Man, could that couple dance! “The Wanderer” and his wife would get up, seemingly for every other song we played, and dance the two-step and line dances, replete with well-synchronized (and often improvised) hops and skips. It was enough to get other couples to dance (though the others would really only slow dance). They were even good enough to keep us more on-tempo, a feat well understood by those of you knifers who know how we can day-dream in the middle of songs from time to time 🙂 From speaking with Mr. Wanderer (Edmund), a tattooed western shirt and cowboy boot and hat wearing 50-something, Willy discovered that he was a crane operator at a shipping facility who reportedly worked 16-hour days. Willy immediately dubbed him, “the only European who worked more than three-hour days” which was met with much merriment from everyone at the table. “Yeah, certainly I work enough for a dozen Frenchmen (makes snorting noise), but I get sick of it, you know? So my woman and I go out dancing every weekend and take care of our horses at home.” And so dressed like cowboys and cowgirls, the customers like The Wanderer are at least horse-owners and farmers, which is close enough to legit for we three Knifers.
“Cowboy Up” is a restaurant in rural Waardamme styled after a western-American ranch. They serve ribs. They have horse stables, horses, and livestock. They even stock American beers, though we only saw one person, our driver Peter, drink one. It was a Bud Light that he promptly labeled “pee-water”. Rodeo footage plays on the TVs; complete with barrel racing and wrangling while country and western music is played on the house stereo. Needless to say, it’s surreal for an American to see things so faithfully, yet not quite exactly, recreated. Kind of like our music. And so we made for good company with much applause and laughter and stories shared between The Gang and the locals.
Nick, the owner, does a great job and the extended family works hard to please every customer. Even their children help out; their eldest son Jesse (8) worked the stage lighting and merchandise table for us! Before even entering the place, Nick ducks out the kitchen door and takes our order, asking if we have any vegetarians. He promptly begins preparing baby-back ribs. Nick has a genuine passion for the place, the customers, and the musicians who come to play. He puts Bob Wayne on the TV, plays Heel-Stomp on the sound system when these guys are mentioned in the course of conversation. There’s even a kids’ obstacle course in the lawn next to the outdoor seating. Everyone shakes hands like a brother, as if you’ve known them for years.
Stijn had the day off and we spent it with him before we had to leave by kicking around the futbol, jamming tunes (both on the stereo and on guitars), and swapping tall tales. He made the most of his day off after a fashion that would make University kids pale in comparison. He’s the kind of guy you feel like you’ve known your whole life. You want to see him take better care of himself, knowing all the while you’re only a few steps behind him in the party department. He’s done a lot of living. He loves his family. He’s a good soul.
Our driver, Peter was accompanied by Vinnie. We had a good drive to and from Waardamme. They sat up front and chose the music, while we sat three-wide in the back seat. They’re both sharp young men. These guys don’t drink anything other than beer, don’t seem to be interested in weed or vices worse than tobacco and ladies. Peter (28) has a vintage Dodge Challenger and wears a “Nashville Pussy” T-shirt. Vinnine (21) doesn’t drive anything other than a cruiser bike and a push-mower. Vinnie seems more a greaser type, wearing long sideburns, a “Dropkick Murphy’s” T, and slicked back hair. We talk with them just about the whole way, and they go to great lengths to be accommodating by speaking to each other in English, rarely drifting into their native tongue to discuss the route. When they mention any neighboring area or peoples who aren’t Flemmish, one or the other snorts or makes a quick spitting noise. It’s quite amusing because you can tell it’s more a matter of ancestral pride than any genuine disdain for others. When you ask about this, they usually say something like, “They’re slobs.”, “They don’t work hard enough.”, or “They are conceited.” Except for the French; I think they generally really don’t like the French – even changing conversation to avoid mentioning them altogether 🙂
We listen to a lot of Hank III this evening while driving. We sing along to “Crazed Country Rebel”; “….I like to drive my truck down a muddy dirt road…” Hank (The Knifer) mentions that tha line could be a metaphorical statement, to which Vinnie quickly retorts from the front seat, “Yeah, because Hank III gets Shakespearian ALL the time.”
These guys are fun and smart. We’re going to have a great week! We get home at 2:30 am and manage to get to sleep at a respectable 3:30 am. And today we’re all up before noon! Yeeeeeee-haw, let’s get on that horse and play two great shows this afternoon!