Candidates and Editors, The descendents of Ananias

Well, lets see here. Somebody on the Telly is reading the same old depressing news. Turning on the TV these days is sort of the way Minnie Hoffbraur described getting ready to attend a Tom Dewey rally. Dewey was the guy who beat Truman in 1948, you know.

But anyhoo, Minnie came flouncing in and announced “I’m absolutely not prejudiced at all. I’m going to Saint Paul with a perfectly open and unbiased mind to listen to what I’m convinced is pure rubbish.”

Yessir, the guys who write the TV news claim to value the truth, timely told, very highly. But if that’s true, what we see and hear should be both new and truthful. But it’s not. News. Or the truth.

They are sort of like politicians. I remember when Joe Kiker went up to Washington one year to play tourist. Joe had been a House Page one summer and knew his way around – and he was showing his kids how things were done.

“Daddy,” asked his oldest daughter, pointing to a man standing on the dias of the House of Representatives. “Who is that man?”

“That is the chaplain of the House,” sez Joe.

“Does he pray for the members?” asked his son.

“No son, when he goes in the House and looks around and sees the Representatives sitting there, he prays for the country.”

Speaking of politicians, you know the guy who invented the Internet is running for prez again. That’s right, Saint Al Gore is making campaign noises. He was at a farming town in New Hampshire and he was working the crowd something fierce.

“Back home in Tennessee I was a practical farmer,” he bragged. “I plowed, harvested, milked the cows, and I did every thing around the farm. In fact, I’d like for someone to tell me one thing about a farm that I have not done.”

There was a dead silence for a moment, and then a voice from the back of the crowd sez “Have you ever laid uh egg?”

Shucks, I thought he laid an egg when he claimed to have invented the internet, but the media still loves him. But that Gore feller is like the old ward heeler I used to know, back in the Prendergast days.

Denny O’Conner was the name, and he was out voting the graveyards and canvassing the neighborhood. He was talking to Wally Dabbs one day, tryin’ to get his vote, and he invoked party loyalty.

“I ain’t no party man, Dennis,” sez Wally. “I allus vote for the best man.”

“And sure, how can ye be tellin’ who’s the best man till the votes be counted?” sez Denny.

You know, Gore can be windy when he wants to be. He was making a speech up in Chicago and he sez he’s speaking for posterity.

He had no more than said it when somebody in the crowd hollers “Yes and if you don’t be quick about it they will be here to hear you.”

Which reminds me of the time I was setting at a lunch counter up in Jackson, eating a piece of pie and listening to the late Clarion Ledger editor Purser Hewitt expound on something or another. One of his reporters came in and Purser wanted to know what Big Jim, Senator Eastland, had said.

“Nuttin'” sez the hapless reporter.

“Well, keep it down to a column,” sez Hewitt, going back to his conversation.

Speakin’ of editors, one time I was in the Jackpot, minding my own business, when the editor of the Kiowa weekly came in and set down by me. He had just started his blue plate when a candidate for legislature came in and tapped him on the shoulder.

“See here, you been printin’ lies about me and I can prove it. Now whadda ya goin’ to do about it?” sez the candidate.

“You have no reason to complain,” sez the editor, just as cool as a cucumber. “You would be in a mess if I printed the truth about you.”

Yessir, politicians sure are a lot like preachers.

Stranger

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From Song To Dance

Well, you never know what you will hear on what passes for commercial radio these days. I never thought I would turn on my radio and hear that Tex Ritter singing that Lorena song on the radio.

“The years creep slowly by, Lorena;”
“The snow is on the grass again,”
“The sun’s low down the sky, Lorena,”
“The frost gleams where the flowers have been.”

Lane Cooter Junior used to sing that in between the Zebra Dun and the real cowboy version of “The Strawberry Roan.” You don’t know those tunes.

Strawberry was not the bowdlerized version that Marty Robbins put out. Nosir, Lane Junior sang Curley Wheeler’s original version and belted out the tune on his squeeze box in his tack room concerts. I can’t quote the whole thing, fifty or sixty verses would take up too much room, and tit would disturb the hosting company!

But one of the cleanest verses goes like this –

I takes my riata and builds me a loop;
Strawberry is ready, he lets out a poop.
I walks right up to him, he offers no sass,
But reaches right down, takes a hunk off’a my a__!!.

Now I kid you not. Lane Cooter Junior could sing as well as anybody I ever heard. Had one of those voices that was real smooth when he was croonin’ “Leonora” or “The Curtains of Night,” but when he sang that Strawberry Roan tune he could put a rasp in is voice that sounded just like an old broken down ranny tellin’ it like it used to be, fer sure.

Like a lot of folks that can sure enough sing and play, he didn’t want to pay his dues and make himself a rep as a singer. He’d rather ranch days, sing hymns in church Sundays, entertain the women folks on occasions, and lend a tune to the tack room concert when Lizzie or the twins had a play party.

Of course, women were strictly excluded from the tack room concerts! Not that by today’s standards the music was bad – but “There’s Blood on the Saddle, Blood on the Ground” wasn’t considered fit for the ladies ears. And something like Curley Fletcher’s “Open Ledger” song:

“But each range breeds its own brand of bastard
And boozefighter, bugger, and bum;
Every half ass vaquero who wears a sombrero
Is marked by the range he is from.
Some come from the Canadian Rockies,
Some drift in from the Southwestern plains.
It surely beats hell, but it’s easy to tell
Where each learned to tighten his reins.”

– was considered unfit for any but the most hardened ears. Even if Curly wrote nothing but Gospel.

But I sure wish I had a tape of Junior singing that “Wild Wild Cowboy” song. There was nothing poisonous in either version, nothing that would give you any bad ideas or make you want to do anything the Good Lord didn’t intend for you to do, and times have gotten liberal enough that you could put out a CD with the “clean” version and sell it on TV. You still couldn’t play it on TV, except on the pay-to-view, though. Even though the “family hours” are loaded with stuff that makes cyanide seem harmless. Oh well.

But anyhoo, Tex singing “Bury Me Not on the Lone Praireee,” that kind of music brings back memories. Leonora was a favorite amongst the Cooter women, and it ‘minds me of the time a traveling book and bible salesman sold Mrs Leonora Cooter, Mrs. Lane Cooter Senior, Lane Junior’s mama, an expensive “Encyclopedia of Home Remedies.” She was afraid to tell Lane Senior how much it cost so she left it layin’ around hoping Senior would find something he could use in it.

So one day she sees the old man drop a piece of paper in the book. Filled with hope, she waits until Senior left and then searches out the paper. Just as she thought, he’d written a note and left it in the book. The note said “There ain’t no recipe for curin’ suckers in this damn thing.”

Not much got by Senior, and he knew how much it cost!

Yessir, old Lane was a cutter. He’d put plenty of wrinkles in his horns during nearly a century of life, for sure. And he sure enough had a rep for bein’ a sharp businessman and a first class cowman. Which usually means the same thing because an ordinarily talented business man would go broke in the cow business in about ten minutes.

I ‘member when a city feller name of Shay came calling unexpected, looking for the old man’s advice. He caught up with him out in the tack room.

“Mr. Lane, I sold so many beef futures that I can’t sleep at night. If the price of beef goes up more’n two cents a pound I’m a ruined man. You been in the cattle business a long time and I was wondering what you would advise me to do?” sez Shay.

“Wal, Mr. Shay, if I wuz you I ‘spec I’d sell them futures down to the sleepin’ point,” sez Old Lane. Good business advice at any time, particular if you can sell at a profit. Even a small profit. Yessir, you could pick up a fairly decent education, out in the tack room.

