurch, of course,” was her answer. So we got to know each other for two and a half years as friends, and then we started dating. The rest is history. The two who came in with him that first night got married and then were best man and matron of honor at our low-key wedding.
And you know what they say: the secret to a happy marriage is to have met at the Buckhorn Bar.