July 14, 2005
by JOSHUA PURVIS
There are only three rules if you want to perform at Has Beans' open mic night:
Oh, and you might clear your calendar and fine-tune your act, because after seeing someone like 82-year-old Pat Henricksen sing and yodel to classic country tunes like "Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine" and "Mother, the Queen of My Heart," with her hillbilly twang like a Sunday morning call to worship, this little informal session could convince to you become a regular at the corner of 2nd and I. Hailing from Merced County but a resident of Humboldt for over 60 years, this gal may claim that she's just a "hick from the sticks," but as soon as you hear her yodel like the country-girl that she is you might start to wonder what's been hiding in Ferndale under the radar for all these years.
Born Pat Austin in Stevenson, Calif., where she used to watch Seabiscuit run before he became famous, "Little Red" Pat left home the night of graduation with her Dobro guitar (they having just recently celebrated their 72nd year anniversary) to pursue an education unlike any taught in the classroom, rambling all over California working as a telephone operator, peanut packager, land surveyor, engineer and highway designer. Along the way she happened to garner two national championships playing basketball for the M.P.A. (Milk Producers Association) Girls as their smallest center.
If you ask her though, she would tell you that in her mind, she "doesn't have any talents." Even after strumming her guitar internationally in Dublin, Ireland, whose patron saint she was named for, and after being discovered locally playing for the kids of Ferndale Elementary, she would not grant herself any kudos. She still thinks that she's "so damn homely" that no one would want to play with or hear her sing.
Well Pat, that ain't so, and I'm sure any of those lucky listeners down at Has Beans every Saturday nights would agree with me.
To borrow a phrase from Pat, when listening to her sing, "I have no control over my eyes, they just shut" and I imagine that I'm sitting on the river in Blue Lake under a warm sun, carefree, full of life and in no need to be anywhere else.
"Who's gonna be interested in me, I'm old!" she exclaims.
Old?! Those cat-like blue eyes of hers tell you she's had a well-lived life, but as soon as she flashes her smile you get a feeling that she, like her guitar, sounds as good as the day they met.
And if Pat's five-finger magic doesn't get you whoopin' and hollerin', maybe a pint-sized, ambered traveler from Santa Monica with his kiss-off to St. Peter -- telling him "he just going to have to wait" -- or a John Prine/Jimmy Buffett cover by a strummer who's just trying to have some fun might get you in the mood. If not, you might just need to get out that guitar or fiddle gathering dust in the corner and come on down to Has Beans on Saturday night. Back-up vocals and harmonica interludes are provided free of charge, because any of the regulars there will probably greet you the same way Pat does:
"Howdy! I'm so proud to be here."
Has Beans' open mic night is on Saturdays. Sign-ups are at 6:30 p.m. and performances start at 7. Has Beans Coffee & Tea: Internet Cafe, Galleria & Bakery is located at 738 Second St. (2nd & I sts.), Eureka. For more information, call 442-1535.
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