The Four Preachers From Texas Confess

I was headed for the stockyards for one of Beatrice Johnson’s burgers, a cuppa joe, and a piece of pie for 35 cents, when “Hey, you” at foghorn volume pierced the air.

I had noticed the four musketeers’ Hudson was wearing Texas plates, so I headed for Kansas when I skipped town later that evening. I didn’t feel like getting caught in a religious uprising, but I was still chuckling!

Anyhow, Ten Eyck was a Dutchman, came over here because his families tulip plantation wouldn’t support all his brothers. The youngest brothers had to leave town! No living in Holland, so Ten Eyck gets gold fever and goes to South Dakota.

The news of a gold strike was old, and he was lucky to make day wages in Deadwood. But he met a German girl and got married up there. Some folks think Deutch, German, and Dutch are the same lingo, but they aren’t.

They are enough alike to cause some royal confusion when a Kraut and a Dutchman start jabbering at each other, but they aren’t the same. Ten Eyck and Mama had just a little English in common and that’s all it took!

Anyway, Ten Eyck brought that sign with him from Deadwood, South Dakota. It originally said “KITTY’S CAFE,” and it adorned the false front of a combination blind pig, sign painter’s shop, and – well, the girls who “roomed” upstairs knew a lot of the fellows, if you know what I mean!

Ten Eyck brought the sign to Oklahoma when they opened the Cheyenne Arapaho country for homesteading. Then it stayed in his barn until they started the Cafe in ’28. Sign painters were scarcer than hens teeth, so the old sign came out and got “Ten Eycked.”

Money was as scarce as sign painters, so Ten Eyck talked Banker Mullendore into loaning him $500 for operating money. I can’t tell anyone who hasn’t started a business how Ten Eyck and his wife worked to make a go of the place.

For five years, it was to bed after the last pot had been scrubbed and up at 4:00 to get ready for another day. It was man killing work, but that’s the only way you
can succeed. If you have ever started a successful business you know the trouble you haven’t you cannot imagine it!

The Depression hit in ’29, and the Hoovervilles, and the Dust Bowl, and people were eating each other for money. Man, it was a tough life. Most folks were doing good to eat, and eating out was a rare extravagance. The Dutchman couldn’t pay on the principal, but he never missed an interest payment.

It must have been ’34 when Ten Eyck went to the Bank to pay the interest and Mullendore called the note. He had some dude from Wichita Falls who would pay $3,000 for the place and Mullendore sure wasn’t about to turn down a nice profit.
THE Mullendores were and are one of the most important families in Oklahoma. And all THE Mullendores I ever met were mighty nice folks. But this Mullendore wasn’t related to THE Mullendores. He just revelled in the name.

Banker Mullendore always reminded me of the story of the farmer who went to his banker to get his note renewed with a long story and no money. The banker had already called a dozen notes that week, and didn’t really want to pull the rug out from under this young man. So the banker decides to give him a chance.

“Son,” says the Banker. “Let me tell you that I ought to foreclose right now. I ought to have you out of there before sundown. But let me tell you that I am going to give you a fair chance to renew your note for one more year.”
“Now, I just paid ten thousand dollars to have a new glass eye put in. The best men in the world tell me that my eye is perfect in every way. If you can tell me which eye is the glass eye, and you are right, I’ll renew your note.”

“Ok,” says the young farmer. “Any chance is better than no chance.”

“Now, take all the time you want to, look close, and tell me which eye is the glass eye,” says the banker.

“Oh,” says the farmer. “There ain’t no doubt about it. Your left eye is the glass eye.”

Banker starts in cussin’! “I paid ten thousand dollars for that eye. It’s the best in the world. It’s supposed to be perfect. Tell me, what gave it away? How’d you know it was the glass eye?”

“Well, Banker,” says the farmer, “As I was looking at your eyes, I noticed a little glint of sympathy in your left eye. I knew that it had to be glass.”

Mullendore was just like that. He didn’t shed no tears for the folks he foreclosed on, not none. And if he could foreclose and liquidate at a profit, you could consider it done. That shorthorn was so unpopular he put a vault in his house and he kept all his real estate papers in that, because he was afraid Pretty Boy Floyd would rob his bank and give the deeds back to the owners.

Anyhow, there’s Ten Eyck, dispossessed. He was too ashamed to go home and tell Mama what happened. Instead, he goes over to the Odd Fellows hall and cries on Ol’ Hardman’s shoulder. Hardman was a good listener.

