Callin’ On The Devil, And Other Lies

Well, let me settle down here has see what I can think of that is in some way comical. I have the radio on, listening to a station in, from the accents, Ireland. They are playing a pretty tun, but those are not the words I know. Windy Bowlin’s words for that song would singe the stickers off a cactus!

Old Windy, the guy who introduced me to that song sung it to a tune from Lane Cooter Junior’s squeeze box. And he was pretty much a character. You had to watch him close, because his chin moved up and down when he talked. Anybody’s chin that will move up and down when he talks will lie. If you don’t believe that, just watch the next candidate you see close and you will see what I mean.

I ‘mind the time Windy came in Trout’s Store telling about riding his fence line and as he passes the new “Catlic” church he sees two wildcats fighting. First one cat got on top of t’other. Then the other got on top of the first cat. Then the first cat climbed back on top, and t’other clumb up. What with them trading up that way, it was natural that pretty soon both cats were off the ground, plumb. They kept on going around and around, one on top and then t’other, until they rose so high they were plumb out of sight – but a long way from being out of hearing.
Windy ‘lows he watches until they were out of sight and keeps on riding towards supper. Early the next morning he goes back that way and he can’t see nor hear no cat fight. But folks gathered for early mass are all talking about the fur falling out of a clear sky so he knows those cats are still having it out.
Now, speaking of Trout’s, before the homesteaders “run” for land that place was about sixty miles from nowhere and the nearest town east was Anadarko and west was Amarillo. Natural, a little community grew up around the store and everybody traded there. As well as getting traffic from all the folks that had to swim the Red from Texas in a hurry.
Trout had a mail window, a room in the back for the local croaker, rooms upstairs for a couple of regulars and anyone who happened to wander through, kept explosives for those that wanted a mess of fish, gunpowder for the hunters, and all sorts of plunder and truck for the ladies. If Trout didn’t have it, you didn’t need it.

Trout sold out to Jimmy Frost and went to California back in the thirties. Trout had been there a long time. I heard that during the big Spanish Influenza epidemic the folks around there got skeered to take their money to town, so they started getting Trout to keep their savin’s in his store safe.

One day he opens up and discovers somebody had chiseled the lock off and made off with all the valuables. That was before insurance, so Trout was stuck. He managed to borrow enough to pay his neighbors for their losses – and he wrote off to Chicago for a sure enough stout safe.

Natural, Trout making their losses good did his business so much good that he made his money back in a year or so. So he kept on acting as the local vault.

Early one morning during the bank panic of ’21, when nobody in their right mind had money in a bank, the whole township was knocked plumb out of bed by one heckuva blast. Everyone gets out and around – and discovers that the whole front half of Trout’s is missing. There’s all sorts of piece goods and hams and chaw terbaccer and ammunition and stuff layin’ around loose. Along with two dead men.

Trout’s standing there surveyin’ the damage when the Sheriff comes driving up. “Wotinell happened here?” asks the Law.

Had a little explosion,” sez Trout, not in the least upset. “I figger them two dead’uns there tried to blow my safe and got a heap more bang than they bargained for.”

“Hellsfar,” sez the Sheriff, “This is the second time your safe has been busted into! Did they get much money?”

“They got nuthin, I done lost faith in safes,” sez Frost. “I keep money and valuables in the powder magazine out back. It’s got a good strong lock on it.”

“It’s against the law to store explosives without locking it up. Where do you store your dynamite?” asks the Law, right sharp.

“Oh, I kept a few cases in the safe,” grins Frost.

But anyhow I was talking about Windy Bowlin. Windy tells about wildcat jumping from tree to tree to get away from a mockingbird, a story I just relates to the liars bench and nobody can think of a thing to say. But somebody who was buyin’ a plug of chaw tobacco and kerosene at the counter speaks up, just plumb out of the clear blue sky.

“I just come from visitin’ my sister in Texas,” announces the codger in a cracked sort of voice. “She’s got a place out from that Amariller town. It’s purty flat, but it backs up to that Palo Duro gulch. Her two oldest boys got to tusslin, and durned if they didn’t scuffle themselves plumb off the edge of the cap rock.”

Everybody there knew the Palo Duro is a quarter to a half mile deep, so we figured the boys had been killed when they went splat at the bottom. Doc Sharp speaks up and sez he’s sorry for the codgers loss.

“Oh, them boys come out of it without a scratch,” cackles the feller. “Them boys fell at the same time and had presence of mind to catch one another in the air. So they saved each other’s life.”

That was the second time in about two minutes the liars bench didn’t have a word to say.

Now, Doc Sharp, most folks called him Piles Sharp on account of he walked like somebody had stuck a shoe in his whatsis, was the local doctor. Young feller, hadn’t been in town too long. Piles had been an Army croaker, and was pretty up to 1948 date. Penicillin cured everything except pregnancy and constipation and time cured the first and citrite of magnesia would get a move on. .

Piles came out from somewhere around Chicago and bought old Doc Johnstun’s practice out. Which was a good thing because Doc Johnstun came from the old school that believed that if ipecac doses, mercury boluses, blue squills, quinine pills, cod liver oil, purgatives, or nature didn’t cure you, you would just have to die. He practiced sympathetic medicine. He didn’t mean he was sympathetic – if you had the greenapple quickstep he gave you a laxative.

Doc Johnstun took Doc Sharp of the Rock Island Rocket at the Elk City station, loaded him up in his Buick and took him out on his rounds. So he could get the lay of the land and see what the value of the practice might be.

The first place they stopped the two croakers walks in and there’s an enormous woman holdin’ down a rocking chair, too puny to move. The old croaker whips out some pills and sez “You been eating too many sweets. You take these pills, cut back on the sweets, and I will be back next week.”

Doc collects his two bucks for the pills and house call, and they load up in the old Buick and heads for the next patient. They ain’t hardly cleared the front gate when Piles turns to the other croaker and asks “You didn’t examine that woman at all. How did you know she had been eating too many sweets?”

“Didn’t you see all the candy wrappers in the fireplace? Her old man would blow away in a stiff breeze and there wasn’t a sign of a child in the house. She had to be eating all that candy.”

They get to the next place, go in, and the old doc walks up to the sick bed and intones “Mister, you been smokin’ too many cigars and cigarettes. Take these lung pills and you got to cut back on your smokin’. That will be two dollars.”

After they clear the place Piles turns to the other croaker and sez “You didn’t examine that man either. How did you know he’d been smoking too much?”

“Didn’t you see all those cigar butts and cigarette packs in the fireplace?” was the reply. “Now, the next place we are going is an old patient of mine. You examine her and see how you make out.”

So they walk in, the old doc introduces Piles and sez he’s going to make the diagnosis. Piles looks her up one side and down the other and sez “You been doin’ way too much church work. You are going to have to take it easy for a while or you will be going to church in a box. Now you take these pills and get lots of rest, you hear? That will be two dollars please.”

After they get on the road Doc Johnstun turns to Piles with an inquiring look on his face. “That woman has been working herself to death for her church for over twenty years. And I been telling her to take a rest all that time. But you never saw her before. How in the world did you know what was wrong with her that quick?”

Piles just gave a smile and a little chuckle. “Didn’t you see that preacher under the bed?” he asks.

Now, the liars bench was mostly men. But the champion liars were all women. For one thing, the women were alone most of the day, so they had more time to put together a convincing lie. One with a good snapper on the end.

Like the time Monk Harviston’s wife Madge come in to do her weekly shopping and allows she’s expecting her niece from over in Arkansas to visit just any time now. Her niece, and her niece’s new husband.

“Oh, your niece is married,” sez Fats Henry, who was getting her order up.

“Well, now she is,” sez Miz Harviston. “It come over her sudden like.”

