I see by the news that one of the internet dating sites deliberately mismatched love seekers to “see what would happen.” Which reminds me of Collie Talbot, and his very public romance.
Everything has a start, and Collie’s romance started with the weekend ‘Ol Hardman and Collie Talbot went down to that new place on the Red River, Lake Texoma, and came back with about twice as many black bass as they could justify keeping. So ‘Ol took about half his fish over to Brother Cook’s house.
Mrs. Cook was glad to see them, but ‘Ol Hardman had a little confession to make before he left. “Brother Cook, before I leave here let me tell you that we didn’t get to fish none on Saturday so all these fish were caught on Sunday.”
“Mr. Hardman, I sure thank you for thinking of us. Now, my first thought about these Sunday caught fish is to give them back to you. But my second thought tells me that the Lord knows and you know and I know… these fish were not to blame.”
Mrs. Cook was a little short lady, pear shaped, built on a dumpling pattern, if you know what I mean. Like a lot of us, she was living beyond her seams. She hated four letter words, and the one she hated most was diet.
She had great faith in Brother Cook. One time Brother Cook brought home some pictures from a retreat he took, and Mrs Cook dutifully stuck the film in a mailer and sent them off to Kodak. Those were in the days before the Supreme Court busted Kodak’s monopoly on developing color pictures.
Anyhow, a couple of surprising, downright startling, slides showed up and got run through the projector to the family and a bunch of guests. You could say they embarrassed everybody there, although several of the men present would have liked a closer look.
Most wives would have flew off the handle more’n some, but Mrs. Cook sent the offending slides back to Rochester with a note saying that someone might be looking for their pictures but they sure didn’t belong to an Oklahoma Baptist preacher.
Anyhow, when Mrs. Cook – if I remember right her front name was Elaine but I am not sure – first moved to town she taught Sunday School. One day she asked the class if they knew where boys and girls go who neck and spoon?
“Yes’m, Miz Cook,” Lizzie Cooter spoke up. “Down behind the depot on that vacant lot on Railroad Street.”
Mrs. Cook was from back east somewhere, around McAlister, I think. Mrs. Cook’s youngest sister Tina was between jobs for a week, so she came to visit. And you would never have though those two women had the same mama by looking at them.
Where the preachers wife was a scant five foot tall, the sister was well over six foot. Big Peters and a few of the other men in town could look her in the eye but none of the women could.
Her name was Tina, Tina Small, and her name was like Robin Hood’s Little John. The name she wore sure didn’t fit her. Not none! For one thing, Tina believed in that old saying, “never eat more than you can lift.” But she could lift a hay fork.
First thing you noticed about her was size. If sizes ran small, medium, and large, that woman would have rated like the label on the whisky jug. XXXXX! She outweighed a hay wagon, and she went high, wide, and handsome.
The next thing you noticed was her tongue. Mrs. Cook was the quiet type but Tina’s clatterbone hinged in the middle and flapped on both ends, for sure. That gal could talk a mile a minute in English and Mex both, at the same time. And sing, wheeeyew, she had a voice.
She had a voice that put Kate Smith in the shade. She didn’t need a PA system, not none. That gal would get wound up in the Boardman Hymnbook and shake the church walls, for sure. Plumb drown out the choir!
Tina was a grabber, and a man didn’t want to get too close, because she had a bad habit of getting tickled by anything a man said to her and grabbing said man and hugging him. I heard that was about like getting wrapped in feather pillows and being hugged by a grizzly bear! You didn’t get bruised but you sure needed a big shot of oxygen when she let you go!
Actually, she was on the lookout for a name change. They say there is someone for everyone, and she suited Collie Talbot right down to the ground she shook every step she took. You talk about love at first sight!
Tina arrived on the Thursday morning before Easter, Mrs. Cook took her to her regular Thursday dinner at the Jackpot, Collie saw Tina, and Cupid must have been hiding behind one of the cigarette signs because I never saw anybody fall that hard that fast.
Good Friday morning Collie showed up at the parsonage and put about a bushel of spring flowers into Tina’s hand. Made her sneeze so hard she ‘most blew the porch off the parsonage, she did.
Now, Collie was sort of a spectacle of nature himself. If he had slimmed down he would have made a good three hundred pound tackle, but a couple of hundred pounds of extra lard slowed his footwork too much. You can’t tackle ’em if you can’t catch ’em.
Besides, Collie was about the most good natured fellow I believe I ever knew. I saw Collie mad once, when LeRoy LaRue stopped him for speeding on his Servicycle, and I saw him mad once when a threshing hand emptied a five gallon can of grease over his head.
Collie wiped the grease off of his head and out of his eyes and uttered the most comprehensive curse I ever heard.
“I hope you get all your teeth knocked out but one, and I hope you get the most gawdawful toothache a man ever suffered in that one.” Ugh! What a thought!
