Tolfur’s, Ammannsville, the smallest little beer-joint in Texas?
St John the Baptist catholic church lies across the road in all its glory and is a fine example of the painted churches in this area. We’re not here to attend the church though, or maybe we are. But it’s another kind of church we’re aiming for. A country side hangout and meeting place for the locals. A proper beer-joint.
We’re a bit early for opening so there’s time to check out the exterior of the white painted little cottage, not more than maybe 16 feet wide and 30 feet long. In the back of the building there’s a tilted wooden shack that looks like it’s about to crumble at anytime. That’s the lavatories. Well, it’s more like a four walled place to lay down your burden in a hole in the ground, one for the ladies and one for the gents. I check for spiders and snakes as I enter the dim shed. If you have to go, you have to go.
At the side of the joint there’s a concrete slab with a smoker and a couple of trees giving you a relieving shade from the scorching sun. That and a couple of longnecks on ice is all you need to make an outdoor venue. On warm summer nights it’s a perfect place for scraping your boots to some local honky-tonk or polka band. And as the salty wind down from the coast is sweeping up the rolling hills you can sit back and enjoy the company of laid back regular Johns. This is yet another friendly place.
Finally on the inside the joint feels even smaller. The green walls are modestly decorated with a solitary hunting trophy and a few beer signs. Kind of rare compared to other places we’ve been were you can’t hardly see the walls behind all the things they put up. The only thing I miss is a good ‘ol jukebox. But where there’s lack of music there’s more opportunity for conversation. Soon I’m in the middle of a conversation with the bartender about beer. Out here in the Czech community they take great pride in the making of the brew. A brew that got its roots in a long tradition of beer making from the old world. He’s very interested in what kind the Europeans are drinking these days and I tell him that many of them would feel real at home sipping anything from the Shiner brewery.
There’s five or six domino tables inside the small bar and I can tell there’s lot of activity going on at the one in the far back. This is serious stuff and the players here are not fooling around. Deeply immersed the participants of the game still take time to greet anyone entering the place. Besides me and the photographer they’re all regulars and you better greet old friends.
This area was initially settled by Czech and German immigrants as early as the 1870’s and most of the people here in Ammansville originates from Bohemia. A lot of people around here still speak the language of the old world and cultural heritages as sausage making and choice of beer is part of who you are. Many of the nearby villages still bear those ancient German names from the old world. Still this is Texas.
The community of Ammannsville is situated on the Coastal Plains south of La Grange. Besides named church and the beer-joint there’s hardly anything out here. This is farm land. As far as you can see there’s just fields. I look out the open door and see the winding road lay deserted and baking in the blazing sun. While I’m slowly sipping my beer a truck pulls up to the front of the building. Keeping the engine running, an elderly man, dressed in work clothes that suggest that he probably works at a filling station or maybe at a garage, walks up to the bar and order a six pack to go. The bartender ask no questions about what kind of beer the man wants. The only questions are the courteous ones about the day and how his family’s doing. Everybody knows everyone. That’s the way it goes out here. I guess the bar doubles as a drive thru beer barn for people out here. I like it!
Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and we’re fixing to make it to one more place today. The sun is already hiding beneath the horizon and just a small bundle of rays are hitting the clouded Texas sky. We ask for directions to a nearby place called the Post Oak Inn. It’s supposed to be a more regular honky-tonk with occasional live music and a jukebox. We get many suggestions on how to get there but there is one particular route that seems to be the shortest. It involves cutting through pitch black back roads looking for easy to miss local road signs. There is also a non confirmed rumor about a honky-tonk serving mainly a black crowd being out there somewhere. A speak easy on our way to the Post Oak? Sounds very intriguing.
I guess our newfound friends don’t want us to get lost in the middle of the night and I really appreciate to what extent they’re trying to explain which way to go. But to be honest it’s all pretty confusing. Finally one of the domino player is taking matter into hands. He brings out a piece of chalk and simply draws a map on one of the domino tables. Brilliant! Out in the darkness among the fields I really wish we had brought the domino table with us in the car. But we finally managed to find ourselves to the other bar.
So, what about the speak easy? And The Post Oak Inn? Well, the latter is there alright. Jukebox, bandstand, pool tables and all. The regulars are there as well. With their bring-your-own in brown paper bags and Styrofoam cups. This place is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Hank Williams and you can almost feel it. The speak easy on the other hand where nowhere to be found. Just as speak easy’s should be. As I stand outside Post Oak, pissing on the cactus under the big black Texas sky, the thought of it all brings a smile to my face.
Almost Out of Gas is a platform for projects surrounding Texas culture. Wine, spirits, beer and cook-offs with great food bring people in communities together, and we are compelled to seek out and document the social and cultural impact of the true “social networking” of the common man—that is the lifestyle we feature. We know the host of these get-togethers is the main draw, and we are intent on bringing you the same beauty we see in the rickety, creaky and sometimes forgotten gathering spots: the Texas Honky-Tonks.
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