Archive for July 18th, 2010


Saloons of the Old West

   Posted by: CaptYak    in Informational

If you are a collector of things Old West and in particular Saloon items you may find this article of interest.

Imagine yourself walking into an 1880′s saloon in southwest United States. As you approach the swinging doors (batwing doors were a popular Hollywood staple but most saloons had regular doors) you would first hear the music pouring out. Once inside your senses would be bombarded from all directions. Besides the music you would also hear the chatter from customers at the bar and at the gaming tables, not to mention the ringing of poker chips. Your sense of smell would pick up the strong odor of cigar smoke and stale beer as you moved closer to the bar. Your eyes would race around the room as they caught the movement of girls dancing, cowboys cutting up, gamblers throwing down their bets and raking in their winnings. Finally arriving at the bar your sense of touch and taste would join in as you picked up your drink and sampled the critter.

At the bar you could buy a cigar, order a sandwich, snack on pretzels, buy some poker chips, throw dice, check your guns, purchase the services of soiled doves, pull the handle on a trade stimulator, view paintings of naked women, spit your chaw into a spittoon, order up a shave or haircut and a hot bath, engage in conversation, or simply quench your thirst.

As you order up a second drink you begin to relax and look around. On the back bar you notice the cut glass whiskey bottles with their painted fronts and labels under glass, along with the collection of shot glasses. Down at one end of the bar a glass jar full of cigars sets next to a bowl of nuts and a brass nutcracker. A liquor license and tobacco license hangs from the back bar mirror and on the other side hangs a calendar. The gaming chips, though out of site, are setting on a shelf below the bar. Just to your left a dice drop sets idle on the bar and you consider testing your luck. Searching your pockets you manage to find one silver dollar and a small bag of gold nuggets. The barkeep, on cue, brings up from under the bar a set of scales to weigh your gold. As he weighs the gold and turns it into silver coin you finish your drink and move off to explore.

The cheering from a large crowd gathered around a table at the far end of the saloon draws you in. As you approach a few people move away and you finally make out the shape of a roulette table with its colorful layout and beautifully crafted wheel. A man next to you shouts out the number 5 and a loud moan rises up from the crowd.

Keeping on the move you next find yourself surrounded by a group of young cowboys. All are sporting fresh haircuts and new clothes. It’s obvious to you they are part of a cattle drive and have not been in town long. Though the night is still young most of the cowboys are already drunk and really whooping it up. The game they are playing is called “Chuck”, that’s Chuck-A-Luck for the uninformed. It’s a game of chance which requires no skill and has been dubbed by the Professional Gamblers as a game for “Tinhorn” gamblers, which fits these boys to a tee.

As you begin to step away a gal grabs you by the arm and pulls you towards the middle of the room. She wants to dance and a drink. You know from experience this is going to cost you and you pull away. She isn’t so easily dissuaded and pulls you back. With no room to run you find yourself in her arms and then you smell a sweet scent coming from her. With all your strength, both physical and mental, you give one last attempt to break away and stumble off as you hear her laughter chase after you.

Now on the other side of the saloon you notice how quiet it is. As you turn around you can see men playing cards at various tables and notice a sign on the wall that reads, “Buck the Tiger”. Moving closer you realize you are now among the “Professionals” and those who want to challenge the pros. The table with the sign hanging behind it is a “Faro table”. Faro was the king of all gambling games in the Old West. To play you needed a table, a layout, cards, chips, coppers, a dealing box, a casekeeper, a dealer, a coffin keeper and a lookout. The dealer, coffin keeper and lookout all worked for the saloon or “Banker”, the person funding the game.

The action was fast paced and large amounts of money were won and lost on the turn of a card. Operators would post a sign letting the players know just how much money the bank had. This would encourage some players to approach the game with the intent of busting the bank. A number of stories from the Old West tell of such occurrences.

An argument breaks out behind you and as you turn to see what the fuss is all about the crack of a pistol causes all to freeze. The sound is deafening and smoke from burnt powder fills the air. One man falls to the ground as another pleads self defense. The town Marshall appears out of nowhere and before you can collect yourself the matter is settled and play resumes.

Making your way towards the entrance you turn for one last look and walk out the doors into the cool night air. The street is dark except for a few fires burning which illuminates a line of horses tied to hitching posts. Across the street is your hotel and you move off in that direction hoping it’s not to late to get a meal.

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