And hear more than a few funny stories. Like the one Rafter A Roberts, his book name was Robert Robbins Roberts, which was confusing, told about him and a buddy getting drunk and rowdy and getting thrown off a train, out in Colorado.

They knew they didn’t have a chance of flagging another train, and he’d always heard that if you are lost follow running water because a stream runs into a creek, creeks flow into rivers, and people build towns on rivers. Sooner or later you will come to a settlement. Usually later!

So for three cold, hungry, and utterly footsore days Roberts and his buddy hoofed it; following a rill to a stream to a creek to where it flowed into the Arkansas river. And his buddy never said a word, just slogged along a few feet behind Roberts all the way. But just as they got to the river his buddy calls his name.

“Roberts,” sez Silent Sam.

“Yeah, that’s what they calls me,” sez Rafter A.

“Roberts,” sez his bunkie, “I wish’t I could hear it thunder.”

“Thunder,” sez Roberts, thunderstruck. “Whatten’ell do you want to hear thunder for?”

“Wal, I allus heard thunder is the voice of God;” sez Silent Sam, pointing up at cliffs “twenty feet apart and a mile high,” and if I could hear it thunder I’d know I’m still on God’s earth. Down here in this canyon with nothing but rocks and these scrubby pine trees I’m damn fino where I’m at.”

Now I can sympathize with that. I been so turned around I didn’t know whether I was on God’s green earth or Satan’s Chaos. And in the parts of Texas I was turned around in nobody else could tell either.

But that Roberts feller was an old batch who was lady shy, plumb. And Rafter A didn’t want to live in single blessedness in the worst way.

One time I heard him tell Jack Cooter, who was about the most henpecked husband that ever walked the earth that a bachelor had nobody to share his troubles with.

“Why in hell would a bachelor have troubles in the first place?” wondered Jack.

They said Roberts took a pretty little Cherokee gal to a dance on on the way there he said just three words. “Do you like rabbit?” To which his Cherokee maiden answered “Yes.”

When they got to the dance, Roberts was so shy him and his maiden spent the evening on wallflower row. And on the way home he spoke exactly five words. To wit, “And ain’t rabbit gravy nice?” That gal said she wasn’t much on talking herself but that was way too little gab to suit her.

Finally Roberts got so hard up he called up an old maid schoolteacher name of Minerva Simpson and got right to the point.

“Miss Simpson, will you marry me?” he sez.

And he got a quick answer, too.

“Yes,” sez Miss Minnie. “Who is speaking?”

Which was how Rafter A Roberts took the fatal step – and became almost as henpecked as Jack Cooter. But that’s a story for another time because I see it’s time to tend to some knittin’.

Stranger

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March Ramblings

Well, it’s March. And every year about this time I get to wishing for the old days on the fair and exposition circuit, where I misspent much of my youth. Taking the marks money and making sure .they had enough of a good time that they would be back tomorrow night.

Which is called fair value for the money, you know. Because if you don’t satisfy your customer they don’t come back and your income stops. Which is something some of the merchants around town need to learn.

Of course, things are all different now. Used to be the fair secretary ran the show, and wanted ten percent of your take. Which is fair.

Nowadays the fair board runs the show, and they each what ten percent of your take. And when there are eight or ten members on the Fair Board, there is not much left for you. But anyhoo…

I was in a drug store a while back and a chubby, no, plumb hefty, sort of a gal asked the little gal clerk for talcum powder. Cute lil’ gal clerk. Cute as a bug in a rug, with a move in her motion that said “female and proud of it.” Natural, I was watching the scenery. I appreciate free shows.

The gal clerk says “Walk this way, mam,” and starts ankling down an aisle. And that fat gal sez “If I could walk that way I wouldn’t need talcum powder.”

Which reminds me of the two CCNY kids who blew into the Big Easy last Mardi Gras. They had heard about what a big time they could have in New Orleans, and they came ready to enjoy themselves. They landed at the Airport, got a cab, wrote a note to the driver where they wanted to go, and spent their first night in the Big Easy wandering around Schwegman’s Grocery Warehouse on Airline. College boys, they couldn’t spell very well, you know.

That must have been those two kids who hijacked a nuclear submarine. After they had the captain and crew in their clutches they demanded two million dollars in small bills and two parachutes.

Which, you know what they call a City College of New York education these days, don’t you? Trivial pursuit.

They had one of those CCNY kids on one of those Millionaire wanna be shows recently. The emcee asked him what was a Polaroid. The kid says it’s a painful rectal condition caused by sitting on ice. Which is not a bad guess, at that.

I heard that they have a new guy in charge of CCNY’s philosophy department. This guy’s name is Ole Torvaldson. Sounds sort of sqvarehead, Swede or Norwegian, to me. Fine folks, just a little peculiar.

Anyhoo, here’s the latest thing in philosophy. Philosophy in Four Parts, all you need to know to succeed in life, according to Ole….

One.) Wives are like baseball umpires. They never believe a man is safe when he is out.

Two.) There is only one kind of liar a man can tolerate. A good looking blonde who tells him he’s looking younger every day.

Tree.) If you want to soar with the eagles all day, you cannot hoot with the owls all night.

For.) If you think your job is small and the rewards are few, just remember the mighty oak was once a little nut like you.

Of course, there are worse schools than CCNY. Somewhere. I did hear that up in Detroit high schools are teaching kids that Trotsky is the Russian word for diarrhea.

And I heard a kid in Gulfport flunked her drivers ed test. She opened the door to let her clutch out. Of course, I am just joshing about that. It was actually a boy.

That guy needed to be like Granny. One kid asked another kid why his granny studied her Bible so much.

“She’s studying for her finals,” was the answer.

But speaking of learning, I was in Blue Ox country, Bemidji, up in Minnesota, the land of a thousand lakes, sitting by the lake watching the loons in front of me and watching out for the loons driving on the street behind me. I had to watch the ones behind me, one almost ran me over.

But I was getting some belly timber, to keep my navel from chafing a hole in my spine, and heard this guy say his daddy taught him to swim. Told his friend that daddy took him out in the rowboat and tossed him out in the middle of the lake.

“Chee,” sez his compadre, “that’s a tough way to learn to swim.”

“Nahh, the swimming was OK” sed the swimmer. “The tough part was getting out of the sack.”

That was the year I stopped in the Edina Diner. Most of those eatin’ joints in that part of the world were so bad they kept Alka Seltzer on tap, but I was working on a slab of apple pie, best I remember ever hooking a lip over, and drinkin’ a cuppa of “just right coffee” when a local comes in and hails the counter man.

“Hey, Barney,” sez the stranger, “How’s your divorce coming?”

“Not so goot,” sighs the waiter. “Lena sez she ain’t giving me a divorce until she can figure out how to do it without making me happy.”

Yessir, that part of the world is plumb different. I was staying in a boarding house in Blue Earth one time, and the landlady said she came up with a heart condition.

The way she told it the doctor gave her a bottle of pills and told her not to climb any stairs, and to come back in two weeks. “But doctor,” she protests, “My bedroom is on the second floor.”

“I understand that,” sez the croaker, “But it’s really important that you not climb any stairs.”

So she goes back to the sawbones in two weeks and he pronounces her perfectly healthy.

“I’m healthy,” she sez, “Does that mean I can climb stairs now?”

“Yes, you can climb any and all the stairs you feel like climbing. You are healthy as a horse,” sez Doc.

“I’m so glad of that. I was getting tired of shinnying up the dam drainpipe every night.”

That was the place the landlady accidentally shut the cat up in the freezer. The next morning the cook opened the freezer and there was the cat – stiff as a board. So the cook put a few drops of gasoline on the cats tongue. And you talk about a cat coming alive!

