Originally posted to the LandCruiser mailing list on 16 Jul 1997.
I dedicate this short story to all you "Cruiserheads" out there, men and women, the only people who really understand what this is all about... H.C.
The Broken Birfield Bar The slender young man drove confidently, reveling in the looks that his shiny new Wrangler attracted from people. Although it was still brisk, he had taken the top down at the dealership, for he thought he could attract more attention that way. He had also wrapped a brand new tow strap, the thin kind with the hooks at each end, around the front bumper. Crawford really felt like a four wheeler now. Later that day he had gone into a construction site near his house, and the way the shiny Wrangler had climbed over the dirt mounds put a smile on his face. He had avoided the puddles, though, because he didn't92t want the new truck dirty so soon. Plus, he was supposed to pick his friend Gombay up that night for a night in the town, and he wanted the truck to look its best! Later that night, after he and Gombay had stopped and talked to a bunch of girls in another Wrangler, Crawford proposed that they go get a drink. "Where do you want to go?", Gombay said, as he watched yet another shiny Wrangler go by. This time the people in it didn't wave. "Well, I heard there's a bar on the west side where all the four wheelers gather," Crawford answered, "and I though we should go check out the scene". "The west side? Isn92t that kind of seedy?" Asked Gombay. "How bad can it be?" Crawford said confidently. "Plus, now that I got the Wrangler we'll fit in perfectly". The two friends took a U-turn in front of a Wendy's, and sped towards the west side. "Are you sure this is the right place?" asked Gombay, "I don't see any other Wranglers. I don92t even see any Jeeps, for that matter; only those weird looking old trucks!". " Yep! The Broken Birfield! This is the place I heard those guys talking about!". Crawford drove slowly into the large parking lot, stopping to look at the vehicles his friend was referring to. "Those are Land Cruisers, stupid!" he said haughtily "they're supposed to be good for off-roading". "Better than a Wrangler?" Gombay asked. "No, man, don't you know this was picked as Four Wheel Drive Vehicle of the Year? I have the magazine at home if you want to see it". "All right", his friend answered, "but they look pretty beefy". "Yeah, and rusty!! Ha, ha, ha!" Both friends laughed loudly, not noticing the smirk that the driver of a Cruiser with Canadian plates was giving them. They parked between a zebra-striped FJ40 from Tennessee and a mean-looking, rusty 55 wagon with big tires. The shiny Wrangler almost disappeared between the two trucks, and a feeling of dread passed briefly through Crawford's mind briefly. As they walked towards the entrance, Gombay noticed that there were a lot of trucks with Canadian plates in the parking lot, many of them parked together as if by design. He also noticed a huge brown truck with Alaska plates and 38" tires, and a bright yellow FJ40 with evil-looking tires and Georgia plates still dripping muddy water out the back of the tub. "Wow", he thought, "I guess these people are serious"!! Under a wooden sign with bright yellow letters that spelled "The Broken Birfield Bar" stood the meanest-looking bouncer Gombay and Crawford had ever seen. He wore an Aussie-looking hat and a t-shirt with the letters "GSMTR" on it. Neither Crawford nor Gombay knew what words the letters represented. The man, who was wearing a name tag with the words "Mr. Greenway" on it, was in the middle of a good-natured argument with some guy he called Jack, who insisted that you hadn't wheeled unless you had run a glacier. "Five dollar cover charge, unless you drive a Cruiser!" the bouncer said, "You can get your raffle tickets right here, as many as you want, unless you're Canadian. Then it's a 5-ticket limit". Since neither friend understood what was going on, they paid their cover charge and bought five tickets each. "I'm going to have to pawn my watch tomorrow" Gombay thought. As the two friends walked in, the first thing they noticed was a massive wooden bar that sprawled from one end of the room to the other. At the end closest to the entrance, a lively discussion, between seven or eight people on the advantages of gas vs. Diesel was in full swing. Gombay and Crawford walked up to the bar and sat next to the group. Gombay ordered two beers from a tall bartender. A shorter bartender, whom Gombay thought looked vaguely familiar, was engaged in conversation with two girls, one of which was flirtatiously pulling her waistband down to show him her tattoo. The blushing bartender, who happened to be happily married, was saved by a tall young man who spoke with a Dutch or German accent. "Hey, Rainman, give me another Broken Birfield" the bartender smiled as he poured the young man a shot. "Sure, Willem-Jan you want a beer with that?" Both men laughed, and Gombay and Crawford were left to themselves. At the other end of the bar, two men, obviously Australian, were having a drinking match with two Canadians and a bearded fellow that everyone called Gary. Bits and pieces of their conversation drifted towards the two friends, and