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St. Joseph Newsleaders feature Peter Smith

By Dennis Dalman
St. Joseph Newsleaders

Smith_Cavalcade coverWhile attending St. John's University in 1968, Peter Smith worked part-time at a bar on mainstreet in downtown St. Joseph. At that time, the bar (which is now Loso's Pub), was known as The Midway.

In "Joe," readers are treated to a vivid description of the bar, where people gather for what seems like an almost quasi-religious ritual of buying rounds of beers during bouts of verbal banter, wisecracking and good-natured joshing. The essay is about one of the bar's "regulars" – a hard-drinking, cantankerous farmer and one of those "village characters" who – in the old days before he and his wife moved into the city – would think nothing of braving the most blinding blizzard by driving his horse-drawn wagon into town for a drinking binge. At the time Smith knew "Joe," he was more than 80 years old. At the bar, people treated him like a "dear old uncle" and liked to razz him to get his gander up. He enjoyed playing the crusty buffoon and, in his German-accented English, used to rib Smith the bartender about being a "smart colletch kid" or "young whippersnapper."

Here is Smith's description of "Joe."

"He had blue eyes that seemed as merry as Santa Claus's at first. When you looked deeper, though, you could see something cold, hard and blunt down there. Farming Stearns County in the first half of the 20th Century had not been a happy, elegant or enlightening profession. When you looked in those eyes, you saw a brutal double helix wending and brooding through generations of peasant hardship back to the Dark Ages, where it disappeared into the Germanic tribal haze."

"Joe" seemed to be a bundle of contradictions.

" . . . He was something tragic and comic and feeble and brutal, a cautionary tale concerning the ravages of alcohol, an unshaven, stupefied bundle of flaws and frailties standing in that worn overcoat, palms flat on the bar, partaking of all the rounds, another beer and another shot always before him."

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