That cat put it in high gear around there for about ten minutes. And then it just flopped. Right in the middle of the parlor floor. Plunk, dropped right there and didn’t move a muscle.

But it wasn’t dead. Just out of gas.

Stranger

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Less Than Seriously

Here it is a little cloudy and warm, but it’s sure a nice day.

One of those days makes me feel kind’a like gittin’ next to nekkid on the back porch and spreadin’ out all over the place. The warm won’t last, I know that.

I figure this coming winter we will shiver plenty to pay for every warm day we get. It will probably turn so doggone cold that when you milk the cow she will turn around and thank you. Oh well, what can’t be helped must be endured.

But I hear a lot of folks were disappointed that the end of world hasn’t happened yet. ‘Minds me of the story they told on old Cooter Hatcher. This young preacher came prospectin’ around looking for – well, to tell the truth he was looking for folks that would drop pictures of Lincoln or Jackson in the collection plate every Sunday. But he said he was looking for souls to save.

This feller, I don’t remember his name, was called on to preach on the courthouse lawn one first Saturday. He called on himself, of course, like most of the self appointed preachers I have known. And every one of the bunch could could blow up a blimp by themselves between breakfast and noonin’.

This jackleg starts his trade day sermon with “I’m just a poor country preacher” and Mrs. Jackson Willets hollers out “I know you are. I’ve heard you preach.” Which cracked up the crowd. They had heard him preach too!

But anyhoo, this shirt tail preacher pulls up in the Hatcher yard, hops out, and without as much as “Howdy” comes right out and asks Cooter if he’s lost.

“Why, no,” sez Cooter. “I been living right here more’n forty year.”

“I mean, have you found Jesus?” sez the Bible thumper.

“I didn’t know He was lost,” sez Cooter. “My Bible sez He’s up in Heaven until He comes agin.”

“No, what I mean is, are you a member of the Christian Band?”

“I don’t play no pianner nor nothin’,” Cooter orates, “You must be lookin’ for that fiddle playin’ Charlie Christian that lives third house the other side of the forks.”

“No, my question is are you ready for the Judgement Day?”

“When is it?” asks Cooter.

“No man knows. It might be next week or it might be next year.”

“Well, when you find out let me know. The old woman might want to go both days.”

Yessir, no man knows the day or the hour. But if there’s a nickel to be made some sharper will claim to know. And there will be fourteen hundred more standing with their hands out following him.

But that Cooter Hatcher was a cutter, a hard worker, but he was bad to drink and generally a mess – and all sixteen of his boys were just like him. I remember when his youngest, Coy, came walking down the main drag all dressed up like the guest of honor at a ten thousand dollar funeral. Except Coy’s pants didn’t have the hind end cut out of them like those funeral home burying rags.

But anyhoo, Cleveland the grocer asks Coy where he’s going.

“Oh, I’m going over to Joplin,” drawls slow talking Coy. “I’m gunna visit me one of those sporting houses where they got all them good lookin’ women, you know.” Except Coy said “spoahtin'” instead of sporting.

“Well, hayell,” sez Cleveland, “Why are you all duded up just to visit a sportin’ house?”

“If’n it’s as much fun as they say it is,” drawls Coy, “I figured I might just as well stay over Sunday.”

But speaking of funeral home pants reminds me of the time ‘Ol Cooter got potted and came wabblin’ out of the alley, there was only one alley in town, wabblin’ like a model T Ford with a flat tire, and almost run over Father Fitzgerald from over at Vinita.

Cooter takes one bleary look at the padre and busts out with “My God, man, you must be drunk! You done put your shirt on ass backards.”

“No, you don’t understand,” sez the padre in his rich Irish brogue. “I’m Father Fitzgerald.”

“Well, heyell, I got sixteen boys myself and I don’t wear my collar ass backard.”

“No, you still don’t understand me,” sez the Padre. “I’m the father of thousands.”

“Heyell, man, you don’t need to wear your collar backards,” slurs Cooter. “You need to wear your pants backards!”

Which, speakin’ of Father Fitzgerald, somebody asked the Padre what the difference was between Lutherans and Catholics.

“Me bhoy,” sez the Padre, “Lutherans sin just like Catholics. They just never learned to enjoy it.”

Now – speakin’ of Cooter Hatcher and his boys, Cooters wife bought two identical big letter Bibles, not the regular King James version but some sort of revisionist Bible, from a traveling salesman one time. She kept one and gave the other to Brother Henry, the preacher at the Hatcherville Baptist.

Brother Henry was almost blind, so the gift was much appreciated. But two of Cooters younger boys got to going through their mama’s Bible and noticed something real interestin’ about the way Noah’s flood was described. And when the word got around that Brother Henry was going to preach on the Flood – the boys slipped into the church and cut one of the pages of the gift Bible out.

So come Sunday, Brother Henry started reading out of the Book and sez “Noah took unto himself a wife and she was,” and he shifts the Bible where he could start at the top of the next page, “Three hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide and fifty cubits high.” All at once he breaks off and very obviously goes back to the bottom of the previous page. You could see his lips move as he read the passage over again.

Then he starts to take up his sermon again, starting out “I been reading this Bible over 80 year, man and boy, and they’s parts of it that’s mighty hard to believe.”

But I got Leroy Van Dyke singing that “Auctioneer” song on the radio. Now that brings back memories – of fifteen cent quarts of milk, dime loaves of bread, fifty cent a pound sirloin with a big hunk of suet thrown in to cook it in, and a whole bunch of good times. I had a lot of fun in those days even if I almost starved to death. Broke – more’n somewhat – most of the time.

This world has improved a bunch since those days. But one thing is just the same as it’s always been. You got to be careful, and you got to be smart, and you always have to consider the consequences of everything you do, just to get along.

Like that story about Joe, a Cape Cod lawyer who figured he was just about at the end of his rope. His addition showed it would take a cool million to pay off his loans and let him eat off the interest for the rest of his life. Two million would let him live in the style to which he had accustomed himself. And being broke and hungry and sleeping under the dock – he didn’t see how he’d ever survive.

So he hikes down the beach, figuring he’d find a nice deserted place to start swimming for Europe. Not that he expected to make it to England, but he was going to swim as far as he could before he drowned. But anyhoo he’s strolling along the beach when he comes across an odd looking ceramic jug with a funny looking lead seal on top of a cork stopper.

Being the very model of a thoroughly modern College Man, Broke Joe had never heard of the Seal of Solomon. So he does not know what he is looking at. And if he did he probably would have figured he had nothing to lose and gone ahead and indulged his curiosity.

So he pulls the cork, there’s a cloud of smoke, and a Djinn appears. A Djinn being the right name for what TV calls a Genie. Except that a Djinn is the real McCoy and has powers to read minds and manipulate time and matter that TV never thought of – and the manners and morals of an eight year old brat.

Which is why Solomon, Son of David, imprisoned them in clay jugs, amphoras rather than bottles, one to a jug, put an impenetrable seal on them, and threw their prisons in the sea about 3200 years ago. Naturally, quite a few of the Djinn have gone off their rockers in those thousands of years of solitary confinement, so breaking Solomon’s seal and uncorking a crazy Djinn is taking your life in your hands.

But this Djinn smiles at our bankrupt hero and sez “Yes, to thank you for rescuing me from my prison, I really will give you any three of your heart’s desires. You have only to ask and you will receive. But let me warn you that I was the chief judge among the Djinn, so what I grant to you, I will grant to every other lawyer in the world, in double measure. Choose carefully, for whatever you wish for, every other lawyer will have two of.”

