The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
To celebrate Rodney and Mandy’s wedding, we went to a bar on the Missouri side of Kansas City where they served regular beer instead of the 3.0 stuff. Everything they say about Missouri is true, the good and the bad and the ugly. Gary met Ramona she was waiting tables then, Tex met a gal we named “Toppy Knot,” because she wore her hair tied up in a knot.
Every time we ordered a round of drinks, we broke a hundred dollar bill. Our table filled up with pretty gals quick. We were the party that night. Towards the end of the night, Gary ended up with Ramona, the bar maid. Feeling full of brotherly love, I gave him $2500 to go honeymoon with. Tex disappeared with “Toppy Knot” in her Cadillac Seville. Gary and Rae eloped, took that money and went and paid down on some land in Cherokee Village, Ark.
We had gotten kicked out of the Holiday Inn earlier the day before because of the cops trying to bust us for prostitution, so we went across the street to the Days Inn. The next night after the big party, I was by myself for once. I made the mistake of going back to the same bar as the night before, alone. I didn’t know anybody. After a few drinks and buying friends, I was feeling pretty blitzed when someone taps me on the shoulder. I was told that some one wants to talk to me at the door.
Man, Can you believe that I fell for that again? Just as soon as I step out the door, I see a two by four coming at my head. Too late to duck, I caught it in the face, dislocating my jaw, almost popping an eye out, made me bite my tongue almost in half. I was bleeding out of a tear in my lip and had been knocked to my knees. Holding myself up with one hand I could see out of the one eye that still worked (barely). I could see four sets of legs surrounding me like an octopus, kicking me and daring me to get up. Just about that time, I could see 6 inch long rooster tail splinters rising up from the deck in front of me, and from what I thought was a long ways off I could hear what sounded like far away sound of gunshots, pow, pow, pow. My bell was ringing like I was at the bottom of a barrel.
A big gal that I had bought a drink at the bar, the night before had seen what was happening and came to my rescue. She chased those dudes off, saving my life, with her .25 automatic. She told me later that it was her doing the shooting. She told me they were bikers and that one of the local high rollers that had gotten jealous the night before, paid them. I couldn’t tell if my eye was sticking half the way out or if it was half way in. My jaw felt like it was just hanging, I tried to mumble my thanks. I wasn’t able to talk very well. I tried to push myself away from her, but she was half holding me up, so, I don’t guess I pushed too hard.
My new body guard and I drove Gary’s old truck back to the motel, the same truck we had rolled a few days before. The Holiday Inn had made us move, the cops told us to leave Lenexa, so we moved across the street to the Days Inn, in Overland Park. The motel had just put up brand new chain fence, stringing a chain through the top of 4 x 4 posts like rope, to make it look like a fence. I was feeling terrible, kind of weak in the knees, my whole world was spinning, only grit kept me going. I was hurt, bad hurt but I wanted to get even. I felt like if I laid down, I wouldn’t be able to get back up. This big gal with me had a .25 automatic, and that was all the back up I needed.
I unscrewed both of the eye bolts, took the chain, about a 100 foot of it and put it in back of the truck. We drove the truck back to the bar. I threaded the chain through the spokes of four bikes parked out front. She said they belonged to the guys that snaked me out. I tied the chain to the bumper of the truck, got a running start and headed down the street, dragging the four motorcycles behind me, sparks were flying every where. It was about a mile to the Independence River Bridge, the boundary between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.
At the foot of the bridge, I was stopped by Kansas City, Missouri cops. I could tell that they were puzzled and amazed as they listened to my story as best as I could tell it. The gal filled in the gaps as they stared at my face, both eyes bulging, my tongue tore in half, blood dripping everywhere. The big cop told me, “Get that shit out of here man, we ain’t seen nothing.” I don’t exactly remember the gal’s name, but I sure was thankful that she was a good sized girl, because I had my hands full when we got to the top of the bridge. We pushed every one of the bikes over the side into the Independence River. The first one just hung there in limbo because it was still chained to the rest. The second bike made the rest of the bundle slide a little closer to the edge, then when we got the third bike over the rail, it look like a pile of “transformers,” heading for the drink. All four of them together made a real satisfying splash. We watched the water’s surface until the rings from the splash disappeared. She said “That water looks cold.” I told her, “Deep too.”
