Curtis Dahlgren
The ghost of the Gipper goes into a bar (part 1)
By Curtis Dahlgren
October 2, 2010

"Our time is now." — President Reagan

EVERY HEAD IN THE ESTABLISHMENT TURNED, when the tall dark stranger came in the door. Because it was a Friday night, every stool at the bar was occupied except the one to my left.

"Is this seat taken?" the stranger asked.

"It's got your name on it," I said. "By the way, what's your name?" And he says:

"Ronald. But you can call me Ron."

"That's what I thought," I said to myself. The bartender was occupied, so I thought I'd make small talk.

"Where are you from?" I asked. And he says:

"California mostly. But I was from Illinois originally."

"Me too," I said. "But what do you do?"

"Well," he says, "I'm retired. But I still cut firewood on my ranch some evenings."

"Hmmm," I said. "Not to get too personal, but what was your major in college?" And he says:

"Economics. But don't get me started on that subject!"

"I understand," I said. "But just out of curiosity, you didn't go to Eureka College, did you?" And he says:

"Sure as shootin'. How'd you guess?"

"I guess I just had a feeling. I once lived in Washington," I say. And he says:


"Illinois," I said. "I lived right on highway 24 in Washington."

"Then we used to go right by your house on our way to Peoria," he says.

"So did Abraham Lincoln," I said. "But that was before my time."

Ron had to laugh at that one. He seemed to be reminiscencing. "We used to go to Peoria on Saturday nights to see the movies."

"How did they play in Peoria?" I asked.

"Great," he says. "'Course they were silent movies. No swearing or sex or stuff."

"Right," I said. "By the way — where did you grow up?"

"In Dixon," he says. "Right on the Rock River."

"I went to high school along the Rock River," I said. "And my grampa once farmed on the river south of Rockford."

"It's a small world," he says.

"Yes," I say. "But what brings you to Michigan?"

"WELL," he says, "I'm trying to give a boost to Dr. Benishek's campaign."

"That figures," I said. "That Bart Stupak really got snookered last year, didn't he?"

"Exactly!" he says. "I was following that whole healthcare fiasco."

"By the way," I say. "As an economics major, what would you say is the economy's number one problem?" And he says:

"That's easy. UNCERTAINTY."

"Absolutely," I agreed. "Economics is about 5 percent money and 95 percent psychology. What do think about President Reagan's approach to economics?"

"WELL," he says, "the best thing I ever did — er, he ever did — was ending that wildcat strike by the air traffic controllers."

"Bingo," I say. "But can you elaborate on that?"

"WELL," he says, "for years the unions had been asking for double digit raises, so it was no mystery as to why we had double digit inflation, and 20 percent interest. The government liked paying back loans with worthless dollars of course, but the net effect on the people was uncertainty."

"And smashing one wildcat strike changed all that," I say.

"WELL," he says. "That and tax cuts — tax cuts along the lines of JFK's and Konrad Adenauer's."

"SO," I said, "what do you think of the President raising taxes in the middle of a recession?"

"HA!" he says — but the bartender finally got around to taking his order.

"What'll you have?" she asked.

"Pabst Blue Ribbon?" I laughed.

"WELL," he says. "Do you have any Mogen David or Boone's Farm?"

"Not this year," she said.

"Why don't you let him try a Spotted Cow, on me," I suggested.

"That sounds good," he says. "I always liked milk the best."

"Now we know why he wasn't very popular among the Ivy Leaguers," I said to myself. "I must be dreaming though. Here I am sitting next to President Reagan. And to the RIGHT of Reagan!"

The bartender brought us two bottles of Spotted Cow, and popped the tops. "Do you want glasses for those?" she asked.

"No thanks," I said. She walked away and I said:

"SO, Ron, what kind of a chain saw do you have?"

"A McCollough," he says.

"That's what I thought," I say. "Did you say you cut wood in the evening? Doesn't that bother the neighbors?"

"WELL," he says, "my saw has kind of a silencer on it."

"I understand," I said. "But what do you do in your leisure time?" He smiles and says:

"I like to read that Curt Dahlgren column."

"I thought you were going to say that. Put 'er there," I say. "That's my name."

"I thought you looked familiar," he says.

"Yes," I say. "It's a small world."

[To be continued. After a couple of beers, Mr. Reagan begins to open up about the "State of the Union."]

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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