Now, that sort of got everybody’s attention. We all heard of sudden sickness and dyin’ and such, but matrimony coming on sudden was a new concept. The expectant silence was all the encouragement Madge needed.

he was walking home from Wednesday night services, there in Fort Smith, when she hears a voice say `Hello, good looking.” Mary looks all around and don’t see nobody. So she starts to go on and the same voice says `goodbye toots.’ So Mary looks around again and she can’t see anything but a little toad frog settin’ on a rock.”

“Mary starts off again, and that same voice says `Don’t be in such a hurry to go, pretty lady.’ Mary had the voice pretty well spotted, but all she could see is that toad frog, settin’ on that rock and looking at her.”

“So Mary sez `I don’t believe no toad frog can talk’, and starts off down the sidewalk again. But the toad frog hops after her.”

“`Sure I can talk, toots. I learned how when I was a man, before the Witch that lives on Blue Mountain turned me into a toad frog.'”

“What did the Witch turn you into a toad frog for?” asks Mary.”

“I was the best looking boy in Logan County and she wanted me to marry her sister. But I liked another girl better,” sez the toad frog.

“`Well, ain’t there no way you can turn back into a man?’ asks Mary.”

“Oh yes, but it’s been hard. I have to sleep all night in a bed beside a pretty girl, and I will turn back into a man in the morning. I haven’t found a girl who is willing to let me sleep with her.”

“So Mary took pity on the toad frog and took him home with her. When she got ready for bed she put the toad frog on the pillow right next to hers and went right to sleep.”

Madge shuts up and goes on with her shopping. Finally Piles can’t stand it no more and he asks what happened.

“Oh, when her mama came to wake her up she found a man in bed with Mary. Mary’s daddy didn’t believe that toad frog story no more’n you do. So they’s hitched.”

Now, the funny thing about that story is there was a witch woman lived on Blue Mountain, back when Judge Parker was hanging ’em in bunches in Fort Smith. Handsome enough gal, they said, with a beautiful sister she was always trying to marry off to a rich man.

The men liked the sister, right enough – but they were scared of having a witch for a sister in law. I suppose that would be as bad as having a witch for a mother in law. Nearabout as bad as taking a witch for a wife. Not that a sure-enough witch would marry a man, they are already spliced to the Devil. You sure would not want to put the horns on the Evil One, for sure!

Anyhow, the Witch and her sister witches were supposed to meet with Satan under Blue Mountain every so often and have a regular hoedown, with the Devil playing the tune. Ol’ Scratch never said anything, just played the fiddle.

Now, the story goes that as a young man a fellow name of Young John Little was a regular hellion. Young John was a by-blow of a Congressman, had been spoiled rotten, and was about what you could expect. He’d drink and cuss, gamble, steal anything that wasn’t red hot or nailed down, have his way with the womenfolks, all the time depending on his daddy to pay for the trouble he caused.

One time John, following his daddy’s bad example, had gotten a gal in the family way, and decided it would be the safest thing to take a slow trip to see his mama in Little Rock. So he steals a boat and some provisions, and drifts down the Arkansas toward the state capitol. Along about dark John was under Blue Mountain, and he feels safe enough to wet a line and see if he could catch supper. And he does catch a couple of nice brim.

Young John pulls up to the bank, builds up way more fire than he needed, lards up the iron skillet he’d stole with the boat, and starts cooking fish. But John was a thief, not a cook! If you have ever cooked fish, you know throwing cold fish in hot grease will splatter burning hot grease every which a way. So John got pretty well peppered with sizzling hot lard.

John being what he was, he starts cussin, taking the Lord’s Name in vain, calling on the devil to do this, that and the other and all that. Just then a limb on the other side of the fire snaps real loud! John looks up, and there’s the devil himself grinning at him.

John knew it was the devil because it was ten feet tall, black as midnight, with burning red eyes, had two big horns on his head, and he was lashing a big tail like a bull whip with a big black arrowhead looking horn on the end! And besides all that, the devil had a fiddle slung over its back.

Old devil don’t say a word. He just opens his mouth in a grin, showing John a row of teeth like an alligator gar! Old devil lashes his tail around some more, holds his arms out like a man wants to hug his best gal, gaps his mouth open like he was going to take a bite out of a whale, and starts to step across the fire towards John.

Now, John was sure his last day had come. The only thing he could think of to do was to snatch up that burning hot skillet, grease, fish, and all, and throw it down Old Devil’s gaping gullet. Which is exactly what he did!

Old devil wasn’t expecting that hot load down his gullet. He lets out a beller that shook leaves off the trees, whips his tail around until it popped something awful, and disappears in a big puff of sulfury smoke.

John was so upset he gets back in the boat and heads off down the Arkansas. He makes the first settlement on the river, so scared his teeth chatterin’ and rattlin’ just about raised everybody in town. Come daylight the men got a posse together and took John back to where his campfire was still smoldering.

There wasn’t much to see, John’s coffee pot and bedroll where he’d left them, there were some burning coals in the ashes and unburnt faggot ends, along with a few hoofprints on the other side of the fire from John’s bedroll, like a big razorback hog had wandered in and jumped back out.

So the men started sayin’ John needed to lay off the whiskey, moonshine and moonlight being a particularly bad combination. But John was looking around, too.

Pretty soon John bellers “Y’all looky here. I told you the Devil was here, and here’s where he broke the end off his tail.”

The men went to where John was pointing, and sure enough, there was an arrowhead shaped piece of horn as long as a man’s forearm sticking clean through a pine tree as thick as a man’s thigh.

The men wouldn’t touch that horn, of course, so they cut that tree down, and took a four foot chunk of it with the horn still in it to Fort Smith, where a priest could douse it in Holy Water. My dad took me to see it in a church there, back in the forties, and I reckon it’s still there if nobody has moved it.

Young John, now, gave up all his evil ways. He went back to Fort Smith and threw himself on the mercy of the daddy of the gal he’d been fooling, married her, raised a big family, and became one of the best preachers in the Ozarks.

Young John Little, he believed strong in the Lord and hot grease, but he didn’t hold with sects. John said one house was as good as the next, so long as the Lord was there. He told the folks at his revivals to go to any Church but go to church. Baptist, Methodist, Pentecost, Catholic, he preached God, Repentance, and Hot Grease to them all.

They say Old devil quit fiddling for the Blue Mountain Witch after he got his goozle scalded, so she lost most of her power. Her sister married a US Deputy marshal from over in Indian Territory, and they had a house full of kids.

I hear they had a few troubles, but they lived as long and as happy as most married folks do, I reckon. I know the family name – but I won’t call it. The kids made bankers and politicians, though – which seems sort of appropriate considering their mama’s kin and connections. But all this went on seventy, eighty years before Mary “married her toad frog.”

‘Course, they say toad frogs do live a long time. That boy did have a noticeable old fashioned way of expressing himself. Well enough set up feller, except he was a little goggle eyed, even if he was a little longer in the leg and bigger in the thigh than most. The way he could jump, he would have made a champion basketball player.

But anyhoo, I was talking about the liars bench, not witches nor yet preachers nor politicians. The liars gave Frost plenty of trouble. Every time the weather got a little sour every liar in three counties showed up to swap whoppers. It got so customers couldn’t get around in there, and Frost couldn’t sell a thing but cigarettes and chaw terbaccer when it rained. And darn little of those, liars not usually packing much pocket lining.

One raw cold day the place was packed with liars setting around warmin’ by a red hot stove. The yarnin’ was going as hot and heavy as the stove, when this Texas looking cowboy walks in.

Bowlegs looks around and finally goes up to the counter and asks for six sticks of dynamite “to open up a well.” There wasn’t anything unusual about that, dug wells were always silting up and had to be “opened.” Blasting was quicker than digging and speed was usually important. No coffee when the pump don’t work.