Thinking about him, I believe Collie was the first hippie I ever knew. Collie was bound to have known how he looked on that motorized bicycle of his, with his polo shirt and overalls flapping, and his bare feet waving in the breeze. He didn’t care!
Until Miss Tina showed up in town – all neat and starched in nurses whites, with her big round face and pink cheeks, and a laugh that scared crows out of a cornfield a quarter mile away.
When Collie showed up at the parsonage he was dressed to kill, for Collie. A clean polo shirt, fresh shined Wellington boots, and the first time I had ever seen Collie in jeans. He looked pretty good, comparatively speaking. And he was driving his Dad’s one ton truck instead of that Servicycle, too! It listed to the left a bunch but Collie drove it!
Mrs. Cook called Tina out on the porch, and after the sneezing stopped Tina started talking. I have no idea what she talked about, but Collie never said a word. He must have liked what he heard, though, ’cause he was back at breakfast the next morning.
Now, think about this a minute. Between them they weighed at least 900 pounds. There was a porch swing, and it did well with two or three normal size folks, but it wouldn’t have begun to hold up either Collie or Miss Tina.
So you could count on Collie and Tina holding the concrete porch steps down every day from 8 in the Ayem to 9 at night, ‘cept a couple of short breaks while they took nourishment.
Now, you couldn’t hear what Collie said, but you could hear what Miss Tina said two blocks away without listening. It wasn’t hard to fill in the blanks. I was at Quint’s, getting one of my perpetual flats fixed when the really big event occurred.
The second day Collie roosted on the parsonage steps he proposed to change Miss Tina Small to Mrs. Tina Talbot. We heard Miss Tina give him a reality check, prontito! She started with about six or eight words in the Espanol that made Pedro Esparza grin, and finished the thought in Anglo.
“Collie,” she says, “what would we live on? You know we would only have my salary, and I don’t make enough for both of us.”
We didn’t hear Collie but we heard Miss Tina clear enough.
“You’re right about something turning up, and when it does turn up how in the world would we ever feed it?”
Well, Miss Tina stayed in town a week, and she got further than the Church that one time Mrs. Cook took her to the Jackpot. She went to Amarillo, and Collie mailed her a letter every day.
If he didn’t get a letter he’d get two the next day, so we figured Collie and Tina were still a thing. The second Saturday after Tina left the bus came to town listing to one side. It straightened right up when Miss Tina got off, though.
Collie met her driving a ’38 Hupmobile he’d swapped his Servicycle off for, and carries her to the parsonage. That Hupp was about the worst overloaded passenger car I ever saw. The frame was settin’ on the axles on all four corners.
Tina and Collie spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning on the steps and in Church, and after Services Brother Cook drove her to Elk City to catch her bus. This got to be a regular thing, every other weekend. Brother Cook even let Collie take Miss Tina to the bus a time or two that summer, though that wasn’t quite decent.
Now, love is like whisky. It affects people in different ways, and it’s hard to figure before hand how anybody will act under the influence. Plowing with a span of mules and farming a quarter section didn’t seem half as attractive to Collie as it had been, though.
So Collie sends off for a whole self help encyclopedia and sets out to learn all he had missed in school. When Collie wasn’t working or sparking he was memorizing those books. And instead of doing the farm work, he started working two and sometimes three jobs, too.
He worked those jobs like a man fighting fire. BT, before Tina, Collie would load a half a load of hay and take a long rest. So people who needed work done would go out of their way to avoid Collie. That summer he started loading a hay truck as fast as he could and when that truck was loaded he’d call for another one. And get aggravated if there wasn’t another truck to load!
At the same time, Collie seemed to lose his appetite, instead of chomping down six or eight at a setting, he’d only eat one of Beatrice’s hamburgers and one slice of cherry pie down at the Stockyard Cafe. And he would do it on the run, too!
By Labor Day Collie had lost well over a hundred pounds. He looked almost like Charles Atlas and talked almost like a well educated man. Folks that had work to do started looking Collie up, ‘stead of sliding around the corner to keep from lying about not having any work to do.
The day work Collie liked best was still carpentering, though. He said if wood butcherin’ was good enough for Jesus it was sure good enough for a Talbot. He was good at it, and he was fast at it, and folks started paying him to put up barns and such.
Labor Day weekend Collie disappeared and Tina stopped coming. You didn’t ask no nosy questions, not if you wanted folks to speak to you, and the Cooks and Talbots didn’t volunteer information, so the Collie question stood unanswered.
About a year after I left that part of the world I met Collie and Tina walking down the street in Bartlesville pushing a baby carriage. They didn’t weigh an ounce over five and a half between them, either. They were plumb skinny and looking mighty content.
I reckon they were making it right well, but Tina had her clatterbone running, so I couldn’t make out what Collie was saying. I think he said he was a construction foreman for Phillips 66, but I will never be sure. He looked mighty well satisfied, though.