Lloyd Waters - Visiting the Mad Dog in the summer of '58

December 10, 2011|By LLOYD WATERS

Every small town has some unique landmarks. Dargan is no exception.  

The town has an old two-room schoolhouse (from which I graduated), a landfill (to accommodate trashy visitors) and the Potomac Valley fire hall.

An early downtown church was closed after the preacher's daughter ran away from home, but the Mad Dog Saloon continues its long history of operation.

Before it was the Mad Dog, it was known as Lily's Tavern, named after the wife of Snow Ingram, the original owner. Later, it became known as the Mad Dog after "Boss Hog" Ingram, a son of the departed, became the proprietor of the establishment.

The Ingram family still operates the tavern.

In the summer of 1958, my grandmother Gen would take me and my cousin PeeWee on some very interesting field trips.

One of her favorite Wednesday afternoon adventures would include a stroll up the main street of Dargan to an old dirt path, next to a mountain spring, which would lead over to her ousin Bean's house.  

After a cup of coffee at Bean's, we would continue our walk out the lane to Aunt Emmy McGowan's little house. Aunt Emmy would cook up a small lunch and the ladies would chat while Uncle George (Emmy's husband) would sit in his easy rocker and listen.

Not much use for Uncle George to say anything because he couldn't get a word in edge wise.

Aunt Emmy also liked to rub snuff between her lip and gums.

After our visit at Aunt Emmy's, the three ladies, with us two boys in tow, would proceed out the road to Lily's Tavern.

Now the tavern itself did, in fact, have a torrid history back in the day.

Usually you could engage a fight there pretty quickly if you had a notion to do so. More than one character in those parts would accommodate a round or two with you in the middle of the tavern, or just outside.

The loser might find himself at the bottom of the adjacent hill.

Reasons for the fights might include your politics, women, unpaid loans, cartoons, feuds or your stance about the Civil War.  

They might even provoke a fight with you over your looks, nationality, or the part of the country where you were born.

Some folks in Dargan learned to fight before they put on their socks and shoes.

In the early days, if you were looking for a bathroom at this inn, you shouldn't have wasted your time.

When my Grandmother Gen, Bean and Aunt Emmy arrived at the tavern, it was almost like old home week. Lily was always there to welcome the group.

When Aunt Emmy ordered up three old Germans the first time, I was not sure what to expect until I saw the three brown bottles appear.

The ladies would sit on a bench inside the establishment with their brew and Lily would lean on the bar. They then would catch up on all the news of the neighborhood.

They would share their stories which might include updates on the sick in the community; deaths in the neighborhood; the weather; the birth of a new baby, marriages or any other interesting topics.

As for me and my cousin, we usually ran around the building, paused under a nearby shade tree and enjoyed a bottle of Barq's soda. I always had a fondness for the strawberry flavor.

Things have changed a little since 1958, but one thing remains for certain.  

Down the road a piece from Frog Hollow, at the top of Lock Hill, there is an outside light shining that marks the spot of the Mad Dog Saloon.

It's a Dargan landmark, and still a pretty neat place to visit.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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