Now, if I haven’t mentioned it before, Pvt. Olwyn Hardman was shot through both legs in Kaiser Bill’s war. The croakers did a poor job of patching him up. It put a hitch in his git along – and it kept him in hospital for a year. Doin’ what soldiers have done since time began. The Hittites used to, ne’mine!

Ten Eyck started blowing in Hardman’s ear, and here comes Mullendore, looking like the cat that swallowed the cream. He had already written the Wichita Falls man to bring the cabbage and take possession. Yep, that tinhorn banker felt like the money was as good as in his hand.

Hardman gives Ten Eyck a signal to fade into the woodwork, and proceeds to ring Mullendore into a game of poker with three of the other loafers in the Hall!

Mullendore did pretty well for a few hands, and then lost his winnings betting heavy and drawing to a pair of jacks. That’s a tyro’s play and Mullendore was a shorthorn but not exactly a beginner. He was testing to see who would fold and who would bluff!

A few hands later one of the loafers had most of the money showing – and lost it to Mullendore. That made Mullendore figure his luck was in for sure, so he didn’t protest when the tapped out player left an empty chair and Hardman suggested Ten Eyck set in for the bankrupt gambler.

“Long as he can put money on the table, he’s in,” says Mullendore.

The money seesawed back and forth for a bit, and then Ten Eyck started winning every hand where Hardman cut the cards. It wasn’t long before the Dutchman had over a thousand on the table, most from Mullendore. The next go round was Hardmans deal. So you will have a good idea of the situation –

One of the loafers was at the dealers left, first man dealt to, with a ten spot, a fin, and some ones on the table. Next, Mullendore had about fifty on the table, a fat wallet, and a big itch to win back what he’d lost. Then Ten Eyck had over a thousand in his pile, and the other loafer who had ten to fifteen singles on the table. Of course, Hardman was fifth and last, showing two fives and some ones.

Hardman dealt and the banker’s hand was a beaut! A full house, a pair of queens and three jacks! That’s a money hand anywhere you want to go so Mullendore stood pat with that. Ten Eyck drew three cards, a sure sign of a weak hand.

The bets went around. Hardman and the two loafers threw their cards in and folded. Mullendore bet strong, Ten Eyck matched him, and Mullendore went strong again. Every time Mullendore would bet, Ten Eyck saw him and raised him. In a minute every cent Mullendore had was on the table, his studs, his rings, his gold watch and chain, everything! Ten Eyck still had over $400 and wanted to raise.

Mullendore got to feeling around in his pockets and came up with the deed to the Jackpot. And every man in the place stopped to watch.

There was a pause while Mullendore tried to get himself under control – and then the deed went on the table against the rest of Ten Eyck’s pile. The Dutchman pushed his pile into the pot as Mullendore dumped his cards face up on the table like he’d been holding so many anvils and was glad to lighten his load.

Ten Eyck took a long minute to light his pipe, took a puff. Then he turned over the Ace of Clubs. The corner of the Dutchmans mouth twitched. The Ace of Hearts took its place on the table. Ten Eyck’s mouth twitched again. Then the Ace of Spades was laid slowly and carefully along side the first pair of Aces.

A joyous whisper of “It’s an ace high full” went around. That was followed by a groan as the Ace of Diamonds was carefully laid beside the other three Aces. Ten Eyck hesitated. The crowd groaned again as the kibitzers calculated odds.

A full house beats four aces. Four aces on the table meant Mullendore won the pot, sure as little apples are round and red, and Ten Eyck was busted flat. But the Dutchman’s grin was spreading, and a joyous chuckle found its way past his pipe stem as he laid his last card on the table with a flourish. Joker!

The crowd gasped, and then roared! Five aces! The highest poker hand it is possible to get! Five aces would beat a royal flush if it were possible to get a royal flush with the ace in another hand.

Ten Eyck won the Jackpot! The Jackpot Cafe was paid off, free and clear! They say Ten Eyck laughed for fifteen minutes, and Mullendore cussed a blue streak for twenty, mourning the thirty five hundred bucks he’d lost. The five hundred he’d loaned Ten Eyck and the three thousand he was going to get for the Cafe! Well, the Dutchman had a reason to laugh. The thirty bucks he scraped together to pay his interest turned into the jackpot of a lifetime.