Frost goes in the back and comes back with the necessary articles. Fats Henry tears off some butcher paper and wraps that dynamite up, making a nice little parcel out of the lot.

The puncher is standing there looking around, and just as Frost’s about to stick his mitt out for payment the puncher asks for a “twist of chaw.”

Frost gets it and the puncher asks “‘Twist’s four bits?”

Frost grunts assent, the puncher drops two quarters in his hand, picks up the dynamite and his chaw and bowlegs himself for the door.

“Hey,” yells Frost, “Ain’t you gunna pay me for that giant powder?”

“Pay, I jest paid you,” sputters Bowlegs, turning around. “I ain’t going to pay you twice.”

“You paid me for the chaw,” sez Frost, turning toward Piles Sharp. “But you ain’t paid me for the dynamite. Doc Sharp here saw it all, you didn’t see him pay for no dynamite, did you, Doc?”

“I seen him pay for the tobacco, but I didn’t see him pay for the dynamite,” sez Piles, cautious like.

“Well, be thataway, then,” sez the cowboy. Who promptly strides to the red hot potbelly stove, snatches the door open, and throws the parcel of dynamite inside.

Now, you talk about a crowd scatterin’! It’s a worlds wonder that at least one or two of the liars didn’t get tromped plumb to death, gettin’ out of there.

They stopped across the street and waited for the boom. You can’t throw dynamite on a fire without a boom, you know. But they didn’t hear no boom. So a couple of the bravest ones sneaked back up and peeked in the window.

And there was Frost and the cowboy eatin’ sardines and laughing about how they had put the fear of God in that crowd. Well, the liars sort of felt unwanted after that, so they started gatherin’ down at Katie-Bar-the-Door’s pool hall. Ten cents a game, and they could make a game last all afternoon.


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Rain Tomorrow, Candy Day Today

Well, here ’tis Halloween; the first coolish morning since April made us leave the doors open to welcome the fresh breezes; the foliage is beginning to look a bit wilted; some of my friends spent their weekend putting up deer stands: so fall must be here.

Yep, it’s the first weekend of October as I write. And until the Roman Senate got involved October was the eighth month, and Halloween was New Years Eve. Which is why it is “All Hallows Eve,” Halloween, and the saints were supposed to be honored on the first day of the year, but that’s another story. Of course, ever since Roman times every political body called a “senate” has felt duty bound to prove it could mess up a one car funeral.

Anyhoo, it’s crisp outside and I hope it will soon be at least seasonally cool. The record bustin’ September cold up north gives me hope for first frost and the end of hurricane season. And those with a thirst will have an excuse for hot mulled rum, Tom Collins’s, and such like alcoholic gut warmers.

Speaking of which, did you ever hear the story about the rich guy who gave his butler a bottle of whiskey? After a couple of days the rich guy asked the butler how he liked the gift.

“Well, it was just about right, Sir,” says the Butler.

“Just about right? What do you mean, just about right. Explain yourself!,” says the rich man.

“I only mean that had it been any better you would have consumed it yourself, and had it been any worse I could not have, Sir,” says the Butler.

That whiskey’s like the books people keep giving me. Not good books, and not bad books either. Just books. If they had been any better they would have kept them themselves! And, like the butler in the joke I’m not complaining – I’m reading!

For example, did you know that it is illegal to jump over bridges in Providence, Rhode Island. You reckon Superman was there? Maine law bans biting your landlord. Even she looks good enough to.

Now, look at this! It is illegal to sell gunpowder as a cure for headache in Trout Creek, Utah. I wonder why not? I am sure it would be as effective as some of the nostrums peddled for the purpose, and even more effective for a combination of toothache and sinus problems. Just pack the afflicted cavity and touch it off. That would get to the root of the problem.
Well, West Virginia makes making sauerkraut a penal offence. Considering how making the stuff smells, I can sympathize with that. It takes six weeks of fermentation to make the real thing. Stinking to high heaven all the while.

I will have to admit I do like an old fashioned Coney Island style hot dog with a spicy all meat wiener, slathered in mustard and wrapped up in kraut. That’s how a hot dog is supposed to be.

Mentioning islands makes me think of fishing. And the time a customer of mine who teaches Sunday School said one of the boys in his class came in late. Dean asked him why he was late.

“Mr. Novak,” says the boy, “I was going fishing but my Dad stopped me.”

“Well,” says Dean, “I am glad your father is bringing you up right. He’s teaching you not to violate the Sabbath, even for the pleasure of going fishing. Did your Father explain why?”

“Yes, Mr. Novak, he sure did. He explained to me that there wasn’t enough bait but for one, so one of us would have to stay home. And that one was me.”

Speakin’ of fishin’ and preachin’ in the same breath reminds me of the weekend ‘Ol Hardman and Jack Bell 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.”

I don’t think I have said too much about Mrs. Cook in past issues of Zero Beat. She 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.”

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 Espinoza 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 whiskey. It affects people in different ways, and it’s hard to figure before hand how anybody will act under the influence. Plowing a mule 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 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 person. 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 satisfied, though.

Now, speaking of the toothache, I heard about a fellow who had a first class pain in the bicuspid, or maybe t’was a molar.

Anyhow, he’s going down the street holding his jaw, when he meets a fellow he knows. “Howdy, Joe. Whattinells wrong with you? Ya look like you’re setting’ on nails,” says his friend.

“Aw, it’s this darned tooth of mine. It’s about to stand me on end, and Doc Pennington’s gone fishing. I don’t know whether I’ll even get it looked at today or not,” says Joe.

“Well, looky here, man! Whenever I get a toothache I go home and tell my wife. She hugs me and kisses me, and pretty soon I forget all about the tooth. Why don’t you try it?”

“Man, I sure enough thank you for the suggestion,” says Joe. “Where you live, anyhow?”

And that reminds me of the time Doc Pennington, the local Doc Yankem, put an ad in the Times. All it said was:


Man, alive! That’s enough to give you cold robbies thinking about it!

When it came to Doc Pennington, the Times sure needed a proofreader. One time they run a birth announcement that went like this:

“To Doctor and Mrs Pennington, a sin. 6 lbs 4 oz.”

That was a heavy one. At least, that wasn’t like the story my grandfather brought over from Scotland. ‘T seems this couple had been trying and trying to have a baby, and one bitterly cold January day they succeeded.

So Moirag, the wife, wants a birth announcement in the paper – so all her friends would know the long wait was over. So Donald walks twenty miles through the snowdrifts to the paper and puts in a birth announcement. Then he walks the twenty miles home through the snowdrifts. When he gets to his “wee hoose and his wee bairn” Moirag wants to know if he put the announcement in the paper.

“Aye,” says Donald.

“What did it say?” asks Moirag.

“To Moirag and Donald McPherson, a son.”

“Hoo mooch did it cost?” inquires Moirag.

“Fifty pound!” says Donald.

Fifty pound, how come it cost so much?”

“The girrl at the paper asked me how many insairrtions, so I told her twice a week for twelve year!”

Anyhow – the local hospitals have been busy lately. In fact, they put one woman who couldn’t stay on her diet in the maternity ward. I know because one of the women in the office said they were out in the hospital to see a friend and her new baby.

This little girl, maybe ten years old, was running up and down the hall. One of visitors asked the girl what she was doing there. “Oh, I’m just here to see my grandma,” says the girl.

“Just here to see your grandmother? What in the world is your grandmother doing in the maternity ward?”

“She’s been cheating again,” says the girl.

That got everyones attention, until it got explained, for sure.

I mentioned up that I am of Scots descent. They say that Scots are extremely frugal. Now, I know a man, Bill Blackburn, who had a rare blood type and had to have three pints of blood. The only person available with his blood type was a Scotsman, just off the boat.

