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For more than a dozen years Fred Mundy has owned a run-down tavern on the outskirts of Stockbridge in western Massachusetts. The tavern used to share some of the drive-in traffic on Route 183 with Alice's Restaurant, the one that Alice Brock opened after Arlo Guthrie's song and the film with that title made her name famous. Alice closed it down in 1975. But before then, some tourists who wanted to say that they'd eaten at her restaurant would stop in at Mundy's to ask directions.
"Alice's?" Mundy would say with a southward wave of his right arm, if he happened to be behind the bar. "Down toward Housatonic, about seven furlongs from here."
It was evident from such remarks that Mundy's main interest was horses, and indeed from time to time he owned a string of racers as run-down as his tavern. "I own eight horses," he'd say. "Only three of them can stand up, but I own eight horses."
I used to stop in often at Mundy's place. One day, in early spring in the mid-'70s, just after I had come back from Florida, Mundy's eldest son, Chris, was behind the bar. The previous fall I had learned that Fred was planning to take his horses south for the winter.
"Where's your father these days?" I asked Chris.
"When do you expect him home?"
"Beats me," Chris said, shrugging.
"Late some night," I said, feeling like an ancient comforting the young, "you'll hear galloping hooves, and you'll know then that your father is back."
On a stool at a corner of the bar Alice Brock sat sipping Southern Comfort. "Yes," she said, "that'll be Fred Mundy. riding through the dark of night."