July 15, 2023
Here's a question I have been wrestling with all week.
Honkytonk Sue Today?
I have been contemplating doing my version of the end of an era with Honkytonk Sue in her swan song. How much has she aged? What has she learned and what has she accomplished in her life? Well, it's been almost 40 years, so she might look something like this:
Here's what one of her biggest fans envisions for her:
"I always imagine that she has a small, exclusive boutique selling HS branded cowgirl clothes and bags. One in Tucson and another in Old Town Scottsdale (Arizona’s most midwestern town, I’ve heard) this and her fame, as promoted by a famous publishing magnate keeps her and her adult daughters, three in total, very comfortable. She has a house in Patagonia, close to her ranch and winery In Sonoita. She also runs, with her daughters, a “rodeo queen camp” that travels and trains young women how to compete and win as a Rodeo Queen.
—Randie Lee O'neal
That is pretty darn believable, at least for one end of the dream. Here's another, perhaps, more realistic version:
She was tough but it wasn't enough. She lost at love and some very bad things came her way, but she survived the recent cultural tsunami, barely, and she ended up where she wanted to be, which is alone on the land she fought for. She paid for her freedom and, the way she sees it, she is perfectly able and willing to take care of herself to the very end, which is not all that far off. In spite of it all, she feels blessed and she asks for no other blessing.
She has one more hurdle and it is a doozy.
Last Fandango at The Heatwave Cafe
The encroaching condos and the strip malls have put a stranglehold on the last outpost of the honkytonk era, and, so, before Chata shutters the windows and closes the doors for the last time, she has put out the word for one final fandango.
Everyone wants to know if Sue will show, but her nearest neighbor, Buster Brandahan, is doubtful, reminding all the old timers that Sue has long ago given up drinking and she has sworn off men and she even gave up on Country Swing. In her mind, all three had let her down.
So, where does this all leave us at the last fandango? I think you know the answer to that question better than I do.
And An Emotional Donnybrook
Yes, if there's one thing we do know it's that the Mexican food will be great but the personal encounters and outcomes, not so much.
As for the music and the dancing, here is a fellow honkytonk musician who grew up in Tucson and sat next to Linda Ronstadt in Spanish class, commenting on the ranch women he encountered in his honkytonk tours.
"They're of a type sorely missed. Straight up ranch women, no bling, no bullshit."