Of Sailors, Blind Pigs, Bootleg Wizky, And Ugly Gals

Well, I found a station that plays Scots music, and I finally found out what that tune Willie McNab was continuously whistling is. Willie was a good looking Scots merchant sailor who jumped ship in Houston and took up the carnival life until he got enough cash to go home to Strathclyde as a passenger.

Since half the people in Texas got their backs wet every time they visited home, a lack of official papers wasn’t the problem it would be nowadays. Yessir, Willie was illegal but he sure cut a wide swath among the young ladies.

But I remember that tune very well well, because once you have been whistled at all day long for two or three weeks straight you don’t forget things like that. The tune’s called the Drunken Piper – and in Willie Fergus McNab’s case it was doggone appropriate.

Sober, Willie was as cheerful as anyone I ever labored with. But Willie would drink all you gave him, long as it was alcoholic. And one sniff of a bar rag would make all reason desert Scotty. Man, feed him one shot glass of firewater and Willie was ready, willing, and able to stagger from place to place and look on owl eyed as the world spun on its axle.

But give him two drinks quick and pretty soon Willie was a sodden nuisance. Three drinks within an hour put him out like Lottie’s eye. Blind drunk. Just aware enough to take another drink and stagger from chair to chair. Which definately made him a problem when we talked a couple e of gals into playing canasta.

Because it’s hard to stop a guy from pouring himself another shot when you
have your mind on cards and conversation – and two gals with one guy is not a recipe for romance. Or wasn’t in those days, anyhoo.

One Friday Willie got away from us and wound up in Dallas, down on Deep Ellum. Used to be a Greek guy there, purebred, with as ugly a mug as you will ever see outside of a nightmare. The Greek ran a combination eatin’ joint and blind pig. Blind pig because anyone with a thirst could get blind drunk if he made a pig of himself!

T’ Greek had hamburgers, hot dogs, chile for the Mex trade, mebbe a little Greek food for his domino playing buddies, and beer. It was a really grungy version of what Gus’ place used to be.

But the Greek kept a bottle of hooch under the counter for “special customers.” The ones with the money to pay. I can sure remember plenty of ‘shine getting served up there.

But Willie was a stranger, and when he walks in and asks for a dog and a beer the Greek takes him in. As a man with a thirst. So he asks Willie if he’d like a shot of “wizky.”

Willie figures a dram of Scotch would do him good and sez yes. And gets served a water tumbler of 150 proof Sneaky Pete. Which was about three times his total daily capacity.

Natural, Willie eats his dog, and drinks his shine, and calls for another round. And most likely another. But he don’t remember anything after he orders the second round.

What he did remember was waking up three mornings later, wearing his his shoes and a hangover, in a strange room. While he’s trying to figure out where he’s at and how he got there and how the 12th Battalion of the Scots Field Artillery could fire all those guns is such a small room he realizes he’s not alone.

He casts his eyes to the left and sees his clothes on a chair. He casts his eyes to the right – slowly because it hurt the roots of his hair to move his eyes – and he’s face to face with a naked woman. Which made him forget his hangover.

Because the first glance shows him she’s plumb ugly in the face, the second glance reveals she’s the gnarliest, most repulsive female Willie Fergus McNab never hoped to meet! It takes Scotty a minute to notice she has a strong resemblance to the Greek who served him his supper.

Willie figures he’s passed out and been parked in the Greek’s mothers or sisters bed. Since he don’t want no racket in his debilitated and vulnerable condition he eases out of bed and starts for his clothes. And stumbles over something soft!

He looks down and is revolted to discover he’s tripped over another naked woman. And this woman is so ugly she makes the one he woke up with look like Miss Texas! In fact, Willie claims this second female is a dead ringer for a baboon. Teeth, hair, and all!

While Willie is standing there petrified with horror, Miss Nude Frightful sits up, rubs her eyes, shows off a remarkable set of oversize incisors, and sez “Good morning, dear. You slept with our bridesmaid, don’t you have a good morning kiss for your bride?”

Willie broke down the door getting away! And dressed in an alley three or four blocks away! For the two or three weeks more he stayed around he was strictly on the water wagon. And every time a stranger showed up he’d hide, because he was afraid the Greek had sent somebody after him to bring his son-in-law home! Red Brown finally took pity on the boy and paid him off so he could go home.

Yessir, firewater will make you act like folks in that old song. You know the one – “They say strange things, and they do strange things, in the Bowery, the Bowery, the Bowery; I’ll never go there any more.”

