Chapter 3Reluctantly giving up a cherished academic career at an Oklahoma City college, Greg had returned to Darling a year ago to run the family newspaper after his dad had a stroke. His wife Jeanne and two children didn't want to leave city life and friends behind either. The empty Texas Panhandle and cliquish small town made it worse.
The only social life revolved around the churches, a few social clubs and high school football. Jeanne eventually fit in at the First Baptist Church because she could sing in the choir, but the members' holier-than-thou attitudes toward the rest of the town only irritated Greg. After a month in town, he quit attending, much to Jeanne's chagrin.
"What will people think?" Jeanne demanded when Greg first said he wasn't going back one Sunday morning. "What am I going to tell them?"
"Tell them I'm busy, or I don't agree everybody else is going to hell. I don't care," he'd snapped back. After another 15 minutes of arguing, Jeanne took the teenagers to the car and drove off.
Greg drove downtown to the Fat Lion Cafe to get breakfast. When he walked in, he saw Stumpy in the corner, motioning him over.
"How come you ain't in church, Greg? Backsliding?" He smirked." Sit down here with a sinner and have breakfast."
"I'm surprised you're up after a late night at the Spur," Greg shot back, smiling as he pulled up a chair. "Conscience keeping you up?"
An hour later, they were still talking as Greg finished his sausage and eggs, hash browns, pinto beans and biscuits and gravy. Cafe owner Myrt Brown was giving them a good-natured hard time about emptying two coffee pots. Meeting Stumpy became a Sunday morning ritual every week that Greg joked of as "Church at the Fat Lion."
It relieved the tension at home, and kept Greg in touch with what was really happening in town--not the chamber of commerce version—but the gossip and behind-the-scene politics of the town’s leading citizens.
“What you hear at the Spur is usually reliable—once you clean the bullshit off the boots,” Stumpy would say, tearing off a wad of Beechnut tobacco and putting it in his cheek as they left before the "church crowd" showed up.