“Sounds Jake to me,” sez Broke Joe. “I can’t afford to worry about trifles like that. First of all, I want two million dollars American in hundred dollar bills.”

“Done,” sez the Djinn, as box after box of U.S government issue paper money appeared in front of Broke Joe. “But remember, you have two million dollars but every other lawyer in the world has four million.”

“That’s OK,” sez Nouveau Riche Joe. “I can’t afford pride, and I never begrudged anyone anything. But I have always wanted a Rolls Royce limo to carry my money in.”

“Done,” sez the Djinn with a smile. “And every other lawyer in the world has two. And what do you want for your third wish, my friend?”

“Well,” sez Joe, “I always liked to help people in need and I can spare a kidney….”

And with a gusty laugh, the Djinn left Joe to load his newfound wealth in his limo and contemplate a brighter world…..

Stranger

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Now, I wonder Where I Mislaid That Title?

Well, I got Mickey Gilley on the radio laying into a piano. That’s one of those transplanted Louisiana guys that have been making so much noise lately.

Like that transplanted Yankee running for President. ‘Nother feller name of Bush. Seems like the native Tejanos have sort of gone even more to seed lately.

Now, I went to school in Texas, learned all about how Sam Houston single handedly whipped the whole Mexican Army at the battle of San Jacinto, and I even had an “I am a Texan” sticker on my notebook while I was doing it – but I do tend to agree with the opinion of my Oklahoma schoolmates about natives of the Lone Star State.

It was the summer of ’46 that a Tehanner, that’s one of those folks from Baja Oklahoma, careless folks call them Texans but their right name is Tejanos, tee-ham-oh, came up to the County and got in with Joe and Jimmy Exeter.

I knew all those kids but we didn’t associate. You might say I preferred to hang around a better class of clowns. Joe and Jimmy were not what you would call real bright – and the Tehanner kid was in the same categpry. Three peas out of the same pod, you might say.

Of course, what happened to that Tehanner kid was plumb terrible. See, Joe was old enough to have a drivers license, so he was driving their dads old pickup, Jimmy was riding shotgun, and the Tehanner kid was riding in the back.

Joe and Jimmy decide that’s it’s so hot they would drive down to the hole behind the Hendrix place in Sand Creek so they could go skinny dippin’. I don’t know that the Tehanner kid got a vote.

But Joe forgot the old Ford’s brakes wouldn’t hold on a grade, so the truck dived into the swimming hole! Joe and Jimmy climbed out the windows, but the Tehanner kid drowned trying to get the tailgate open.

Of course, that’s a joke. The Texas kid dropped the tailgate and waded out.

Yessir, Okies as a rule believe Texans are a bit dumb. Most native Okies will tell you that it’s easy to get a one armed Texan out of a tree. All you have to do is wave at him.

I heard a rumor from Beaver that most Tehanners think a can opener is a key to the bath room. And a lot more stories like those.

But I really wouldn’t like to say that all Tehanners are a mite on the slow side. About the most sensible answer to a dumb question I ever heard in Texas was while we were waiting on a funeral procession so we could cross the street.

One kid asked “Who died?”

The other kid sez “I dunno. The guy in the box, I guess.”

Yessir, I have even known Texans who were smart enough not to try their luck in politics. But if you see a Tehanner walking around with puncture wounds on his face, it’s not serious. He’s just trying to learn to eat with a fork.

Speaking of wounded Tejanos, I knew a kid from Hereford once who got a short sleeve shirt and a set of cuff links for his birthday. So he had his wrists pierced.

And I read about a Tehanner that started one of those chain letters. Sent ‘em out all over Texas. Folks had already sent him 765 chains.

I think it was Outdoor Life that reported that a Texan on
an African Safari stepped behind a bush to relieve the pressure. A few seconds later he came running back to camp yelling his head off!

“What’s wrong?” asks his white hunter.

“A lion just bit my toe off!” exclaims the mighty hunter.

“Which one?” asks the anxious guide.

“Which one?” the Tehanner asked incredulously. “How would I know? All these lions look the same to me!”

Oh, you did see that piece in the paper the other day where a Texan broke his shoulder during a pie eating contest. A cow fell on him.

I read that somebody broke into the Crowell, Texas, cop shop and stole the toilet. The Vernon paper reports that the cops don’t have a clue as to who the culprits might be. Or as they said, “CROWELL COPS HAVE NOTHING TO GO ON.” Which sums it up in a nutshell.

But now, talking about that Texas kid drowning reminds me of the eight Hendrix kids. Those Hendrix’s ran to runts, the boys going maybe five three and a hundred twenty pounds and the girls about five foot even and a hundred pounds. The boys were all black heads but the gals were what Glenn Church called “suicide blondes.” Dyed by their own hands.

Ma and Pa Hendrix were little dried up squirts too. Ma answered to the name of Ruth, little gal, four ten, shape like a shotgun shell, and a sharp tongued fast talker. Generally about three hundred words a minute with gusts to over five hundred!

One of the Ladies Aid women brought up the subject of when life began. One said that life began at birth, Ginny Hug claimed life began at conception, but Ma Hendrix said “Life begins when the dog dies and the children leave home.” Which I ‘spect most of the ladies agreed with.

Pa was a bookkeeper for the co-op, quiet type, and he laid claim to the name of Jeremy but everyone called him Pa because his kids did. Besides, he looked like Pa Kettle.

One time Pa grumbled to his pal, Jim Peerce, that he lived in a hen house, ’cause a hen ruled his roost! Somebody told Ma, and for a long time all Pa got at the hen house was cold shoulder and hot tongue.

Yessir, Pa sang mighty small at home, and not much louder anywhere else. Which he was probably wise, since Ma Hendrix was a woman of determined opinion. She was determined to voice her opinion, too. Like Pa used to sigh, “Ma is just like an angel. She’s always up in the air and harping about something.”

Yessir, Ma was a talker. One time this guy was bragging about how strong his wife was. He claimed his wife could load a ton of hay an hour all by herself. Pa sez, “That’s nothing. My wife can tie up ten tons of copper telephone wires all by herself.”

Anyhoo, this carnival sets up in Elk City and the whole Hendrix clan takes off to see the elephant and ride the rides. The star of the show was Joey Pedderson, aka “Atlas Shickeliviki, the Russian Strong Boy.”

Joey went by the alias because carneys are like prophets, they don’t get much honor in their own country. Or to quote Joey himself, nobody will pay good money to see an American pissant tote a sawlog, but they will shell out the coin to see a foreign pissant drag a twig.

Joey had started out life mucking in the mines around Manassa, Colorado, where Jack Dempsey got his start, and Joey was a sure enough strong man. I knew Joey pretty well, him bein’ a friend of my dad and my boss both, and I had stopped by to chin when Pa Hendrix showed up.

Now I better explain that as “Atlas,” one of Joey’s acts was to pinch an iron wheel, the thing must have weighed two hundred pounds, between his thumb and forefinger and hoist it over his head. One handed!

No sir, you did not want to make Joey mad and then offer to shake hands and make up. Not if you had anything you wanted to do with that hand in the next few months. Big Peters could match Joey squeeze for squeeze, but even there it was a standoff.

“Atlas” was offering a hundred bux to anyone who could take a lemon he’d squeezed and get even one more drop of juice out of it. This one paid his buck and tried, and that one tried, and somebody offered to pay if Big Peters would try but Big and Joey had been pals during Big’s carnying days so Big wouldn’t waste his time that way.