Bill was so grateful that he gave $100 for the first pint of blood, and $50 for the second pint. By the time he got the third pint he had so much Scots blood that he just thanked the Scot.

Well, it is time to get ready for the treat or trickers.


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Well, That Was Quick

Well – the radio is playing that “Fijian Girl” commercial, and it almost makes me want ot go there. by Well, let’s see what develops here. What do you know, they have changed to “Two Little Boys” which reminds me of the time Old Man Tom Ott showed up at the quarter horse races with an eight year old paint he called Johnny.

The old horse had never been raced so the bookies gave 100 to 1 odds and the stewards loaded the saddle with lead. Old Tom promptly places his whole wad, more’n a thousand, on his stud. Which causes more’n some discussion. The thought of paying out more than a hundred grand on a horse nobody had a line on gave the bookies the jitters. Even though the stewards said no old horse with carrying 150 pounds would win, so forget about it.

Come the start of the race Black Johnny was first out of the box and made it to the finish line about the time the pack was at the half way point. Naturally, the stewards and the bookies were mighty suspicious so they summon Old Tom to the offices for a conflab.

“You had this horse for eight years,” they wanted to know, “How come you never raced him before?”

“Well, to tell the truth,” sez Old Tom, sheepish like, “we couldn’t catch him until he was seven.”

He collected his money, too. Of course, Tom was another one of those old wolves you didn’t mess with too much. Yessir, that man was off the same bolt as Lane Cooter, Senior. All wool and six feet wide.

Although Lane Senior didn’t hold with gambling. Especially on horse races. He used to say there wasn’t a horse in the world that can go as fast as the money you bet on him.

Which is true. I heard a couple of guys in Omaha talking about the races at Ak-Sar-Ben.

“Did you have good luck at the races yesterday?” sez one.

“I sure did,” sez t’other. “I found a dime after the last race so I didn’t have to walk home.”

Of course, it depends a lot on your viewpoint. Elwyn Sproat used to swear he was down in the stables and he heard the horse that won the big stakes race bragging about it.

“And I not only won the race, I got two extra bales of hay. And brother, that ain’t money.”

If you have priced horse feed lately you know there is more truth than poetry to that statement!

Well – the ABC, Aussie Broadcasting, has changed to an interview. They are interviewing a Rupert Murdoch type moneybags about how he made his fortune in opals.

“I nevah hesitate to give full credit to my wife for her invaluable assistance,” sez the mining magnate.

“You give your wife credit for your success?”

“Yes, I was curious to see if there was any income she cannot live beyond.”

I ‘spect that fellow would be easier in his mind if he’d been like Jimmy Ottar. Jimmy takes a gal for a ride, and asks her to marry him. And gets a laundry list of what the gal wants in a husband.

Jimmy takes it all in, turns his car around, and heads for her house. As he lets her out he sez “If I had all the qualities you want in a man I’d have proposed to someone else.”

Jimmy was pretty lucky, though. He was ready to get married so he proposed to Alice Townes the very next night. It was the shortest romance on record. He asked her “wilt though,” and she wilted.

Well, the radio is looking up! “The ladies of the harem of King Caractacus were just passing by.” If that won’t wake you up you might just as well mosey on down to Buryinn’ Sams and slide into a box.

Things were different back in King Caradoc’s, to give him his Anglicized name, time. Men were men and ladies were expected to be ladies. Nowadays women are expected to look like girls, think like
men, work like dogs, and still behave like ladies.

Which, the behavior expected of ladies has also changed. But you can still find wives who spend two hours every night fixing their husband’s suppers. Some of the cans are tricky to open.

Of course, modern living is confusing. A friend of mine was puzzled the other day. He couldn’t tell whether his wife was coming or going. The only thing he knew was she had not been shopping. And wives aren’t the only family members that have changed.

A friend of mine was telling his college age son off for being just hard down lazy. “Son” he sez, “When I was your age I worked sixteen hours a day learning the machinists trade.”

“I’m very proud of you, Father,” sez the boy. “If it had not been for your ambition and preseverance, I might have had to do something like that myself!”

That boy’s grandfather just turned 88, and you talk about somebody being tighter than the paper on the wall! He was raising cain about the price of groceries the other day. He insisted there is no reason at all to spend more’n ten bucks a week to feed a family. I remember those days, myself, but I do buy groceries occasionally.

“Can’t you persuade him,” his daughter in law asked his wife, “That he can’t take it with him?”
“Why, dear,” sez his wife, “I can’t even persuade him that someday he’s going.”

Genealogy is all the rage these days. I knew an old boy that hired a private investigator to trace his ancestry. A few weeks later I asked him if he had heard from his private eye.

“He uncovered so much,” he sez, “That now I’m paying him hush money!”

Well, it looks like the ox is in the ditch again so let me go get him out.


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Fauxahontas Say “Better No Checks On Gov’t Agency”

Posting at the SEantor Fauxahontas Warren [D-MA says it is better to have no oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Fauxahontas, who practiced law for several years without a license, says making sure making sure a Federal agency stays within the law would be bad for the government. In reality, failing to keep government agencies within the law is a step toward totalitarianism.

So why would the full-blooded Cherokee with no Indian ancestry make such an asinine statement? The only reason I can think of, other than the obvious one of granting the Feds unlimited power is to enforce the Koran’s injunction against charging interest.


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I Am Supposed To Say Something, But I Forgot What

Well, I’m writing this a post for La Casa, but I can’t think of a subject. So if this post seems to wander, you will know that I am still lost.

But I’m sure something will happen that I figure needs to be talked about. Anyhoo, hank snow crooning “I Been Everywhere” on the radio.

‘Minds me of the gal at her college reunion back in ’50 while I was up at Stillwater. The shebang was to end up with a faculty-alumni dance so all the alum’s could visit their old professor. And at that dance this gal gets tapped by a familiar looking old geezer who is very obviously a senior member of the faculty.

“Weren’t you Suzanne Coffee from Coffeeville?” asks the prof.

“I still am, as far as I know, Professor Bird,” sez Suzy.

“I thought you were because I always thought you look just like your dad. He was one of my favorite students, you know. I saw your dad down in Oklahoma City a couple of weeks ago and I don’t think he ever looked better.”

“Professor,” sez Suzy, “The next time you see my dad you better run like hell. He’s been dead since the summer of ’48.”

Now, Suzy married one of the Pennington brothers who ran the Rexall. THE drug store. But anyhoo her brother in law’s wife was Helen Pennington – and Helen was about as far sighted as they get, too proud to wear glasses in public, and big on putting her pinch nose specs on and throwing card parties for her church ladies. That’s the only time she would wear specs, when she played bridge, and canasta when that got popular back during the Korean War. Had to wear them to see the spots on the cards, you know.

One time Helen was planning a soiree and Bob told her that they had a lot of boxed Easter candy left and he would appreciate it if she would come get it so they didn’t have to throw it out and waste it.

Which suited Mrs. Helen right down to the ground. She hustles down to pick up the candy – and decided to grab up some gum for the ladies as well. So come the day, she sets little bowls with candy and gum around her living room, breaks out a dozen decks of bicycles, playing cards; gets an urn of coffee ready, sets out the cups, and she’s ready for action.

The ladies trickle in and start gulping and munching. Her stock of candy and gum went down like a quart of whiskey at a gandy dancers cakewalk.

Especially that gum! Every woman there would pop a couple of pieces in her mouth, chew until it lost its flavor, spit it out and get another mouthful.The problem was that Mrs. Helen thought she had gotten several big boxes of Chiclets. But what she picked up was Feenamint laxative. Depth charges!

The ladies were chewin’ depth charges! And way before the party was supposed to be over she had a very impatient line waiting to use the Pennington’s indoor one holer! Some of the ladies got so impatient they cleaned the garden pots off the seat of the old two holer out back, and went two by two. While the next pair nearly beat the door down.