His place, free and clear, and nineteen hundred iron men in cold hard cash. A two hundred dollar Elgin watch, a set of gold studs, a couple of rings, and a few other knickknacks! And that was after he gave their losings back to the three guys who helped Hardman shill Mullendore into the game!

Hardman was hoping Mullendore would stop in carrying the days foreclosures, in his pocket like he usually did! For the rest, well, everyone who ate at the Jackpot was glad they gave Hardman a post graduate course in stacking a deck while his legs were healing. Hardman was the poker champ of the AEF, he was!

Mullendore didn’t take any chances. He didn’t play poker with Hardman or Ten Eyck. Period! Of course, Hardman and Ten Eyck didn’t put their money in Mullendore’s bank, either! That sort of made them even. But that’s that story.
OH, did you hear about the goat roper from Plano, Texas, who won the radio station contest? The grand prize was an all expenses paid trip to Puerto Rico. When he discovered he couldn’t drive his pickup to San Juan he almost didn’t go.

The boys he worked with finally talked him into getting on that big silver bird. Wound up in a $250 a nite hotel with about a mile of exclusive beach, well populated with well filled out bikinis! Just like the commercial.

He’s figuring on making a Texas impression on the gals, so the first morning he’s up early. He hit the beach in all his sartorial splendor. He had on his Nocona Python cowboy boots, hot pink boxer short swim trunks down to his knees, and a big black 1X Stetson. The girls totally ignored him. They wouldn’t say a word to him.

After striking out twenty five or thirty times he retires to the bar. Hoists a few. Meets a fellow. Buys the stranger a brew. Or two. Tells him all his troubles. The stranger is muy simpatico.

“I can’t help you with your girl problems in Texas,” says his new found friend. “But let me make a suggestion or two that will help you with the ladies around here. I know you are mighty proud of your boots, but leave them in your room. Leave your John B. Stetson hat in your room, too. Hats and boots may be hot in Texas but they don’t cut no ice over here.”

“Stop by the Surf Shop and pick yourself up a bikini bathing suit. A black one a couple of sizes too small would be the best. Oh, one last bit of advice. Go by the kitchen. Pick up a potato and slip it in your swim suit.”

The Tejano thanks his new buddy and tells him he will take his advice. And he does. The next morning he’s at the beach bright and early. Barefooted, bareheaded, in an itty bitty bikini suit that fit like a coat of spray paint. And his luck was even worse today than yesterday.

He tries to chat up twenty five or thirty of the dolly birds on the beach.
Not a word out of a one of them can he get. Every last one of them gives him a disgusted look and walks off. The Texan can’t figure this thing out. So he retires to the bar.

He’s nursing his second beer when his new found buddy walks in. The Texan hails him and tells him all of his troubles. His new chum looks him over close.

“Well, you did OK, as far as you went. If I were you, though,” the friendly stranger says, “I believe I’d put that potato in the FRONT of my bathing suit.”

Reading back over that last I notice I used the term “goat roper.” There ain’t nothing mysterious about the phrase, although some folks just want to make life complicated. Let’s see if we can untangle it. Starting at the beginning!

A real cowboy, a “vaquero” or “hand,” works stock on the range. Ropes callus your hands up and you can’t work stock without “stepping in it.” So a real cowboy has calluses on his hands and manure on his boots.

A “puncher” is not a vaquero. A puncher is the fellow with the prod who drives livestock onto cattle trucks or cars. Livestock is not very particular about cleanliness, so punchers step in manure also. A handshake might give it away but it’s hard to tell a puncher from a hand so a “cowboy” can be either one. A goat roper is somebody dressed in serviceable Western style clothes, a dude or dudette who wears the right duds, but who does not work stock. A ranch kid going to college, or the clerk at the saddle shop, for example. Since he or she does not work stock they have no reason to have manure on their boots. They may have been working cowboys, they may be again, but in any case a goat roper is dressed like but is not a working cowboy.

Notice that a goat roper is different from a “drug store cowboy.” A drug store cowboy dudes up in fancy Western style duds to impress the teeny boppers around the soda fountain. The hallmarks of the drug store cowboy are 1X hats, rhinestone hat bands, feather hat fans, fancy neckerchiefs, lacy or embroidered shirts, gold filigree belts, designer jeans, fake exotic skin boots, Mustang convertibles, and a yen for Huntsville Hare.

