Two weekends ago Bill and I decided to get out of town and take a break from the usual sights and sounds. It was a beautiful, unclouded Saturday as we drove over the bridge to Superior and headed south to visit some old friends of mine near Hayward. I refer to this bi-annual trip as going “wayward in Hayward.”
We turned off the highway at Minong. Heading east through town we noticed the old Longbranch Saloon was open. I had always liked the appearance of the place, having driven by it in years past. It was early afternoon, an acceptable hour to imbibe, so we decided to check it out. The front of the building was tall and quite plain with old wood siding.
There was a large dining addition built on the back side with a fenced-in outdoor seating area. We walked up onto the wide wood front porch and went inside to discover the joint was nearly full, much to my surprise, since it was rather early in the day. As it turned out the weekly meat raffle was about to begin and in Minong, home to Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, the popularity of this event draws a big crowd. We took the last two vacant barstools, then ordered a couple beers to enjoy while we surveyed the happenings. After visiting with a few rafflers, Bill suggested we go outside so he could have a cig. Wading through the crowd, bottles in hand, we couldn’t help but notice the old tin walls and ceilings. As I headed down a short hall to the back door I got this thought, “If these old walls could talk!
Outside there were picnic tables, so we sat and appreciated the structure of the place while taking in the sunshine. Soon, a smiley-faced woman came out of the bar with a cig-in-hand and we started to visit. Her name was Tami and I estimated she was in her mid-sixties. She wore jeans, a long sweater, t-shirt accessorized with some handcrafted jewelry. Her hair was highlighted and cut in a cute, short style that told me she was confident and creative. It’s always fun to surmise about people, then laugh at yourself when you discover you were completely wrong. I don’t think I was on this occasion. I asked her if she was from Minong and she said she was the owner of the Longbranch, which opened up an interesting discussion about the history of the place. It wasn’t too long before Bill asked her casually if the place was haunted. “Ooh, I thought, good one Bill, this could be extremely interesting!” She smiled with no other reaction and matter of factly said, “Oh ya.”
Her openness didn’t surprise me because paranormal is becoming the new normal these days, along with all the other once “woo-woo” stuff like meditation and reiki just for starters. I say, “just bring it!” Let’s hear about all of it! UFO’s, aromatherapy, past life regression, quinoa recipes, essential oils and neti potting. I grew up in Hoyt Lakes at the end of a road and recall the fear and horror I felt in the fifth grade when I discovered that marijuana had come to my little town. It took me many years to relax and acquire a more exploring nature about the world we live in and to not be afraid of things. At fifty-seven, I’ve arrived.
Our visit got quite colorful as Tami began telling us about her encounters with a former inhabitant of the old building. In 1892 the building housed a mercantile, then a meat dealership, followed by a bar under the ownership of a man named Ronnie McGee. He and his wife lived in a small house near where we were seated, where the tree Ronnie planted is still growing in the yard.
Shortly after Tami purchased the place in 2006, she started noticing unexplained activities occurring inside. She told us about the day she and a couple of her girlfriends were inside working on reglazing the windows. Sawhorses were sitting around the room as the friends laughed while chipping and caulking. Very faintly they began to hear Elvis Presley’s song, Love Me Tender, coming from the rear of the long room. It was odd because there was no jukebox. There were no close neighbors either so it wasn’t a radio from outside. The friends stood bewildered with their putty knives in hand as the music grew louder and louder until Tami abruptly blurted out, “Ronnie, is that you?” The moment she spoke those words, she recalled, “the music stopped.” At this point, with a shiver running up our spines, we sat up taller and chuckled, taking a gulp of beer. Tami said, “I have another story”... I smiled and adjusted, eager to hear more. Following a Packer loss one Sunday, while Tami’s girlfriend helped clean up the bar, she was ruthlessly criticizing the team for how badly they had played. She needed to go outside to her car to get something but when she returned and tried to get back inside, both doors had been locked.
It gets more colorful…Tami said she heard from the locals that old Ronnie had been a fun-loving man who enjoyed taking flirtation to a very provactive level for that era. He liked to sweet talk his favorite female patrons while blowing gently into their ear. Tami told us about the numerous encounters middle-aged women have had in the bathroom over the years. While going about their business they swear someone had blown in their ear. They exit the bathroom giggling and claiming they had a visit from Ronnie!
A few years ago, Tami walked into the back room of the establishment where there is an informal dining area. Across the room she saw Ronnie standing with his faithful dog seated by his side. Ronnie usually wore a plaid jacket and he was wearing it on that day, too.
When the stories were over, we thanked Tami for her hospitality and stopped back inside the bar area to look at a few pictures of Ronnie that were framed for display on the wall. The meat raffle was in full swing, winning numbers were being called but we had other destinations so we left. Immediately upon arriving at the car, I realized I hadn’t used the bathroom and needed to. Besides, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see if I could entice Ronnie to blow in my ear, so I ran back inside. There was another woman leaving the bathroom as I went in. Alone in my stall, I calmed myself, brushing back my red hair to expose my ears. I sat with anticipation, then waited a bit more, until I finally asked, “Ronnie are you here?” No response, no stirring of the air near my ears so I chuckled and headed back to the car. I thought, “gee Scarlet, you probably came on too strong and scared the old timer to death....ah well ya.”
In my travels here and there I enjoy meeting interesting people and hearing about their experiences. We headed to Hayward and enjoyed the rest of our get-away. I decided the next time I’m planning a “wayward in Hayward” trip and pass through Minong, I’ll stop and visit the Longbranch again. I’ll probably head back into the women’s bathroom, but I plan to be quiet and demure on the next attempt. If I lose at romance with Ronnie in the bathroom again I’ll just figure he doesn’t favor redheads!