Now, a traveling man gets to know all sorts. I remember a red faced Finn name of Olaf Svenson, Red for short. Red was a Finn, so I reckon that wasn’t his born name but he had a scandinavian accent and it was rude and uncouth to pry.
Red worked for Molly Jackson, who bailed him out of the hoosegow until she got tired of it and gave him a job. Where she could keep an eye on him. Most folks though Red was dotty, but Molly used to shoot flying washers out of the air, so she didn’t worry much about Red.
And after Molly gave up on him, Red got himself a job as town marshal. One day the local jeweler, Slick Turner, asked Red if he ever used that big pistol he toted.
“Yah,” sez Red, “Sometimes in self defense and sometimes not.”
“Can you hit anything with it?” asks Slick.
“Oh yah,” sez Red, “I generally hit what I shoot at.”
Slick had one of those big wood advertising watches, about two feet across, hanging over the sidewalk. “Can you hit that watch?” Slick asked Red, pointing at it.
“Yah, but not every time,” sez Red.
Obviously, Molly was a better shot than Red. Which was maybe why he was looking for work when he found a marshal’s job.
But thinking about Red ‘minds me there were a bunch of Italians living across the railroad tracks, and Red and the I-tees didn’t like each other, none.
And said so long and loud. But one day Red and Red Bodie came out of the cafe and there’s an Italian organ grinder cranking his way the street, with his little monkey waving a tin cup at anyone within range.
Red reaches in his pocket and drops a fifty cent piece in the tin cup. Red Bodie looks at him and says “I thought you didn’t like Italians.”
“I don’t,” sez Red Svenson, “But they’re just so cute when they’re little.”
Of course, the Italians said some things about Red, so the slanging matches were pretty much a draw. One story they told was that Red was a railroad bum who had rode into town on the truss rods under a railroad car. “Riding the rods,” they
Red and another hobo dropped off the train when it stopped and found themselves on the mainline between two trains on sidetracks. And there was a fast passenger train coming.
So natural, Red and the other bum started running as hard as they could down the mainline. They clear the sidetracks and the hobo yells “Quick, jump the fence into this plowed field.”
“If we can’t outrun it on these tracks we won’t neveroutrun it in a plowed field,” sez Red, still running.
I was talking to an ninety year old gent from the Big Thicket and asked what ever happened to Red Swenson. Took him a minute to remember who I was talking about but he did remember him.
“Oh, Red died during Ike’s second term. Red and his wife were getting up in years so they agreed to give each other ombstones for their birthday. Olga’s birthday came first, and when the truck arrived to set up the headstone she was really
anxious to see what Red had engraved on it. When they got the tarp off Olga was a little set back to see Red had “Here lies Olga Svenson, wife of Olaf Svenson, still frigid” on her headstone but she didn’t say a word.
A couple of months later Red’s tombstone arrived, and Red and Olga went down to the graveyard to watch it being set up. When they got her set they took the tarp off and the inscription said “Olaf “Red” Svenson, stiff at last.”
Which reminds me of the old maid school teacher they had at Sentinal. Miss Johnson bought a burial plot and a tombstone, and had “Margaret Johnson, spinster, who did not miss nearly as much as people thought I did” inscribed on the stone. Sort’a made folks wonder about her. But it was rude to pry.
Now, Bill reminded me Olga was one of Molly’s barmaids, and she could put a three inch head on two inches of beer. But she couldn’t cook for shucks.
One story went around that a dietician lectured at the school auditorium and of course the town marshal had to be there.
The woman started out with “The stuff we put in our stomachs is enough to have killed us many times over. Red meat is awful. Vegetables can be disastrous, fruits are loaded with toxins, many berries are deathly poisonous, and none of us appreciates the danger from germs in our drinking water. But there is one
thing that is the most dangerous of all, yet all of us eat it.”
“Can anyone here tell me what this lethal product is?”
After a short silence she points at Red and says “You sir, do you have any idea what I’m talking about?”
Red hangs his head and says “My wife Olga’s cooking.”
Yessir, that red headed Finn was a character.