One of Stuart Hamblin’s most popular songs, it has been a while since I heard it played:
One of Stuart Hamblin’s most popular songs, it has been a while since I heard it played:
Well, the radio’s playing, and Stu Hamblin is singing “I Won’t Go Hunting With You Jake, But I’ll Go Chasing Women.” The announcer says they have a whole lot more good old 40’s Classics lined up, so I guess I’ll give today’s reminisce a go.
Now, I had to go to Wally World, Wal Mart, ChinaTown East, or whatever you want to call it. Had to, because it’s the only place in town that carries Yankee groceries. And round and about Pearl Harbor day I get a craving for mincemeat pie. Especially when it’s cold.
Ain’t nothing will stoke you up for running around in the cold than a nice 1500 calorie slice of mincemeat pie. Or two. Preferably the kind you can lift the crust on and slip a jigger of fine old Jamaica rum in before you light a fire under it. MMM, good! Not to mention the wonderful smell of hot rum!
But anyhow, I was jammed into an aisle between seven or eight groups of folks who hadn’t seen each other since Reagan was in office and wanted to catch up on what’s happening. Natural, I had to catch up on the news from the nearest or loudest group whether I wanted to or not.
The nearest group were all strange to me. The topic was South Mississippi’s fauna. The leader, the loudest is always the leader, said she had been taking care of her grandchild and cleaning up her yard when she raked up a big worm. A real big worm. She was about to show her husband that big fish worm when it coiled up and started rattling and hissing at her.
She realized it was a rattlesnake and went backing across her yard, tripped over a wagon, fell over and bruised her whatsis, and generally felt like migrating to Ireland. Where they don’t have serpents. Because all the time she was backing the gran’kid was laughing. Her husband finally showed up and dispatched the worm with a twelve gauge.
The loudest group was on the other side, toward the meat cases. Now, every one of the hens in that cackle n’ cluck session used to work in the Carter Building and drink coffee in the Owl. The men who frequented the place had nicknames for all of them, from “Gina Lollobrigida” to the “Ice Queen.”
If you remember that crowd, the one I’m talking about was the one we called Skinny Minnie. Now, forty years later, mini-skirted Minnie has turned into Granny Minnie. In bright green tights. From the waist down she looked like she’d stepped into a drum of John Deere Green paint. Blue hair, red shirt, and green tights – talk about a Christmas combination.
Minnie was as skinny, and as flat, as ever when she faced me, but when she turned around to show it off to the girls it was obvious Minnie had a butt implant! Said it cost her thirteen grand to go from enough room to hide a weekend bag in the seat of her sweats to a J-Lo copy! You talk about a sight; that gal looked like she was hiding a couple of half grown pigs in her tights.
She said it hurt like blazes to set down for about a month. But it quit hurting about the time she learned to pee standing up and it was all right now. Although she still felt like she was settin’ mighty high when she drove her tricl. I couldn’t help thinking she had been jacked up so much that if it weren’t for seat belts she might lose her balance and fall out of her Kenworth whenever she set down.
The other women sure seemed to be mighty interested. I ‘spect the plastic surgeons will be busy for a while spreading Minnie’s new look around. Back in the Minnie’s salad days the style was tight in front and short behind. Seems like her new style is baggy up front and tight behind.
But anyhow, I can’t help looking. If the Good Lord didn’t intend men to look he would have created men blind. But don’t think I’m like the woman who thought her husband had designs on her maid, either.
This gal went shopping and left her little boy to spy on hubby. Before she left she told the boy “While I’m away, I want you to watch everything your daddy does. Tonight when you and me and papa are having dinner I am going to ask you some questions. If you answer truthfully, I’ll give you a big toy.”
So mama left and the boy began to snoop. And pretty soon he saw his daddy and the maid kissing and doing all sorts of stuff in the kitchen!
That night at mealtime, the woman asked “Junior, how was everything in the house today?”
“I had fun, mama,” the boy said. “I was watching papa and the maid in the kitchen.”
“What were papa and the maid doing in the kitchen, Junior?”
“The same thing you and the milk man were doing in the kitchen yesterday, mama!”
But the new styles do give men a lot to look at. Looks like the mini skirt is coming back. Anyhoo – the news says Hispanics are the fastest growing population group. When I was a kid I’d hear about Pancho Lopez and his buddy Miguel Medina y Urriba two or three times every year. And sometimes more often than that.
It seems Pancho and Miguel were Houstonites, and they went quail hunting down towards El Campo. When they got to the place Miguel was in considerable pain. So he steps behind a nearby bush, drops trou, and takes a stance in preparation for lightening his burdens, so to speak.
His efforts disturbed a four foot canebreak rattler, which promptly bites Miguel in the most convenient place. Miguel screams, jumps six feet in the air, and comes running back to the car holding his hiney.
Pancho figures he better get his amigo Miguel to a doctor, but the nearest hospital is in Houston, sixty miles away. So Pancho does the next best thing. He calls the doctor. After a few minutes the croaker comes on the line and Pancho explains how his buddy Miguel got rattlesnake bit in his set down.
“You have to take your knife, cut a big “X” across the
wound, and suck the poison out. If you don’t, your friend will die before you can get him back here.”
“But doctor,” protests Pancho, “Miguel is bit in the culo, in the, how you say, in the hass! I don’t want to suck the poison out of Miguel’s – Miguel’s – where Miguel he is bit.”
“Well, there’s no help for it. If you don’t suck the poison out your friend is going to die,” says the sawbones.
“Ok,” says Pancho – and walks disconsolately back to the car.
“What he say, what the doctor say,” demanded Miguel.
“The doctor, he say you are going to die,” says Pancho.
Now, there were a bunch of those Pancho and Miguel stories around. Like the evening they went fishing with some of the neighborhood boys, up on the Nueces (you say that new aces) River. They got there late, and it was way after dark before they got their trotlines set. Naturally, they built themselves a big fire on a sand bar and put the coffee pot on. Then the stories started!
Pancho said that he had startled a big old wild cat, and he dipped a hat full of water out of the river and threw it in the cats face. That scared the cat so bad that it ran off in the bushes.
All the other guys just laughed at Pancho. The idea of running a cat off with a hat full of river water. Nobody had ever heard of such a thing.
Then Miguel said that it must be true, that Pancho had thrown water in the cat’s face and run him off.
“Es verdad! It must be for the true, because I also saw un gato, a cat. It must have been the same cat, amigos, because when I stooped to pet him, his whiskers were wet.”
But Pancho and Miguel were more hunters than fishermen. One time they went up to Nederland, which was in the country then, to go rabbit hunting. Pancho had his .22 rifle, Miguel carried a .410 shotgun, and they had a croaker sack apiece to carry rabbits home in.
Miguel had pretty good luck, but Pancho hadn’t had a shot at anything. Finally, they stop under a tree for comida, lunch. The boys were about through with their sardines and tortillas when Miguel happens to look up in the tree – and there’s a big old wildcat looking back at him.
“Pancho, Pancho, mi amigo. There’s a wildcat in this tree. See him on that limb? I’ll climb the tree and shake the limb and when the gato drops you catch him and put him your sack. Then we take him home and charge to look at him! ”
So Miguel climbs the tree. He shakes Mister Wildcat out of the tree, too. And that’s when the fun began. There was scratching and snarling and dust and leaves flying in all directions. Pancho and the wildcat were having a war!
“Wassamatter, Pancho? You need help catching one little old gato?,” Miguel yells down at his compadre.
“Dios no,” says Pancho. “God and all the saints know I need help turning him loose!”
Now, this Miguel bought a few acres up toward Cleveland and started growing cotton. He had good luck with farming, and he kept his day job, so after a couple of years he had paid for his tractor and all.
One day his neighbor came by and saw Miguel out in his field hoeing cotton. After Miguel and the neighbor had howdied, and swapped comments on weather, crop prices, and boll weevils, the neighbor asked Miguel “Say, Mike, why don’t you go up there and hook your cultivator on your tractor and cultivate this field instead hoeing this place by hand?”
“Mi amigo,” says Miguel, “My friend, this hoeing the cotton by the hand, she is much easier to stop when I get tired.”
Now, speaking of Cleveland, Texas, there used to be a blunt talking farmer named Norm Hesselhoff who farmed south of town. After a few years Norm saw the handwriting on the wall and sold out before the bank could repossess his spread.
Norm moves to Houston, and goes to work for a drilling supply. This company had 35 outlets in East Texas, and Norm got a job as personnel manager for all 35 stores. After he’d been on the job a few weeks he had to go up to Waco to settle a serious personnel problem.
The manager had been dating one of the clerks, and the other clerks were complaining about favoritism. Norm issued a new set of directives that solved the problem, pronto and faster than that yet!
It was called “Personnel Directive Number 101.” PD 101 said…
1.) We do not breed the workers.
2.) We do not work the breeders.
.. which is sweet, neat, and plumb complete. Reportedly, hanky panky ceased forthwith.
Norm had two daughters. No sons, two daughters. One was a pretty girl name of Norma, Norma Hasselhoff. Norma was an early women’s libber. She’s the one who went storming into the
registrars office one day, madder than Billy Old H!
“What do you mean,” she says – waving her student card in the registrar’s face. “You gave me an F in sex and I haven’t taken the course yet!”
That reminds me of the story I heard a while back about the gal from Gonzales, Louisiana, who was bar hopping when she met a boy from Tulane. One thing led to another, and the next night she went out on a date with him.
