Joe and The Code of the West

Joe was my office field engineer one long and hot summer in the late sixties. We stayed in a motel at Enterprise, OR. However, they told us when we checked in that all rooms were already booked for the big rodeo weekend of Chief Joseph Days. That weekend we stayed in rooms above the restaurant/bar across the highway from our field office in Wallowa, OR. Very rustic quarters; a half dozen rooms much like those shown in old western movies.

Joe borrowed my company truck and went to the big watering hole bar in Enterprise with an invitation to set in with the local band. Among Joe’s many self learned talents while on lonely duty hearding sheep for three years was drumming to tunes from his battery powered radio. All went well until Joe had one too many drinks and started playing too many solos on the drums. One visiting rodeo cowboy challenged Joe to either shut the hell up or get his ass kicted. Joe accepted the later and suggested they settle the disagreement via the Code of the West.

In the alley behind the bar they squared off with a couple of dozen bar patrons standing by expecting to see a good fist fight. There was only one punch thrown. Joe knocked the cowboy out with the first punch, picked him up and put him head first into a large nearby garbage can.

Joe woke me up at 5am when he staggered into my room through the adjoining door that I had forgot to lock. He was looking for the bathroom as I had the only room with a bathroom. All the other rooms shared a bathroom down the hall. His right hand was swollen up like a football from the one-punch knockout. It is a wonder that cowboy lived.

How do I know what happened at the bar in Enterprise that night? Not from Joe as he simply said he, “subdued a unruly cowboy.” A company construction inspector we called Thumper was in the bar that night and told me about the evening. To read the story of how that inspector got the nickname of Thumper look elsewhere in this category.

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