The kind of jailbait they call Parchman Partridge in Mississippi, Deer Lodge Doe in Montana, and San Quentin Quail in California. And “It’s the syme the ‘ole world overrrr, hit’s the poor ooo gets the blyme!”

A drug store cowboy is a fake, macho y macho. In the Spanish, “macho” means a jackass. By extension from jack’s flying hooves, “macho” also means a sledge hammer. Macho y macho means a hammering jackass, similar to a double dyed deceiver. Doubling both meanings, a sledge hammer and a jackass, “un machismo” is a dude or dudette who “hammers;” who acts so hard to be something they ain’t they make jackasses of themselves. I hope that’s clear. Anyway, the only time a drug store cowboy has manure on anything is when the toilet paper tears.

And while we are at it I suppose I should complete the set by clarifying the difference between a cowboy and a stockman. They are real easy to tell apart, if you are observant. The cowboy wears a big belt buckle on his belly, the stockman wears a big belly on his belt buckle!

Now, speaking of friendly strangers, I ran across one a while back in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He noticed the Forrest County tag and comes over to discuss Farve and the Packers. This fellow was from Waynesboro, and he knew Hattiesburg very well. The Hattiesburg of thirty years ago, anyway. I am glad I’m not the only one who misses Fines and Waldoffs! And the Citizens Bank.

We were talking, and the subject of the provincial attitude of many Yankees came up. I was telling him how the waitress at Arby’s in Watertown, South Dakota, had to call all of the other employees over to “Hear this man talllk!,” before I could get my Arbycue sammitch! I hates to play Rover and “speak” before I can get any grub!

The stranger, his name was Eugene Something or Other, starts telling me about his experiences with the rude and ignorant folks in his end of the world. Eugene says when he first moved to Wisconsin in ’69 the locals really razzed him about being from Mississippi. That boy had a real hard time, don’t you know.

One day Eugene is trying to get his job done when a whole herd of Yankee pests come over and started in doing what comes natural to such folks, pestering him. Naturally, after a while Eugene gets a bit short with them.
“Tell us, Mister Mississippi,” says the leader of the pack, “are there any fools in Mississippi?”

“Well, we do have a few fools in Mississippi,” admits Eugene. “But they don’t run around in packs the way they do in Wisconsin!” Eugene says he hasn’t had much trouble with the two legged pests since then.

Now, Stevens Point is big Lutheran country. I remember back just after the war, when I summered in that part of the world every year, that a Lutheran WAC made news by marrying a Baptist Air Force Captain. After the ritual was over the Captain asked the padre how much he owed him for the splice job.

“Oh,” says the padre, “We do not charge for that. But if you like, you can give a donation based on the beauty of the bride.”

The Captain thought a moment, and then reached in his dress blues and handed the preacher a quarter. The pastor was a bit startled, so he steps up to the bride and lifts her veil. The padre took a long thoughtful look at the bride, then fumbled around under his robes and handed the groom fifteen cents change!

And that reminds me that I made the Sauk County fair at Baraboo in 1948. That was the polio year. Kids were dropping like flies from polio – and nobody knew how polio was spread.

The doctors were warning everyone that mosquitos and flies were likely carriers, so if you didn’t want to catch polio you had to make sure to keep the bugs out. And the bugs were well equipped to invade your personal space, whatever you did. The skeeters got their stingers busy, pried the screen wire far enough to make a hole and the flies followed them in!

There were some folks showing their stock and living in tents that had a hard time. The mosquitos hit them about eleven the first night. The skeeters ran the folks out of their tents and left them to huddle with their animals in the cattle barns the rest of the night. Because the livestock barns had been sprayed with “Devil Done Took’em” as the preacher described DDT.

The next morning the exhibitors looked out the barn windows and discovered the skeeters had torn the tents down and made slacks and suspenders from the canvas and tent ropes. The exhibitors got their own back, though.

One of the boys thought a little smoke would keep the bugs away. He made a torch out of wire and cloth and coal oil that made a fine smudge. That didn’t work, but in waving it around he accidently set a skeeter’s wings on fire.

That skeeter went flying off and first thing you knew there were thousands of burning mosquitoes. That sure caused some excitement! They had fire departments coming from as far away as Madison because they thought the fairgrounds was burning down.

Stranger

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