Things went about like the gal thought things should go, so when he dropped her off at her apartment she asked him, she didn’t ask him anything! She “axed” him if he would like to see her appendix scar.
“No thanks,” the Tulane type said. “I can’t stand hospitals.”
A few days later the same gal went out with an LSU student. Things went pretty well on this date, too. So the gal axed him if he’d like to see her appendix scar.
Now, this boy was a little quicker on the uptake. “Hall, yes,” he says. “Not jus’ yes, but hall yes!,” he says.
So this gal took him to the veterinary clinic! I always wondered if that gal from Gonzales wore a flea collar!
Speaking of Gonzales, there used to be a preacher name of Oubre over there that was really long winded. One Sunday this preacher was especially wound up about tithing, and the congregations reluctance to support him and the church in the style to which he would like to become accustomed. All at once a little boy turned to his mama and asked, “Mama, if we go ahead and give him the money, can we go home?”
The words I have heard for the first of these jigs suggests there was more than dancing “behind the bush in the garden.” Regardless, this jig provide a pleasant interlude:
Well, the radio has Seamus Ennis playing “Behind the Bush in the Garden.” The way Lane Junior Cooter used to sing that there were plumb scan’lous goins on behind that bush! But Ennis is playing the music without the words. Which is a good thing. No use giving kids any more ideas than the tube already has.
Anyhoo – looking back to see where we been I don’t quite know how I got started off with cracks about education. Teachers have a hard time. I ‘mind when Yvonne Ellis, Hugh Ellis’ wife, graduated and got a job teaching first grade at Sentinel. Somebody asked her how she liked her new job.
“It’s about like keeping three dozen corks under water,” she said. That was in the days when forty kids to the class were par for the course. And no teachers aides, either. Miz Ellis had to do it all herself.
Thinking of Yvonne Ellis reminds me of Hugh Ellis, of course. That was one of those marriages that seemed to work, even if you couldn’t figure out why.
Yvonne Bradley was small, near about as ornamental as Nettie Rollo, which was as good looking as a gal gets. She had medium red hair, a little lighter red headed than Lizzie Cooter, a lot darker than Agnes Rollo’s bought-in-a-bottle red; and a complexion to match. Yvonne was freckled like a turkey egg!
She was sharp as a tack and honest, too. Too honest. The kind of strict honest that makes a kind hearted person look a dying man in the chops and say how bad he looks. When she was in high school she had boys stacked nine deep on her porch. And Hugh Ellis was the only thing in pants she ever looked at.
You didn’t leave any room between Hugh and Ellis, everybody ran his name together, HughEllis. That’s all anybody ever called him, HughEllis. He was the kind of guy who can shave, eat breakfast, and need to shave again. So he let his grow when beards were unheard of. A funny looking guy, under medium size, hairy as a grizzly bear, brown headed with some light patches here and there, and somewhere or other Hugh Ellis got beat bad with an ugly stick.
HughEllis and Yvonne went to the Okie City Zoo one Sunday and a keeper gave HughEllis a whole hand of bananas. The keeper made Yvonne mad as blazes, though, because he congratulated Yvonne on how well dressed her monkey was but he kept cautioning her to keep HughEllis on a leash while they were in the zoo.
HughEllis didn’t help none, ’cause every time a keeper would come around he’d hunker down, bare his teeth, jump up and down, and holler “Uhnk, Uhnk, Uhnk.” Until they tried to put him in a cage, when he started cussin’ like a regular human.
They called the law on him, becauase he plumb scandalized a Sunday School group that was touring that animal prison. But there wasn’t no law against acting like a monkey in a zoo, so they let Yvonne take him home. Provided she didn’t bring him back.
HughEllis was as hard working as you could want, as long as there was someone around to tell him what to do; but he was bad absent minded. I caught him walking up the road one day totin’ a rope and he couldn’t remember whether he’d lost a critter or found a rope. So a lot of time HughEllis would just stand around wondering what he was supposed to be doing besides growing a beard. T’ween that beard and his greasy mechanics outfit, he didn’t look too presentable.
And LIE! HughEllis would tell a lie for the fun of it if h
e could get a thousand dollars for the truth. You could just about be sure if HughEllis told it, it was a lie. Most likely it was a whopper of a lie!
One time HughEllis swore it rained so hard Yvonne had eight inches of water standing on her clothesline. He claimed it rained so hard he saw a frog and a worm climbing his tree to keep from drowning!
He swore that a couple of weeks later it was so dry his tree was following his dog around. And when we had a power failure he claimed it was so dark Yvonne had to scratch a match to see if his coal oil lamp was lit.
And he was some sort of a joker, too. One time an aunt of Yvonne’s came calling and made some cutting remarks about HughEllis state of cleanliness. Yvonne got upset and HughEllis got mad. So he went over to the aunt’s house the day before washday, poured out her box of Duz, and filled the soap box with lime jello. Auntie had the sweetest green undies! But HughEllis was mostly a liar.
HughEllis was all the time telling about some friend of his that had been gored by a bull. Busted the fellow up real good so they took all of his insides out and replaced his internal workin’s with a set out of a big ol’ sheep.
The operation was a success but the fellow developed an appetite for alfalfa hay, and the next spring the fellow started sprouting wool. They had to shear him every spring and fall after that. HughEllis claimed they got between 30 and 35 pounds of wool a shearing.
HughEllis said the fellow was half Kickapoo Indian, and he grew black wool. He swore they got a lot more for a pound of that black wool than regular wool because it was straight and glossy black and didn’t need to be dyed.
One night when the women folks were having a play party up in the house HughEllis was going on and Jack Reid stuck one to him. Jack kept about 160 acres in alfalfa, and he would board trotting horses from time to time. Jack said that when the county fair came he went in the horse barn, and he heard one old trotter ask a young one to let him win the next race.
“If I win the race I’ll get to retire to a stud farm and live out my life in luxury, and if I lose I go straight to the glue factory.”
Then Jack said he heard a dog in the next stall chime in. “Yeah, let the old horse win one more time. Shoot! You got plenty of time ahead of you and the old horse is on his last legs. Let him win and live out his days in peace.”
The young horse turned to the old horse and said, “Whadda ya know about that. Who ever heard of a talking dog!”
Yessir, Jack Ried could tell one, too. One he used to tell was that it was so dry he had to pull his well and run it through the wringer to get enough water for Shiela’s pet canary.
Another one was about the dry summer when he took his wife to Southwest City, Missouri, for a few days of R&R. He went fishing in Honey Creek that runs through the edge of Southwest City, and he claimed it was so dry the catfish had ticks.
I knew that was a lie, because that creek is spring fed and it’s so cold I used to catch smallmouth bass and brown trout off the highway bridge. I tied chunks of bacon on kite string to catch crawdads out of the spring holes, and used the little crawfish for bait. The big crawdads I caught was bait for me! I have seen lobsters for sale at Wal Mart smaller than some of those crawdads. They were mighty good eating! Anyhow –
Jack’s tale tellin’ couldn’t hold a candle to HughEllis flat out lying, though. Jack was mostly straight unless someone else told one first, and Hugh would tell a lie just for the fun of lying. Of course, most everybody likes a good whopper, and it’s even more fun if you can get some sucker to bite on it.
The best tales have at least a little of the truth about them. Most everybody knows a whopper or two about those Mississippi Delta Swamp Eagles, otherwise known as mosquitoes. As Josh Billings put it, “The mosquito is born of poor parents, but some of the countries best blood flows through its veins.” That’s the gospel and a whopper, both. The truth is that ‘skeeters got no veins!
Lane Cooter Senior used to tell about his early days in Texas, when they would send newlyweds out to milk the cows and their kids would come back with the milk. Those were the days before fences, of course, “When a man could start a straight furrow in March and keep straight on till the middle of Summer.” You could probably do that before bob wire, but it would make a mighty skinny field!
Sometimes the Cooters would have a bunch of 4H kids out on the place and Lane Senior would fill the kids up over the full mark. Lane Senior being a real old timer and the kids not knowing anything about the real wild west except what they heard on the radio, it wasn’t that hard.
Just before Christmas one year, that was ’50, or maybe ’51, but anyway the Cooters had about twenty kids out there and they were having a “real cowboy cookout.” With Lane Junior singing cowboy songs, accompanying himself on his Stomach Stienway and his dad helping out with a comb and a cowbell. Seems like the twins kept time beatin’ a tire iron on a tractor tire, but anyhoo…
After Lane Junior sang a few, Lane Senior started in telling about the old days, when he’d “been a scout for the Army,” west of Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. That would be about where Canyon, Texas, is today.
He said he was on a scout detail, looking for Comanches and for Mexican traders. The Chihuahua Mex’ would swap guns and goods for women and children the Comanch’ and Kiowa, and sometimes Apache, captured. The Mex called a feeder for the Palo Duro “Los Canon de Las Lagrimas,” “The Canyon of the Tears,” from the crying when they children were taken from their mothers.There was plenty to cry about every time there was a slave traders moon.
Lane Senior started out telling about making a dry camp and getting up before daylight to try to find something to drink. Then he said he run into Quanah and a Comanche war party, so him and his cayuse was hitting a high lope towards the north and the Army, when he runs into a big Kiowa war party. He had every kids attention, for sure.
The Comanche and the Kiowa were “your enemy is my enemy” sort of friends, so the Kiowa circled to the west and the Comanche flared to the west, and they drove Lane Senior east towards the Palo Duro. And the Palo Duro is about as close to being a grand canyon as you will get in Texas. It’s roughly 1200 feet from the caprock to the Canyon floor. If you fall off the caprock the landing is rough.
