From Politickin’ to a Displeased Dog

All the politicking going on reminds me of the hillbilly who threw the politician off the train. We sure got a gracious plenty of politicians and there are more would be politicians than incumbents. We don’t need to throw them off a train, though. We probably need to drop them all into the Grand Canyon. Or off the Empire State building, that would get the job done.

Most of the candidates we got running for office remind me of Old Lady Coffee and Jeff Wilks. Now, Jeff wasn’t quite all there. His daddy kept telling him to stay out from behind the mules, he was going to get kicked. Jeff forgot one time too many and wound up with a muleprint across his forehead. Naturally, the boy was in a coma for about a week and mighty fuddled for a good long while after that.

Now, Old Lady Coffee was the one you pointed at when you wanted to caution newcomers about the awful results of prying. Everybody avoided her because she did pry, at about the volume level of a circus calliope, and she’d egg that sorry-goodfornothing-never-hit-a-lick husband of hers on to pry for her.

Other than percussive maintenance, whacking heck out of the battery radio to get it to bring in the Grand Old Opry, the only thing Old Man George Coffee could do right was snore. And he snored every chance he got, too.

One time Brother Fox gave Old Man Coffee’s granddaughter a nickel a week to keep her grandpa awake during the sermon. That worked for about three weeks, and then the Old Man went to sleep during the sermon and like to have out-blasted the preacher. Brother Fox hemmed the gal up after church and asked why she didn’t earn her nickel today.

“‘Cause,” the little gal said, “Gampa gave me a dime to let him sleep.”

With all her prying and snooping Old Lady Coffee was pretty much a social pariah. And sometimes got a answer closer to home than she liked. Like the time she ran into Cecil Harvison’s wives coming out of the IGA.

Now, I don’t think Cecil set out to have two wives. He was courting sisters, and when Cora asked him why he didn’t pick one he said he couldn’t. And then he got shot up pretty bad in Korea, and the girls sent him a sugar letter every week and he sent one for every one he got – and the girls got up a plan.

When Cecil got off the plane in Dallas, the girls were right there to meet him. And when they got to Wichita Falls, Texas, right across the Red River from Alta Tejas, Cora pulls up at the court house ans sez now, I am going to be maid of honor at you and Corrine’s wedding. So the three of them go in the courthouse, and a woman and a married couple come out.

And they head north and get to Lawton, and they stop in front of the courthouse, and Cora says “Now, it’s my time to be a bride.” So that’s how come Cecil took up troika. And why he built a duplex on the Oklahoma and Texas border, so if the law came around he was cohabiting with whichever woman he was married to in that state.

But anyhow, Cora and Corrine were grocery shopping when they ran into that Coffee blight.

“How does it feel to share a husband?” the Coffee squaw demanded, loud, right there in front of half the town. The two Harvison women just looked at each other for a moment.

“We figure we’re a heap better off with half a good man each than we would be with a whole of a sorry man,” snapped the younger of the gals.

Which it was true, Cecil provided for both of his women very well, and the same for their kids. And they all seemed satisfied with arrangements. That made it none of my business or of anyone else’.

But anyhoo, one day Old Lady Coffee caught Jeff’s daddy on the street. She runs Mr. Wilks down and pokes him in the behind with her umbrella.

“Did Jeff ever get all right?” she screeches as Mr. Wilks turns to see who was assaulting him.

“No,” sez Mr. Wilks, “But he finally got back like he was.”

Our politicians are like Jeff. They never get all right, they just get back like they were. And in a way politicians are like Old Lady Coffee, too. No matter how sorry their own lives are they want to impose their belief system on everyone else. And to run everybody’s business but their own.

At least once each election year I think about the time the Kiowa County agent, Jack Cooter, went calling on a farmer out in the Sand Hills. From the time Jack set foot on the place he was flat wrapped up in flies. So he tells the farmer that he ought to put screens on his farmhouse, or at least lime his outhouse.

“Can’t afford screens,” sez the farmer. “But I got plenty of lime. I’ll pour some down the outhouse pit. That’ll take keer of it.”

A few weeks later Jack was passing by and noticed that every door and every window had a fine new screen. Not regular galvanized screen, either. This was that expensive copper screen, the pure quill last forever if you got the money screens. So Jack pulls in and takes up his gab with the farmer all over again.

“I see you took my advice and screened your doors and windows,” sez Jack.

“Yep, sure did,” sez the farmer. “When I seen them white fly tracks all over my grub I figgered it was time to do something.”

But speaking of Brother Fox, I just did speak of Brother Fox, one time during the Dust Bowl he went on visitation and came to a little hardscrabble homestead away back in the Sand Hills. What they used to call the Big Sandy Mountains, until the wind blew most of the sand away, you know. Brother Fox hails the homesteader and comes right to the point.

Where do you want to spend eternity?” Brother Fox demanded. “Which will it be, Heaven or Hell, brother, Heaven or Hell?”

“Well, I don’t rightly know,” sez the homesteader. “Either one would be a heap better than I’m used to.”