I had taken a towel from the motel and wrapped it around my neck and my face, blood was dripping everywhere and pulled my Stetson down low over my eyes. Big Girl and I went into the baseball game at Royals Stadium across from Arrowhead Stadium where they played football. I didn’t want to be a “sitting duck” at the motel. It was after the 2nd inning, we got in free. The water fall in centerfield was beautiful but as miserable as I was, I couldn’t see much of it. After the game, we went back to the Day’s Inn. I lay in the bed for three days. The Room Service girls went crazy when they saw all of the blood. I told them to just leave fresh towels, I would be okay.
Gary and Rae show up Monday morning, they had gotten married and paid down on a lot and a trailer with the money I gave them. Rae went to work on my face. I think she use to work for a Vet, because she seemed to know what she was doing. After about an hour of hot towels and gentle massaging, she got my jaw back in place. She did the same to my eye. Hot, wet towels and gentle massage, then she cut the eyelid of the other eye, with a razor, so I could see, blood spurting every where. She took a needle and white thread, sewed my tongue back together, and my lip, inside and out. Rae took my wad of cash, gave that gal a hundred dollar bill and then called her a cab. Good bye Sweetheart, she saved my life and I never even asked her name.
When we left Davenport, we had loaded up the two dancers and two cases of ice cold Schlitz. We used the Ford Super Cab to pull the Chevy on a tow bar. Both trucks were loaded down with equipment. I was in the back seat of the Super Cab with Mandie. Tex had Blondie upfront with him; none of us had any clothes on, just Tex wearing his cowboy hat.
Tex was drunk and high on life, he was having a time. He was driving and throwing empty beer bottles at road signs when we had a blow out on the rear truck, the ’68 Chevy. We rolled both trucks on I-35, southbound. There were tools, clothes and sales literature for our equipment littered all over I-35 for about a mile. Debbie took “pics” with Gary’s 35 mm., from the T/A has we rolled over. We regrouped in Four Corners, Iowa. I rented a motel room for all six of us to rest and get our senses back. Mandy had broken both of her ankles, although we didn’t know it for a couple weeks later, we thought that she had just sprained them. I carried her in my arms every where we went.
The next morning, using one of our hydraulic jacks and a piece of a 2 x 4, I jacked the roof back up on the Ford. We loaded it down with the equipment from both trucks, abandoned the Chevy and drove on down to Kansas City to join the rest of the crew. We were emotionally devastated by the wreck. I knew that I had to be strong in front of every body else. I rented two trucks and started selling two loads a day. I got just as much for the equipment in it’s tangled, busted up condition as I did when it was pristine. I guess you could say I held a “bent and damaged sale.” I kept one truck loaded for back up at the motel so that I could drop a load and then go right back to work in another truck without having to reload. After a rough start, I wanted to get back to work, making money, most of the time I did. Having the girls with us wasn’t that bad. They just laid around the pool all day looking good and getting tanned while we worked. Good women or bad women, they both cost about the same, which is all you got.
Wayne Holland’s gimp crew were staying at the Days Inn in Overland Park, while we were across the street at the Holiday Inn in Lenexa, Kansas. I thought that the nicer accommodations would help to smooth things over. If I dropped a load for a good lick early, I would spend the rest of the day poolside with the girls back at the motel.
The girls were getting homesick, living in motel rooms and eating in restaurants wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. Mandy told me that she wanted money for a plane ticket, she was telling me they wanted to go home. Unbeknownst to me, Tex told Blondie in private that if she wanted fly home she better start turning tricks. She wasn’t smart like Debbie, get the money and run. No, the poor dumb blonde, she actually did it. Women sometimes, make me wonder.
Debbie was just an accomplice to Tex. To me she was a good friend an excellent working partner if we wanted to scam. She and I could go out and skin somebody with the quickness. We didn’t do it for the money though, to us it was just a hobby, sort of like if the situation presents itself, why not? We made good money every time. She was Tex’s girl, but he couldn’t work with her, he would get jealous in the middle of a deal and ruin everything. Next thing you know, we’d be running from the law after he busted a potential mullet up against the head with a beer bottle.