Personally, I never tasted any I liked, so I ‘spect I’m going to be on the coffee train until I cash in. I just wish coffee tasted as good as it smells brewing. Speaking of coffee reminds me of Father Flynn, the “Catlik” padre back where I came from.

One of the Padre’s parisioners was a lady, getting a mite hard of hearing – so when she said anything she put it at a force seven volume level like deef as a post folks do.

When she went to confession, everybody in the church and some of the folks in the street could hear her bellerin’ about all of her little lapses. Which – her lapses were little ones like getting annoyed when some person kept ringing her telephone knowing she couldn’t hear it and her husband wasn’t home. Finally the Padre asked her to write down everything she wanted to confess, roll the paper up, and slide it through the grille in the window to him.

She agreed to that and the next week here she was, poking her list through the grille at the priest. The padre takes it and looks at it, and turns it over and looks at the back, and looks at the front, and turns it every way but loose, and then he says “What is this, this looks like a grocery list”

The woman slaps herself on the forehead, and bellows “Holy Mother of God, I left my sins at the Safeway!”

Now, I have made a few miles in my time, went to a lot of different schools, and of course went to school with a lot of different people. Back in first grade me and a fellow named Willie Weichert were pretty thick. When I came back to town the first person I ran into was Willie. Couldn’t have been nobody else – how many people do you see, redhead, six foot tall and sixteen inches around the chest? Built like a red top tomato stake! Willie was a worker, too. He wasn’t like the old boy that came in for breakfast one morning and told his mama he’d dreamed he had a job.

“You poor lad,” sez Mama real sympathetic. “You look so tired.”

Anyhow, Willie had been looking for a job and finally found a job waitin’ tables in a fancy restaurant in Tulsa. ‘Bout the second day on the job he runs up against a customer who was more’n a little drunk, mostly on self importance.

“Do you know who I am?” this gee roars at Willie.

“No sir, but I’ll ask around and when I find out I’ll come back and tell you, sir.” Willie says, straightface.

Willie thought he was going to get fired over that but instead it tickled the boss so much he got promoted instead. But speakin’ of embarassment on the job, I used to know a fellow I’ll call Len Overstreet, who wanted to be a preacher.

Len went four years to a high class Bible College – won’t say what denomination, you understand. Anyway, Len was about ready to graduate, right at the head of his class. The preacher at an older church nearby had a heart attack, so they sent Len to his church to do a little substitute preachin’ for practice, and get a feel for havin’ a church of his own to be shepherd of and sky pilot to. Now, Len’s robes were just a tad long, and they had the processional, solemn and slow, and Len is walking slow like he is supposed to, and he gets tangled in his robe, and KERFLUNK, he falls down, shakes the church, right in front of a packed house.

Len, he keeps his cool, though. He gets back up, and squares around and looks at the congregation, and mostly the congregation is about to choke, but there’s one old fellow in the front row that Len has been warned about. That fellow ain’t cracked a smile nor liked a preacher or a sermon in forty year.

“Watch Brother McInairny,” they told him, “And don’t let the old sourpuss ruin your sermon.”

So Len, he says “Brother McInairny will now lead us in prayer.”

And Brother Mac gets up, slow and solemn, and starts out, solemn, “Dear Lord, did YOU SEE THAT, HAW, HAW, HAW!”

Len gritted it out and I heard he delivered a fine sermon, but somehow or t’other he just didn’t feel like he had a proper
call for the ministry any more – so he took up making crank bait, fish lures, for a living. Now he’s up in Springfield, and he’s a fish bait millionaire!

But anyhoo, speaking of Willie Weichert reminds me of his mama. You talk about a plain spoken working woman, Willie’s mama was plain spoken some – and work was the only thing she put any faith in here on earth. Jesus for heaven, work for here! T’ only time I ever remember her not having anything to say was the time the bum came by and asked her for a handout. It made her plumb mad!

“You sorry bum,” she sez. “I bet you never did a lick of honest work in your life.”

“Lady” sez the bum, “If youse don’t tink going around askin’ dames like you for a bite to eat ain’t work youse don’t know what work is.”

And just for clarity, a bum wouldn’t work and a hobo would. Which made hobos respectable when bums weren’t, you see. Now, it was Old Lady Donnely who lived down by the Katy that got squared up by a railroad bum. But the bum turned down her offer of working for food.

“You sorry no good loafer,” she hollers. “You ain’t never made the acquaintance of work.”

“Yes I have, lady,” sez the bum. “I lost all three of my wives that way.”

Well, it looks like my time has sped. So until I get another chance to reminisce, adieu.

Stranger

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