It wasn’t long before Lane Senior and his nag hit the Palo Duro, and of course there wasn’t any way down. Comanche to the right of him, Kiowa to the left of him, and both Comanche and Kiowa behind him. At that point in the story I don’t think an earthquake would have gotten those kids attention.
“Well, there I was, a’ lookin’ fer a good place to fort up, somewhere no dratted injun could injun up a’hint me, and all at once a Comanch’ bullet burnt my pony’s hide. That no good paint started buck jumpin’ and the next thing I knew we wuz out over the canyon, lookin’ at a quarter of a mile drop. Straight down!,” says Lane Senior, and he stops and puts a splinter in the fire.
While the splinter is blazing up real good he knocks the dottle out of his pipe and reloads her. When the stick is blazing real well he lights up. And he just sets there for about a minute and a half, puffing away, with every one of those kids looking at him plumb goggle eyed, waiting for him to finish his yarn. Finally one of the younger kids pipes up. “Gee, Mr. Cooter, what did you do then?”
Lane Senior looks the kid straight in the eye. “I died,” he says, and goes back to puffin’ on that old pipe. It took a second to sink in, but you talk about a bunch of chopfallen kids!
‘Ol Hardman would tell about the professor from the University of Baja Oklahoma down in Austin who was trying to figure out if environment or heredity made folks the way they are. This fellow decided he’d take some Texas rattlesnakes to the Hudson’s Bay part of Canada and give them a chance to either adapt or die.
Well, it took five years, but the snakes did adapt. They didn’t knit reindeer hair long johns, or invent cast iron stoves, or anything like that. What they did do was grow a beautiful coat of fur! Fur as fine or finer than the finest South American chinchilla, with more than a hundred thousand two inch hairs per square scale of skin. Colored in the original snakeskin color, too.
‘Ol said there wasn’t a mink coat in the world that could hold a candle to a full length coat made of matched Hudson Bay Diamondback Rattlesnake Farm fur. It was too bad Micky Rooney and Tommy Manville were both fresh married at the time, because if they’d been romancing chorus girls the way they had been that snake fur would have been the glamor fur of the forties, fur sure.
But the problem was that the summers were too short for them to reproduce. So they figured they would keep on flying Texas rattlers in and Diamondback fur out. But the Texas Legislature got wind of the deal and passed a law forbidding the export of a live Texas Rattler and put the kibosh on that scheme.
The snake fur folks took a bunch of blue racers up to Hudsons Bay, hoping for beautiful blue fur to stack up against blue mink, but they never did adapt so the Hudson Bay snake fur farm idea failed.
Now, Bill French spent WW twice as a cook on a tin can in the Pacific. He saw plenty of shooting and he learned to stretch the facts a mite, too. He used to tell tales about Peg Legg, the ships cat. To hear Frenchie tell it, Peg Legg was some kind of a mouser, but Peg Legg hadn’t always been her name.
Bill said some of the cooks picked up Betty Boop at a house they’d visited in Brisbane, along with a couple dozen cases of Aussie hooch. If you aren’t familiar with what they call hooch down under, the Aussies mix eight quarts of ethanol with two quarts of juice or coconut milk to make one potent tipple.
The cooks would slip themselves a snort at the end of every watch, and slip a pint to the gunners to help their aim when the Divine Wind was blowing. The cooks didn’t like Kamikaze’s, none. Being trapped inside a ship a suicide bomber has just blown up is apt to be fatal, you know. And the thought of a stiff drink for every Nip they put in the drink did wonders for the gunners aim.
Anyhow, the cooks noticed that Betty Boop would slink in about cocktail time every watch with a dead rat. She’d swish around and make it plain that she was willing to trade a nice fresh rat for a shot of prime Aussie gut rot.
Pretty soon, it got to be an every watch deal. The cooks would have a saucer of 160 proof ready when Miss Boop dropped a rat and lapped up her reward.
It wasn’t long before it was hard to find any sign of a rat on that destroyer.
Of course, the boat would dock from time to time and get a new load of vermin, so Betty Boop never actually ran out of work.
This worked out real well until Betty Boop fell into some steering gears and lost a front leg and most of her teeth. The medic worked the kitty over, and a bosun’s mate made her a little peg leg. It wasn’t but a couple of weeks before she could get around nearly as well as before.
Of course, she couldn’t slink around like Betty Boop in the movies any more, so they renamed her. After her close call the officers wanted to call her “Marion,” after the she ghost in the Topper books, but the gunners insisted on Peg Legg, after Madame Legg, who ran the cat house in Brisbane she came from.
As soon as they let Miss Peg roam again she started showing up at cocktail time with a dead rat, demanding her reward in no uncertain terms. The cooks couldn’t figure that out, not none. That cat didn’t have any front teeth at all, and only one front leg and a half a set of claws, and here she was keeping up her rat catching and boozing like nothing ever happened.
Finally one of the cooks saw her heading for a storeroom and he slipped up on her and found out what was going on. Miss Peggy would slip into a storeroom and scrooch up to a rathole. Then she’d make a noise like a wheel of Limburger cheese, and when the rats came out for supper she’d hit them over the head with her wooden leg.
Of course, we all knew that tale was a lie. Limburger don’t come in wheels. But Lane Junior Cooter had a cat story he used to tell, too. His story went something like this. It seems Junior and his Uncle were over in the Frio country rounding up some cattle Lane Senior had inherited. Every couple of days they would go by a little store and load up on eats.
The storekeeper had an old tom cat that he kept asking everyone in sight to carry off for him. He didn’t want that cat, none, but this old Thomas cat proved to have at least nine lives, maybe more.
The Frio was running bank full, so the storekeep pitched a couple of plow points into a gunny sack, put the cat in, and tied the sack with baling wire. Then he threw sack, cat, and all, into the Frio. The cat beat him back to the store.
The storekeep tried all kinds of dodges to get rid of the cat. He even put the cat in a box car headed for El Paso and wired the doors shut. The cat came back on the next train. Finally, in desperation, he took the cat out in the chaparral and cut its head off with an axe. When he got back to the store the cat was settin’ on the front porch with its head in its mouth.
Yessir, there were some pretty good liars in in that county , but there wasn’t a liar in the county that could keep up with HughEllis. What made it worse was everybody else would tell a whopper for a little fun – but Hugh would try to pass a lie off for the truth, every time.
I did see Hugh Ellis get out-lied one time. He was down at the Stockyard Cafe, waiting for a cuppa of Beatrice’s coffee to cool enough to drink when he got into a conflab with a truck driver from “Gaw-ja!”
I don’t know what set him off but I heard him braggin’ about what a “wunnerful salve” his mama made. “It’s better than that White Cloverine Salve by a mile,” he orates. “Why, it’s so good that you can cut a calfs tail off right at the root and smear Mama’s salve on it and in just two weeks that calf will have a brand new tail. You’d never know it’s been cut.”
“That’s nuthin’,” says the Cracker. “Back home in Waycross, Jaw -ja, we make a green salve that’s so good we can cut the tail off a cow and smear green salve on it and inside a week that tail has got a new cow growed on it.”
HughEllis didn’t say a word. He just looked, but his lookin’ amounted to an encyclopedia of profanity.
Now, speaking of lies and liars, don’t by any means leave the lady folks out. Some of the most outrageous whoppers I ever heard were told by ladies.
Katie French came in the courthouse one day and the court clerk got her hemmed up, and then asked her where she had been and what she had been doing. That was a definite breach of etiquette. Even her husband, if she had one, didn’t have a right to ask prying questions.
Miss Katie didn’t bat an eye. She said, “I been down almost to Altus, looking for a friend of my Aunt. Actually, I was looking for her husband. Aunt Julie said he was in the well diggin’ business and I need a new well. T’ old one tests more’n half solid.”
“Anyhow,” she went on, “I found him out in the middle of a pasture, kissing a cow. He didn’t seem to be gittin’ no more pleasure out of than the cow was.”
“What’s that kissing for?,’ I asks of him.”
“I’m practicing up for my wife,” he allows. “We been
married twenty year next July, and she’s so confounded hard favored I ain’t never been able to bring myself to kiss her. I don’t know what to git her for Anniversary so I’m going to surprise her.”
“Now, his wife is a mite hard favored. But actually,” goes on Miss Katie, not slowing down none, “His wife can’t hold a candle to her brother. He fell in Red River one time down by Denton, and they had to skim ugly for two weeks. He’s so ugly you could smear sorghum ‘lasses on his face and flies still wouldn’t light on it.”
“That brother of hers is so ugly they had a train wreck on the Rock Island, and the people there thought he was one of the horribly mutilated passengers on the train. They took up a collection for him and got over a hundred dollars.”
About that time the clerk realized he was being professionly had, so he excused himself and left Miss Katie still rattlin’ on about that whole ugly family. She said they must be the oldest family in the world, because their looks made it clear that God was still practicing when he made them.
If that’s so, Hugh Ellis’ family must have been the pilot model.
Yesterday, I was talking about Anita Flores, and her ham sandwiches. We used to talk about this ‘n that during her shift at the Rexall.
But there was nothing going on there because first I didn’t want Saint George’s dragon for a mother-in-law; and second because 99 times out of a hundred a daughter will look like her mother when she gets to be her mama’s age.
I didn’t feel like growing old living with a golem. But anyhow Nita comes in late one evening, hoppin’ mad! Seems the old lizard had gone to the doctor for a checkup.