Finally, I had to take Debbie to the airport to fly back to Atlanta early one morning. Tex had just whipped up on her one too many times for me. I bought her a pair of nice boots and a leather jacket to match at one of those “boutiques” at the airport. After all the time I had spent with her and the money we’d made together, I had gotten attached. She was worth it. Debbie was a real “Road Warrior.” I wanted her to look good when she back to her Grannies in spite of that black eye.
Later that same afternoon, I was sitting under an umbrella at the pool eating cantaloupe and watermelon with “Mandy” my new girl. She was one of the “Dallas Dancers” from Louisville. I was just wearing a pair of gym shorts, and flip flops. I had my roll with about 6,000 bucks tucked in my waistband.
Gary and Tex had sold their load of tools. They came up to us by the pool and after I told them to have a seat Gary said, “Hey this place looks like it’s surrounded by cops.” I said “Thanks for the heads up brother, but they ain’t looking for us.” Just about that time Blondie comes running across the lawn, she sat in the last empty chair and then gleefully says, “Hey, I just turned a trick, I got a hundred dollars.” I was surprised but no time to panic, I knew we didn’t have much time. I slid my saucer with the fruit in it, over to her and told her to put the money under the saucer, take a bite of the fruit then slide it over to Gary. She did this and I told Gary, “Hide that bill, do something with it, get it out of here.”
I had worked for the Sheriff’s Office in Jacksonville and I knew about marked money. Tex and Gary got up from their chairs and nonchalantly walked towards the parking lot. Just as they were backing out of the parking spot, a sea of blue uniforms showed up and clamped down on us. They had us blocked at every corner. Gary had rolled the hundred dollar bill up and put it in a Sprite can. As the cops were closing in, he tossed the empty can of Sprite in a trash bin while he was walking away.
Oh yeah, it looked like the bust of the century in Lenexa, Kansas. They took us all in. I hadn’t seen Gary dispose of the money but I was pretty confident that he had by the way they kept asking us where the money was. When we got there we knew right off, this weren’t no Davenport, Iowa. Oh no, we were in Lenexa, Kansas, the home sweet home of law and order.
I was wearing a pair of sporty gym shorts, no shirt, just flip flops and had sixty, one hundred dollar bills rolled up and tucked up in my waistband. It seems like no matter how much I worked or what catastrophes we had to endure, I couldn’t bankroll any more than six thousand. I told the police that I sold tools for a living and that was my money. They checked all sixty of my bills for their hundred dollar bill, none of the serial numbers matched. Without that bill to substantiate it, they had no case. They kept us for hours. They couldn’t prove anything without the marked money. They kept begging us for that hundred dollar bill, but we wouldn’t break weak and tell them. We just stayed in our character; we were truck drivers from South Carolina. We’re just here to empty out a warehouse. I told them that we kept the girls around for eye candy. I said that while we were out working, the girls did what ever they wanted to. It didn’t have anything to do with us.
The lead detective was a female. She was frantic about needing to get that money back because she was responsible for it and until it was returned, they couldn’t get any more. Their boss had this thing he called, “Payroll Deduction.” I even had the feeling that she was coming on to me. I hinted that it might could be “arranged,” if she were to let us all go. She said, “Before I do that, I want to know one thing. You guys travel the country selling tools, with pretty gals and carry thousand of dollars, well answer me this, are you hiring?”
They let us go, after everyone was safe, I took her to the garbage can, rummaged around and found the Sprite can with the rolled up 100 dollar bill in it, and gave her back the “marked” money. I even took her out to dinner, lamb chops with mint jelly.
The next morning, after I left her house, I flew Mandy and Blondie back to Louisville, I’d had it with road whores. Two days later, Mandy shows back up with both feet in a cast, then, she married Rodney, one of the gimps in the Macon crew. Go figure. Tex found my stash of semi-nude pictures of Mandy with me, while she was wearing some of her Dallas Cheerleader outfits and he flashed them around the wedding party and even sold a few, I think. Rodney Stone out of Macon, Ga., If you read this, it was just business, if you would have asked me, I would have given you the “Pom Poms” for free.