But lo and behold, after everybody else had failed to get even one more drop out of that lemon, Pa Hendrix steps up and forks over his buck. Joey takes pity on the old man and squeezes a fresh lemon – but when Pop gets his mitts on the thing it looked like it had been mangled by a whole bunch of wringers. Pa squeezed and squeezed and squeezed and managed to get ONE drop of juice out of it.

So Joey digs in his kick, gets out a hundred dollar bill, and hands it over, while his talker makes a big deal out of the fact that nobody had ever managed that feat before.

“Tell me, sir, how did you ever manage to squeeze one more drop of juice from a lemon that had been squeezed by Atlas, the Russian Strong Boy?”

“Oh,” sez Pa softly. “I have had lots of practice squeezing things. I have been the treasurer of our Church for nearly twenty years.”

That happened after Pa got sick, real sick. He figures he’s about to cash in, and for some reason he thinks that since a condemned man is supposed to get what he wants for his last meal he ought to get his last wish, too. He hears one of the kids mentions that Mom is baking pies.

When Ma comes in Pa puts on his most feeble tone of voice and pleads for a piece of pie.

“Sorry Pa,” sez Ma, “I’m saving those pies for the funeral.” Made Pa so darn mad he got well just to spite her. And that’s the only time in living memory that Ma didn’t get her way.

Now, like I said, Pa’s buddy was Jim Peerce. Pronounced Percy. Jim was the guy who loaded those hundred pound sacks of flour up when some lady decided she liked the pattern on that bag on the floor.

Jim got to restack the flour ten sacks high, get that certain sack out, and then like as not put it back and restack the stack because the customer didn’t think she would look nice in that pattern dress. Needles to say, when Jim got home after a hard day at the office he didn’t feel like putting up with no female folderol.

So Jim’s wife Maisie sort of felt like the spark had gone out of her marriage. Not that she wasn’t a pretty nice looking gal, but she felt like she wasn’t getting all that was coming to her.

That was when saran wrap first came out, and the magazines were full of the wonders of this miracle see through clinging film. One of the ladies magazines mentioned that everything looked more appetizing wrapped in saran wrap, so Maisie got the idea that she would wrap herself in saran wrap and see what happened. Maybe the magazine suggested it, I don’t know. But anyhoo, Jim came home and Maisie met him at the door wearing a saran wrap dress and a smile.

Jim didn’t know what to say, so he said the first thing that popped in his head. “So, we’re having leftovers again tonight.”

Hey, look at the time! So before I go, let me admit that I cribbed every one of those Texas jokes from a joke book. The title was “The Joke’s on Massachusetts.”

Stranger

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Livin’, Laughin,” and A Buryin’

Why do I take time to write down the stories? Because I enjoy rehashing them. And if they bring a smile or a laugh, so much the better.

So I throw a story or two in, just like I do when I chew the fat with the folks who stop by to chew the fat in my office.

And a joke or six, maybe a half serious comment about something or other, and whatever else I think might cause someone to smile, or perhaps to think.

Because, as John Wesley said, “Sour godliness is the Devil’s religion.”

St. Francis of Assisi said “Leave sadness to the Devil. The Devil has reason enough to be sad.” Martin Luther wrote “Our God is not a God of sadness, but the Devil is. Christ is a God of joy. It is pleasing to our dear God whenever you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart.”

And a fellow whose name has become synonymous with stern and unbending religious stricture, John Calvin, wrote “We are nowhere forbidden to laugh, or to be satisfied with our food, or be delighted with music, to drink wine, or to enjoy the company of our fellows.”

I completely agree. I am well pleased with your company, and I find a few laughs encourages folks to hang around and talk.

Besides, as Francis of Assisi said, “Do you want to know one of the best ways to win over people and lead them to God? It consists of giving them joy and making them happy.”

Or as Bil Keene sez, “He who laughs, lasts.”

The more folks I can inveigle into a laugh the better.

One item that I ran across in the waiting room of Decatur General broke the tension for me. The title was “The Perfect Pastor,” and it was supposed to have been a chain letter. Which went something like this…..

“The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect pastor preaches exactly 15 minutes.”

“The perfect pastor condemns sin but never upsets anyone.”

“The perfect pastor works from 8 AM to midnight. In his spare time, he is also the janitor.”

“The perfect pastor makes $50.00 a week, wears good clothes, reads good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50.00 a week to the poor.”

“The perfect pastor is 28 years old and has been preaching at least 30 years.”

“The perfect pastor has a burning desire to work with teen agers, and spends all of his time with senior citizens.”

“The perfect pastor smiles all the time and keeps a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.”

“The perfect pastor makes 15 calls a day on parish families, shut-ins, and parishioners who are hospitalized.”

“The perfect pastor spends all of his time evangelizing the unchurched and is always in his office when he is needed.”

“If your pastor does not measure up to these standards, simply send this letter to six other parishes that are tired of their pastor, too. Then bundle up your pastor and send him or her to the church at the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 pastors and one of them should be perfect.

But remember, you must have faith in this letter. One church broke the chain and got its old pastor back in less than a week.”

I was thinking, as I read that, that there is more truth than poetry there. In fact, it wouldn’t take much of a workover to describe what folks expect out of any of who volunteer their time and services to a cause.

Now, speaking of preachers, pastors, and such, I heard there was an ecumenical council in Wichita last summer. Of course, they had to open the meeting with a prayer. The delegates were surprised when the moderator began, “Puke and weenie men as we are, er, I mean, weak and puny men as we are….

According to some gossip on a Topeka repeater, during that meeting somebody ran in hollering “The building is on fire.” At the shout of fire….

The Methodists immediately gathered in a corner and prayed.

The Baptists started a shout of “Everybody into the water.”

The Congregationalists shouted, “Every man for himself.”

The Adventists declaimed “It’s the vengeance of an angry God!”

The Lutherans posted a notice on the door, declaring the fire was evil because fire is the natural abode of the Devil.

The Christian Scientists huddled together and agreed among
themselves that there was really not a fire at all.

The Presbyterians appointed a chairwoman, who was to appoint a committee to look into the fire and make a report at the next meeting.

The Episcopalians formed a procession and marched out in good order.

The Unitarians formed a committee, which concluded the fire had as much right to be there as anyone else.

And the Catholics passed a collection plate to cover the damages.

Speaking of committees, did you know there are no committees in Heaven? Nope, nary one. While God was creatin’ the animals a bunch of kibitzing angels told the boss that what He was doing looked like fun. So the Boss told them that he would let them try their hand.

So a bunch of them gathered up and created an animal. The critter had fur like an otter, a tail like a beaver, feet like a frog, and a bill like a duck. God took one look at the platypus and told them he would finish the job himself. And ever since there hasn’t been a single committee in Heaven.

Now, since I have found a subject, I used to know a fellow name of Danny Grubbs. All Dan wanted to be was a preacher. His dad finally sold a quarter section and sent Danny to Southwestern Bible College.

The Southwestern College was big on what would have been called “circuit riding” back in the old days. When they thought a prospective preacher was ready they would send him to this little church or that little church to hold services.

Joe had gotten to that stage and was looking forward to his first preaching experience – when a fellow student wound up in the hospital. The boy had been sent to one of the little pipeline towns that would spring up and fade away over a summer – and the pipeliners didn’t take a shine to the boy’s style of preachment. So they shot him!

The next Sunday Joe got directions to that same church. Joe had sand enough to go, and to preach, all right. But looking out at about three dozen of the worst looking men he’d ever seen he couldn’t help shaking in his boots all the time he was stammering through his sermon. And a mighty short sermon it was, too.

After the preaching was over one of the roughest looking men in the church swaggers up to Joe. “Feller,” the pipeliner sez, “That was the sorriest sermon I ever heard. You ought to pay us admission to listen to a sorry sermon like that. Do you know what we do with sorry preachers around here? We shoots em!”

