“In Search of,” Billings, Montana

Jeff Crocker, Every body remembers Jeff. His family was living in number 12 at Silver Dolphin by the office when he was born.  His Daddy worked on a shrimp boat. The same trailer the Westberry girls lived in a few years later.  Come to think of it, my sister and her family lived there too.

When my nephew Glen and I were on the road selling tools.  To keep Glen from getting homesick, I let him bring Jeff out to work with us.  Jeff didn’t just have one problem, he had a whole list (as do we all I guess).  He couldn’t read, so when we went out to the restaurants to eat, somebody else always had to read the menu for him.  To hide this, he would just order a hamburger, plain, no mustard, no ketchup, no pickle, just a plain hamburger.  It got to be a real pain in the you know what when we ordered at the drive thru, because his order would always be hot and ours would be cold and because we had to wait why they made his up from scratch.

Jeff liked to drink more than he liked to work. When you are on the road you have to work to make money, just to survive, because no will give you anything, you have to work for it.  Glen supported Jeff. I supported Glen. Eventually before he went home, Glen paid me back for the money I spent on him and Jeff.  We were in Missoula, Montana when Glen and Jeff flew home for the weekend.  Jeff made it back, Glen didn’t.

Jeff had his good points.  We did need his mechanical skills to work on the jack trucks.  He came in handy in this regard.  When Jeff returned we ended up in Billings, Montana.  We went by Custer’s last stand at the Little Bighorn to pay our respects and visited the local hot spot, a beach high up on a bluff overlooking the town.  No water, just an ancient beach on a cliff, full of seashells and beautiful white sand overlooking the town of Billings.  On weekends the locals would use this site as a picnic area, a place to hold cook outs, beer parties, sunbathe, play volleyball and horseshoes.

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As always, when we traveled we would be on the lookout for pot.  I took Jeff with me one Saturday, when we were in Billings, Montana, near Custer’s historic last stand.  We went to a rustic looking old style western bar.  They played both kinds of music on the jukebox, country and western.  The bar set up was rough cut sawmill lumber on top of an oaken barrel at either end.  A black guy and an Indian dude had been fighting in the parking lot when we pulled up. The black guy was taller but the much shorter Red man was game.  No one was watching them fight, no one showed any interest in them, they were just sprawling in the dust, swinging wildly at each other once they regained their feet.

We went into the bar, there were a few patrons, some drinking and some just playing cards in one corner, the other corner beneath the dart board, was a stack of Indians piled one on top of the other, about 5 feet high.  These were guys that were drunk, too drunk to stand or walk, so they just stacked them in the corner.  At the bar was an empty stool where I took a seat, next to me was an Indian hooker.  Her very dark features and high cheek bones suggested she was “Blackfoot.”  She was pretty enough but you could look into her eyes and tell she wasn’t fit for decent company, I don’t know if it was the attitude or the alcohol or what. Something about her just said bad news. So I ignored her.

I was searching for some pot.  The two combatants brought their fight to the inside of the bar.  They went at it for another 20 minutes or so.  They were so tired they couldn’t stand, when they tossed a punch, they almost fell over. After a couple of Wild Turkeys, I asked, “Hey do either of you guys know where I can get some pot?”  When they stopped to look at me, the black guy fell over backwards and didn’t get up.

The Apache looking dude, turned to me and said, “I got some peyote.”  I declined this offer and told him that I just wanted some pot.  He told me that he could hook me up but I would have to give him a ride.

He, Jeff and I rode over to an apartment complex.  We passed a mixed couple coming down the stairs, a big black man and a Korean chick. The Apache dude made a pass at the gal and it pissed her old man off.  He and the little red man squared off.  Since me and Jeff were with the Indian, and we were on a mission, we faded his heat.  The black guy looked like he might be military, he was in good shape and like I said before he was big, but there was three of us.  We didn’t say anything to instigate things further.  I just said “Look, he’s drunk, but he’s with us, let it pass.”  So he did.  We didn’t cop but the word was “come back later.”

A couple hours later, Jeff and I go back to the bar and the Indian dude is waiting on us at the bar.  This time he’s got his teeth wired shut.  He went back to the apartment complex without us and got his ass beat.  Needless to say we didn’t get any pot.

