Thoughts from Dr. Joe: The Tall Tale Bar and Grill

February 08, 2012|By Joe Puglia

In the Corps, everyone had a nickname. You either created your own, or you were anointed with a name that would hardly depict your best interests. Mine was “Lt.”

There were two boys in the regiment from Arkansas. They joined the Corps on the buddy plan and were inseparable. They called themselves “Butch” and “Sundance.” They were tough, competent sergeants with iron wills, undaunted when things went south.

Butch and Sundance had a penchant for yarning. They’d captivate the Marines for hours telling tall tales from the Ozarks.

“You guys should write a book,” I’d say.

“Lt, we can’t write more than a sentence,” one of them would reply.

The boys never finished the sixth grade. They grew up in the Ouachita Mountains, where everybody was a storyteller. Nobody wrote anything down. It was a storytelling tradition: Everyone had a yarn at the bar, on a swinging porch, or sitting in a fishing boat. Butch and Sundance were magic. They could reach others on an emotional level.


Shepherds were among our early story tellers. They created myths and orchestrated unimaginable tales. They brought drama to the sky and kept man wondering and digging for the secrets of existence. They explained the perplexities of life and tied us to the universe.

I remember the pledge that Butch and Sundance made. If they got out of Vietnam intact, they were going to open a bar.

Butch and Sundance survived the war. A few years later I received a letter from them. Enclosed in it was a photo. “Lt, this is a picture of our bar,” the note said. They called it the Tall Tale Bar and Grill. It was located between the Ozark and Ouachita mountains on the Pig Trail Scenic Byway.

I couldn’t wait to go.

I too have a penchant for story. I’ve keep detailed journals recording moments, circumstance and triviality. They would be the seeds for stories that one day I would write. It’s agonizing to hear the constant echo of an untold story inside you.

Some of my fondest memoires are listening to the tales of the men who hung out in my dad’s delicatessen on cold winter days. I recall visiting my Uncle Joe in Western Pennsylvania and sitting around a potbelly stove, listening to the hardships of the coal miners. Oral history came first and is foundational to civilization.

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