Willie Nelson, Louisville, Davenport and the Dallas Cheerleaders.
We just missed working with the Carolina Crew in Milwaukee. We got there finally, after working only one day, they were ready to leave. From Milwaukee we went south to Davenport, Iowa. My brother Gary had gone back to working with Arnie Fields and his crew back in Phoenix for a couple of weeks. It was just me, Tex, Debbie and a bunch of gimps from Macon, Georgia, in Davenport, Iowa. These guys were so green that they hadn’t ever dropped a stick of “iron” on their own. The gimp crew worked for Wayne Holland, who had helped to train me in Orlando. Wayne wanted us to work with him to help train his men. Since I owed Carolina so much money for the damage that Tex had done to the motels rooms in Atlanta, I felt obligated to help.
The gimps had brought along some gals they met on the way, One was Sophie, a full blooded Sioux, with a foul mouth. They were staying at an eight dollar a night place. I was getting down on my money; I think I might have I stayed there one night. I guess I preferred the “Days Inn” because I required a little more comfort. I needed to get out and hustle to make up all the money we’d been blowing, so I could afford my lifestyle.
One day, we are out pitching by the river, near the paddle boat landing. A black stretch limo appears from out of no where. Out jumps Jimmy Carter, campaigning, shaking hands and waving to the crowd. Then his daughter Amy pops out, Tex acted like a crazy man, he threw an apple core he was gnawing on, at her (missed) and said “Amy, get your ugly ass back in that car”. Secret Service got all up in our face then. Amy must have said something to them, because they let us go and they boarded an old style paddle wheel steamboat so that they could kick the stump on down the downriver.
I worked all week, made some money back and was ready to get away from Iowa for a while. It was getting on towards winter and the area was near desolate to a Florida boy, the trees were leafless, the grass was dead and brown and the fields were barren. I had heard about our family reunion on my Dad’s side, in Bloomington, Indiana. I figured that we might enjoy ourselves, even if just for the weekend, so off we went, me and Tex in the Trans Am east bound and down. We left Debbie back at the motel to fleece Wayne’s gimps out of their money while we were gone. Poor guys, they were “babes in the woods” in her hands.
I did a four wheel power slide into the parking lot to a bunch of picnickers and some one hollered out, “Hey, it’s Roscoe’s boys”. We had stopped to buy a trunk full of beer and ice, when we popped open the trunk, like a ghost, my brother Gary came walking out of nowhere. He had taken another break from Arnie to come to the family reunion.
That’s the way it was for years, Gary and I would join up, without making plans, work together for a while, when we started getting on each other’s nerves, we’d split up again. Arnie was a good leader and good for Gary. Me, I was a good motivator; I wanted to make money and do as I damn well pleased. Arnie made me welcome; we would read the bible and pray together always, we were brothers in arms. I have to admit, my life was less confusing when I was around Arnie. Tex eventually went to work for Arnie and stayed with him for years; it was a relief to me, when he did.
Gary had flown to Bloomington, he rode back with us when we started to head back to Davenport from Indiana, traveling down Interstate 40. We could see the Louisville State Fair from the highway. Tired of riding in the car all afternoon, we stopped to check it out and were surprised when we found out that Willie Nelson was putting on a live show in the rodeo arena. The last feature of the rodeo before Willie’s Band could start, was the bare back riding. We were just three of the thousand’s of people lined up against the rodeo fence hollering for Willie to come on stage. The last bronc made things hard, because he didn’t want to be caught after his “ride.” The wranglers tried to pen him up but the rip snorting bronco was like “Houdini. He would escape every time it looked like they had him penned up. Willie hollered out over the PA system “Can any body catch that damn horse?”
At the time, Tex and I were standing up against the rodeo fence, Tex reached down and grabbed a candy apple from a little boy’s mouth, stood up on the second fence rail and leaned over. I had him by the back of his belt to keep him from falling over. He held that apple out to that horse and hollered “Hup,” the horse turned to look, distracted he came trotting over wanting to eat that apple. The wranglers came up and easily roped the horse. Then, Tex gave the boy back his candy apple.
