In the little town of Leon Springs, TX, alongside a dry creek and nestled behind a grove of oak trees off Interstate 10, there used to stand a cinder block tavern called the Silver Fox. This little dive was not visible from the highway. It’s like that little shack in the movie A River Runs Through It where the gal says, “So, how did the possum get in the tree?”
Bars like the Fox are fewer and farther between today, more's the pity. They have fallen victim to the flight to the suburbs, smoking bans, strip mall pub chains, and DUI crackdowns.
Anyway, I used to enjoy stopping in this joint to grab a beer and talk to its owner, the late Kathy, aka the Silver Fox. She was a barkeep of the old school, mainly because she herself was ancient. They didn’t have cars when she was a girl, something she almost never failed to remind me. There was lot of repetition at the Fox. I think that’s what made it appealing. It was safely and comfortably consistent, like your childhood feather bed.
Nothing had changed about Kathy since 1985—not her denim broom skirt, not her silver conch belt, not her 1985 Lincoln Town Car with innumerable dents and certainly not the décor of the Silver Fox. The un-ironic shag carpet, which smelled of smoke, the vintage posters on the wall of Farrah Fawcett, the linoleum bar, the bar chairs made of pleather—it spoke to another era.
The year 1985 must have been a magical one at the Fox, as they saw fit to freeze time at that year, and it must have been near Christmastime because there were blue Christmas lights on at the Fox all year around. Those lights somehow made me happy and depressed at the same time.
And since the Fox was stuck in 1985, there were no craft beers to be found, even though craft beer’s first boom came in the late-1990s. No, the Silver Fox was a mainstream pale lager type of bar. Lots of Bud, Lone Star and for the younger crowd on Thursday nights (by young I mean in their 50s), the occasional Miller Lite. There was one old WWII veteran named Troy who exclusively drank Schlitz out of a can. He used to bring his wife with him until she died. Then he started bringing his little white dog, Popcorn, until he died. There aren’t many health department types that come around the Fox. Part of its appeal is that you have to know it’s there to find it—and the fuzz never knew where to find it.
The Fox was a beer-drinking place. Not much wine flowed in this joint. It was an odd mix of goat farmers, local blue-collar folk and the newly rich people from a nearby ultra-nice subdivision called the Dominion (that’s where George Strait lives, a former regular at the Fox). So the parking lot was half beat-up pick up trucks and half Jaguars. It was a pretty eclectic cross section of people.
You could still smoke in the Fox, despite a recent law against it, which went largely ignored. You could still play pool for 50 cents. There was a jukebox in the corner that plays Hank one song and Bon Jovi the next. There was very bad karaoke on Thursday nights. The men’s restroom broke years ago so everybody used the women’s. There was a fading local newspaper article framed on the wall featuring the Silver Fox, (check the byline…yep, I wrote that). There were still real bar fights at the Fox. My usual game plan in this situation was to stop, drop and roll. It works for fires too, I hear. It works for a lot of things, actually.
But one thing that makes me nostalgic about the Fox is that it had Hall of Fame permanent Point-of-Sale materials in it. Point-of-Sale materials, or POS as we call it in the industry (yes I am aware that POS is now texting shorthand for a vulgar saying) are the marketing items provided by the breweries and distributors to bars: neon signs, metal tacker signs, cardboard stand-ups, flag streamers, table tents, posters, etc. And the beer industry has created some really good—and some really bad—POS over the years. But it seems the late 1970s through the 1980s were the golden age of legacy beer industry POS. You seasoned beer guys know what I’m talking about. Every old authentic beer tavern had two items in particular: 1. An over-the-bar circular Clydesdale lamp which is perpetually broken, and 2. The Coors sparkly rocky mountain spring water scene with simulated running water (engineered by the Germans, built by the Chinese, enjoyed by cowboys at the Silver Fox). The 1980s represented a sort of POS arms race between the large U.S. breweries. POS got evermore elaborate and expensive.