Well, I have Johnny Bond on the radio, singing that “Sick, Sober, and Sorry” song. Been there and done that – somewhat. In fact, one night I woke up so bent out of shape and bumfuzzled; I had some loose change and some aspirin on the nightstand and I took 40 cents. Didn’t do my hangover a darn bit of good, either.

I got that morning after up in Cicero. Cicero, Illinois, that is. There used to be a roadhouse out towards Riverside that catered to us working folks. The drinks were world famous for stout, the eats were cheap, the service was good – and the waitresses knew everyone by their first name. Good place! Particularly if you liked to dance or to watch the pretty girls who did.

The Polack who ran the joint lived on the second floor, over his boozer. One night, way after midnight, Frank heard the awfullest beatin’ and bangin’ on his front door. So he throws the window up and hollers down to find out what the deal is.

“Let me in,” says a voice from the darkness.

“You idiot,” says Frank, “It’s after midnight. I can’t serve booze this time of night. It’d cost me my license.”

“I don’t want anything else to drink,” comes the voice out the black. “When I left I forgot my crutches were standing in the corner.”

Speaking of Frank’s good service reminds me of a short order cook name of Charlie Munn I used to work with. Curly head blonde, tall, rawboned, and real good lookin’. Kept a little black notebook that had all the best telephone numbers in it, with room for a few more. Best hand to set around and nurse a beer I ever knew, too.

Charlie and I went into a West Memphis dive for a beer. Some dude was propositioning the waitress, and at her time of life she didn’t get many. So Charlie and I set and we set and we set.

Talk about slow service! It took a half hour to get waited on. And twice that long to get a warm bottle of Jax. Charlie and I were put out, more’n somewhat. If anything else had been open we would have went there, for sure.

Charlie took a long pull at his brew, made a face, looked around, and discovered about fifteen dirty glasses settin’ on a table. He snaffled one and poured the rest of his bottle into the glass, filling it to the brim. Then he drops two dimes into the glass. Charlie wets the brim with his finger, tears a page out of his little notebook and parks it on top of the glass. Rubs it down where you could see a damp ring through the paper.

I sure didn’t know what he was doing, and it kind of scared me when he flipped that glass over. I thought he was going to spill beer all over the place but he didn’t spill nary a drop.

No sir, Charlie lays that glass, mouth down, close to the edge of the counter without spilling a drop. Then he whips the paper out from under the mouth of the glass. And he still didn’t lose a drop.

When we left – the waitress was still getting promoted and that glass of beer was still upside down on the bar. With her tip shining up through the beer.

Needles to say, by’m by that barmaid had a leetle problem. Or maybe she didn’t, depending on how things picked up. Also needless to say, me and Charlie didn’t go back.

Now, Charlie was related to that bunch of Davises who were big in politics up in Arkansas. I was up in Helena one time, and somebody pointed out Charlie’s poker playin’ second cousin, Judge Joe Davis. Charlie told me that he was playing with “Cousin Joe” one time and all at once the Judge says “Now, play cards fair Charlie. I know what I dealt you.”

A story about Judge Davis was he was holding court one time and they started selecting a jury. The defense lawyer asked the elderly lady who was first if she knew the prosecuting attorney.

“I sure do,” sez the prospective juror. “And I know he’s a notorious womanizer.”

That gal was excused and the next juror was called. The first question the defense attorney asked the man was if he knew the prosecuting attorney.

“I have known that sorry bastid all my life,” the prospective juror allowed. “And I got a whole drawer full of bad checks he wrote me.”

Judge Davis excused the juror and called the defense attorney over to the bench. “You can ask any question you want about the prosecuting attorney,” sez the judge, “But just don’t ask no questions about the judge.”

Anyhoo, the Judge strolls by where I was parked – and a hard looking fellow steps out of the crowd and introduces himself.

“Jedge Davis,” the hardcase sez. “I don’t reckon you ‘member me but you let me off on probation when they had me up for stealing sugar. I was so grateful I named my first boy after you.”

Now – you could see the wheels turn in the Judge’s mind. And come up with a blank. But he put a good face on it.

“Well, I remember the case but your name gets away from me for the moment,” sez the Judge. “But how did your boy turn out, anyhow?”

“Wal, Jedge, the Feds sent me to Atlanta for bootleggin’ when he was a year old, and no sooner than I got out than that sorry Eph Landon came smelling around the old lady and I had to kill him, so they sent me to Cummings for ten years. The boy grew up without his father’s influence and to tell ye the truth he didn’t turn out so good.”

But I have been racking my brains trying to remember that farmer’s name Jack Cooter went calling on, and all can come up with is the name of the neighbor that didn’t know whether he’d prefer Heaven or Hell. That one was Jim Farmer! No darn wonder I couldn’t call it to mind at first.

That was the fellow I heard at the Stockyard complaining to Glenn Church about Sheriff Idom from over in Comanche county.

“That dum fool sheriff got lost plum and pulled up at my place. And when my old dog barked at him, that Idom feller pulled out his cutter and shot him. Right there in my yard, and him out of his county and all.”

“My goodness,” sez Glenn. “Did he hurt your dog bad?”

“Wal, my dog wan’t too dam pleased about it is all I can say.”

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