The crowd erupted, everyone applauded, Willie hollered into the microphone “Hey, Y’all give these boys a hand, thanks fellas,” then unscripted, he invited us to come on up to the stage, he said “Y’all come on up here boys.” We didn’t need any prodding, eagerly we got up on stage and he introduced us to the crowd, then he asked us to stick around. We got to stand on the stage during his performance; televised, we were “live” from Louisville.” Tex had been a stagehand for “Lynyrd Skynyrd,” he was right at home and sat on an amp behind the band, just like back in the old days.
After the show, Willie thanked us again; he extended an invitation to us to join him and some of his crew in his dressing room, a jockey/horse trailer combo. We sat around chatting and drinking Jack Black with cans of Seven Up that we all used for chaser. Can you believe it, we were “Outlaws” by nature and here we were, fixing to party with one of the most famous “Outlaws” ever, Willie Nelson. I couldn’t get over just how small he was in person. Well, he did cast a big shadow. We smoked a joint that Tex had rolled up in pink paper, he said it was because it was “senso” and he wanted everyone to know it was something special. Willie told us an old joke, “Hey this is good stuff, I can remember when you could get a dime for a dime.” Tex told him, “Not this stuff you can’t, I get it flown in frozen from Seattle, via Fed-Ex.”
We passed the bottle around a couple of times, all of us high, laughing and joking. Willie wanted to know what could he do to thank us and Tex said “better ask Mike, he’s the boss”. Surprised? Oh yeah I was, he caught me unawares,
Tex had put me on the spot, just thinking off the top of my head, I said, “Well, I always wanted a Dallas cheerleader,” just kidding you know, what was I suppose to say? How about a yoyo? I will say this, Old Willie was game.
Willie had his limo brought up, about 6 or 8 of us loaded up, after stocking the bar in the Limo at the drive through liquor store; we went to Clarksville, Indiana across the Ohio River from Louisville. The limo pulled up in front of a topless bar, with a sign that says, “Girls, Girls, Girls. Debbie does Dallas, Dallas Cheerleaders tonight only.” We go in and because of Willie’s status; we got a table put right in front of the stage. We ordered a few rounds of drinks, then we broke a couple of hundred dollar bills, our money and change laying on the table, the lights started flashing off and on, then here come the dancing girls.
When it was time for the girls with the cheerleader outfits to dance, we watched them parade around and then do their cheerleading routine then Willie grabbed a $100 dollar bill off of the table, put one foot on the chair and one foot on top of the stage. With one arm held behind his head and the other arm extending forward with the hundred dollar bill pointed towards the nearest blonde, like Tex did with that horse and the candy apple, he hollered “Hup.”
The next day, we’re driving west bound, now we got two of the dancers with us, why? I don’t know, I had broken up with my girlfriend about 4 months before, Debbie was back in Davenport if I needed one, that’s where were headed, back to Davenport. The crew had changed motels. Sophie had been put in jail for not paying her room rent. Since Debbie started hustling the gimps, the guys were not paying Sophie any attention. I guess she was broke. I sold a load of tools to “cash up” and I was ready to travel. I had enough of Davenport, it sure ain’t no place to be for the likes of me.
I had two trucks that we loaded down with tools and the Trans Am. Mandy and Blondie were the two dancers that had joined up with us. They were riding in the truck with me and Tex, Debbie was riding with Gary. I remember thinking it was a good thing that it was good that Gary was there to drive my car. Tex and I rented a “tow bar” from “U-Haul,” pulled the Chevy truck on a tow bar behind the big Ford Super Cab.
On the way out of town, we stopped at the red light at the foot of the bridge leaving town. I glanced into the review mirror, right behind me I could see that one of the local cops had pulled my brother Gary out of the car and had him spread eagle on the hood of the car with a gun to his head. I jumped out of the truck, what do you expect, Heck, that was my brother, I grabbed a steel hoist handle and threatened the cop. I told him to back off, that we would comply with what ever he wanted, just put that gun down. We agreed to follow him back to the police station. When we got there, we were all placed under arrest.
Gary and Tex had gone to pick up the two dancers Blondie and Mandy, that we had stashed at the eight dollar a night motel; they were still wearing their Dallas cheerleader outfits. As a joke, Gary decided to stab the waterbed with his knife but that wasn’t good enough for Tex. Trying to be funny, he stuck two of his fingers in the hole and pulled it apart, it was an upstairs room so it didn’t take long for the management to find out.