It all came out well in the end, though. Bob put a sign on his Feenamint display that said “Tested and approved by the ladies of the First Church of God.” And sold a ton of the stuff.

Well, there’s the Andrews Sisters singing that Shortnin’ Bread song. “Shortnin’ shortnin’ Mama’s lil’ baby got Shortening bread.” That was elevator music the last time I was in Duluth.

Walking around the Wal-Mart stretching my legs. I kept walking by this old couple standing in the appliance department staring at the microwaves. I kept making orbits and they kept standing staring at the food nukers.

I figured they were just having a hard time making a choice.But after about a half hour I heard the old man tell the old woman “Come on, Helga, let’s go home. This television stuff ain’t worth nuthin’.”

That old guy reminds me of a teen ager I saw coming out of a Church cook-tent at the Bemidji fair. Now, let me tell you that if you go to a fair up in Yankeeland you want to eat at the church joints. Those folks feed you like you were home folks. Good n’ plenty! Hot n’ fresh!

But anyhoo this skinny kid was coming out of a church joint that was advertising all you could eat roast goose and wild rice stuffing. Looking as stuffed as the goose. And somebody about his age hailed him.

“Hey, Ole. You been eating at that Lutheran place.”

“Yeah, I been in there,” sez the kid.

“Well, how was it?” demanded his friend.

“The goose was all right,” sez the well fed one. “But I didn’t much care for what he’d been eatin’.”

Speaking of geese, and birds generally, reminds me of that cat lady up the road a piece. Jesse Ventura’s twin sister gets all upset when somebody suggests reining in the cat population because cats kill wild birds.

She don’t see the point that there are only a few hundred of some species of songbirds left – and there’s upteen jillion cats. I get along with cats but I wish most of them were spayed or neutered. Just like a farm boy I know name of Billy Kelly. Billy wrote a letter to that effect to his Daily Blat, saying that if something wasn’t done there wouldn’t be any birds left. And the cat woman took offense.

Got all bent out of shape, she did.

Billy was home alone when a Caddy with two women in it came whirling up in his front yard. Billy figgers they were lost and wanted directions. So he starts saunterin’ over to see if he could help them get unlost.

Billy said he noticed when they pulled in the driver was a large lass. He found out how large when the cat lady crawls out of the drivers seat, and a smaller and older version toting a cat on a leash crawls out of the passenger side door. Only Billy didn’t know these were the cat ladies at the time.

The gal with the cat put it on the ground as Billy found himself staring straight into the female wrestler’s chest. Billy said he figured the gal would go six six under the black Dolly Parton style beehive wig she sported. From his description this luscious lass would top three hundred pounds; judging her weight the way you do livestock, by the hindquarters. she was built like a sack of potatoes; and she had smeared a half a pint can of red paint on her face, by way of war paint.

“I want to see this Billy Kelly,” she bellows. “Right now.”

“Well, ma’am, I reckon you’re seeing’ him.” sez Billy. “What can I do for you?”

And at that the cat lady unloaded on him. She sure proved she was no lady. She cussed Billy at a high volume and a fast rate of speed for even daring to think that a precious kitty would ever harm a bird. Or that any bird could possibly be sweeter and more loving than Madame Pompadour here, waving at the cat the other woman was leading into the fray.

The leash lady had her mouth open, ready to open fire as soon as the wrestler ran down a little. Just then Billy saw his bulldog, Growler, sneaking up on the cat on a string. The wrestler ran out of breath just as the cat discovered Growler was about to do a little pouncing of his own.

Now, evidently the kitty was leash wise. A cat’s first instinct is to get high enough up so the dog couldn’t reach her. But instead of making a break for a tree or the top of the Caddy, the cat climbed the tallest thing the leash would reach. The cat lady!

That cat made a first jump and stuck all four sets of claws in her at Billy’s eye level. The cat woman started squalling “Myrtis, get her off,” and trying to bat the cat away but by then the cat had topped the mountain! Like a good climber, it didn’t make long steps, it just made a whole bunch of steps. And if it didn’t sink it’s claws in clothing it got a real good grip in hide. All the way to the top!

But when Madame Pompadour grabbed for the top she got hair – and that Dolly Parton wig came off and went rolling on the ground. The frantic cat paid absolutely no attention to the black ball of fur that went flying past her. She stuck her claws anywhere she could and climbed until she was at the absolute apex of the woman mountain she had climbed. Where she stuck her claws in and determined to spend the rest of eternity in safety.

Climbed and clung there on the cat woman’s bald knob! With all four sets of claws dug in for dear life. The cat woman squalled and tried to peel the cat off. Bad strategy! The cat could still see the dog, and she wasn’t about to let go. The more the cat woman tried to pull the cat off, the harder the cat held on. By the time the cat came loose the cat woman looked like she had lost a fight with with a Sioux war party.

But Growler had lost interest in the cat. He was plumb interested in this black furry critter that the cat had knocked off the top of Bald Knob! And bein’ a brave dog he proceeds to KILL IT! And to tear it into lots of little bitty pieces!

Jesse’s sister and her compadre in cats piled back in the Caddy and made tracks for Brookhaven. But Billy’s a little nervous about the whole deal. He is holed up at his grandmothers, a couple of counties away. If they send somebody with a summons for him – he ain’t home.

Well, my twenty minutes is up, and I have to go back to work.

Watch this space, no tellin’ what will show up. I might even tell about Elanor Roosevelt and the Chief.


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And Up Jumps The Devil

Well, the stores think Christmas is almost here and the radio is playing those old familiar refrains again. Like Rudolph. I sure remember when that song came out. I was in the railroad station in Raleigh, North Carolina the first time I heard Roy Rogers singing that tune.

The ticket agent was a buxom blonde showing more chest than was generally acceptable in those days and several of the college kids buying tickets were a more’n a little goggleyed at the sight. Some of their eyes got so big they stuck out like a crabs! One of them rubbed his eyes back in their sockets and squeezed in line ahead of me. In a minute that purty thang sang out “Destination, Puleeze?”

“Two pickets to Tittsburgh,” sez the boy. He didn’t notice, but she did! I could sympathize with him, she had just about the same effect on me. But I managed to get my ticket to Savannah without misspeaking myself. I think. At least, If I did, she did not glare at me.

Which ‘minds me that I was totin’ bags for tips when a country looking couple walks in and the man asks for a room – while the gal hangs back and looks embarrassed. Jimmy, the desk clerk, recognizes the symptoms, of course.

“You will want the bridal chambers, of course,” sez Jimmy.

“Well, we will rent one for the wife,” sez the lad, “But I’ll jest pee out the winder like I do at home.”

But anyhoo, right now the radio is playing a cheerful ditty that goes “Happy Birthday Father Christmas.” Father Christmas is what the Brits and Aussies call Santa Claus, and the song reminds me of a red headed college professor type war bride I ran into one time. Literally!

We turned the same corner at the same time and wham! She had about two hundred and fifty or so pounds on me and it was like getting smacked by a feather bed tied to the front end of a Mack truck. Although the truck she smacked me into did me more damage.

I found her a pleasant enough bird, but rawtha intimidating to a skinny kid like me. She was the type to warm you in winter and shade you in the summer, though. Big gal! Six seven or so, and she’d go around four hundred on the hoof. So big I figured they took her measurements like surveying land, by rods and chains.

But she was towing a daughter about my age, and OH MY!, that Hermione gal made me forget all my cuts and contusions. Yessir, that gal just naturally forced a growing boy to look her up one side and right back down the same side, she looked so good.

She was a popular gal, although she took after her mama. Crik in the neck tall. She could have had a date every night. But this English gal was a budding opera singer. And opera in English makes about as much sense to me as Russian baseball.