Of course, poor Joe was about to faint at that point.

“But,” sez the tough, “We ain’t going to shoot no skeeredy cat like you. We are going to shoot the sorry SOB who had guts enough to send kids like you out here.”

That reminds me of the time little Cooter Johnson stopped at the church door to tell Preacher Hollingsworth that when he grew up he was going to give him some money. The preacher knew Cooter because the school used to let the Preacher exhort the students once a week – and Cooter was easy to get to know.

“Well, thank you, Cooter. But why would you give me money?”

“Because my daddy says you are the poorest preacher we ever had.”

Speaking of sorry preachers, I saw a want ad in the Minneapolis Star last summer that began “TAKE OUR PASTOR, PLEASE. Thriving congregation in rapidly developing suburban area desperately needs new, creative, clerical leadership. We would like to trade pastors with a congregation that needs a kindly but do-nothing pastor. We will pay the first year’s salary package plus a substantial bonus for speedy departure. Please respond ASAP box 275, the Star.”

Which reminds of the ad in a newspaper for a position in Lebanon. That ad supposedly ran, “Middle Eastern Diocese looking for candidates for Bishop. Must be athletic, agile, and have great endurance. Former track stars preferred. Salary and benefits negotiable. Package includes private bunker and armored personal carrier for traveling. Must be willing to relocate.” Considering the situation in that part of the world, the qualifications sound reasonable to me.

And thinking about Cooter Johnson reminds me that before the Johnson family moved to town so Cooter and his sister could go to school, they lived so far back in the woods they had to sweep the coon farts off the porch every morning. Cooter had been in school, oh, a couple of months I guess, when he comes home with a question.

“Mama,” sez Cooter, “Preacher Hollingsworth said Jesus was a Jew.”

“Well, that’s right son,” his mama told him. “Jesus was a Jew.”

“Well then,” sez Cooter, “If Jesus was a Jew what’s he doin’ with a Mexican name?”

If memory serves me right, Cooter’s sister was Carol. She was a year older than Cooter, and more than a little outspoken. One time somebody invited the Johnson’s over to their church. And that church was a “holiness” church.

Carol was impressed no end by the old preacher, standing high above the congregation in an old fashioned box pulpit, shouting and waving the Bible like a man possessed. After a while she leaned way over to her Mama and whispered “What will we do if he gets loose?”

Now, speaking of Preacher Hollingsworth reminds me that I spent several hard days working in his plantation. Digging holes to plant folks in. Most of them for good folks who were missed by everyone who knew them. But every once in a while somebody would come along whose departure was a relief to all.

One of those was for Old Lady DuFresne. Now, you talk about a heller, Berta Dufresne had a bad case of naggin’ fever. She nagged husband Bill constantly about things he had nothing to do with and couldn’t do anything about. You know, that kind of naggin’ will upset a man as bad as a plague of flies will upset a horse. For about the same reason.

Not only that but she drove her kids half crazy trying to run their lives, gossiped about everybody within a hundred miles, and the family dog would hide under the porch whenever she set foot outside the house. Yessir, she was a real friend to nobody, a plague to be avoided at all costs.

And one day she cashed in, bought the farm, passed over, croaked. Died! Dead. So I got the job of opening and closing the grave. It was a hot day, too, and when the hearse got there I noticed a little cloud coming up in the west. Didn’t look like much, but those prairie thunderheads will fool you.

Preacher Hollingsworth started preachin’ and that cloud got bigger. A half hour later the Preacher was praising Berta DuFresne to the skies, all about what a wonderful Christian woman she was, patient and long suffering, quiet as a church mouse, and every body was looking at each other wondering where that pack of lies came from.

All at once there was a loud crack of lightning, and we had a prairie shower. About an inch of rain, in ten seconds, like turning a stock tank on its side, sploosh!

Everybody standing there drenched, the preacher trying to separate his notes, and somebody in the back says “See Mary, I told you that’s what lying will get you.”

Stranger

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Reminiscences Of A Hot July In south Carolina

Well, much as I hate it political season is in full swing. All you can see on the toob is candidates and nekkid women. Not that I mind looking at the gal wearing one can of strategically placed beer, but the candidates all sound like they got a jackass caught in their throat and got beat with an ugly stick on the same night.

And the inevitable violence against women, nekkid or otherwise. And after all the shakeout it looks like we can look forward to a truly wonderful choice this next November. Hillary and a party to be named.

But I sure wish candidates on the toob would get as naked as the women on TV so we could see just how puffed up a bunch of nothing’s we had running for office!

Have you paid any attention to the candidates and their proposals? I never heard so many men boldly settin’ out for nowhere before in my life. On the Democratic (?) side we had Gore and Bradley tweedledeein’ and tweedledumin’ that the Constitution should be ignored – and on the Republican (??) side we had McCain out Demo the Democrats without actually seeming to agree with them.

If you took the “Social Security illegals” suits off this year’s crop of candidates the whole lot of them would be laughed out of town. Except for one candidate who seems to have a body by Nautilus and a brain by Mattel.

At least the story that went around about that fellow was that he called the Government’s computer support type and said he couldn’t log into the Senate’s computer system. He told the tech gal on the phone that he gave the password to log in and put in his user name and password and all he got was “Access Denied.”

So the little gal checked her list and didn’t see any other reason for him being denied access, so she suggested that he try again “but use lower case letters.”

“But there aren’t anything but capital letters on my keyboard,” the pol snapped.

Yesser, a little thin between the ears. Nearabout a hard vacuum. And like most of this years crop of candidates, he has a mouth by EuroTunnel Associates.

Listening to this year’s crop of candidates brag about their achievements reminds me of the retired Marine First Sergeant who died. The “First Skirt” had been a cutter, but he’d repented his sins and spent his last few years working hard for his church.

You know it sez in the good book that all the laborers in the vineyard of the Lord will get their reward, so when he got to the Pearly Gates Saint Pete welcomed him in.

“Is there anything we can get for you?” asks the Fisher of Men.

“Yessir,” sez the First Sleeve. “I have always liked chorus music and I never got enough of it on earth. If you could be so kind, I’d like to hear ten thousand sopranos singing all at once. Could you arrange that?”

“No problem,” sez Saint Peter. “Would there be anything else?”

“Well, I would be nice to hear ten thousand altos singing with the sopranos,” sez the First Shirt.

“No problem, would there be anything else?”

“Well, ten thousand tenors and ten thousand baritones would fill out the choir,” sez Sarge.

“That’s no problem, but what about the bass?” asks the Saint. “Don’t you need ten thousand basses to finish out the choir?”

“Naw,” sez Sarge. “I’ll sing the bass myself.”

But I was dis-cussing politicians. You know, it’s a terrible thought but I hope crime does not get any worse in this country. Every political office we have is full, and if we had any more crooks in this country we wouldn’t have any place to put them.

Yessir, looking at the candidates and their records, it sort of makes you wonder where we are going in this country. And why are we in this handbasket. But the truth about politics is that most of the folks who care enough to vote don’t care who is in office as long as their government check comes in regular.

But I don’t suppose I should criticize the candidates. Politician is a dirty job but somebody has to do it. And it’s like my Drill Instructor used to tell us recruits, “Every man is a mixture of good and bad qualities. When we go to judge our fellow men, we should remember his good qualities and know that his faults only go to prove that he is a human like the rest of us. We must not judge a man harshly just because he is a lousy, miserable, lying, thieving, no good sonuvabitch.”

