Curtis Dahlgren
The Ghost of the Gipper goes into a bar again
By Curtis Dahlgren
December 14, 2017

"Do you have gas?" the cashier asked. "No, just writer's block and a headache," I said as I handed her my debit card for the diet Cokes. She didn't get the joke. I was having trouble coming up with a subject for my next column, which is unusual, so I stopped at The Bar on my way home. It's out in the middle of the backwoods. You can almost see Russia from there. It doesn't cater to many important people, but is frequented by a lot of outdoorsmen. Its walls are cluttered with mounted antelope, bears, deer, and fish, including a 45 inch muskie that we ate at a Friday night fish fry before his carcass got stuffed.

I was nursing my fourth diet Coke, watching Fox News on the flat screen, when suddenly, the front door opened and let in a gust of wind. It was the President of the United States. No, not that one; this one was tall, dark, and handsome – at least to all the ladies in the place. They almost got whiplash from turning to stare. Because it was a Friday night, every stool at the bar was occupied except the one to my left.

"Is this seat taken?" the stranger asked.

"It's got your name on it," I said. "But what's your name?" And he says:

"Ronald. But you can call me Ron."

"That's what I thought," I said to myself. The bartender was occupied, so I thought I'd make small talk.

"Where are you from?" I asked. And he says:

"California mostly. But I was from Illinois originally."

"Me too," I said. "What do you do?"

"Well," he says, "I used to be in radio, but I'm retired."

"What do you do in your leisure time?" I ask.

"Well," he says, "Sometimes I cut firewood on my old ranch in the middle of the night."

"Hmmm," I said. "Not to get too personal, but what was your major in college?" And he says:

"Economics. But don't get me started on that subject!"

"I understand," I said. "But just out of curiosity, you didn't go to Eureka College, did you?" And he says:

"Sure as shootin'. How'd you guess?"

"I guess I just had a feeling. I once lived in Washington," I say. And he says:


"No, Illinois," I said. "I lived right on highway 24 in Washington."

"Then we used to go right by your house on our way to Peoria," he says.

"So did Abraham Lincoln," I said. "But that was before my time."

Ron just smiled, deep in thought. "We used to go to Peoria on Saturday nights to see the movies," he says.

"How did they play in Peoria?" I asked.

"Great," he says. "'Course they were silent movies. No swearing or sex or stuff."

"Right," I said. "By the way – where did you grow up?"

"In Dixon," he says. "Right on the Rock River."

"I went to high school along the Rock River," I said. "And my grampa once farmed on the river south of Rockford."

"It's a small world," he says.

"Yes," I say. "But what brings you to Michigan?"

"WELL," he says, "I'm here to give a boost to the local gold mine."

"That's good," I say. "And as an economics major, what would you say is the economy's number one problem?" And he says:

"That's easy. UNCERTAINTY."

"Absolutely," I agreed. "Economics is about five percent commerce and 95 percent puychological. What do think about President Reagan's approach to economics?"

"WELL," he says, "the best thing I ever did – er, he ever did – was ending that wildcat strike by the air traffic controllers."

"Bingo," I say. "But can you elaborate on that?"

"WELL," he says, "for years the unions had been asking for double digit raises, so it was no mystery as to why we had double digit inflation, unemployment, and interest. The government liked paying back loans with worthless dollars of course, but the net effect on the people was uncertainty."

"And smashing one wildcat strike changed all that," I say.

"WELL," he says. "That and tax cuts – tax cuts along the lines of JFK's and Konrad Adenauer's."

The bartender finally got around to taking his order. "What'll you have?" she asked.

"Pabst Blue Ribbon?" I laughed.

"WELL," he says. "Do you have any Mogen David or Boone's Farm?"

"Not this year," she said.

"Why don't you let him try a Spotted Cow, on me," I suggested.

"That sounds good," he says. "I always liked milk the best."

"Now we know why he wasn't very popular among the Ivy Leaguers," I said to myself. "I must be dreaming though. Here I am sitting next to President Reagan. To the RIGHT of Reagan!"

The bartender brought us two bottles of Spotted Cow, and popped the tops. "Interesting," he says, and I say:

"What kind of a chain saw do you have, Ron?"

"A McCollough," he says.

"That's what I thought," I say. "You say you cut wood at night? Doesn't that bother people?"

"WELL," he says, "my saw has kind of a silencer on it."

"I understand," I say. "But if I may ask, are you an optimist or a pessimist on America's future?"

"WELL, that's a hard one," he says. "One good thing though; my old jeep only has an AM radio, but I'm happy to hear that there are a lot of good commentators out there on the old AM dial."

"Who's your favorite talk show host?"

"Oh, Rush Limbaugh sure as shootin'!"

"So what's your favorite football team?"

"The Green Bay Packers. And I hope to help them run the table again."

"How would you do that?"

"We have ways."

"Are you going to be playing offense or defense?" And he says:


[To be continued}

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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