Well, there’s some sort of Robert Burns festival on the radio and it’s right interesting. No, they aren’t playing “My Jo, John,” not by any sort of means. What they are playing starts “My girl she’s airy, she’s buxom and gay/ her breath’s as fragrant as blossoms in May.”
What follows that just goes to prove that while a lot of folks will flat deny it, great great granny got around too. And judging from the number of fourth, fifth, and sixth cousins some high toned ancestor hunters I know claim, she must have enjoyed the trip.
But I never thought I’d live to hear “Muirland Meg” on the radio. Out in the tack room, yes. Or in Murphy’s bar in the Pass. But not on the radio. I am limited in what I can say about Maggie, except she got around. Round heels, mostly. It scandalizes folks that “Scotland’s greatest muse” wrote about such trifles, and it sure would scandalize folks if that were broadcast over here.
Particularly those folks belonging to the fun killin’ members of the Blue Stocking Society. Funny about that. I have actually known a couple of genuine “blue stockings.” Terrible folks. The kind that would hang drapes over “September Morn,” and take baths like soap was rationed, one cake of soap per lifetime. Their minds and bodies are both dirty.
Old Lady Dennis was like that. She was always going on about “improper thoughts.” I think she gothold of one of those “What Every Young Girl Should Know” tracts when she was small and never got over it. I read those tracts once and I never thought the advice was healthy. Most healthy folks aren’t bothered with improper thoughts. They enjoy them, and sometimes share them.
Old Lady Dennis called Brother Cook to come pray for her son one time, when he got the measles. Brother Cook knew the whole bunch of them were sprinklers, Methodists, so he asked Old Lady Dennis why she didn’t call the Methodist preachers instead.
“Oh, we couldn’t do that. Jimmy is real contagious and we love our preacher.” That was Old Lady Dennis.
She was not typical of Methodists, but Old Lady Dennis was a notoriously strong Methodist. Somebody asked her one time if Jesus came before her and she asked Him if He was a Methodist, and He said He wasn’t a Methodist what would she say.
“Nothing,” sez Old Lady Dennis, “because I’d know it wasn’t Jesus.”
Now, that Dennis blight was married to a lease hound. One of the kind of traveling men who would stay away from home for weeks on end, hard drinking, and he had bad reputation for fooling around with the women.
Especially plying the cuckoo bird with other men’s wives. The old saying goes that a man who fishes in another man’s pond may catch crabs. Charlie Dennis’ fishing usually resulted in him catching hell and an occasional bird shot – from all sides.
I’m not really criticizing Charlie. There’s an old saying that some kids fall in love two or three times a week, and we figured Charlie was in his second childhood.
When Jimmy got sick Charlie Dennis decided it was time to reform, so he volunteers to be baptized. Going to join the church, make a bunch of promises he wouldn’t keep, get sprinkled, and be a good man thereafter until the hereafter. To make a long story short, he was standing up in church, answering all the usual questions, when Otto Myers stands up and interrupts the proceedings.
“Preacher,” sez Otto, “I have known this Charlie Dennis, man and boy, for over fifty year. Jest sprinkling Charlie Dennis ain’t going to go. You are going to have to anchor him out in deep water overnight before it will stick.”
That Dennis bunch lived on a ranch out Sentinel way, not far from the Ott place. Thinking about the Otts and Dennis’s reminds me of the time Bill Cooter was riding a horse from Altus to Sentinel. He started late, and Bill said it was so dark that night he couldn’t find his nose with both hands.
Along about eleven Bill saw a light in house, way out in the country. Bill rode up, and of course the rancher, Tom Ott was his name, was standing on the porch wondering what anybody was doing riding up at that time o’ night. Didn’t take Bill long to ‘splain himself, so Ott offered him a bed for the night and feed and water for his horse. ‘Bout fifteen minutes later Bill was sound asleep.
Tom was going to load a bunch of feeder cattle to take to the Amarillo sale, so Bill was kinda surprised when he was called to breakfast at 2:30 AM. “Don’ take long to spend the night ’round this place,” he grumbles.
Mentioning’ Bill Cooter reminds me he was in partners in the combining business with Joe Cloud, until Joe bought him out. Joe was a full blood Ojibwa Indian, and one of the few with no taste at all for the firewater. Anyway, Joe was a heck of a nice guy, Wisconsin Indian who was wounded, sent to Oklahoma to recuperate, and sort of settled down.
