A tale of R.L. Adair, Adair’s Beer Joint

| January 5, 2019 | Reply

Story and photos by guest writer, Claude Webb Jr.

I was looking through an old photo album when I came across these pics that I have posted. I also feel the need to add an explanation, because the man responsible was one of a kind, and this is but one of many unforgettable stories about him.

It was a beautiful spring afternoon in 1981 when a group of us gathered on the veranda behind our favorite watering hole – the original Adair’s on Cedar Springs. In reality, the veranda was just a gravel parking lot with an old, wooden picnic table near the back door. But the owner, R.L. Adair, always referred to it as the veranda. Considering the fact that R.L. was, at 6’2” and 200 lbs. of raw, farm-strong, politically incorrect badness, we called it whatever he wanted us to call it. R.L. didn’t mince words. He never called the establishment that he owned with his wife, Lois, a bar, a restaurant, or a saloon. R.L. called it a beer joint.

And on almost every night of the week you could find R.L. sitting on the picnic table on the veranda, or more often, perched at the end of the bar inside. He cut a striking figure, always wearing a pearl-snap cowboy shirt, faded jeans and cowboy boots covered with mud and manure from working cattle at his ranch every morning before heading for the beer joint. An unfiltered Marlboro Red hung from his lips, while he clutched a can of beer, or if it was later at night, a shot of Jack Black. Perched atop his head was either a straw cowboy hat or a trucker cap. Many told R.L. that he was a dead ringer for John Wayne, to which he would crack a rare smile in appreciation. He was a man among men, and the bulge at his waist, under his slightly untucked shirt that hid the pistol he always carried, made it clear you didn’t want to upset him.

Though R.L. rarely missed a night at the beer joint, the next two days would be an exception. Sitting across the veranda that afternoon was a Winnebago motor home he had rented, and standing beside it was the group of Adair’s “regulars” he had gathered, who were about to head west with him to the tiny town of Turkey, Texas, for the annual Bob Wills Music Festival. R.L. loved western swing music, and at the urging of his friend, famed Texas Playboys’ pianist Al Strickland, he had organized the trip. That included filling up two fifty-five gallon plastic barrels with beer and ice, several grocery sacks full of jerky, mixed nuts, bean dip and chips to last the weekend, and, stacked on the shelf above the front windshield, six half-gallon bottles of R.L.’s favorite, Jack Daniels Black Label.Just after 6:00 that Friday evening R.L. climbed in the driver’s seat while his dad, S.L. took the seat next to him. The rest of the crew climbed in and grabbed seats on the couches in the back.

It was a different time – drinking and driving was legal, so R.L. popped open a beer, encouraged everyone else to do the same, and pulled away from the veranda. Five hours later, R.L. pulled onto the grounds of the long abandoned Turkey high school, where the festival would take place. A stage had been set up at the old football stadium, and thanks to R.L.’s connections, he was allowed to back the motor home up to the rear of the stage. The motor home would be the designated rest station for Al Strickland and many other musicians – about a dozen bands were scheduled to perform. In fact, Strickland joined us for a few nightcaps before we finally turned in that first night.

We were awakened from a sound sleep the next morning when the motor home suddenly began to shake. The shaking caused me to look up from the couch I had slept on and I saw a sight I’d never seen before – R.L. was standing in front of me, shirtless. His muscular chest, framed against his farmer’s tan, was as impressive as we had only imagined. And half-tucked into the front of his jeans, handle exposed, was his pistol. The shaking had obviously gotten R.L.’s attention, and with a freshly lit Marlboro hanging from his mouth, he grabbed his cap and stepped out of the motor home. I jumped up and followed him and, once outside, discovered the problem. Two men who had realized what a great view of the show could be had from atop our motor home, had climbed on top and were sitting with a cooler of beer between them, facing the stage. I watched R.L. carefully study the situation and then, with his deep gruff voice, shout up at the two men: “Hey, you two sons-a-bitches get your ass down from my motor home!”

First of all, the fact that these two guys had climbed on top of a motor home without even knowing who it belonged to, may have been proof that they were either really tough, or really dumb. But what they did next left no doubt that it was the latter. One of them looked down at R.L. and said, “Cowboy, you think you’re pretty tough with that gun stuffed in your jeans.”

I’d known R.L. for years. I had watched him take care of many a bar room altercation, sometimes with just a scowl, other times with a well-placed fist to someone’s jaw. Every night after closing down the beer joint, he stuffed all the money made that night into a briefcase, grabbed his semi-automatic weapon from under the bar, and escorted Lois and whomever else had worked that night out the front door, waving his AK in the air and basically daring anyone to mess with him.

But this was different. We were at a music festival with hundreds of people standing around, a stage full of musicians and technicians just a few feet from us, and police and sheriff’s deputies everywhere. It was broad daylight. How was R.L. going to handle this situation without getting himself, and possibly all of us, in deep trouble?

I could only wince as R.L. reached down and pulled his pistol from his pants. But then he did something totally unexpected. He extended his arm upward, offering it to the fellow atop the motor home. Shocked, the fellow took the gun from R.L., and it was then that R.L. said, “Now, you sons-a-bitches get your ass down off my motor home!”

The two men wisely climbed down, gave the gun back to R.L., and humbly offered an apology. We went on to have a fantastic weekend, listening to great music and along the way putting a serious dent in the two barrels of beer and the bottles of Jack Black. R.L. safely piloted us back to Dallas Sunday.

And as we sat on the veranda later that night, laughing as we recounted the stories with those who had not attended the Bob Wills Festival, I noticed the bulge under R.L.’s shirt and thought to myself, those guys on the motor home were right – that cowboy is pretty tough … gun or no gun!


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