Drinking in Corona certainly eventful

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

One of our county extension agents is leaving. Les Owen and his young family are moving to Las Cruces.

Les has been here for the past few years doing county extension things like working with 4-H kids and answering questions for me about rabbits and zucchini. Les’ big business, though, is to handle that serious agricultural stuff.

You may or may not know this but Les is from the northern Lincoln County town of Corona, about 120 miles off to our west-southwest. You may remember Corona as one of those “blink and you miss it” towns of rural New Mexico; a town made up of a row of run-down buildings on one side of the highway and BNSF train tracks on the other. I remember it as a place where I almost got caught in the crossfire of a barroom fight.

Back when I lived in Roswell I used to pick up extra money by disc jockeying community and high school dances. Corona High School had hired me and my fellow disc jockey Wayne to play the tunes for their end-of-the-school-year dance.

Wayne and I rolled into town around sunset. We had a couple of hours to go before we were scheduled to work the dance. Wayne looked up and down the main drag of Corona and saw a beer joint. “I’ve always wanted to have a Corona in Corona,” he said.

We walked into the one-roomed honky-tonk and had a seat in a booth at the back. Dim light illuminated a classic New Mexico roadhouse scene: Guys who were still dirty and gritty from a hard day’s work hunkered over their beers, guys leaning on their pool cues knocking balls around to a small audience around the billiard table, their legs propped up on chairs.

Wayne and I were talking about stuff when his attention was diverted by two men at the bar, arguing in Spanish. Wayne stopped talking. Now, I didn’t understand Spanish then, but the body language was enough for me and it said these guys weren’t pals.

Wayne understood Spanish. “It seems standing guy is mad because sitting guy is the new boyfriend of standing guy’s ex,” he said.

I remember thinking how bizarre things get; you’re just kicking back minding your own business and trouble pops up.

Suddenly, from out of his pocket, standing man produced a li’l ol’ pistol.

Then the most amazing thing happened. No sooner had standing man pulled his “Saturday night special” than the guys playing pool slammed down their cues and grabbed him. In the blink of an eye the bartender vaulted the bar and put himself between the two men.

It all happened quicker than a snap of the fingers, almost like these men had rehearsed it. These guys weren’t going to let some angry dude mess up their good time at their favorite beer joint. The pool players escorted standing man out the door. Sitting man returned to his beer.

“Well,” I said. “Wasn’t that something?”

Wayne arched his eyebrows and went back to enjoying his Corona in Corona.

If I pass through Corona again I’ll remember our departing extension agent Les Owen … good luck Les! And I’ll check to see if that honky-tonk is still there.

Maybe that incident was something that happens at a lot of beer joints, just like having a bottle thrown at you for playing the wrong song on the jukebox. But that’s another story.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: blisscreek@plateautel.net