The cops found a joint rolled in pink paper that Tex had hid in his jeans, when they shook us down. The State Attorney was adding up the damages and the charges and the fines, for all of us, plus trying to stick us with the foul mouthed Indian girl Sophie. She was in the back, cussing and fussing, just hollering for us to get her out of there. It made for a lot of confusion. The cops looked at us and said if she’s with you, you guys have got to get her out of here, please.
I asked “How much is my bond, I haven’t done anything?” I got to admit it did look funny, we had 3 women with us, plus one back in a cell hollering at us. “Get me out of here!” You could take one look at the girls and know what they were about. Me, I’m trying to convince them that I’m just a normal hard working guy that had over 6,000 dollars on him. The cops said my bond was $50.00 for public nuisance, so I paid it. I went over to the east Indian motel owner who was getting ready to press charges against us and said, “Hey, your rooms rent for eight dollars a night, you’ll probably lose a few nights rent, how about fifty bucks for that? You can get that waterbed fixed for less than twenty bucks, here’s fifty more.” Then I told him, “carpet might cost another two hundred and here’s another hundred for your trouble ….that’s only if you don’t press charges against us.”
The state attorney pleaded with him not to do it. He said “Can’t you see, he’s playing “Lets Make a Deal” with you. He’s trying to play you for a fool. You got to stand up and show him you can’t be bought.” You could see the calculator in the motel owner’s mind working, when he was staring at the money on the table. In the blink of an eye, the man scooped up the cash and said “I will take the money, I will not be pressing charges.”
I turned to the State Attorney and said,” I want my fifty bucks back and the pink joint, because you don’t have probable cause”. He hated it and didn’t want to do it, but he didn’t have any one to press charges. He said that he would only give us back the joint, if we promised to bond Sophie out too. He shook his head slowly from side to side in disbelief and asked me “How soon can you leave town?”
I heard Sophie screaming and I asked how much her bond was, they said 105 dollars plus sixteen more for her room rent. I said to them, “I just paid the rent, She’s not with us, keep my fifty here’s fifty-five more, thirty minutes after we leave you let her go, and we get to keep the pink joint. The cops said “Oh no, you got to take her with you”. I refused to take her with us. I told them “No, y’all can just keep her, give me back my money.” They changed their mind and let her out 30 minutes after we left. We smoked that pink joint on the way to Kansas City.
Old Sam, Bentonville, Arkansas
One day I was looking back through my collection of old business cards that I had accumulated over the years, one brought back a story to mind. My brother Gary and his wife Rae lived in Hardy, Arkansas (You have probably seen Erik Estrada on TV doing commercials). It was a good central location to work out of. You could leave out in any direction, headed somewhere to go work and if your luck was any good, you would be bound to hit a prosperous area, sooner or later
Every time we drove up from Kansas City, heading home, we usually went through Bentonville. Most of the time, we were either empty (without a load to sell) or it was after dark, too late to “pitch.”
As we headed out one morning to go work, we drove towards Dallas. Gary had bought a hand accordion over the week end and as I drove, he practiced. Lovely, just lovely, I’ve got to drive all the way to Dallas, listening to this? We drove through Ash Flats, down towards Pocahontas. I was driving and gritting my teeth, when I came up with the idea to go work Bentonville. It wasn’t that far and I could sure use a break from all of that screeching.
Gary was wearing a pair of overalls that day. We noticed a sign that read “Andy’s WELDING.” The door was opened to the shop, the house was next door and the yard was full of grazing goats. Gary got out of the truck and trying to be funny, he imitated Aunt Bee, from Andy of Mayberry. He hollered out, imitating her voice, “Andeeee, Andy.” I almost split a gut, it was so funny. No one answered, no one came to the door, no dogs barking, just the wail of the radio, coming from the shop.
We were kind of leery about the situation. It seemed like we were in an Alfred Hitchcock movie or something. We both walked to the open door of the shop, not seeing anybody, I hollered out “Hey, anybody home?” One of those darn goats had climbed atop the hood of my truck and was licking dead bugs off of the windshield. The old goat turned to look at me and he bleated out “Naaaahhhhhhhhh!”