She comes in and her three daughters, Rosa and Maria and Anita, were all getting ready to go to work. Maria sees Mama come in and automaticly asks “What did the doctor say, Mama?”
Mama sez “Not so good. The doctor says I got the flucky.”
“What!” exclaim the girls in unison.
“The doctor says I got the flucky,” sez Mama, “And I don’t know how much time I got left in this world.” She goes on from there with a self pitying moan, how little work the girls did and -well, you have surely heard that broke record before.
Naturally the diagnosis causes consternation. Nobody ever heard of that disease – and Mama Flores was too darn mean for a germ to inhabit so it couldn’t have been contagious. After some discussion and lots of headscratching and dictionary thumbing they figured the sawbones had told Mama she had the flux.
But that didn’t seem quite right either ’cause Mama Flores bowels were notorious for being sealed tight as Bennie Fine’s wallet. So the girls make a fast walk down to the gas station and call the doctor’s office.
The nurse who answers the phone don’t know nut from nit. As far as she knows Mama Flores is in fine shape. Finally the croaker can come to the phone and Rosa explains that he’s told their mama that she got the flucky and what was Mama supposed to do about it. This takes the doctor by surprise.
“I never told your mother she had anything,” the croaker indignantly croaks. “She’s in perfect health. I told your mother that she got off lucky, there’s nothing wrong with her!”
I ‘spect that if Bennie had propositioned Rosa right then he would have had a wife. ‘Fact, as mad as those gals were, if he had made an appearance right then he might have been able to commit trigamy. But all joking aside, poor Bennie was betwixt and between. If he had been obviously rich it would have been like the mama told her daughter.
“Mama, Mr. Gotbux is rich but he’s too old to be eligible.”
“Girl, Mr. Gotbux is too rich to be too old.”
And if Bennie had been poorer he’d have been less particular and more willing let those young honey pots go their way and settle for a helpmeet just half his age.
There were plenty of grass widows more’n willing to sacrifice thir social life and make biscuits in return for a ring. And a steady flow of groceries into the kitchen, of course.
At least, if there was any truth to the gossip that went around a couple of widowed schoolteachers on his route liked to invite him in for coffee and early morning romance. Some were the ones who hummed that Hank Thompson tune whenever his name came up. Some of the others would have tried that old violin out, given a chance.
I heard say a lot of the old maids and widows who shined up to Bennie were half his age but I don’t know for sure. Time waits for no man – but it stands still for a woman. Leastways just before she hits forty.
Anyhoo, Bennie hit paydirt and finally got married to a sweet young thang. Sweet, but not real good looking. The kind they make paper sacks for. And Old Bennie promptly kicked the bucket. At the funeral the preacher compared Bennie to the pitcher that went to the well too often. Maybe so, but what a way to go!
Anyhow, Bennie died and left his whole estate to his wife. Every smear of it. She just had to stay single until she was sixteen to get it. Two years is hard for a fourteen year old widow. !
Thinking about Bennie Fine’s romancing ‘minds me that he was a buddy of Ox Parker. Ox was another sort of fellow entirely, a craggily handsome dude with a buzz cut that really suited his phiz. They called him the Ox because he did his own plowing, the hard way. He pushed the plow.
Yessir, the Ox was about forty, getting a bit long in the tooth to become a groom, but still able to plow all day and dance all night. When Bennie’s sap rose along with the maples and he suggests they go over to Tulsa and dance with the fillies the Ox was ready.
Telling about it after he got out of jail, Ox said when they went in the dance hall he looked around the dance floor but he didn’t see no fillies to cut a rug with. Not a gal in sight!
“So I got to walking around and I seen this door with a sign said Ladies,” Ox explained. “So I walked in that door and there they was.”
They might have let Ox off with a warning but he whipped both of the bouncers and the first six carloads of cops. You can’t cripple up half the cops in a town the size of Tulsa so it was 180 days in the callaboose for poor Ox.
Of course, spending half a year in the juzgado plumb ruined Ox’s farming for the year. And a farmer only makes money when his crop’s harvested, so Ox had a serious problem. Fortunately he found a day job pretty quick. But I kid you not, I sure was surprised Ox took the job he took.
I wasn’t surprised that they offered him the job because he was strictly a good looking operator, didn’t mind spending a little to show a gal a good time, and fond of telling jokes on himself. So he was real popular with the single ladies. And quite a few that weren’t. You see, Ox went to work for a woolen mill.
His job was to hit up all the buyers for fabric stores and stock them up on whatever kind of yarn they didn’t have. Most of the time the buyer was a lady just old enough to be looking forward to grandchildren, and Ox’s rugged good looks and manly charm made a success of his new career. As long as it lasted.
Ox said he walked into an indy five and dime shop in Columbia, Missouri, and the buyer was about 25 and stacked, whoooeee, was she stacked! He said she would put Mae West in the shade. I saw that gal, and you better believe she would! Especially in the chest.
So Ox figures he better come to the point before his panting got too obvious. He says “Madam, I represent the English Wool Guild Mills of London. We manufacture and sell the finest English woolen knitting yarns in the world, and I wonder if I
could interest you in some rough yarns?”
“I don’t know,” says the knockout, bemusedly. “Tell me a few.” Believe it or not, that was right up the Ox’s alley. He camped on that gals doorstep until he carried her back to Big Cabin.
‘Course, Ox had to make his cabin some considerable bigger to accommodate the addition but that’s another story. But Ox didn’t stray far from his bride’s side so he quit traveling.
Thinking of Ox and his little old sod shanty on the plain reminds of a neighbor of his who installed carpeting in his bathroom. He liked it so much he ran carpet all the way to his house. And then it rained. And froze. And then he took the carpet up. In pieces. Now, what was that feller’s name.
Oh, that was John D. But I can’t remember the last name. Anyhoo, John D was not the sharpest knife in the rack, not by no means.
One time he was on Sixty Six headed for Tulsa and, as Collie Talbot would say, a Highway Poleece pulls in behind him and blatted his sireen. John D pulls over like a good citizen should, and goes to meet the ossifer. So fast he’s looking in at the patrolman before the officer could gather his ticket book and get out of his car.
“You got any ID?” sez the man with the badge.
“Idee bout whut?” asks John D. Hitchens. Hitchens was the last name. John D. Hitchins. As in hitchin post.
Yessir, those Hitchens were about as dense as a block of lead. John D’s boy is the one that started that big lottery. They gave away three million dollars every week. And if you won you got three dollars a year for a million years.
But anyhoo, Ox’s shanty really wasn’t sod, it was just a shanty. And by the time he built a kitchen wing on that shanty and a bedroom wing going the other way it looked sort of odd. So Leonore, that was his bride’s name, Leonore, being a woman of action, hitched the tractor to the shanty part and pulled it down. The shanty didn’t match the rest of the house, you see.
It was kinda’ comical to see Ox’s new additions settin’ out there with a big hole in the middle. Looked sort of like a guy who had three teeth until somebody knocked the middle one out. It was a good thing it was the dry season.
Ox had to build a new living room addition to hook up the cooking and sleeping ends of his shanty – but Leonore already had her plans, so Ox wound up with a pretty nice house. X shaped, with the kitchen and the bedroom on the north and south ends, the living room facing west, and four bedrooms for the kids running due east. With two for girls on one side and two for boys on the other.
And a separate door to the six holer out back. I don’t think Ox was planning on doing all that – but he did.
Yessir, that Leonore Parker was a fast worker and a sure enough woman of action. Besides being stacked like a whole block’s worth of brick biffys! With a couple of Roosevelt bungalows thrown in for good measure. She raised every man in sight’s temperature six or eight degrees every time she went outside.
You know, Ox’s wife opened a business in town in less than three weeks after she moved into that shanty. Ladies ready to wear. And underthings. And notions. And she sure enough had a notion.
She had Ox make that shack into a house in about three months, and in less than seven more months she had presented Ox with a double surprise. Twins. Like I say, she was a fast worker.
And Ox was a quick learner. His first set of twins taught him to never change diapers in mid-stream. But I don’t think the Parkers quite knew what lay in store for them at the time. They wouldn’t have started on their second set of twins so fast if they had. But then, maybe they would.
I was talking to a guy from that part of the world and I asked him about the fellow name of Parker who lived by the Big Cabin beacon light. He said Leonore Parker still lived there, but she’s been a widow for a long time. This dude said he had to call Leonore Parker one time, years ago, on business. He calls her house and one of the girls answered the phone.
“Is your mama in?” he asked.
“Mama’s here,” sez Ox’s gal, “but she’s in the bath tub.”
“Well, I need to leave her a message,” sez the fellow. “Is your daddy there?”
“Daddy’s here,” sez the gal, “but he’s in the bathtub with mama.”
Well, that sounds like a pleasant way to start an evening. But there’s no telling what a kid will come up with. Generally kids speak the truth, whether we want them to or not. And, knowing Ox, that sounds about right.
Speaking of baths and children, isn’t it amazing how a little soap and water will change a strange kid into your own child?
You know, I have heard it said that small children and mosquitoes have something in common. When they stop buzzing you can bet they are into something.
A house with a four year old is not only a place you wash the bathroom in it’s entirety, you wash the soap, too. Can you imagine a house with two four year olds and two three year olds? Or imagine making two first and two second graders do their homework?
Most ten year olds get into plenty of devilment of one sort or another. That’s the time you need to buy the kid a bicycle. It doesn’t stop the devilment, it just spreads it out over a wider area. Think about that times four!
