Supper at Grand Island

(Photo courtesy of Chain Ranch)

By Ralph Chain

Funny things happen in a person’s lifetime. One of the funny things that I can remember happened several years ago.

We were hauling grain and hay out of Nebraska because it was so dry here in Oklahoma. I had a friend named Gene Bloomer, who owned a ranch north of Griever Canyon in Major County. He had a bunch of steers and thought the market might be better at Grand Island, Neb., than it was in Oklahoma, because they had plenty of feed in that area.

He thought if he had a way of getting those steers to Grand Island to the sale barn that they would probably bring him more money. He approached me and asked, “Would you guys want to haul those steers to Grand Island, Neb.?” We had three trucks, and I said, “We could probably haul them for you.”

We had a hand named Iman Widner, who had worked for us a long time ago, and a kid named Gene Anson. They were great guys but never traveled much. Anson had worked for us all of his life, and Widner had been here a long time. They were not used to going to high-priced restaurants and eating. They ate bologna sandwiches usually, or hamburgers if they went into a restaurant. You did not go to restaurants too often then.

I told Gene that we would haul his cattle to Grand Island for him. We loaded them about 4 a.m. north of Griever Canyon in our three trucks. It took us all day to get to Grand Island, and it was late evening when finally, we unloaded the cattle.

Nothing would do, Gene Bloomer wanted to take us out for supper, along with his wife. He did not give us time to clean up or anything, and he told us where to meet him. He was in his Cadillac and had his suit and tie on, and his wife was all dressed up. He said, “I’ll meet you at the so-and-so hotel at a certain time,” which wasn’t very long.

We unloaded the cattle, got into one of the trucks and went downtown Grand Island and found the hotel. We went in, and it was a plush place. I do not know why in the world he ever went in to that hotel with us guys looking like we did. We had cow manure all over us, and we smelled just like a cow. We had our cowboy hats and boots on.

We went into the hotel and he had a table set up for us. He and his wife, who were sitting at the table, motioned to us. There weren’t a lot of people in the dining room. There were linens on the table and nice silverware. I remember when we walked in, there were two older ladies sitting there. They turned around and looked at us (they could smell us, too) and they got up and moved over to another table farther away when we came in and sat down. One of them had an eye piece on, I’ll always remember that. They were really well dressed.

It was sort of a French restaurant or Italian. The menu was different, I could hardly read it. I knew what was going to happen because Anson and Widner weren’t going to be able to read it at all. The very first thing the waitress did was came over to Widner and said, “What will you have, sir?” He began to squirm and kept looking at this menu, and I got tickled. I had my menu in front of my face. He began to shuffle his feet and squirm in his chair. He cleared his throat and kept looking at the menu and said, “Do you have hamburger steak?” She said, “Yes, we can fix you a hamburger steak.” She then asked, “What kind of salad dressing would you like, sir?” He cleared his throat because he didn’t know what she was talking about.

“We have Thousand Island, French, and we have House,” she said. He said, “Oh, I think France.” Then she asked, “Would you like hash browns or candied yams?” He was used to fried potatoes or sweet potatoes. He said, “Oh, I guess I’ll just take some hash.” He didn’t know what she was talking about. Then she asked, “Sir, would you like tomato juice or barley soup?” He said, (after clearing his throat) “I guess I’ll have the garlic soup.” He thought she had said garlic soup. I was just about to bust.

She came up to Anson’s side and asked, “What will you have, sir?” Gene cleared his throat, shuffled his feet, and looked at the menu and said, “Hell, I don’t know. Just bring me something to eat.” I had just taken a big drink of water, and I just busted out and spewed water over the table.