It’s sort of like playing country music backward. You know how that goes, the dog comes back; your ex gets married, stops the alimony and brings your truck back; your mamma gets out of jail, somebody else confesses to the crime, and you ain’t left with a thing to cry about.

Hermione got religion and Brother Hataway James was going to baptize her. She gets ready and Brother James sez “Now, Hermione, I’m going to wash all your sins away.”

“My goodness,” giggles Ermie, “In that little tub?”

Speaking of Brother Hataway James, that young man told a story about going to preach sermons in little country churches when he was still in Bible School. He said he got to a church in Eram, which is out from Muskogee if they haven’t moved it, and the congregation was waiting on him. The whole congregation!

They wanted him to have a trial for one of the oldest members of the congregation, who was accused of cussin’ the church! Now, that was a serious matter! So the whole congregation gathers up to try this old fellow and kick him out of the church.

Naturally, they had to let the defendant have his say after four or five said they had heard him cuss the church in church.

He starts out “I don’t know what to say about this. They say I cussed the church, and I didn’t, but in a way I did.”

Of course, that had everyone’s attention so Brother James waved him to go on.

“We had that funeral for Aunt Ophelia Jenkins last week, and the whole settlement gathered up for services. When they opened the casket there was a big old polecat setting on top of Aunt Ophelia just like he belonged there.”

“That critter stuck its tail straight up and started running around trying to get out of the coffin. The congregation made a rush for the door. In all the rush and excitement Brother Jenkins and Sister O’Toole got jammed up in the door, and little Johnny Jenkins tried to crawl between their legs and kicked me in the knee. It was just an awful mess. In all the excitement I hollered out `Damn a church house anyway that don’t got but one door.'”

Those folks should have taken a page from the old gypsy’s three simple rules for a long life. “Always have payoff money. Always have getaway money. Never let yourself get parked in.”

Anyhoo, Father Christmas has had his birthday and now somebody is playing a Irish jig on a pipe organ. Sounds like an elephant trying to toe dance. The Washerwoman is a fun “chune” on an accordion, banjo, or a concertina, but it wants a more agile instrument than the “giant Wurlitzer pipe organ.” Or someone with faster fingers who can compensate for the delay between pressing a key and getting a toot.

Of course, the accordion, the “knee organ,” called a Cordovox isn’t much smaller than a theater organ. At something like nine grand and up, way up, new, it’s not much cheaper than one, either. And not a darn bit lighter. As the kinks in my back can attest.

You know what a half step in music is? That’s a Cordovox player staggering on stage with fifty pounds of squeezebox strapped to his chest.

The only thing in portable music boxes heavier than a Cordovox is a bandonion, a semi-portable bass register box that’s popular in Argentina. But any knee-harmonica is heavy. Even a little fifteen pound pedalowka gets heavy at the end of a six hour polka session.

That’s why male squashbox players have so much sympathy for women’s issues. They know what it’s like to be nine months preggers and stand on your dogs all night long.

One thing, though, a squeezebox doesn’t kick like a baby. It pinches. Particularly on a long cut time solo. Things get moving when you play twice as fast as the rest of the band.

A second’s carelessness can feel like you just had your appendix out without anesthetic. It can make a boy think he’s been turned into a girl, I guarantee!

But a piano with suspenders has certain advantages over other instruments. I knew a Scotsman that took up the “box.” He had been first piper in a bagpipe band until all his teeth fell out. The poor soul had lost his grip! He couldn’t hold on to his mouthpiece.

The change made sense, since the “box” is the Scot’s second national instrument. They call it a bagpipe with pleats. Of course, most accordions are “musette” tuned, and “musette” is French for a sort of Breton dudelsak.

But the Scots are a unique people. They can take the two instruments that annoy the most people in this world, put them in the same band, and make ’em sound pretty good. Especially when the audience gets a snootful of that aged motor oil distilled with peat they call Scotch whisky.

Of course, these days stomach steinways are out of style with Americans. Considering that a decent Striduli starts at around six grand and goes up, I expect they are priced out of the US market.

A kid that won’t hesitate to pay $80,000 for a mass produced motorized rollerskate with a snake on the logo will balk at five grand for a handcrafted musical instrument. A 99 buck Chinese plunkbox with a warped neck and frets set so high they eat fingertips like a five year old eats Eskimo Pies is more their speed.

Accordions are as popular as ever with folks from the rest of the world, though. I was over in Hotlanta a few weeks ago and read in the Constitution that a Mexican accordion player who was on his way from a wedding to a dance just had to have a cuppa. So Jose stops at the 7-11 on Peachtree Industrial for some caffine. He was just drawing one when he realized his mistake. He ran back outside, but it was too late.

Somebody had already smashed in his pickup window and thrown two more accordions into the seat. But at least accordion players are a sociable lot.

You know what happens when a bunch of accordion players get together, don’t you. Bellowship!

Speaking of which, do you know the difference between an accordion and a lawnmower? The neighbors get real upset if you borrow a lawnmower and don’t return it.

But bad puns aside, accordions have a lot of health benefits. If you stand up to play, the extra weight is good exercise. Learning to play is much like playing the piano lying on the piano stool, but it sharpens your mind something wonderful, especially when you are exercising your fingers with the Hanon, but playing a familiar tune is very relaxing. And no, accordions are not hard to play. No harder than learning Polish.

You know, a lot of famous people have been pleated piano players. Richard Nixon for one. John Dean for another. And both the Nixon daughters – making a White House pancordion quartet of an ill assorted sort.

And an Air Force General, and movie actor name of Jimmy Stuart was a whiz with the waistline wurlitzer. He didn’t need backup in that Western scene where he’s playing his antique Busson on the train, waiting for the baddies to show up.

‘Fact, when they were making that movie Stuart’s playing intrigued an Apache extra, who persuaded Jimmy to teach him to play the belly baldwin. And insisted on giving Stuart drum lessons in return.

That’s how Jimmy Stuart became the best Apache war drum beater in the Air Force. And also how the squeezebox became part of Waila, the Mex-Oodham music of southern Arizona.

Huddie Ledbetter, “Leadbelly,” picked out the tune on a 12 bass he called a “windjammer” when he wrote Goodnight Irene. Charlie Chaplin was another actor/accordionist. Another ham, actor, and musician, “Big Daddy” Burl Ives, played the accordion. As did former French PM Giscard d’Estang and the former President of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir. And a bunch of other fairly famous folks.

Oh well, let me change the station! Ah, “He fought for Red Nellie’s honor, he died with two six guns a blazin’, but only two hairs on his chest.”

Well, the Lavender Cowboy had a common enough problem. The education system failed him. Nobody ever told him the facts of life. He-men don’t have hair on their chests. They keep it wore off. Or their women folks do, at any rate.

Of course, women are changeable folks. I remember a while back when a Coast big shot croaked and the widow told the folks at O’Keefe’s to absolutely spare no expense. The bill came to a cool thirty seven grand and change. And the widow was plumb indignant.

“But madam,” sez the undertaker, “You said to give him the best.”

“Yes,” said the grief stricken one, “And it would have been three thousand dollars cheaper to bury him in a BMW.”

It would have been, too. Well, the tune has changed to a varsouviana. Shoe the Donkey, it’s called. Which reminds me of the time I was up in fox hunting country, Kentucky.

The widow lady I was doing odd jobs for was named Mary Harris, and she had a mule she called Herb. Late one afternoon she calls the vet and sez “Doc, Herb is sick and I wish you would come over and look at him.”

The doc told her Herb was most likely “bound up” with gas, and to give Herb a dose of mineral oil. The doc promised to call in the morning and see about him if he didn’t perk right up.

“How do I give it to him?”

“Through a funnel, of course.”

“But he might bite me!” sez Miz Harris.