That was in our leadership class. Which might give you some idea of the general tone of the rest of the classes. Especially considering Corporal Keller was one of our easier to get along with DI’s. And if circumstances had been different I ‘spect the Corporal would have been a pretty nice guy.

Why, one day when we were waiting on another platoon to clear the chapel, the smoking lamp was lit, our one-striper told us about the time he was stationed at Norfolk and his wife came in to help him spend a three day pass. If spend is the word I want.

Now, you know how military couples who only get together at intervals are. No sir, Rabbits ain’t got a thing on the married denizens of the enlisted men’s barracks. Like that old limerick goes…

When he’s home on leave, Staff Sergeant Steve,
Would say, with twinkling eye
The second thing
I want, by jing
Is a piece of apple pie.

Now that reminds me of a fellow name of Luke who used to part time where I worked. Luke’s night job was insurance salesman. He sold a policy to Moose Hubert, and when he was through he sez, “Moose, the premium will be $3.90 for a thousand dollars of straight life. Straight life is what you want, isn’t it?”

“Well,” sez Moose sadly, “I would have liked to fool around a little on Saturday night.”

But anyhoo, with all the fun and excitement Corporal Keller and his squaw had during his pass he left his wallet in their hotel room.

So he catches his wife at the hotel and gets her to detour by the front gate and drop his wallet off with the guard. This was during that “Korean peace action” and security was tight. So he hotfoots to the gate and braces the corporal of the guard, explaining what he wanted.

“And you will know my wife real easy,” he sez. “She’s blonde, five one, and very, very pregnant.”

“Corporal, this is a Navy base,” sez the guy with the gun in a pained tone of voice. “You are going to have to give me whole lot better description than that!”

I don’t know how true it wuz, but Pfc Blackburn, our other DI, claimed that Corporal Keller had made Sergeant while he was stationed in Japan. He lost his stripes the next day when the Colonel summoned him.

“Keller, what’s this I hear about you getting drunk last night and wheeling a wheelbarrow through the French Embassy?”

“I dunno about that, Sir,” sez the hapless Sarge. “All I know about it is that the Captain was riding in it at the time.”

For some reason thinking about Private First Class Blackburn reminds me of Felix Correa. Maybe because our PFC was always on Felix’ duster. Deservedly.

But anyhoo, a recruits pay was essentially zilch until his ten weeks were up. We recruits were supposedly allowed PX privileges, and we could either pay with money or we could sign a chit against our pay – if we didn’t spend over a dollar at a time. So Felix figured he needed a little of the coin of the realm, so he could actually buy something in the PX if we ever got to go.

So Felix writes a letter home, beggin’ for a little lettuce. His masterpiece of prose went about like this….

“Dear Dad$

Gue$$ what I am in de$perate need of? That$ right, it need some mo$t of all. $o plea$e $end me $ome right away.

Your $on, Felix”

And from the wilds of Joisey, his daddy writes him back…

“Dear Felix:

NOthing ever happens here. Write us aNOther letter aNOn. Your sister asked about you. NOw we have to say goodbye.

Your Father”

I never really understood Felix, though. I suppose he’d have been a pretty decent Good Humor peddler, or almost anything else that didn’t have a lot of work involved. Because Felix was allergic to work. And he joined the Corps because his brother had been a Marine!

According to Felix, his brother had been stationed on Guam. Carlo was sending his wife a sugar report every week, so everything seemed to be going according to Hoyle. But somehow or another somebody that his wife knew had a sister who knew somebody whose brother had a buddy who had a friend who – well, you get the picture.

And the buddy’s friend had written back to the brother that Felix’ brother had just gone wild over a beautiful native gal. The news was too good to keep, so whether she had reason or not the wife had a serious case of the green eye.

So Felix’ brothers wife goes to see her doctor to get some advice. “I just can’t understand it. Carlo had always been such a loving husband and now I hear he’s cutting up with one of those island girls all day and night. What can I do, doctor?”

“Mmmm,” sez the croaker. “Does Carlo like fudge?”

“Why, yes,” sez the wife.

“Well, the solution is quite simple,” sez the quack. “Just go to the pharmacy and get a package of saltpeter. Saltpeter is a chemical that reduces a mans sexual desires. Make a big batch of fudge, mix in the saltpeter, send it to him, and it will take all your husband’s desire away.”

So the green eyed wife does exactly that. And then she waits and she waits and she waits to hear how her husband liked the fudge. About three months after she mailed the fudge off she gets her weekly letter from Carlo. Beside herself with anxiety, she rips the letter open and begins to read.

The letter began “Dear friend:”

But anyhoo, I was on guard one night when PFC Blackburn
came back from a five day “compassionate leave” in Jacksonville. Rode the Atlantic Coast Line down and back, overnight each way. And he’s telling Corporal Keller that when he gets on the Orange Blossom Special on the way back he runs into a beautiful woman in the lounge.

“So we get to making small talk, and I buy her a drink. And I buy her another drink. So she invites me to her compartment. And what with one thing and another she falls into my arms and we start kissing up a fog, and then she starts crying.”

“What’s wrong, darling?’ I asks.”

“I just got to thinking about my husband,” she sez. “He’s so kind and so compassionate, and he has no idea that I would fool around this way.”

“She keeps on extolling the virtues of her husband and crying, and darned if I didn’t start bawling right along with her.’ sez Blackburn.”

“Well, what did you do then?” asks Corporal Keller.

“Nothing, we just kept on kissing and crying all the way to Savannah.”

And the clock on the wall sez it’s time to lock this place up and go to the house. I may be back after a while.

Stranger

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From A Drunken Scot To A Railroad Bum

Well, let’s see. The Casa should be back up as soon as I get these cables dressed and the place livable again. In the meantime:

Well, I found a station that plays Scots music, and I finally found out what that tune Willie McNab was alla time whistling is. Willie was a good looking Scots merchant seaman who jumped ship in Houston and took up the carnival life until he got enough cash to go home to Strathclyde as a passenger.

Since half the people in Texas got their backs wet every time they visited home, a lack of official papers wasn’t the problem it would be nowadays. Yessir, Willie was illegal but he sure cut a wide swath among the young ladies.

But I remember that tune very well well, because once you have been whistled at all day long for two or three weeks straight you don’t forget things like that. The tune’s called the Drunken Piper – and in Willie Fergus McNab’s case it was doggone appropriate.

Sober, Willie was as cheerful as anyone I ever labored with. But Willie would drink all you gave him, long as it was alcoholic. And one sniff of a bar rag would make all reason desert Scotty. Man, feed him one shot glass of firewater and Willie was ready, willing, and able to stagger from place to place and look on the goings on all owl eyed as the world spun on its axle.

But give him two drinks quick and pretty soon Willie was a sodden nuisance. Three drinks within an hour put him out like Lottie’s eye. Blind drunk. Just aware enough to take another drink and stagger from chair to chair. Which definately made him a problem when we talked a cupple of gals into playing canasta.

Because it’s hard to stop a guy from pouring himself another shot when you have your mind on cards and conversation – and two gals with one guy is not a recipe for romance. Or wasn’t in those days, anyhoo.

One Friday Willie got away from us and wound up in Dallas, down on Deep Ellum. Used to be a Greek guy there, purebred, with as ugly a mug as you will ever see outside of a nightmare. The Greek ran a combination eatin’ joint and blind pig. Blind pig because anyone with a thirst could get blind drunk if he made a pig of himself!

T’ Greek had hamburgers, hot dogs, chile for the Mex trade, mebbe a little Greek food for his domino playing buddies, and beer. It was a really grungy version of the great American greasy spoon.

But the Greek kept a bottle of hooch under the counter for “special customers.” The ones with the money to pay. I can sure remember plenty of ‘shine getting served up there.

