Last Laugh: Gamble Rogers at the Terminal Tavern

Gamble Rogers sees a lot of colorful characters as Terminal Tavern raconteur. Here he shares a few observations about two types of visitors: good old girls and tourists.


| January/February 1989



Gamble Rogers blanced on the toe of a good old girl

Gamble Rogers learned a few things about the ways of biker girls as the Terminal Tavern in-house storyteller.


ILLUSTRATION: PETER KUPER

Well, sir, every October, the fellers from Plumtree Crossin' pile onto Lafe Higgins' flatbed and head over to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Why? Well, to hear the likes of Gamble Rogers, that show-stealin', fast-talkin', Florida troubadour. A deep-voiced talker who can rattle off tongue-tyin' litanies of elocution in so explosive a manner that he was once described as what happens when a dictionary hits a waterfall. Yep, them fellers wouldn't miss a chance to hear Gamble Rogers tell such tales as:

Lately I have been given to savor the glorious honor of having been proclaimed the Troubadour Emeritus of Ocklawaha County, Florida. All this by virtue of having performed for 20 consecutive years as the house act at the Terminal Tavern in Snipes Ford. Because of my position there of centrality, I'm able to see the Terminal Tavern in its true light, as a temple of culture, as a taproot to certain wellsprings of natural human behavior — precious wellsprings otherwise silted over with the benign compost of gentility and decorum.

The Terminal Tavern lies on Redbud Road between Snipes Ford and Bean Creek, Snipes Ford being our county seat and center of literacy — which is to say everybody in town knows what everyone else is doing but we still read the newspaper to find out who got caught at it. Beyond this, Ocklawaha County is principally known for its outsized number of rural alchemists. It's not what you're thinking. We have an inordinate number of folks who spend the bulk of their waking hours puzzling out novel ways to bleach their used coffee grounds so they can sell them for grits to the tourists on the interstate — which goes a long way toward explaining why so many Northerners don't care a hoot for Southern cooking.

The Terminal Tavern — a dirt parking lot, a hangar-like building, an acre and a half of pickup trucks. Chrome trailer hitches glittering in the starlight, some encapsulated with phosphorescent tennis balls. And a raffish clientele made up of grapefruit wine drinkers, trotline rustlers, pool hall hustlers, dirt road sports, garden variety scofflaws, genteel schizophrenics, and good old girls.

I mean, they had some good old girls around the Terminal Tavern. For years, this place was the staging area for tri-state motorcycle raids carried out by an awesome, intrepid girls' motorcycle gang that called themselves Hell's Belles. They rode 50 cc dirt bikes and dressed in wet suits with Villager shirts over the top. One time an unwary functionary forcibly ejected one of these damsels from the Terminal Tavern. She went out and sullenly removed a McCulloch chain saw from a rifle scabbard on her machine, fired the saw up and cut the front porch off the establishment!

Those old girls flat do not care. They can roll a cigarette with one hand and roll you with the other. They put their earrings on with staple guns. Buddy, that's tough. Tougher than woodpecker lips.





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