The Liar’s Bench

Does your local gas station have a bench out front?

Back when I was in the hay and fence building business with Pop, we would often stop for fuel and refreshments at Watson’s Grocery in Vandiver. There were a couple of good reasons for that. First, the base of operations, or “Barn”, was located half a mile from the store. Second, and perhaps more important, Watson’s Grocery was the only store in town.

We often frequented the store at the crack of dawn when working men filled trucks with diesel and filled cups with black coffee, and while old retired men sat on a bench outside to fill everyone’s ears with their good natured banter. My Dad told me that was called the Liar’s Bench. He said it in an official way, as if it were an elected office.

Anyone could sit on the bench, but not everyone could operate from the office of the bench. Similar to how having your picture taken sitting in your congressman’s big leather desk chair does not give you authority to lower taxes. In order to fill the office of Liar’s Bench, and not merely occupy a seat in front of a gas station, I believe that there were a set of unwritten requirements. It seemed like you needed to be an old man. You had more credibility (if indeed there was any credibility on the Liar’s Bench) if you were retired. It also didn’t hurt to have a nickname, like Jitter, or Buddy. If you couldn’t swing a nickname, an informal prefix like “Big” would do.

You also had duties, you couldn’t just sit and not talk. You had to be willing to engage every person you saw come to the store with a chiding remark about getting a late start or something like that, but not in a mean manner. You had to have a laugh rate of at least 90%. If the customers were clearly out of towners, it was ok to just nod your head at them. When people came out of the store you had to engage them again, this time with a heartfelt inquiry about their family, like “How’s ye mom’n’em?” This is when you found out who was in the hospital, who got fired, who got arrested, who had a heart attack and important things like that.

Above all, you had to be an entertaining talker to occupy a place on the bench. Some of the best hunting and fishing lies were told there along with ancient jokes. Every once in a while you meet people that can read the phone book in an entertaining way. Such were the men of the bench. As Jerry Clower said, “They didn’t tell funny stories, they told stories funny.” I found myself grinning and chuckling just overhearing these men talk.

I think they became great talkers because they didn’t sit on the bench to seek solitude, they sat on the bench because they wanted to talk to someone. Perhaps it was loneliness that got those old men up at the crack of dawn to sit in front of a convenience store and stare like puppies at the work trucks pulling in to fill up. They’d brag about being retired when they saw the weary looks of the working men on Mondays, but I think there was something in them that wished they could pile in the truck and go to work. Just like there was something in those working men that wished that could sit on the bench and waste the day away.

These worlds met briefly each morning and communed together at the Liar’s Bench. It was the Roman Forum of the community. A place where the local news and gossip were disseminated. I strongly doubt there were many original ideas, or great breakthroughs in ingenuity ever developed on the bench. But you might get a different answer if you drive out to Vandiver and ask one of the men who currently hold down a seat on the Liar’s Bench.

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9 thoughts on “The Liar’s Bench”

  1. My Dad was a member of the Liar’s Bench. I’m not so sure he took the early morning shift as I remember him working around the house then. Most likely he was “on the bench” after lunch until the early working were returning in the evening. He would transport information back to Calcis where my Mom distributed it through her network of friends. ❤️

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  2. Yes. Not to mention we all had names… for example… I have always been known as “Little Dennis” or “Dennis’s daughter.” It cracked me up reading this because it is so very true. You always found out what you were doing before you knew what you were doing. Good ole days!

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  3. I ❤️ this!!! So many memories of precious men who occupied this bench. These men took Great pride in their post outside this little country store. I’m sure more current events & gossip were shared on this bench than at the local beauty shop. I too had one of those nicknames that lasted well into my 30’s or later., “Hoyt’s little girl” or that “little Henderson girl.” I hate the store has closed & this tradition is just a fond memory for anyone who lived in our community.

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  4. Zane, this made me laugh and giggle with so many memories. There are only two Buddy’s in town and I will imagine my dad is the one being referred to in this article. That made me laugh the most. I’ve seen him sit on that bench days on end , coffee in hand and lies on his lips. I’ve sat with him and many others taking in all the ridiculous stories and catching up on everybody’s illnesses and family doings. Then I get to the end and I find myself crying realizing that as simple as it was, it’s all gone now and we will never be able to get those simple times back. Thank you for writing this! I can’t wait to share it with my boys❣
    Lisa Partridge-Rinehart

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  5. Once I walked in a paid for my own gas and didn’t put it in the “bill”. I thought they were going to pass out. I think a few of those on that bench told on me for “ flying” over the railroad tracks or not stopping at the stop sign good enough!

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