And about the time you quit worrying about how your kids will come out, you have to start worrying about what time they come in. Ox and his bride needed a bus so their kids could quadruple date!
However, every kid gets exactly what he or she deserves. They grow up and become parents
Whew, I feel like I been run down, run over, run through a great big wringer and then drug through a li’l bitty knot hole. I’m tard! Plum’ tard!
But I turned the radio on, looking for a reminisce, and Bennie Goodman is Tiptoeing Through the Tulips. Kinda’ reminds me of a fellow name of Bennie Fine I used to know who was easily eighty years old and looked it. ‘Fact, Bennie looked old enough to have been parade marshal at the battle of Jericho.
Heck, Bennie looked old enough to be the first person to notice those dangly things under a cow and decide to pull them and drink whatever came out. Like I said, Bennie looked OLD!
Yessir, Bennie had enough wrinkles on his phiz to make a relief map of the Andes. He ought to have, a doctor buttonholed him on the street to ask what he thought made him live so long.
“Why, you idjit! It’s because I wuz born a long time ago!” snaps Bennie.
Which seemed to be a reasonable answer. He was an active old guy for his age. But, like he said, “I ain’t ready to be a blessing yit.” And if you don’t speak that lingo, and lots of eddicated folks don’t and won’t admit to it; even though the vernacular is usually a heap more expressive than dictionary diction.
A “blessing” is a dodderer who is a burden to someone, and the term is another polite way to express resentment at having to take care of old Uncle Joe. And Bennie meant he wasn’t ready to burden somebody with letting him dodder his life away in a rocking chair.
No siree, Bennie led an active life. He was the last feller I knew who drove a horse drawn milk wagon. Every morning at two AM Bennie harnessed up Maude and met the milk train, the Katie Midnight Local, and got his order of milk. Fresh from the dairy in Tulsa. Then Old Maude would take Bennie on his appointed rounds, pausing just long enough at each house for Bennie to pick up the empties and leave the full ones. At the end of the route Maude and Bennie would drop the empties off at the depot for the southbound Local to pick up around noon. That left his evenings free!
Well, one morning I was waiting on my ride when Bennie comes down the street. He’s trotting from the wagon to the doorstep and back to the wagon. Maude would move up to the next house and wait on Bennie to exchange the empties. That’s how they made their rounds, Maude walking and Bennie trotting. It’s very healthy to trot a few miles every morning but Saturday and Sunday, you know.
Anyhoo, the driveway across from my roost was a long one, so Maude had to wait a long time. And as Bennie was going up that drive a kid carrying a cane pole came from behind the house I was waiting in front of.
The kid stops to gaze at the milkwagon, and when Bennie came back to get some fresh Grade A, the kid hailed him.
“Hey, Mister, you planning on going far?” asks the kid.
“Yeah, I got to finish my rounds,” sez Bennie.
“Well you ain’t going far with that horse,” sez the kid.
“Why?” asks Bennie.
“Because, Mister, that horse just let all his gasoline
It sure wasn’t gasoline Maude let out, but anyhoo, Bennie was frisky for his age. He didn’t act a day over seventy. A very active seventy because I bet he carried milk bottles three or four miles every week day. That might account for his continuing interest in feminine pulchritude and female companionship.
Miz Hardwick had a niece who ran one of those, well just say she rented rooms by the hour, over by Camp Crowder. The niece said Bennie rented a room most every Saturday. Sometimes twice. Some folks said Bennie was too old to cut the mustard but he was a favorite around that short term boarding house.
That cut no ice with those that wanted to claim there was no way Bennie could get his kicker cranked, but a couple of the church women would hum “The Older the Violin the Sweeter the Music” every time the subject of Bennie came up. Besides, he spent a lot of time promoting a long term engagement with a short term blonde.
Yessir, Bennie reminded me of an 84 year old youngster I knew in Minnesota who was still an active lumberjack. This youngster went up to Wadena to apply for a job and the woods boss figured he’s too old. And told him so.
“Hell’s farr,” sez the oldster, “I kin still fell a tree as fast as I ever did. And I kin still fell as many trees a day as I ever did.”
“Well, Mr. Peterson,” sez the woods boss, pointing at a seventy five foot oak. “I hear you but let’s see what you can do with that tree over there.”
Old Peterson pulls out his double bitted axe, whips his whet rock across the edge a couple of times, toddles over to that 36 inch thick oak, and in about thirty seconds flat has that tree laying on the ground. It seemed to take as long to fall than it took the old man to fell it!
“Well, by gosh, Old Timer, you got me convinced,” sez the woods boss after he gets his eyeballs pushed back into their sockets. “You are on the payroll, starting in the morning. Just let me fill this out for the timekeeper and you got a job. I got to put down where you got your experience, you know.”
“Sure,” sez Old Peterson “You ever hear of the Sahara Forest?”
“Yeah,” sez the woods boss. “But that’s a desert.”
“It is now,” snaps the old man.
Bennie Fine was like that, always cracking wise and acting like he was about fifteen. As well as he could, him being born during the War Between the States. And this overly optimistic youngster kept trying to convince one of the pretty twenty year old girls who hung around between the Sidetrack Diner and the Roxy that marrying up with him would be a good thing to do. He might have gotten himself a young wife but his line of chat was weak.
Bennie’s line was that he was old and skinny and housebroke, so he wouldn’t eat a lot, mess up a lot, take up a lot of room, or otherwise be a lot of trouble. He said he was sure to pop off pretty soon and leave some lucky lass a young widow with a nice nest egg. And the lucky gal might as well be her!
I guess that line would have worked if he could have found a honey with no looks, no hopes, and no money, but he liked them good looking queens that had lots of drones buzzing around. Those pretty things were more interested in a good time than in becoming the prosperous young widow of the oldest man in the county.
So Bennie collected lots more hot tongue and cold shoulder than he did warm lips and neck hugs. Some of that tongue came from waitresses he propositioned. Mostly after they found a penny tip under his plate but sometimes when they noticed Bennie’s snake cage was open. It wasn’t any wonder he drove over to the rent-a-maiden in Joplin every Saturday morning.
Now, Bennie was tight as paint on the wall, and some joker told him that Miss Rosa Flores was a romantic type who would be
sure to fall into his arms if he hired a band to serenade her. So Bennie sends off to XERA, the voice of Nuevo Laredo, for a ten buck guitar and a full deck of lessons.
Lesson one was how to chord Tiptoe Through the Tulips, “with me!” In D. It would have been better if the first lesson had been how to tune that sore finger special but it wasn’t. And it would have helped if Bennie had taken more than thirty minutes to learn how to play that junky plunk box. But he didn’t! What he did was borrow a car battery operated amplifier and microphone pickup – so he could say he played the electric guitar! Loud.
Louder than that. He shows up in Miss Rosa’s driveway about eleven o’clock PM – and starts in plunkin’. In about three seconds flat lights start coming on all over the neighborhood. And about the time Bennie got to his first “with me” Miss Rosa’s mamma comes running out in her housecoat to larn Bennie a lesson.
Mamma grabs Bennie by the lapels and dumps a double load of fire and brimstone on his moonlight serenade. She winds up her ten minute harangue with “And if it were not so dam late I’d give you a piece of my mind!”
“Jest wait a minnit, Miz Flores,” offers Bennie, “And I’ll go git muh tweezers!”
Boy, remembering Rosa’s mama brings back memories. That woman was about seven eights of a woman tall and three stout women around with tushes like a boar hog. Even worse, that woman came on like a big mouthful of hot mush. Hard to swallow! And her voice would set your teeth on edge and I never heard her say a kind word about anything.
To top it all off, she dressed sort of peculiarly. Especially for a female person of her years and avoirdupois. Fat folks usually don’t wear yellow blouses with red and purple polka dots, you know. The story went around town that she walked into the Bon-Ton and told the clerk that she wanted to buy a dress. “Whenever I’m down in the dumps I buy a dress,” she sez.
“We have been wondering where you got them,” the clerk sweetly replied. So Miz Flores, that’s Flowers in English but if she was a flower it was a skunk cabbage, spent a couple of hours telling that gal what she thought of cheeky women’s wear clerks.
I kid you not, she was like the old saw about “I heard the soprano has a large repertory, and that dress she’s wearing don’t help any.” Except nobody would ever mistake her for a singer. A saw cutting tile, maybe, but not a singer!
And nobody ever understood what her husband saw in her. From all accounts he was a Mexican gente from Monterey, un Cabellero Grande, until his family got on the outs with El Presidente and prudence made him into wetback who found a job and married the farmers daughter.
That was so he could stay in the States, you see. But I don’t know that facing a firing squad would have been harder than facing the woman he married. A guy facing a firing squad only does it once, and he gets a blindfold then.
By all reports he regretted his rash decision. The story that went around was that before Rosa’s daddy Carlos left for Mexico and freedom the dog bossed the cat, Mama bossed the dog, and Carlos could say what he damn well pleased to the geraniums. The only thing he got to say and have it stick was to name his daughters. They asked him to name them before their mama woke up.
Which gave her even more to gripe about. His favorite was to gripe that he had to waste a half a bottle of tequila in order to get up enough nerve to romance his esposa, and get her to drink the other half before she would get in the mood. And a bottle of tequila every year was getting expensive.