While Joe was over there he picked up quite a bit of loot of one kind and another. Leica cameras, field glasses, Luger pistols, and so on. Brought most of it home, too. One spring, just before time to start harvest, Joe and I were shooting’ the breeze on the porch of Trouts Store. Joe was trying out a pair of field glasses he had, looking up the road, when he grunted “tourists coming.”
Joe stepped inside and comes out with an Army blanket they used to cover ice, and a ratty old black hat. Joe wraps himself in this blanket, sticks the hat on his head, and asks me to step back into the store and watch while he sets on the porch and makes a picture for the tourists.\
‘Bout a minute later this Caddy, the first one I ever saw with tailfins, comes to a stop in front of the store, all four doors pop open, and two couples jump out. A young couple and an older couple, and all four of them had little Argus C3 cameras in their hands. They had all four cameras snapping away, aimed at Joe!
Joe waits till they get about ten foot from the porch, then he stands up, drops the blanket, and starts snapping’ back at ’em with a Leica with a lens that looked big as a picture window.
It took those tourists about five seconds flat to clear the property. A couple days later me, Bill Cooter, and Joe had a half dozen belly laughs apiece about the silly expressions on those tourists faces. Frost didn’t see anything funny in running tourists that maybe had money off, but Joe and I pacified him by reminding him most tourists didn’t bring anything but a dirty shirt and a dollar bill and they didn’t change either one there.
Now, Bill Cooter was a brother of the Cooter Twins that I have mentioned before in connection with using an outhouse for a decoy. Bill and the Twins daddy was Lane Cooter. Lane, Junior.
Junior wasn’t fat. They just built him a foot or so short for his weight. Junior had a forehead that ended a half inch over the back of his shirt collar. He allus said they didn’t put marble tops on cheap furniture when they kidded him about it.
Like all the Cooters, Junior would charge Hell with a bucket of water. All sand and a mile deep, all them Cooters. Strict honest Baptists, real religious, and with a sharp sense of humor, too.
One time Junior was called to court to give testimony for the defense on a livestock deal. Harmon County had picked up a truckload of cattle that had been sold on a handshake deal and the buyers didn’t have a receipt.
Ordinarily, that would have been handled with a phone call, but the DA was Joe Herbst, ‘scuse me, Mister Joseph Q. Herbst, a little guy just out of law school. Herbst was the sort who would do just about anything to make a rep, and folks were divided about even up on whether he was so crooked he could sleep on a corkscrew or chew nails and spit corkscrews. There was a faction that thought Herbst could eat nails and… well, nemine.
Juniors testimony made it clear Herbst was on the wrong trail, entire. Herbst breaks out in a sweat and then he says to Junior “Mr. Cooter, are you acquainted with any of the gentlemen on this jury?”
Junior, he looks from one end to the other, slow, then h
says “I reckon I know more’n half of them, yeah”.
Herbst says “Mr. Cooter, are you prepared to swear that you know more than half of the gentlemen of the jury?”
Junior, he looks at that jury up and down, slow, then he drawls, “If it comes to that I’m willin’ to swear that I know more’n all twelve of ’em put together.”
The general opinion after Judge Ross threw the case out was that all asses don’t travel on four feet.
Old Lane, Lane Senior, still lived in the little house he’d built when he first settled in Kiowa County. Old Lane kept a Peacemaker under his shirt in case of trouble, but trouble never bothered to call on Old Lane.
No sir! Old Lane still shot rabbits on the run with that .44-40! The rabbits ate his garden truck and he ate the rabbits. That always seemed fair, ’cause there were lots more rabbits than garden.
Sue Johnson came out to interview him for the paper on his ninety ninth birthday. When she left she told Old Lane she hoped to come back and see him next year, on his hundredth birthday. Old Lane looked her up and down, and said “I don’t see why you don’t. You look healthy enough.”
Sue looked plenty healthy but no more hale and hearty than Lane Senior. That man looked healthy enough for almost anything. And did just about anything the younger men did.
