Opinion | Biff America: Dueling in your underwear
“Holy crap-berger, these guys aren’t gonna fist fight, they’re gonna shoot at each other.”
The year was 1975. My buddy Keith and I had recently arrived in Breckenridge. For two guys from a Boston suburb, the place was something out of the Wild West. There were wooden sidewalks, dirt streets and many of its residents lived in old mining cabins, without water or electricity. Keith and I had little money but we did have indoor plumbing. Often, our entrée into the social scene was inviting folks home for a shower (on occasion, we’d join them).
There were two Breckenridges back then. One a fledgling ski hill and a few lodges serving what many hoped would become a popular ski resort. The other was a wild place filled with miners and mountain-man hippies long on resilience, short on grooming.
Though my friend and I related more to the “wild” Breckenridge, we did not look the part. We looked like two kids, a year or two out of high school, who wandered into a foreign land. Both of us worked in bars and restaurants on Cape Cod which, along with a recent court appearance back East, required us to be clean shaven with short hair.
The first time we walked into the bar in question, it was as foreign to us as something out of Star Wars. Keith whispered, “Stay close in case we have to fight our way out of here.” That was not the case, though some patrons couldn’t understand our brogues, most were fairly friendly.
When I ordered “a cup-a-la beeahs” I was reminded that we both had Boston accents.
Though our appearance and diction set us apart, we were no strangers to bar fights. Both of us spent some time working and drinking in taverns and clubs on the Cape and Boston’s South Shore.
Breckenridge, at the time, had unlimited parking and a half-dozen single women.
We had watched the altercation brewing at the bar for almost an hour. There were two scraggily looking guys both vying for the attention of one scraggily looking gal. The gentlemen in question wore beards, long unkempt hair and faded jeans tucked into heavy boots.
The gal looked much the same.
All was orderly until they lost track of whose turn it was to buy the lady her beer. Both slapped money on the bar and a pushing match ensued.
When we heard the words, “Let’s settle this outside.” We knew it was go-time.
Virtually everyone, including the bartender, filed out the door. The two combatants were joined on the street by an older guy with a long jacket, cowboy boots and hat. He seemed to be giving rules or instructions. The gal they were fighting over said, “Whoever wins buys me a drink.”
Keith and I moved closer for a better view. But rather than throwing punches, the fighters backed off from each other and opened their coats. That’s when Keith said, “Let’s step back, I think they’re going to start shooting!”
The referee looked at the crowd and said, “Give ’em room.” He turned to the battlers and added, “Don’t neither one of you polecats move until I say GO!”
The two stood about 10 feet from each other with their arms held out from their hips.
Their hands flew to their belts. But rather than draw guns, they fumbled with their buckles. In a flash, one was standing with his pants down to his knees, his red long underwear visible to all. The other was a few seconds behind and was declared the loser.
The fighters shook hands and a cheer went up from the crowd and with much celebration and back slapping all returned inside.
Fast forward four decades: Last night I stopped by a celebration of the final night of ownership of a local tavern — one of the last vestiges of the old times and only a stone’s throw away from the one which hosted the aforementioned quick-draw contest. I saw some of the same faces who once lived in cabins and even some who shared our shower. Like me, they have made a home at two miles above sea level. Those former cabin dwellers are now contractors, teachers, businessmen and women, and community leaders. They stayed, not because it was easy or they had nowhere else to go, but because they loved this county. They stayed because this place is special.
The next day after the fight, I wrote my mother telling her that I had found where I was meant to be. And over 40 years later my town is a world-class resort with paved roads, luxury accommodations and you seldom see anyone standing in the street in their underwear. And though I miss the old days, I’m none the less certain that this is where I was meant to be………
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or Shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul.
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