It was so bad around his house he really seemed to enjoy laryngitis. He said it was a relief to be told to speak up instead of shut up. The croaker tells him the best thing in the world for soothing the pain of laryngitis was ice cream. So he goes down to the Sidetrack Diner and whispers for an order of chocolate ice cream.
Moira Brown thinks she’s will play along with the game so she leans down and whispers back; “We don’t have any.”
Carlos whispers “You got the laryngitis too?”
“No,” whispers Moira in her lilting Irish accent, “Only vanilla, strawberry, and orange sherbet.”
I had been talking to Rosa’s youngest sister ‘Nita down at the Rexall every evening. She made a wonderful ham sandwich, and was as nice a gal to talk to as a boy could want. Sixteen, about her daddy’s height but only a little on the dumpling side and it’s no secret that I prefer women who have at least a little padding. I believe in the advantage of 150 pounds of curves over 100 pounds of nerves – and a little shade in the summertime never hurt anything.
As long as she does not fall on you, anyway.
I heard on the news that scientists think they are hot on the trail of something that will cure the common cold. Reminds me of the old man who was so mad he was jumping up and down, cussin’ a blue streak.
“I knew them blame scientists would keep a-foolin’ around and fooling around and fooling around until they did something they hadn’t ought ‘ter. Now just look at what they done gone and did!”
“What’s the matter, Paw?” asked his son. “You just hear about the atom bomb?”
“Heck no. They done something a whole lot worse than that. They done invented something besides likker to cure a cold!”
Which, liquor won’t cure a cold. But take a good dose of whiskey and you won’t care. Of course the poleece will. Lightening drunks wallets is how they make their money.
Oh, did you hear about the juggler who was on his way to the theater? A cop stopped him, and noticed a box of matches on the seat. Then he noticed a can labeled “Kerosene.” So the cop is looking the car over careful and sees a bundle of sticks in the back seat with rags tied to the ends.
“Hey, Driver,” the cop says, “What’s with the rags and the kerosene and the matches? You a terrorist or something?”
“No, Officer,” the driver replied, “I’m a juggler and flaming torches are part of my act.”
“Well, I be durn. I will let you off with a warning if you will show me you can juggle flaming torches. But if you can’t I’m going to run you in.”
So the driver takes four torches, pours a bit of kerosene on them and lights them. He’s doing a great job of juggling four flaming torches when a man and his wife drive by.
The man turns to his wife and says, “I’m sure glad I gave up drinking. Did you see what kind of sobriety test they are handing out these days?”
Now, speaking of sobriety, I see by the Trib that a Chicago career woman decided to marry, but because of a shortage of time left planning the rehearsal dinner to the groom. It didn’t turn out too well. Instead of a rehearsal dinner they had a rehearsal kegger.
Speaking of the consumption of alcoholic beverages, this dog walks into a bar accompanied by a human.
“Hey, Buddy,” sez the barkeep, “You can’t bring a dog in here!”
“It’s OK,” says the dog man. “He just plays the piano.”
“Huh,” sez the dispenser of alcoholic beverages, “If he can play the piano I will stand a round on the house. Maybe two if he’s good.”
“Oh, he’s very good,” sez the dog man as the dog jumped up on the piano stool.
So the dog starts off with a little jazz, segued into some Bach, played some classical, add a little barrelhouse, and everybody in the bar was standing there with their mouth open.
Suddenly a larger dog runs through the door, grabs the piano playing dog by the nape of the neck and runs out carrying it.
“What the hey, what’s that all about,” asks the barkeep.
“Oh, the big dog’s his mother. She wants him to be a doctor,” the dog man replied.
Speaking of smart animals reminds me of several stories that will not do for La Casa. Most of them are like the story that went around the rodeo grounds about the time Tom Dewey was running for president. Seems the Lone Ranger had been captured by Indians.
Out of respect for Tonto the Indians were going to hold the Lone Ranger for three days before they burned him at the stake. In the meantime, he could have anything he wanted.
But all the Lone Ranger wanted was his horse. The Ranger was led out of the lodge where he was kept under guard, and Silver was brought in from the horse herd. LR whipered something in Silver’s ear, slapped him on the rump, and was led back into the lodge.
After an hour or so, Indians didn’t carry watches, Silver returns with a drop dead gorgeous blonde gal, who promptly scurries into the lodge. And the Lone Ranger’s guards retire so the doomed man can have a little privacy, shaking their heads over the strange ways of a white man about to die.
The next day much the same thing happens. The Lone Ranger whispers in Silver’s ear, slaps him on the rump, and after some time Silver returns bearing a beautiful redhead. And the guards again retire, shaking their head at this crazy white man.
The third day the Lone Ranger is awakened at dawn, told the Ranger Roast will be at dusk, and asked if he has a final request. So LR asks for his horse. This time the Lone Ranger pulls Silver’s ear straight out and shouts in it. “You got one more chance to get it right. I said POSSE, P-O-S-S-E. ”
Now, read that again. There’s not one word there that is in any way out of the way. If your mind is pure, but nobody’s mind is that pure.
But back in those days we had a lot of suggestive jokes. We had SUGGESTIVE music, too. Phil Harris is probably best known for “That’s What I Like About the South,” but his recording of “A Persian Kitty” (Perfumed and Fair) was banned from the radio. Made a hit in the record store, though! When we had record stores.
Harris is the guy who put some different words to an old song called “The Ship Chandlers Wife,” and made a number 1 hit with something called “The Thing.” I was surprised the FCC allowed “The Thing” to air.
The Weavers took an old sailors song called “The Fireship,” cleaned it up, and made the Hit Parade. Remember “A Rovin’, A Rovin’, Since Rovin’s Been my ru-EYE-in, I’ll go no More a-Rovin’ with you, Fair Maid?” That was the original chorus but it was not the chorus to a nursery song, not by no means. But it sure got us humming, and if anybody was offended they sure didn’t register their objections!
The words to “Bell Bottom Trousers” Bing Crosby sang on the radio were a pale echo of the explicitly funny version I used to hear out in the tack room. The tack room version detailed why sailors pants have buttons on both sides, too! Them lucky swabbies, is all I can say here!
“Bless ‘Em All, The Long and the Short and the Tall,” didn’t originally refer to anything like a blessing. Bussing, or maybe osculation, if you are prissy about what you call it, but sure not blessing!!
A song about an island called Tulagi made the hit parade, too – but the original GI words would have burnt the label off the record. The boys that wrote that epic didn’t think much of McArthur, and I can’t say they didn’t have a legitimate gripe. The guys that cleaned it up had their work cut out for them.
You weren’t supposed to say anything to a woman or child, or in earshot of a woman or child, you wouldn’t say to your preacher -but I remember many a day digging postholes when verses like “I wish I was a diamond, upon my Lulu’s hand,” and Rudyard Kipling’s “The bards they sing of an English King/who lived many long years ago” made long hot tiresome days a whole lot shorter, and the blisters I was wearing on my blisters a heap easier to bear.
And I have heard more than several versions of Frankie and Johnny sung – and I can’t say here what Johnnie was doing to “Nellie Fly” but “He was her man, alright, but he was doing her wrong,” and it upset Frankie mightily in all the versions – and “Frankie and Johnnie,” and songs like it sure helped make a bunch of hot and miserable days unloading cars of fertilizer, roofing tin, and sheet rock a whole lot shorter.
No – you weren’t supposed to say anything around or to a woman or a child that you wouldn’t say to your preacher – and in my book you still aren’t – but out in the fields, in the warehouses and box cars, anywhere men worked with men a song would make the day go faster and keep ruffled tempers soothed. That was, if not good, surely not bad.
It wasn’t like it is today. The doggone radio is full of junk I consider “stag only.” Or worse. Junk that’s a whole lot worse than anything I ever heard as a kid. Mean, bad stuff. Back when I was a kid I only heard one naughty song sung in public, one time, and that’s when those mean Cooter Twins put the hooks to Mullendore’s wife. They put a burr under her saddle, and did she buck!
THE Mullendores were and are big shots in Oklahoma, but the Banker was no kin to The Mullendores. The Banker and his squaw just revelled in the name.
The Banker’s wife, I cannot for the life of me remember her given name, was one of these women that were just so, so, so snooty. I understand she was waiting tables and dancing for nickels in a Kansas City dive when Mullendore found her – and what Mullendore found was the not-very-attractive daughter of a “‘hoppered out” Kansas farmer who was doing the best she could to survive.
He was nothing special, either, just a conscript plowboy with some rich but distant relatives, “seeing the world on a 48 hour pass.” When the preacher said “Do you take this woman,” Mullendore still had 36 hours left on the pass!
He was a hick from the sticks when he married her, but after he went back to camp they rose in the world plenty. After the ‘flu epidemic wiped out Mullendore’s family and the inheritance came through, she acted and dressed like the creme de la creme. Even though most folks thought she was still buttermilk.
It’s a good thing the County has a dry climate ’cause she would have drowned, sure, she kept her nose stuck so high in the air. She had a lot of nose to stick, too. ‘Fact, she had a pretty good lot of everything, and she kept all of it covered up with the latest London and Paris fashions, too. Large sizes.
She dressed like a society Dame showing off a new drawing room for Better Homes and Gardens while garbed in a new Paree coordinated outfit. When that hefty woman would go prancin’ off down the main drag in her imported gaberdine slacks, she reminded you of two pigs in a gunny sack! She was sure a sight.
She was one of the four worst drivers I ever saw. My Dad called her a dizzy squaw, and that was a name he reserved for the worst of the worst. Dad said she couldn’t drive a car, she needed to put a rope on it and lead it. Either that, or mount a surveyors transit over the steering wheel so she could keep in a straight line.