I don’t know how true it was but the story that went around the feed store had it Lane Senior and Junior went to the livestock show in Dallas. Lane Junior went to Bob Wills’ big bar and ballroom in Fort Worth and left his dad in their room. So Senior supposedly calls room service and orders a stick of wood, a violin, and a blonde.
Stunned, the guy on the other end of the phone sez “Man, that’s the strangest order anybody has ever placed with me.”
“Son,” Old Lane is supposed to have said, “Son, when
you get my age you don’t know whether you can whittle, fiddle, or diddle.”
Knowin’ Old Lane, the bets were on the last. Old Lady Mullendore, the bankers wife, had words to say about the morals of the story until Brother Ralph Steele quoted her chapter and verses out of the Bible to shut her up.
She argued with Brother Ralph but that verse about what a loaf would buy and the verse about the person without sin throwing the first rock shet her trap. She’d been a taxi dancer in KayCee when she met Mullendore – and bread was still sellin’ for a dime a loaf at the IGA.
Well, I hope the gal who’s singing now is as pretty as her voice.
“Being pursued by the dragoon/
Within my bed he was laid doon/
And weel I wat he was worth his room/
My dear, my dainty Davie.
I guess that’s one way for a man on the lam to meet a moll!
Anyhoo, Brother Ralph Steele was right learned about the Bible, and about making moonshine whiskey. He said there wasn’t a word in the Bible against making booze, just against overindulging in it. So he didn’t drink what he made. He was a teetaling moonshiner!
One midnight when the Alky Tax men were bad, Brother Ralph went to add a little fuel to the fire under his still. And there was a big rattlesnake coiled up on the ashes under the still.
Ol’ Buzz resented being poked and prodded, so he sank his fangs in Brother Ralph’s shin. Brother Ralph made it to the house and they roused his oldest boy to go to town for the doctor. After a good while, five minutes seems like two hours when you are agitated, Old Doc Plummer came stomping in the house.
Doc was in a state, too, all hot and bothered about getting called out at one in the morning for a snakebite. In Doc’s experience Ralph would either be dead in an hour or he would survive without treatment. So Doc stomps in the house and looks at Ralph. And Ralph looks right back with a big foolish grin on his red face, and a can of grain alcohol in his hand!
“Dammit, man, your’e drunk,” snarls Doc disgustedly. “That stuff will kill you.”
“Well, Hell, Doc” Ralph mumbles, “Rattlesnake bit me, I’m gunna die anyway.”
They are singing “Ye jovial boys who loved the joys” and that reminds me of the time Brother Ralph’s son, Jim, was playing football for the Cowboys. The Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Jim Steele was what you would call a party animal. So he always came to practice with a hangover. And it’s hard to impress a coach when you got a hangover. The only thing Jim showed his coach was that he could drop kick the football. So Jim got to sit on the bench and admire the cheerleaders.
One miserably cold Saturday the Cowboys were down by two field goals. The first string quarterback had gone down. And the second string quarterback had gone down. And then the third string quarterback went down. That left Jim, the backups backups backup. The clock was down to less than two minutes so the coach figured he was going to lose the game by six points, so he took Jim aside and issued his orders.
“Son,” sez the coach, “You haven’t shown me much, and I don’t expect much. So run three off tackle plays and kick the football. Remember, whatever happens, three plays and drop kick the football. You heah?”
The first play, Jim took the snap, tucked the ball under his arm and ran 32 yards, to past midfield. The second play Jim tucked the ball in and ran the ball for 11 yards, to the 37. The third play Jim broke through for 29 yards and was down to the eight with a minute and five seconds to play. And then Jim drop kicked the football.
The coach grabbed Jim around the neck when he came off the field. “Wattenell were you thinking when you kicked that dam football” he screams at Jim.
“I was thinking I had the stupidest dam coach in the world,” sobs Jim.
Thinking of the Steele’s reminds me of the time they wanted to float a bond to build a new school. Natural, the guys with more property than kids were against it so they ran an ad in the paper about how the bond issue would put an unjust burden of taxation on your children and grandchildren. Brother Ralph was reading over that in the Jackpot and voices his opinion on the subject.
“Bedad,” he opines to the world, “I was about to vote a
against this bond issue, but if my children and grandchildren are going to pay for it I believe I can afford it.”
Yep, I believe he could.