Counter Mascots

This is Duane. He’s been here for a long time. My inside joke is that this would be me without Circle Square 2nd Hand. Mercifully, I am not Duane. I still have some of my hair and my wardrobe is much finer. I get to hang out and do business in (usually) beautiful Downtown Missoula, I get to eat good food and beverages largely served to me by my own customers. It’s a good Circle. Circle Square that is.

This is Bertha, our most recent Mascot. She’s a tough bird and is definitely up to something. Unlike Duane who hides behind the scenes, she is front and center at the counter no matter who is the clerk. Clerks are not here to take shit, they are here to take your money ,(for needful things of course.) Be kind to the Bertha’s and Clerks of the world.

This sign is quintessential Circle Square. It was literally behind the counter when I started working here 31+ years ago and is a daily reminder that the job is never done. Recycling that is.

I Never Met John Prine, But…

So I never met John Prine

The Show.

I went home feeling triumphant, but the wife was unimpressed. She’d had a long day and doesn’t like surprises in general. She likes good music, but doesn’t like going to concerts, and likewise she loves good food, but getting her to go out to dinner is like pulling teeth. Plan B, I decided, was to go to Charlie B’s and see who was hanging around. I won’t lie, my first choices were a couple of cute girls, but one already had tickets and the other said her boyfriend would leave her if she went to the show without him. Looking further I saw an older bachelor friend named Bob. Bob is not only one of the best cooks I know, but is also quite the musicologist. His record collection is epic. His tastes tend more towards Jazz and Blues, but are defined by quality. I asked him if he wanted to go to the show. “Yes” he said, “but I’m not paying $50 to see a guy I saw for free in the seventies.” I explained the details, and after some trepidation he agreed to go. “I guess it’s better than sitting here all night” he quipped. We get to ‘Will Call,’ and not only do we have good seats, we also have backstage passes! This was a relief as I always freak out going to ‘Will Call.’ Was that really John Prine’s bass player? Is he too stoned to remember? Did the promoter throw a fit? I must say, that of the dozens of shows I’ve gotten into, because of the store, not one has left me standing in the cold. We got there as the show was starting, and after a few standards he broke out a timely new song about the untimely Gulf War. Something about “some asshole from Texas starting a war in Iraq.” The crowd loved it. Towards the end of the night he pulled out all the classics, and I swear grumpy old Bob cried for about a half hour. After the show we debated the backstage passes. “It’s not really my thing,” said Bob “It’s not like he’s Tanya Tucker or something.” I won the war and we briefly went backstage only to see the Missoula Usuals milling about, and the band…. sitting down to dinner at a table together. It speaks volumes that Mr Prine used his backstage ‘rider’ for a homestyle dinner for his family and friends. Usually these things are abused, and include things like Perrier, Courvoisier, and expensive foods that don’t get eaten. We took in the scene, Bob looked at me and I said “Let’s go back to Charlie B’s,” and we did! I stayed a little longer than I should have, (closing time), for someone with an Eight O’Clock load out, but the place was full of people buzzing from the show, and others who wanted to hear about it.

The Load Out.

Easy-Peasy as the saying goes. The truck was there at eight, and it even had a lift. The bass player didn’t want to ask the road crew to help load what was inevitably going to be a pain in their ass for the rest of the tour. They did anyway, without a word, and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

The Last Rummel

 I first encountered Jay Rummel in the mid 1980’s. He would come into the Tropicana Cafe on Woody Street and play guitar and sing for a free breakfast and tips. I was the dishwasher there and was unimpressed.He was out of tune and obviously drunk. I asked the owner why she let him play there. She immediately lashed out at me “Jay can play here anytime he wants” and stomped off, leaving me to my pearl diving. I soon found out the why of two things. Turns out he was responsible for all the legendary black and white wood block print’s that were ubiquitous, in all the right places about town, and he was drunk and hungry at noon because he’d been up all night working on his art. Live and learn I guess.

Later on, after I bought into Circle Square, he was somewhat of a regular, being the store was right  between his old studio on Woody Street and his favorite watering hole, Charlie B’s on Higgins Ave. He would get the occasional small loan on unused instruments (I still have his Hawaiian Steel), and besides he collected comic books, (especially Tijuana Bibles) of which we had ample supply. I think I sold him a few pairs of cowboy boots as well.    

Eventually, my old band ‘Cold Beans n Bacon’ became the “House Band” at Charlie B’s. Jay was a regular at these gigs, frequently seen Two Stepping with the ladies during the first country tinged set before the bar dissolved into Chaos later in the evening.

Eventually, (1995) we made a record (a CD really) but I won’t go into that. Let’s just say it wasn’t what any of us had hoped for, but that’s a whole different tale. There were two good things about the CD though. It made it a lot easier to get gigs, and the cover art provided by Jay and Barb Tellin. When the disc came out we invited The Missoulian and The Missoula Independent to review, or at least announce the project. The Missoulian immediately buried a short paragraph in the sports section. In their defense, they didn’t really do arts coverage back then. The Indy however,  nothing. Notta. This was strange because the band was friends with all the owners of the paper. They came to our gigs! One month turned into six.

We started to beg them , “Just write something! Pan it! Bad press is better than no press! We don’t care,we don’t like it either”. “Soon” they said, “soon”

It was approaching a year after the CD release when I got a call at Circle Square. “Hi. My name’s Jim Crumley and I’ve been hired to write a story about your band for The Missoula Independent. Would you mind if I come to all your practices and gigs for the next month”? Not at all, kind sir. Not at all.

I have to admit I had no idea who he was, but I was about to find out that he was a lot of fun, and that he was as much of a local legend as Jay. He had written a bunch of very entertaining crime novels (mostly popular in France) and had taught literature at The U of M for years. When the article came out, it was pretty much a love letter to the band wrapped up as a fantasy with Crumley becoming Mayor of Missoula and CB&B being his city council, jointly returning Missoula to it’s pre-yuppification days. “Tear down the awnings!” would be our rally cry! The biggest surprise, though was Jay’s cover art, as seen above. We got the cover and the feature story! Thank you Missoula Independent.

Ironically, it was while reading a recent copy of the Indy, featuring a story about Jay’s lasting footprint on Missoula’s art scene, where he also got the cover and the feature article, I realized this print was his last real commercial work. He just got sicker and sicker from that point. He refused to quit drinking. “You can’t get into Cowboy Heaven if you quit drinking” he once told me, and was dead a short time later.  The biggest irony of all is he died in the very living room which spawned CB&B on Missoula’s West Side.

Once I realized this was “The” last Rummel, I had my copy of the art blown up from magazine size to a full size print. It looks great, thanks to Marcy at ‘Paper and Ink Studios’, and I am working on getting a couple copies put up, in the right places about town, keeping  the legacy alive. I hope your enjoying Cowboy Heaven Hoss.     

Poets at Circle Square


Usually if someone calls and want’s to bring 25 or 30 teenagers( who are not  going to spend a dime to my store, I’d be rather leary. But when Montana’s  Poet  Laureate, Sheryl Noethe, called and wanted to bring  her high school  poetry students to the  store for a reading, it was a no brainer.  Not only do I have a love of poetry, but Ms. Noethe and Circle Square have some history. In 1995

, PBS made a film of her poem “Goodwill Thrift Store, Missoula”  with Circle Square sitting in for the , by then ,defunct downtown Goodwill. So it was super cool to have her come back and read the poem “in situ,”  and teach the student’s how any object or happening can be the genesis of a poem