It wasn’t so much she didn’t want to give you half of the road, but she thought her part was the center cut. She drove straddling the stripe. She drove like she had a clear title to the road in her glove compartment.
You were sure welcome to take the ditch when you met her because she didn’t have no “git over and give you room” to her. Dad would try to turn off whenever he saw her coming. Her or her car, the one my Dad called “Rain in the Face.”
She drove a ’48 Pontiac, huge car, pond-scum green – with a big chrome stripe right up the hood and down the trunk, and a chrome Indian hood ornament. The Indian on the Buffalo nickel was the model for that Indian style hood purty.
That bus had plenty shiny, I am here to tell you. Driving east in the morning or west in the evening was a pain in the eyeballs in that chromium striped carretta.
That Pontiac was mostly a “no” car. No air conditioning, no radio, no power steering, three-on-the-column shift, a clutch that would give you a left leg like Charles Atlas’, and a no-power straight eight that wouldn’t pull the hat off a bald head ‘less’n the head was greased!
It had about a half acre of mousefuzz upholstery to keep clean, and, oh, yes. It had high fashion black rubber floor mats, and a place for a clock. And it took at least forty acres to turn it around, too.
Anyhow, this one morning, hot morning, July, Mrs. Mullendore was driving into town and she got between two stock trucks. The lead truck made a left, she made a left, and just as the trailing truck started to make a left the parade leader came to a halt. Train on the tracks. Rock Island freight. Parked. Blocked for the Santa Fe at a level crossing.
The trailing truck trapped a car and a gas truck, and there the bankers wife was, stuck. Rain in the Face was parked in! Nobody could go, no way.
The Tin Indian couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back, couldn’t get in the left lane, she was stuck tight as a one inch cork in a half inch bottle neck. That’s tight!
Just as she realized she was going to be there a while, those mean Cooter Twins came strolling out of the hardware store, grinning like two fools. They had been off to the wars and “seen the elephant and heard the owl.” They must have been 25 or 26 – but they still looked maybe eighteen or twenty. And acted fifteen.
Now, I don’t know what made them do it, particularly in public, except maybe because the Cooters didn’t like the Banker, none, and nobody liked Mrs. Banker noneatall nohow. I don’t know which one did what because They were the only ones who knew which one was which. Besides, after it started I was laughing my fool head off as the Mullendore plague turned beet red.
Anyway, one took a position by the passengers door, and the other stood just behind the drivers door. They started the entertainment by serenading Mrs. Mullendore with one of those “dirty” songs that don’t have the first dirty word in it. Loud!
“There was an old man, sitting on a rock,” sang the one on the right, slow.
The drivers side Twin caroled the second line, right in Mrs. Mullendore’s ear, in perfect harmony.
The passenger side Cooter gave a two beat hesitation to pick up the unsung rhyme and warbled the third line, “Agates and marbles in springtime of yore.”
By the time they got that far they had attracted a considerable crowd. You didn’t get a free concert every day, and most folks within earshot were taking advantage of the opportunity! Which, earshot took in a pretty good area!
Now, if you know that song, or if you don’t, there is not one single solitary dirty word in it. None. The closest comes at the end, where it goes – “If you think this song is Bull – It is!”
It sure is, and if your mind is clean and your heart is pure you won’t hear a thing but nonsense. But 99 out of 100 English speaking adults think that’s one of the dirtiest songs ever heard.
Including Mrs. Banker Mullendore. As it turned out it was a sure bet she had heard that song before! She sat like she’d been poleaxed for the first lines. “While over in the bushes they watched a” was as far as they got on the fourth line, when she came out of Rain in the Face like Carrie Nation charging a saloon. She lit into those boys every way from Sunday.
She used words that would make a muleskinner blush, and a two mule team pull a ten ton load out of Honey Island Swamp! ‘Fact, most of the profanity I know I learned from Mrs. Mullendore that hot July morning.
Now, you talk about a plumb ree-diculous sight – here’s this plumb hefty woman dressed fit to be the widow at a presidential funeral, cussin’ two ragged hayseed farm boys and using language that is barred from TV till yet!
It was probably a lucky thing she didn’t have a hatchet or she would probably have scalped both of them and killed the hardware man for harboring them. If smoke could come out of her ears, she would have been smoking, I guarantee.
About the third or fourth word men started escorting their women folks inside. Women started covering childrens ears and marching them away. Men without womenfolks or children to protect listened, plumb fascinated, admiring a master cusser plying her trade.
Willie Pickle had been a muleskinner and a buffalo hunter both and he said later he’d never in all his ninety year heered a better example of plain and fancy cussin’. ‘Fact, Mr. Willie said if he had been a little younger he would have been temp’d to try that woman at driving a forty mule jerkline. If profanity makes mules pull she would have been good at it.
Those Cooter boys just stood there grinning like bears eating honey, bees and all! Finally, the train moved and the truck that was parked cattywampus in the road started blowing his horn. Mrs. Mullendore got back in the Tin Indian and just as she started pulling away one of the boys got the last word.
“M’am, we ain’t said nawthin’ out of the way. But you sure did,” he shouted after her. And he was right.
The Sheriff and Judge Ross both told the Banker that you can’t prosecute somebody for what’s in your mind – but the penalty for cussin’ in public was six months. The Mullendores caught a East bound Connie out of Okie City the next day. They took an “Extended European Tour,” while the racket died down.
What about the Twins? Well – Big Peters and Judge Ross took a little trip out to the Cooter place but I suspect Ma Bell had already brought the word. The Twins had already decided it was a good time to light out looking for a job in the oil patch. In Texas! I reckon they did well at it, at least as far as I know.
That’s the one and only time I ever heard anything like that in public. I heard plenty of it around the tack room, the implement sheds, anywhere men had time to kill, or where men worked and a steady rhythm would make the work go faster. Nowadays you can hear a lot dirtier stuff than anything I ever heard, just about anywhere. Just flip on the radio.
‘Course, nowadays anything goes, and they don’t hint around at things. They just tell you straight out to go out and kill cops and such. Maybe that’s why “Ida Red” and “Hot Rod Lincoln” are so popular again. And why I would like the FCC to pull the license of every broadcaster who transmits filthy lyrics or explicit interpersonal violence. Let me get off the soapbox.
Anyhow – I started to talk about something else entirely. I think! I was going to rattle on about this modern age – and I surprised myself.
I understand Harvard University is offering a new course. Stair climbing -because so many college students were raised in ranch style houses.
Seriously, have you seen this modern furniture they want us to use? I have spent quite a bit of time lately making work arounds – and I was talking to a manufacturers rep up in New City, New York, today. His company just moved him to a new office, and hired an outfit to “decorate” the place. Barry was really glad of the move, he’s a lot closer to his job, but ever since the move he’s been miserable. He’s been just sooo tired, sooo achy, sooo dragged out!
He told me today he figured out the problem. They decorated his office in this fancy ultra-modern stuff, and he’s been sitting in the wastebasket!
Anyway, we were talking about splitting a booth at a trade show in Hotlanta next September. We rent three booths and each of us gets a booth and a half.
Barry tells me the Sheraton hotel next to the trade center had a ministerial group and a sales reps convention a few weeks ago. The two groups contracted with the same caterer for meals. That meant the caterer had to work frantically to serve dinner to both groups. Now – the preachers were supposed to get some kind of a collation built around angel food cake and strawberries.
The salesmen were getting “Spiked Watermelon” for dessert. Suddenly the head cook discovered the watermelon had been served to the preachers by mistake.
“Quick,” he ordered a waiter. “If they haven’t eaten the watermelon, bring it back and we’ll give it to the salesmen.”
The waiter left and came back in a minute. “It’s too late,” he said. “They have already eaten all the watermelon.”
“Well, did they like it? What did they say about it?” demanded the Chef.
“I dunno if they liked it or not, but they were dividing up the seeds and putting them in their pockets.”
A bit of dance music from Eire: with the exuberant Deirdra Kiely:
And by the way, Céilí is pronounced Kayley, as closely as American English will allow.
It is no secret that my sympathy lies with the poor swod who has just been sideswiped by life. The family of the the guy who was walking along a Key West street, going along dumb, fat, and happy, and got squashed flat by a falling submarine gets my sympathy. Sometimes it seems there just ain’t no sense in what happens to folks.
Now, some folks are easy to talk about, and some are hard. Shorty Breck is one of the hard ones. For one thing, he was about as serious as a hellfire and brimstone preacher low rating a cat house. For another, he only scaled 16 hands -five foot four – and he weighed over 200. He wasn’t fat, he was solid. Built like a mortar shell, the same size all the way up until he came to a point. He had one of these primitive hairdos, too. Just a little moss around the edges.
Shorty never showed more emotion than a barber pole, except every once in a long while some particularly outrageous stroke of misfortune would set him off. Serious, serious, serious, that was Shorty.
And you talk about tight! Shorty squeezed every nickel until the buffalo hollered. And if he was close with his coin on everyday needs he was double tight when he was considering spending a dime or two on recreation!
Yessir, Shorty was one of these bleeding optimists that figured if a five dollar level wind Pfleuger reel was good, a one dollar “no name” without a level wind would do just as well. So Shorty spent most of his fishing time unsnarling backlashes! Zebco has all but eliminated backlashes, so I guess I better explain just what a backlash is.