“Now, Mary, you are a farm woman and you know about these things. You have to give it to him through the other end.”

So Miz Harris went out to the barn and there’s Herb with his head down, moaning and groaning. Something had to be done!

Miz Harris looks around for a funnel, but the nearest thing she could find to one was her Uncle Charlie’s fox hunting horn, a brass horn with red tassels tied to it.

She takes that horn, inserts the mouthpiece in the proper place and ties the tassels to the root of Herb’s tail so it won’t fall out. Herb pays no attention at all to these goings on. Then Miz Harris reaches up on the shelf where the veterinary medicines were kept.

But Miz Harris was long sighted and her reading glasses were in the kitchen, so she misses the mineral oil and gets the turpentine instead. And promptly proceeds to pour an extra liberal dose of turps in the horn and all over Herb’s hindquarters. Like the better part of a quart. You talk about a surprised mule!

Herb raised his head with a sudden jerk that snapped his halter rope. He let out a scream they could hear a mile away. He rears up on his hind legs, brings his front legs down, kicks a hole in the side of the barn, bolts through it, and starts down the road at full gallop. Don’t think a mule can’t run!

Now, the vet was right, and Herb was full of gas. All the activity got things moving back there, so every few jumps that horn tooted, long and loud.

Every dog in the neighborhood knew when that horn blew it meant Uncle Charlie was going fox hunting. So the dogs held a gathering out on the highway, barking joyously and running like blazes after old Herb.

I tell you, that was a sight. First, Herb running at full gallop, the brass horn hanging under his tail, the ends of the tassels flying, and about sixty or seventy dogs baying him on.

The went by Old Man Howe, who was setting on his front porch. The Old Man hadn’t drawn a sober breath in forty year, and he gazed in absolute amazement as the parade passed under the street light. He thought he’d come down with the delirious tremulous and was seeing mules instead of snakes. He swore off moonshine for the rest of the night.

By that time it was pitch black out. Herb and the dogs were on the main road, coming up on the swing bridge over the Elkhorn. The bridge tender heard the horn blowing and figured a coal barge was coming.

So the bridge tender turns the bridge. Herb ran out of road, fell in the river, hit the bridge pier, broke his neck, and died. The dogs followed him into the water, but they swam out without much trouble.

Now, it just so happened that the bridge tender was running for tax assessor of Jessimine County. But he only got three votes.

Folks figured any idjit that didn’t know the difference between a mule with a horn up its behind and a coal barge coming down the river wasn’t fit to hold office.

Well, there’s Christmas in Killarney. I can’t think of anything I’d rather hear this time of year than a pretty sounding girl singing “Father Brown, before he’s gone, will bless the house and all.”

I knew a preacher one time name of Brown, over in Buna, Texas, back when gas was rationed and most folks either walked or stayed home.

Brother Brown was always exhorting his congregation not to be scared of the Devil, the Lord would take care of them. Some of the tough kids in the bunch decided to test the old boy’s nerves so they got some red flannel and made themselves a devil suit.

One Wednesday sermon Brown’s preaching away about not being skeered of the Devil when one of the boys jumps out of the loft wearing that devil suit and yelling a blue streak.

The congregation got the jump on the preacher and got to the road before him. But he caught the congregation, passed them, and was going away in about three seconds flat! As he faded in the dark he hollered back “I ain’t skeered of the Devil, mind you, I’m just too good to associate with him.”

Well, that’s it for that half hour. If I can get my regular computer to behave I will post more often.


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And The Charitable Lawyer Could Spare A Kidney

I hear a lot of folks were disappointed that the end of world hasn’t happened yet. ‘Minds me of the story they told on old Cooter Hatcher. This young preacher came prospecting around looking for – well, to tell the truth he was looking for folks that would drop pictures of Lincoln or Jackson in the collection plate every Sunday. But he said he was looking for souls to save.

This feller, I don’t remember his name, was called on to preach on the courthouse lawn one first Saturday. He called on himself, of course, like most of the self appointed preachers I have known. And every one of the bunch could could blow up a blimp by themselves between breakfast and dinner.

This jackleg starts his trade day sermon with “I’m just a poor country preacher” and Mrs. Jackson Willets hollers out “I know you are. I’ve heard you preach.” Which cracked up the crowd. They had heard him preach too!

But anyhoo, this shirt tail preacher pulls up in the Hatcher yard, hops out, and without as much as “Howdy” comes right out and asks Cooter if he’s lost.

“Why, no,” sez Cooter. “I been living right here more’n forty year.”

“I mean, have you found Jesus?” sez the Bible thumper.

“I didn’t know He was lost,” sez Cooter. “My Bible sez He’s up in Heaven until He comes agai

“No, what I mean is, are you a member of the Christian Band?”

“I don’t play no pianner nor nothin’,” Cooter orates, “You must be lookin’ for that fiddle playin’ Charlie Christian that lives third house the other side of the forks.”

“No, my question is are you ready for the Judgement Day?”

“When is it?” asks Cooter.

“No man knows. It might be next week or it might be next year.”

“Well, when you find out let me know. The old woman might want to go both days.”

Yessir, no man knows the day or the hour. But if there’s a nickel to be made some sharper will claim to know. And there will be fourteen hundred more standing with their hands out following him.

But that Cooter Hatcher was a cutter, a hard worker, but he was bad to drink and generally a mess – and all sixteen of his boys were just like him. I remember when his youngest, Coy, came walking down the main drag all dressed up like the guest of honor at a ten thousand dollar funeral. Except Coy’s pants didn’t have the hind end cut out of them like those funeral home suits do.

But anyhoo, Cleveland the grocer asks Coy where he’s going.

“Oh, I’m going over to Joplin,” drawls slow talking Coy. “I’m gunna visit me one of those sporting houses where they got all them good lookin’ women, you know.”

“Well, hayell,” sez Cleveland, “Why are you all duded up just to visit a sportin’ house?”

“If’n it’s as much fun as they say it is,” drawls Coy, “I figured I might just as well stay over Sunday.”

But speaking of funeral home pants reminds me of the time ‘Ol Cooter got potted and came wabblin’ out of the alley, there was only one alley in town, wabblin’ like a model T Ford with a flat tire, and almost run over Father Fitzgerald.

Cooter takes one bleary look at the padre and busts out with “My God, man, you must be drunk! You done put your shirt on ass backards.”

“No, you don’t understand,” sez the padre in his rich Irish brogue. “I’m Father Fitzgerald.”

“Well, heyell, I got sixteen boys myself and I don’t wear my collar ass backard.”

“No, you still don’t understand me,” sez the Padre. “I’m the father of thousands.”

“Heyell, man, you don’t need to wear your collar backards,” slurs Cooter. “You need to wear your pants backards!”

Which, speakin’ of Father Fitzgerald, somebody asked the Padre what the difference was between Lutherans and Catholics. “Me bhoy,” sez the Padre, “Lutherans sin just like Catholics. They just never learned to enjoy it.”

Now – speakin’ of Cooter Hatcher and his boys, Cooters wife bought two identical big letter Bibles, not the regular King James version but some sort of revisionist Bible, from a travellng salesman one time. She kept one and gave the other to Brother Henry, the preacher at the Hatcherville Baptist.

Brother Henry was almost blind, so the gift was much appreciated. But two of Cooters younger boys got to going through their mama’s Bible and noticed something real interestin’ about the way Noah’s flood described. And when the word got around that Brother Henry was going to preach on the Flood – the boys slipped into the church and cut one of the pages of the gift Bible out.

So come Sunday, Brother Henry started reading out of the Book and sez “Noah took unto himself a wife and she was,” and he shifts the Bible where he could start at the top of the next page, “Three hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide and fifty cubits high.”

All at once he breaks off and very obviously goes back to the bottom of the previous page. You could see his lips move as he read the passage over again.