That night I took the Apache dude with his mouth wired shut and Jeff with me and we went to a biker bar.  We drove my jack truck, “Old Sooner.”  We bought the truck in Oklahoma City.  It had a horn that played Dixie and a Confederate flag painted on top, with a big motor and all terrain tires on a set of chrome sixteen inch rims.  It was the real deal.  Jeff kept it in fine running condition.

It was raining lightly that night.  The biker bar was unique.  Everyone parked their bikes in front but had to walk up a flight of stairs to get to the bar.  I had a “Walking Tall” stick (a grubbing hoe handle made from hickory) I carried with me.  We named it the “General”.  This was years before the Dukes of Hazard ever made their first jump in the General Lee.

I walked into the bar carrying the “General” with me, passed all the bikers sitting in front and sat down at a table by a partition in front of the pool tables.  I leaned the “General” up against the wall near the cue sticks and ordered a shot of Wild Turkey 101 and two beers, one for me and one for him.  I don’t remember where Jeff and my munchkin Apache ended up, but they were floating around somewhere.

I put my quarters on the pool table then got to talking to a couple of girls sitting next to my table.  They were friendly, nice and friendly.  While I was playing pool, I noticed a brown arm sneaking around the partition and taking the General’s beer.  I just sat there chatting with the girls for a moment or two, then as I was bending over to take my next shot, I noticed the same arm reaching  back around the partition wall.  After finding the table top with the bottom of the empty bottle, the hand and arm withdrew.

I walked to my table and grabbed the empty bottle and walked to the bar.  I told the bartender someone was stealing my beer, ordered me another, then I walked past the bar and into the bath room.  In the bathroom I peed into the empty bottle and on the way back to my table, I picked up the fresh bottle of beer setting on the bar and walked back to the table with two beer bottles in my hand.  I set the bottle with the pee in it, in the same place as the last one.

I told the girls at the table next to mine that I had peed in the bottle, to watch it for me and don’t let any of their friends drink it by mistake.  Soon that same brown arm came out of nowhere from the other side of the partition and grabbed the bottle.  I left the pool table, saw the girls looking at me with amazement and we all three walked around the partition wall just in time to see this skinny Mexican guy turn that bottle up and drink it down, wiped his mouth on his sleeve.  He stared at us kinda funny like.  I don’t know if he recognized the taste of piss or if he was wondering why half the people in the bar was staring at him.

Both of the girls were gasping in disbelief, but before I could do anything rash, the bartender came up behind me and said, “Hey pardner, I don’t know what’s going on but you gotta get that stick out of here.”  I looked at all of the cue sticks hanging in the rack, they weren’t bothering anybody.  I told him that that stick was the “General and he is in here with me, where I go, he goes.”

I didn’t put up much fuss.  I gathered up my posse and we headed towards the exit.  On the way out, as I walk passed the bar and all of the bikers sitting there resting their elbows, watching me in the mirror.  I tapped the bar with the General, in between each biker as I walked past.  I double tapped the top of the bar with the General and say, ‘You’re a pussy,” walk past to the next guy and tap the bar and say, “You’re a pussy,” all the way out the door.  I called them all pussies.  Jeff and “Kemo Sabe” kept trying to hurry me up out the exit, but I was on a kamikaze mission.

I walked down the stairs figuring that if they were coming, it would be when I got to the bottom.  I turned around and held the General just like my hero Micky Mantle at the plate and hollered up to the people that were gathered at the top of the stairs.  “Come get your desert, I got you all some pudding, cause I’m fixin’ to be pudding it up side your head.”  No body moved, nobody stirred, I could have been preaching to a crowd of deaf and dumb.

It was still raining slightly as I walked out the door.  I passed a really nice cream colored bike parked under the overhang and I put my foot against the tank and gave it a shove, it tipped over.  Still, no one moved.  The three of us got into the “Sooner” truck.  I revved up the motor and cut donuts on the wet parking lot, with my hand down on the horn, playing Dixie, in the rain.  My posse was screaming at me to “get some yonder, haul ass man, let’s get the hell out of here.”  Just about that time, a crowd ran out of the building, shaking their fist in the air, grouped up real tight.  You should have seen them run back into the building, when I stopped the truck and put it in reverse.  Just as soon as the back up lights came on, they took off running back up the stairs.

Jeff said to me, “I’ll sure be glad when you find some pot.”

Next time you see Jeff Crocker, you can ask him about it, cause he won’t be able to read this but I’m sure he ain’t forgot.

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