Take a bait casting reel – one with the spool set sideways and supported on both ends. In theory you control the thing with your thumb. If you catch something, your thumb on the spool is the drag. The harder you squeeze the more drag, and the harder the pull on the line. But if you flip a bait out and apply too much thumb your bait stops in midair and goes SPLOT!, scaring all the fish in the bay. That ain’t generally considered cool.
And if you don’t apply enough thumb the spool keeps on revolving, it spits out most of the line on the spool, and you get a big birds nest of snarled line just forward of your reel. And it takes a half an hour to pick that backlash apart and rewind your line. While you are untangling the mess and reviewing your profane vocabulary one word at a time the turtles eat your bait. Which is why spin casting reels are so popular.
Now, Shorty having this serious aversion to spending money on a HOBBY meant his tackle box was always full of junk. I remember the first day of December in ’40 we left Naples, Florida, in a 19 foot Vee bottom inboard called the Shannon -out after five pound jacks, amberjack, that just loved to tear up your tackle. “We” were my dad, Art Larsen, Shorty, a local man named Grey, and the kid.
Me! And I wasn’t just along for the ride, either. Every time we ran out of bait they would pull up somewhere and I’d run and fill the bait bucket with fiddler crabs. I don’t think there was a fish down there that wasn’t daffy for fiddler crabs – every beach was working alive with those things, and we still couldn’t keep enough bait. Besides that, I got to lay on the front deck and watch the dolphins ride the bow wave. And a few more things, too. Like catch fish!
We were inside the barrier islands, trying to keep out of the Gulf’s waves, and Shorty was trolling. He was using a Drone Spoon on a little fresh water bass rig he’d bought for two bux in a five and dime. Shorty had taken the six pound test braided line off and put 40 pound on, though. The fish in that part of the Gulf are stout.
All at once Shorty gave a hair raising howl and we knew he’d hooked something. In just a few seconds a tarpon about five foot long broke water, tail walked maybe fifteen feet, and flang Shorty’s Drone Spoon back at us.
Shorty gave a screech like a lost soul and tried to dive in after that fish! It was all my dad and Art Larsen could do to keep him from it! It seemed to take forever to calm Shorty down, but they finally got him to let us go on. And after a while he threw his spoon back out, trolling again.
About 11:00 we pulled up at a little dock, and fried some of our catch for lunch. Grey started talking about the Gar Wood style speed hulls the rich kids liked to race up and down the channel. They were lovely boats, all mahogany and horsepower, but the nuts holding the steering wheel were a menace.
The worst was a jugheaded kid who had a beautiful thirty three foot two seater with a supercharged engine and open exhaust pipes. He loved to drive that thing, almost as much as he liked making whoopie with all the little waitresses and cigarette girls he picked up in the Palm Beach night clubs.
He usually had one of those pretty young things in the mechanic’s seat when he took the boat out. Rumor said he’d take the girl for a “picnic” fifty or sixty miles down the coast, where his family had a camp. And Dame Rumor had it that the local fishermen had picked up girls “walking home” after refusing the young Lothario’s advances. Letting a girl walk and swim up to sixty miles of mosquito infested islands and alligator infested mangrove swamp ain’t nice, not none!
And all the time he was squiring a gal he was strictly “puttin’ on the agony, puttin’ on the style,” big time! He drove his Auburn speedster like a bat out of hell, the same way he drove that boat. He wore the latest clothes – and when there was a girl staying at the mansion there was at least one flower delivery a day. He seemed to think that scaring the liver out of his latest conquest and everyone on the water was sure enough smart, too.
I liked to stand on shore a safe distance from the beach and watch that palm tree high roostertail come roaring up the channel at seventy five miles an hour. Women’s cloche hats were in just going out of style then, and you could see his passenger scrooched down trying to keep her hat on and her dress down. Most of the girls needed two hands for either job and failed at both!
Now, that big racer’s wake would swamp a small boat in one pass – just turn it plumb over – and that boy got his jollies watching old couples swimming to shore and cussing him.
Not that it did any good to cuss him – “Bread rules, and he who has the bread makes the rules,” you know. His family had plenty bread, so the rabble better get alee when that big boat came snarling up the channel with the throttle wide open.
Every fall the poor subsistence fishers had to learn all over again that a roar in the distance meant put dirt under your keel. There were at least two times Grey had to put the Shannon out to rescue someone, too. The wake wouldn’t have sunk the Shannon, too much freeboard and decking for that – but nobody enjoys a cold saltwater bath at the hands of a certified idiot, either. So we chose discretion rather than valor and headed for home. And Shorty decided to pass the time trolling his way back to the dock.
We got to a pretty good sized pass and we had just cleared a point when Shorty howled again. This time he had about six foot of fighting snook on – and that snook was trying his best to stay airborne. After the fish sunned his belly maybe four times he started to run. And Shorty’s reel started to get empty! So Shorty set down on that spool just as hard as he dared.
All he did was blister both his thumbs! He didn’t even slow that robalo down, not none. And when the line ran out his cheap pot metal rod broke just behind the reel seat.
Natural, the rod and the reel took off for parts deep and unreachable, while Shorty sat there stunned for a second. Then he came alive!
And we weren’t quite quick enough that time! Shorty came up about thirty feet from the boat, stroking for Mexico! Wasn’t no fish going to take his rod and get away with it. He was going to swim that fish down and get his tackle back! Grey idled along behind him until he got tired and calmed down before we hauled him back in.
Now, Shorty wasn’t about to pay Florida prices for a decent rig, and he was plumb out of fishing tackle. So he figures he’s going to try bridge fishing.
Bridge fishing consisted of going out on an old abandoned bridge after sundown, and working a lure in a figure 8 pattern until something tried to swallow it. Most of the time you’d get some good fish – but sometimes you’d tie into a big old ray or a three to four hundred pound hammerhead shark or maybe a five or six hundred pound grouper, or something else way too big to land.
Shorty was close with his coin, but he wanted to haul in a fish as big as the two that got away. So the morning after the trolling debacle, Shorty gets a twelve foot piece of closet rod, two inch wooden dowel. He cuts two feet of it off and whittles that to look like a giant Heddon Pikie Minnow. He puts a screw eye at the front and six pair of 10/0 treble hooks on the body. Big hooks!
He threads 50 feet of 500 pound test piano wire leader through all those hooks and out the screweye, and winds the excess tight on the end of his “pole.” Then he takes a fifty foot piece of 3/8ths hemp rope and ties it to a loop in the end of his leader. He wraps this line down his pole and lashes the free end to the bridge railing for a safety line. In case he hooks Moby Dick it won’t get away, you know.
About sundown my dad and I walked down to where Shorty has that “pig minnow” cutting a phosphorescent 10 foot figure 8 in the water. He’d just about figured out that he’d overdone things when there was a sound like somebody threw an anvil off the bridge. SWOOSH GLUB SHLOP – something swallowed his bait whole. And Shorty gave out a war whoop and set the hooks!
Whatever Shorty had hooked shifted to overdrive and took off for Cuba at a high rate of speed. His pole was snatched out of his hands and Shorty got a nice rope burn from his safety line. When it got to the end of Shorty’s safety rope, there was a loud TWONGG, and that 500 pound test wire line broke! Then the “pole” came back and whopped Shorty in the kisser! Talk about a mad Kraut.
And that was the last time I ever knew Shorty Breck to go fishing. I can’t really blame him much, having all that happen to him in just two days.
Yep, ol’ Shorty had a German accent a yard wide, but he lost it the next December. The Japs hit Pearl, the U.S. declared war on the Axis, and Shorty took his long forgotten ME degree to Westinghouse and got a job designing gun turret motors. On condition he lose the accent.
He lost most of it, anyway. And on VJ day Dr. Conrad Breck was a plant manager, had a whole yard full of those “E” for excellence flags flying, and he was on his way up in the Company. Shorty had him a new wife, too. He got hitched to a corn fed Iowa gal, size 8 gal in a size 7 dress, if you get my drift. Blonde and cute, too, if you like gals that look like that.
Most every time I see a Hummel figurine it remind me of Shorty’s squaw. Shorty couldn’t bear to be parted from those pink cheeks, blonde pigtails, and freckles! That’s why he wouldn’t go back to Germany when the company wanted him to Marshal Plan it. But he still didn’t do no fishing. “Nien, Ace, danke nien, nien,” is all he would tell me when I passed him an invite.
Speaking of fishing, I heard one of Louisiana’s elected
officials went on an elk hunting trip out in Wyoming’s Wind River country last fall. Spent two weeks out there, out of reach of the telephone. And when he got home his wife asked him how his trip went.
“Oh, we had a fine trip,” he says. “Hunted every day. Hunted hard, too, but everything we saw was either too small or too far away. But we had a fine trip.
And Hon, you did a great job of packing. I had every little thing I needed. Except for my shorts. You forgot to pack me any shorts and I had to wear the same pair for two weeks.”
“Why, dear, I don’t understand that!,” the wife exclaims. “I was a little short of space, so I wrapped your shorts around your rifle and packed them in your gun case where you would be sure to find them.”
And speaking of hunting, of sorts, the paper says that some fellow went in a big tropical fish store in Chicago and asked the clerk if he could buy a live shark.
“About a three footer will do,” the dude says.
“Why do you want a shark that big?,” asks the clerk.
“Well, my neighbors cat’s been eating my guppies and I want to teach him a lesson.”
The GAR reunions I remember as a boy often featured this tune, but i never appreciated its basic truth until – where is not important. Enjoy