Then he starts to take up his sermon again, starting out “I been reading this Bible over 80 year, man and boy, and they’s parts of it that’s mighty hard to believe.”

But I got Leroy Van Dyke singing that “Auctioneer” song on the radio. Now that brings back memories – of fifteen cent quarts of milk, dime loaves of bread, fifty cent a pound sirloin with a big hunk of suet thrown in to cook it in, and a whole bunch of good times. I had a lot of fun in those days even if I almost starved to death. Broke – more’n somewhat – most of the time.

This world has improved a bunch since those days. But one thing is just the same as it’s always been. You got to be careful, and you got to be smart, and you always have to consider the consequences of everything you do, just to get along.

Like that story about Joe, a Cape Cod lawyer who figured he was just about at the end of his rope. His addition showed it would take a cool million to pay off his loans and let him eat off the interest for the rest of his life. Two million would let him live in the style to which he had accustomed himself. And being broke and hungry and sleeping under the dock – he didn’t see how he’d ever survive.

So he hikes down the beach, figuring he’d find a nice deserted place to start swimming for Europe. Not that he expected to make it, but he was going to swim as far as he could before he drowned. But anyhoo he’s strolling along the beach when he comes across an odd looking ceramic jug with a funny looking lead seal on top of a cork stopper.

Being the very model of a thoroughly modern College Man, Broke Joe had never heard of the Seal of Solomon. So he does not know what he is looking at. And if he did he probably would have figured he had nothing to lose and gone ahead and indulged his curiosity.

So he pulls the cork, there’s a cloud of smoke, and a Djinn appears. A Djinn being the right name for what TV calls a Genie. Except that a Djinn is the real McCoy and has powers to read minds and manipulate time and matter that TV never thought of – and the manners and morals of an eight year old brat.

Which is why Solomon, Son of David, imprisoned them in clay jugs, amphoras rather than bottles, one to a jug, put an impenetrable seal on them, and threw their prisons in the sea about 3200 years ago. Naturally, quite a few of the Djinn have gone off their rockers in those thousands of years of solitary confinement, so breaking Solomon’s seal and uncorking a crazy Djinn is taking your life in your hands.

But this Djinn smiles at our bankrupt hero and sez “Yes, to thank you for rescuing me from my prison, I really will give you any three of your heart’s desires. You have only to ask and you will receive. But let me warn you that I was the chief judge among the Djinn, so what I grant to you, I will grant to every other lawyer in the world, in double measure. Choose carefully, for whatever you wish for, every other lawyer will have two of.”

“Sounds Jake to me,” sez Broke Joe. “I can’t afford to worry about trifles like that. First of all, I want two million dollars American in hundred dollar bills.”

“Done,” sez the Djinn, as box after box of U.S government issue paper money appeared in front of Broke Joe. “But remember, you have two million dollars but every other lawyer in the world has four million.”

“That’s OK,” sez Nouveau Riche Joe. “I can’t afford pride, and I never begrudged anyone anything. But I have always wanted a Rolls Royce limo to carry my money in.”

“Done,” sez the Djinn with a smile. “And every other lawyer in the world has two. And what do you want for your third wish, my friend?”

“Well,” sez Joe, “I always liked to help people in need and I can spare a kidney….”

And with a gusty laugh, the Djinn left Joe to load his newfound wealth in his limo and contemplate a brighter world…..


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The Only Way You Can Tell Is By Their Vote

Glancing over the morning’s news, I was struck by the number of Congressmen who are members of the Republican Party, but usually vote like Democrats.

As the hawkers used to say at the ball games, “Programs, getcher programs, You can’t tell the players without a program. Getcher programs here.”

Yep, you cannot tell who belongs to what party without a program. And the closest thing we have is the ‘On the Issues” website.


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Head Start As Successful As Teaching A pig To Play The Banjo

A five year study at Vanderbilt University found little, if any, gains in pre-kindergarten school programs.

While they do provide a state controlled place for pre-school age children to stay under State control and indoctrination, they do nothing toward furthering the children’s education. Given the nature of the rasa tabula that is a small child’s mind, that would be the expected result. Briefly quoting the Nashville Public Radio report linked above:

Vanderbilt Peabody College professors followed a thousand students from pre-K through third grade and compared them to a control group who skipped pre-K. All of the students are considered economically disadvantaged.

Not only did students who missed pre-K catch up within a year or two. But researchers found, on the whole, students who attended pre-K fell behind their peers by the time they finished third grade.

Yep, just as many experienced teachers expected, Head Start is a counterproductive failure. One that would not have been imposed on helpless children, had not it profited someone enough to buy a new government program.


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Amusing: Far Left Academic Says America Owes Trillions

Years ago, when I bewailed the fact that every recess turned into a brawl, my father told me “Never regret the circumstances that led to your existence.”

If Custer had not chased a band of Cheyenne hundreds of miles in order to kill a chief and seize the daughter that caught Yellow Hair’s eye, I would not exist. If a Scots Laird had not ordered his crofters burned out to make room for sheep, I would not exist. And there is hardly a man alive on the face of the earth who is not an accidental product of some tragic event.

That comment made, I see a Communo-Socialist academic, Noam Chomsky, says America should pay reparations to Black Americans, Indians, and Iraqis. And used the insulting “native Americans” in that advocacy.

Of course, there would be very few Black Americans had not their own people sold their ancestors into the hands of Arabian slave traders, who sold them in turn to their Spanish counterparts, who sold most of them to Spanish and Portuguese slave dealers at the Havana slave market. There is no doubt the United States had slavery, but American slaves were at least fed, housed, and given the same medical treatment as their owners. Slaves were too valuable not to treat them well, compared to the unfortunates that went to Spanish and Portuguese colonies.

For the most part, even the “blackbirders” who transported millions of African slaves across the Atlantic treated the unfortunate victims of an African custom better than their captors did. If spending up to four weeks chained to the filthy deck of a ship was bad, consider the plight of up to forty thousand captives a year yoked to stakes driven in hard ground, waiting to be sacrificed ti their captors ancestors. Or an equal number in chains, working their captors fields until they too were sacrificed. Before the slave trade, captives were sacrificed to their ancestors, not giv3e at least a chance at survival And to become the ancestors of today’s Black Americans.

Reparations? If reparations are due they should be borne by the Dahomey, Fon, and the other major African slave sellers. Not by people whose ancestors were, by and large, in Europe and bitterly opposed to human slavery. A condition uncomfortably close to their own.

Reparations for Native Americans? You imply that a peoples are aboriginal, primitive, unsophisticated, “unsophisticated” and tell a third party they owe them? True enough, by nature, I owuld like to see the Great Plains given back to the Sioux, the Cheyenne, Ponca, Kiowa, Comanche and the many other nations that inhabited that land before the sort of governance that academic supports drove huge numbers of Europeans to seek a place to make a better life.

While reparation’s my well be due to the Indian Nations that were crowded out by population pressures and the conflict of cultures, there is not enough money in the world to pay the Indians for what they have lost. You cannot pay a man for the murder of his ancestors. As a practical matter, the best you can do is to try to make The People proud and self supporting humans again.

Reparations for Iraq? Virtually all the damage done to Iraq was done by its own people, in sectarian violence. America toppled a tyrant, put a country on a path to independence as a nation, only to see it destroyed in the age old conflict between Sunni and Sharia, and the power madness of the Iranian theocracy. the Iraqis are responsible for their own plight. so let them pay.

Chomsky’s ideas on reparations are as unrealistic as his Communo-Socialist politics. Politics that, with its Fascistoo-Socialist twin have cost more than 300 million innocent lives since 1900. Opinions based on an unrealistic view of reality, combined with a simplistic view of how social systems work.

It is time for the professor emeritus to become emeritus.


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