Leading Man In A Real-Life Western


A crackling fire dances in a fireplace in the corner while Loretta Lynn softly hums "Coal Miner's Daughter" over the loud speakers. A framed painting of a smiling John Wayne oversees the dance floor.

A dozen Hashknife Pony Express riders in full uniform -- chaps, cowboy hats and boots -- sit at a large table.


Frank Machin is the 86-year-old owner of the Rye Creek Bar and Grill. He retired once at 55, but that only lasted six months.

This place looks, smells, sounds and feels like it belongs in an old Western movie. One could half expect Clint Eastwood to walk through the door smoking a skinny cigar, squinting his eyes and surveying the scene.

Today, when chain restaurants and bars and their corporate-selected decor fill the American landscape, the Rye Creek Bar and Grill is an unexpected and welcome piece of authenticity.

The 86-year-old owner, Frank Machin, stands in the middle of it all.

Most men his age have long since retired, but Machin is in a league of his own in many ways.

He commands an obvious respect from patrons and employees.

Machin, wearing jeans and a denim shirt bearing his bar and grill's name, strolls into the restaurant, smiling at everyone and pausing often to share a hug with his many acquaintances. His zest for life is written all over his face and can be seen in his turquoise eyes.

Machin said he retired once, long ago when he was 55, but it only lasted six months before he was working again.

"My father retired young and I think he was bored to death," Machin said. "I haven't set a retirement date yet."

In 2000, Machin saw an ad in a newspaper about a bar and restaurant along Highway 87 in Rye that was for sale and, after seeing the place, bought it the same day.

"I thought this place had so much potential. I wanted it to be a cowboy place," he said.

Machin converted a bar in the middle of the restaurant to a dance floor, moved the bar to a separate area and added tables for dining.

"I wanted more dining so people could bring their kids in," he said. "It used to primarily be a bar."

Machin works Wednesday through Saturday, usually greeting and seating guests. He said the interaction with people who come in is his favorite part of the job.

"I probably get more hugs from women Friday and Saturday nights than I know what to do with," he said.

General manager Madeline Manchio said that Machin cares about everybody.

"He's always at the front door greeting everyone with a smile on his face," Manchio said. "No one could ever say a bad word about him."

The bar and grill offers live music, usually country, Thursday through Sunday, and has a fair-sized dance floor that Machin said is filled every weekend.

"This is a fun place, especially on weekends," he said.

Local bands and singers can often be found playing at the Rye Creek Bar and Grill, Manchio said.

"Frank's given a lot of opportunities to people trying out their musical careers," she said.

Machin, who just celebrated his 86th birthday on Jan. 30, said he has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

"I don't see myself slowing down, really," he said.

He added that the secret to a long life is to take care of both the mind and body.

"You have to keep your mind active," he said. "What you don't use, you lose. You have to take care of your body, have the right outlook on life and have your family behind you."

The Pony Express riders, who stop in at the Rye Creek Bar and Grill every year on their tour, line up for a photograph near the fireplace before continuing on. The resulting picture is reminiscent of a forgotten time, long ago in the old West.

When they are finished getting their picture taken, one of the riders offers Machin a cowboy hat to wear for a photograph of his own.

Machin puts on the black felt hat as if he's done it a thousand times.

"Looking like George Strait," one of them yells. Machin laughs and blushes a bit.

He's the unsuspecting lead for a real-life Western movie set daily at the restaurant in Rye.

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