Jeanne and I were happy to receive a call from Larry Brune inviting us to have lunch with him and Leslie (his wife) at the “original” Lone Star Restaurant on Saturday afternoon. For us, the Lone Star carries with it a mountain of memories. We were among the first to show up when they opened their doors some twenty-five years ago. Jeanne and I came from the southwest U.S. and looked forward to some real Texas eats, so when we heard that the menu would feature such items as fajitas and other authentic “Tex-Mex” fare we had to be there.
I think it was our first visit when Larry Brune came around to our table. He was dressed like someone who knew how to wear western wear right. (Most drugstore cowboys don’t and will always tip their hat back rather pulling it down over their eyes. They’ll wear any old blue jeans and have no idea that real cowboys wear Wranglers when they go out and Levi’s 503, button up the front, when they don’t.) Stuff like this is a sure give away to a real cowboy. Larry had his duds right so when he came up to us, I expected a smooth southwestern accent and I got one. I confess, until that moment I had never heard the name Larry Brune though most people in Ottawa had. I had never heard of his partner Val Belcher either, and yet both were members of the CFL Ottawa Roughriders football team.
Having come from Louisiana and Texas, the two boys apparently got a hankerin’ for food that couldn’t get in Canada, so they came up with the idea of opening their own restaurant. Putting their wives to work on menu and recipes the guys put their minds on business operations and corporate culture. In a short time the restaurant was packed from eleven in the morning until one the next. The Lone Star became an entrepreneur’s dream come true as it expanded and then added stores across the country.
During those days Jeanne, Larry, and I became close friends as he would show up at our house on holidays, eat some southern home cooking, and lie on our living room floor. It was also during those days that Larry, who once had made a profession of faith when a teenager, recommitted his life to Christ and became active in our church.
Because Larry was going through a divorce and was well-connected he would drag his other guy friends over. Eventually, we met Joe, Ken, and David. There were others too, both men and women. Women like Mary Ann and Rita. We were introduced to Mark Peterkins, who introduced us to his then-girlfriend (now wife) Tracy, then Randy and on and on it went. Larry had two little girls, Michelle and Ashley, who often hung out at our house too. This is why lunch at the Lone Star turned out to be such a surprise.
We went in thinking that we might see Larry, Leslie, and one other couple, but when we were ushered in, we were thrilled to see all of these folks and more already seated at the table. Altogether there were at least twenty or more old friends from the Lone Star that went back at least twenty-five or more years.
It was close to my birthday, so they combined that with a “Thank You” lunch which celebrated the investment Jeanne and I had made in these lives over the years. Well, it is better now (a thank you) than the day after my last breath. Anyhow, squeezed between Debbie and Ken on one side and Leslie and Ashley on the other we shared great food and old memories.
Our special love and thanks goes out Larry and Leslie Brune for being so thoughtful by arranging and hosting this wonderful afternoon.
After a small tribute by Larry I was forced to put on an oversized sponge cowboy hat that thousands have worn before me, stand upon a chair, and have “Happy Birthday” sung to me. Jeanne and I are blessed to have such friends who have never forgotten us introducing them to Jesus, taking them in, encouraging them, and discipling them in the faith.