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Cowboy Humor

Ting Hau Restaurant - Move Over Mark Twain

Red Rooster by Hannah Rose MillerLeft: Red Rooster, by Hannah Rose

Cowboy Humor by Ben Marshall

Every time I hear about a new Chinese place in town (any town) I think about Samuel Clemens.

He once used humor to protest against 19th-century imperialism.

First he took a stand against the Boar War when the British took South Africa away from the Dutch who had taken it away from the original inhabitants.

Then in 1898 the Boxer Rebellion broke out when the Chinese got tired of the British using their country like a cheap hotel room.

The British sent their gun boats out east to protect their opium dens in China so they could continue to incapacitate the natives.

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This allowed the missionaries a chance to sneak in and snare all the Chinese souls. It was a good thing for everyone. Except the poor Chinese, of course.

After the Boxer Rebellion started, the U.S. was thinkin' of sending over troops to help out the British and maybe collect a few conqueror crumbs for themselves. Mr. Clemens asked at the time, "What would we do as a nation if the Chinese sent their gunboats up the Mississippi to protect their Chinese laundries?"

So when J.W. came back to the ranch from one of his famous all nighters and said there was a new Chinese place in Santa Rosa, I held up my hand and we made plans to go back.

I love havin' a reason to cogitate out loud on Mark Twain with someone other than J.W. so I called up my Forestville girlfriend and asked her along on one of those great Saturdays we've been havin' all winter.

It's not that I dislike talkin' with my brother. It's only whenever the subject of Mark Twain comes up, I wind up spendin' twenty minutes or so explainin' how Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens were the same person.

Cowboys have a sayin', "Don't bruise your knee on a barstool that's not in your way."

We met Richard there (he's one of my Man Date friends). The Ting Hau Restaurant is right next to the Russian River Brewery on 4th Street and the whole block was crowded when we arrived.

At first I thought the Occupy movement had decided to kick it up a notch and start protestin' the Russian River Brewery. There were both washed and unwashed citizens congregatin' around the front door with tents and sleepin' bags everywhere.

We pardoned ourselves to the blankets and stares of the thirsty masses as we moved toward the front door at Ting Hau. I barely contained J.W. as he started yelling, "Mic check?"

"That dude irons his Wranglers," I heard on of the protesters say as we opened the door and started inside.

"Why are all those people out there?" I asked the nice waitress.

"They're serving a beer that's only brought out once a year," she said. "Some of those people camped out so they could get in first."

In all my years of bein' a cowboy, I have to tell you, this was the first time I've ever been speechless.

Well, the thought of beer made me thirsty, too, so I ordered a Tsingtao. My Forestville girlfriend asked for a merlot and J.W. followed suit with my order.

Richard had a diet Pepsi.

After we got our drinks, my Forestville date was presented with two plump pot stickers. She described them as bein' just about ready to burst open with juicy vegetables and subtle nuances inside (she talks kinda fancy). I'd put in an order for soup and Chinese burritos.

I don't know what Richard and J.W. decided on because I was too busy tryin' to think of a way to bring up Mark Twain. My Chinese burritos came and I commenced to puttin' them together.

A Chinese burrito doesn't come to you like a regular burrito does. It has to be assembled.

Usually the waiter does it for you so you know not to eat it all separately but Ting Hau was a little more casual because I think the waitress gave me the credit for knowing how to stuff and roll a burrito. It mighta been the cowboy hat I was wearin' when we walked in.

I finished my task, looked up and noticed no one was talking. Nor were they lookin' at one another. They were just quietly and quickly eatin'.

When everyone stops talkin' it means the food is great so I knew I was in for somethin' good and I was.

The plum sauce was sweet and fresh, the vegetables were crisp and flavorful, and the tortillas held together with the versatility of a quarter horse.

All was right with the world as we finished the meal, mostly in silence, and, for a spell, I forgot about Samuel Clemens. Then it hit me.

I looked at J.W. and said, "If Mark Twain had eaten at Ting Hau, I'll bet he would have had those Chinese gunboats over here protectin' the Chinese restaurants, too."

Ting Hau Restaurant
717 Fourth Street
Downtown Santa Rosa

(707) 545-5204

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