pretty soon they had figured out that the Aussies were named Nigel and Jack, and the Canadians Mike and Warren. Across from the bar were a trio of pool tables. At the first one were a group of men and women with Windy City Land Cruiser t-shirts, a tall young man with a fleece vest, and a thin looking fellow with a pipe and a handlebar mustache; at the second table a foul-mouthed short fellow, a tall, stocky young man with longish blond hair who spoke with a British accent, a short, redheaded fellow named Will and a bearded man named Ernie were obviously playing for money. Under the table, a shaggy brown dog laid placidly, but nobody seemed to mind. From time to time, the short man with the bandanna around his head would lovingly throw the dog a couple of french fries, which immediately disappeared without the dog moving. At the last table, two guys named Lance and Kerry were playing a guy called Kevin and his wife, both of which spoke with a soft southern drawl. All four were laughing at something, but somehow Crawford and Gombay missed the joke. Two women walked by Crawford and Gombay on their way to the bar, but they didn't even look at the two fellows. One of them, with a thick New Brunswick accent, called at the tall bartender for two beers, and then called at the other woman to join her; "Annie, over here. I want you to meet my friend Mooseman!". The big fellow she was referring to had just spotted a good friend of his, who was unsuccessfully trying to convince a man named Andy and his wife that he could not get them a Land Cruiser from Venezuela! Sipping their beers, Gombay and Crawford continued to look around the bar, hoping perhaps to find someone talking about a Wrangler, or perhaps even another Jeep! They tried to start conversation with two men who had approached the bar, but as soon as the word Jeep came out of Crawford's mouth, one of the two guys, wearing a "Land Cruiser FAQ" t-shirt, turned to the other and said "C'mon, Gord, let's get "oat" of here!". No matter where they turned, the two friends couldn't seem to make conversation. One crazy looking guy from Philadelphia started rambling about double-galvanizing-triple-POR-15'ning the chassis of his military trailer to stop the rust. Another guy who everyone called "Corky" was bragging about how we would go to a place called "Catamount" and not do any work for a change; this brought laughter from a guy named Tim and a couple of Canadian brothers, who were all drinking out of fiberglass mugs. Across from them, another Canadian, a particularly shaggy-looking fellow, was describing to a delighted crowd how his wife had followed him on a trail, destroying her wagon in the process. Suddenly, two friendly looking guys, one tall and lanky and the other one strong and grizzled got up on the bar, proudly announcing that they had driven fourteen hours to the bar. This brought a round of applause, until an even taller and lankier fellow whose last name nobody could pronounce announced that it had taken him fifty-two(!) to drive from California, triggering another round of applause. Some man named Day, also from California, whipped out a Mexican sombrero and invited everyone in the room with a wagon to follow him to Baja for an expedition. Everyone laughed and many a drink was passed around. Gombay turned to Crawford and said: "I'm going to walk around for a while and try to mingle". While Gombay was gone, Crawford took a look at the walls, most of which were packed with pictures of Land Cruisers, not just FJ40's rockcrawling (of which there were more than a fair share), but of every model of Land Cruiser, conquering every kind of terrain on every corner of the earth. Other memorabilia included a broken rear axle signed by C. Gregory, an autographed copy of the original Clevis Bungeecord cartoon, a chrome grill piece donated by an R. Benett, and dozens of the parts that had given the bar it's name, all hanging from the walls and ceiling. Suddenly, Crawford turned around and his blood chilled. An entire wall of the bar was covered with pictures of Wranglers, CJ's, and Cherokee's being pulled out of harm's way by all types of Land Cruisers. In the middle of the wall was a small shelf, upon which sat a thin bluish hardcover book, written in a foreign language, that seemed to glow with a sinister light, as if mocking him. And then Crawford understood. He did not belong here, he never would! With sweaty palms and nervous gestures, he walked across the bar, rescuing Gombay , who was being told by a giant, fiery chef that if he didn't like chicken fingers marinated in Diesel and coated in graham crackers, he would have to leave. Hurriedly, the two men left the bar, dropping their raffle tickets on the counter in lieu of payment. As the two fools tried to start their Wrangler (a difficult task in the presence of such intimidating company), a young Canadian, on his way back from the restroom, saw the raffle tickets and picked them up, chuckling to himself "looks like another good night, eh?".
By Henry J. Cubillan
PS: I apologize to those who weren't at the bar (and to those that
Maybe you'll make it to the next one, "Crawford and Gombay hit the Trails"! :-)
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