Chute Roosters

With all the turmoil, stress, and mortgage signing floating around our group of friends lately, I nearly forgot about our weekend vacation.

Well, by “vacation” I really mean “family reunion.”

I should preface this by saying that seven hours is a long ways to drive in a car with three people and two dogs, especially if one of the people is already sick. I could take my fair share of snorting and coughing, but after a while I’ll admit that my nerves were a little frayed.

The main thing, however, is that we delighted ourselves with a little area south of Rapid City called Hill City. Hill City is one of the many small towns that masquerade daily as some sort of tourist Mecca, and in this case it did a fine job.

I always find it humorous that small towns like this can pretend they are bigger than their population would otherwise reveal. Hill City has its own brewery, its own winery, and its own lengthy downtown shopping district. It’s filled with a mix of clothing, outdoors, and recreation shops, and generally looks like the type of place one might retire to after years in the big city. I enjoyed the town immensely, regardless of the frayed nerves.

The highlight of the weekend, however, was a bar called Chute Roosters. It was karaoke night, and we were lured away from Deadwood to spend a night watching my great-uncle-in-law Byron sing obscure country songs.

Upon first look, it’s just a bar with a deck – no different from any other bar with a deck that I’ve experienced. But once we got into the karaoke mode, we found that Chute Roosters was not necessarily content with being another dive bar in the Black Hills.

First, our karaoke ringmaster was intermingling the standard American karaoke songs with Mexican dance music. Half the time we would watch someone butcher Patsy Cline, and the other half we would watch a handful of locals dance to their music, a rare display of diversity in what had always seemed to me as “cowboy country.”

The other great piece was the owner herself – Burt. Burt was an older woman with a deeper voice who came up to the front, near the end of the night, and thanked all of us for being there. She then was coerced into singing one of her favorite country songs. Can you believe this? When was the last time you were at a restaurant, or a bar, or anyplace really, and the owner of the place came up and thanked you for your business, for the patronage?

That was great.

So as we winded our way the few blocks back to our car, I had promised myself that I would give Chute Roosters a little bit of recognition, not only for playing host to a very fun night (I finally nailed “Born to Run,” I’d say) but for reaffirming my faith in the “friendly neighborhood bar.”

This was lovingly handwritten on July 14th, 2005