But Willie was a stranger, and when he walks in and asks for a dog and a beer the Greek takes him in. As a man with a thirst. So he asks Willie if he’d like a shot of “wizky.”

Willie figures a tot of Scotch would do him good and sez yes. And gets served a water tumbler of 150 proof Sneaky Pete. Which was about three times his total daily capacity.

Natural, Willie eats his dog, and drinks his shine, and calls for another round. And most likely another. But he don’t remember anything after he orders the second round.

What he did remember was waking up three mornings later, wearing his his shoes and a hangover, in a strange room. While he’s trying to figure out where he’s at and how he got there and how the 12th Battalion of the Scots Field Artillery could fire all those guns is such a small room he realizes he’s not alone.

He casts his eyes to the left and sees his clothes on a chair. He casts his eyes to the right – slowly because it hurt the roots of his hair to move his eyes – and he’s face to face with a naked woman. Who was so ugly it made him forget his hangover.

Because the first glance shows him she’s plumb ugly in the face, the second glance reveals she’s the gnarliest, most repulsive female Willie Fergus McNab never hoped to meet! It takes Scotty a minute to notice she has a strong resemblance to the Greek who served him his supper. Three nights before, but he has not got that point yet.

Willie figures he’s passed out and been parked in the Greek’s mothers or sisters bed. Since he don’t want no racket in his debilitated and vulnerable condition he eases out of bed and starts for his clothes. And stumbles over something soft!

He looks down and is revolted to discover he’s tripped over another naked woman. And this woman is so ugly she makes the one he woke up with look like Miss Texas! In fact, Willie claims this second female is a dead ringer for a baboon. Teeth, hair, ugly and all!

While Willie is standing there petrified with horror, Miss Nude Frightful sits up, rubs her eyes, shows off a remarkable set of oversize incisors, and sez “Good morning, dear. You slept with our bridesmaid, don’t you have a good morning kiss for your bride?”

Willie broke down the door getting away! And dressed in an alley three or four blocks away! For the two or three weeks more he stayed around he was strictly on the water wagon. And everytime a stranger showed up he’d hide, because he was afraid the Greek had sent somebody after him to bring his son-in-law home! Red Brown finally took pity on the boy and paid him off so he could go home.

Yessir, firewater will make you act like folks in that old song. You know the one – “They say strange things, and they do strange things, in the Bowery, the Bowery, the Bowery; I’ll never go there any more.”

Personally, I never tasted any I liked, so I ‘spect I’m going to be on the coffee train with an occasional beer until I cash in. I just wish coffee tasted as good as it smells brewing. Speaking of coffee reminds me of Father Flynn, the “Catlik” padre back where I came from.

One of the Padre’s parisioners was a lady, getting a mite hard of hearing – so when she said anything she put it at a force seven volume level like deef as a post folks do.

When she went to confession, everybody in the church and some of the folks in the street could hear her bellerin’ about all of her little lapses. Which – her lapses were little ones like getting annoyed when some person kept ringing her telephone knowing she couldn’t hear it and her husband wasn’t home. Finally the Padre asked her to write down everything she wanted to confess, roll the paper up, and slide it through the grille in the window to him.

She agreed to that and the next week here she was, poking her list through the grille at the priest. The padre takes it and looks at it, and turns it over and looks at the back, and looks at the front, and turns it every way but loose, and then he says “What is this, this looks like a grocery list”

The woman slaps herself on the forehead, and bellows “Holy Mother of God, I left my sins at the Safeway!”

Now, I have made a few miles in my time, went to a lot of different schools, and of course went to school with a lot of different people.

Back in first grade me and a fellow named Willie Weichert were pretty thick. When I came back to town the first person I ran into was Willie. Couldn’t have been nobody else – how many people do you see, sixteen years old, redhead, six foot tall and sixteen inches around the chest? Built like a red top tomato stake! Willie was a worker, too. He wasn’t like the old boy that came in for breakfast one morning and told his mama he’d dreamed he had a job.

“You poor lad,” sez Mama real sympathetic. “You look so tired.”

Anyhow, Willie had been looking for a job and finally found a job waitin’ tables in a fancy restaurant in Tulsa. ‘Bout the second day on the job he runs up against a customer who was more’n a little drunk, as much on self importance as anything else.

“Do you know who I am, boy?” this gee roars at Willie.

“No sir, but I’ll ask around and when I find out I’ll come back and tell you, sir.” Willie says, straightface.

Willie thought he was going to get fired over that but instead it tickled the boss so much he got promoted instead. But speakin’ of embarassment on the job, I used to know a fellow I’ll call Len Overstreet, who wanted to be a preacher.

Len went four years to a high class Bible College – won’t say what denomination, you understand. Anyway, Len was about ready to graduate, right at the head of his class.

The preacher at an older church nearby had a heart attack, so they sent Len to his church to do a little substitute preachin’ for practice, and get a feel for havin’ a church of his own to be shepherd of and sky pilot to.

Now, the old preacher’s robes were just a tad long, and they had the processional, solemn and slow, and Len is walking slow like he is supposed to, and he gets tangled in the robe, and KERFLUNK, he falls down, shakes the church, right in front of a packed house.

Len, he keeps his cool, though. He gets back up, and squares around and looks at the congregation, and mostly the congregation is about to choke, but there’s one old fellow in the front row that Len has been warned about. That fellow ain’t cracked a smile nor liked a preacher or a sermon in forty year.

“Watch Brother McInairny,” they told him, “And don’t let the old sourpuss ruin your sermon.”

So Len, he says “Brother McInairny will now lead us in prayer.”

And Brother Mac gets up, slow and solemn, and starts out, solemn, “Dear Lord, did YOU SEE THAT, HAW, HAW, HAW!”

Len gritted it out and I heard he delivered a fine sermon, but somehow or t’other he just didn’t feel like he had a proper
call for the ministry any more – so he took up making crank bait, fishing lures, for a living. Now he’s up in Springfield, and he’s a fish bait millionaire!

But anyhoo, speaking of Willie Weichert reminds me of his mama. You talk about a plain spoken working woman, Willie’s mama was plain spoken some – and work was the only thing she put any faith in here on earth. Jesus for heaven, work for here! T’ only time I ever remember her not having anything to say was the time the bum came by and asked her for a handout. It made her plumb mad!

“You sorry bum,” she sez. “I bet you never did a lick of honest work in your life.”

“Lady” sez the bum, “If youse don’t tink going around askin’ dames like you for a bite to eat ain’t work youse don’t know what work is.”

And just for clarity, a bum wouldn’t work and a hobo would. Which made hobos respectable when bums weren’t, you see. Now, it was Old Lady Donnely who lived down by the Katy mainline that got squared up by a railroad bum. But the bum turned down her offer of working for food.

“You sorry no good loafer,” she hollers. “You ain’t never made the acquintance of work.”

“Yes I have, lady,” sez the bum. “I lost all three of my wives that way.”

Stranger

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If It is not one hangup it is another

After a half a day spent pulling a single wire, I discovered a custom built cable that was supposed to have two feet of slack was two feet six inches short.

As Chester Reilly solemnly deponed once a week in William Bendix’ voice, “What a revoltin’ development this is.”

I am ready to try it again tomorrow, this time with a cable 24 feet six inches long instead of 22 feet flat. And then I can start to put this place back together.

Stranger

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Yep, The Casa Is Back

What was suppo9sed to be a weekend computer changeout turned into a three month pain where no one needs a pain. We are not up to snuff, but the Alley should pick up steam as I get interconnects and software working as it should.

Stranger

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