Right around the corner from the welding shop, located on the main drag through Bentonville, was the Bentonville Casket Company. Since we were here already, we figured “Why not? Let’s pitch ‘em. When we pulled in, the main boss wasn’t there, the one that signs the checks. We told the foreman that “we had a truck load of brand new tools and machinery that we had to dispose of for our boss, back in Carolina. Repo’d, brand new, selling it for cheap, just call ’em and make an offer.”
The foreman told us that his boss wasn’t in but he had a friend named Sam that owned a five and dime store nearby and that he was building a new store because business was so good. He thought that his friend Sam would be interested in our stuff and he had the money, he could write our boss a check for all of it and the check would be good. All he wanted out of the deal was one of those brand new socket sets.
Hearing that, we got excited. No, we didn’t mind waiting. The foreman called his buddy Sam, who said he’d be with us in a few minutes, he was trying to open a new store. He was just down the street, right next to his Five and Dime Store. While we were waiting for him, the main boss to the casket company returned. He showed some interest, we put him through the book, but when his foreman told him that he had called Sam and that Sam was on his way to take a look, the boss of the casket company deferred his interest to Sam. Let Sam take a look and see what he has to say.
A white box truck pulled up to the place and an older gentleman got out. He was wearing a straw hat, the kind with the green visor built into the brim, a sweaty white shirt with a pocket protector full of pens and pencils. The foreman introduced us; he told me that if Ole Sam was to buy this stuff, he wanted us to make sure that he got that socket set for a “Bird Dog Fee.” I asked him which truck was his. I would lay it on the floorboard when no one was looking.
Mr. Sam looked our truck load of tools over, he spoke with the foreman and the business owner and then he came back to us. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he asked us “Do y’all work for Bobby or do y’all work for Billy?” Shocked as we were, I tried to stay in character, “Oh no, we work for their sister Miss Francis. She owns the company now.”
Sam said “That figures, I told them boys not to spend all their money on race cars, that they would loose their ass.” We told him that Miss Francis sponsors David Pearson (Race car Driver) over in Greer, that Billy was “Jet setting’ and that Bobby was raising Beefalos and building car dollies.” Sam looked at the ground and spit, while he was leaning against the truck. He told us that he had been in the Army with their Dad Clint back in the war. I said “Do you mean Mr. Flint?” He laughed and said, “Yeah, I was just checking you out.”
We got back to talking about the tools at hand; I asked him if he could write our boss out a check for these tools? Sam said “Goodness no. I can barely write a check for a hundred dollars. Sure, I own a lot of stores and buy and sell a lot of merchandise, but my wife don’t trust me with no check book. If I buy something it’s either cash or send me a bill and I never carry more than a hundred.”
About this time old Sam pulled a card out of his pocket protector and started scribbling on back. He said that he was drawing a map to his warehouse, he even wrote down his personal phone number. He told us that “This guy here won’t buy nothing, his business is so bad he can’t pay attention and that his foreman is so dumb, he can’t poor piss out of a boot, without getting his feet wet. He told us that he wanted all of the little tools, like the wrenches and grinder and the vise etc. He wanted us to meet back at his place in about an hour. He gave me the card, got back in his box truck and drove off. The faded letters on the side of his truck read “WALTON’S Five and Dime.”
As he drove off, I was holding Sam’s card in my hand, when the owner of the casket company walked up to us and said, “Well, what happened, what did he say?” The foreman was right behind him, all ears, I guess he had his mind on that free socket set. I showed the boss man old Sam’s business card and told him “You must have friends like I got. He said that you don’t have the money to be able to afford this stuff. He wants us to meet him back at his “wareroom” in an hour. He wrote down directions for us on the back of his card, just in case we get lost, he gave us his personal phone number.” Then I handed the card to the business owner to read for himself.
The man took a look at the card, turned it over and read the back of it. He hesitated then said “Yeah, you’re right. That does it, back the truck up over there and unload it and I’ll get you a check.”
So, all in all, it turned out to be a pretty good day. We dropped our load. I guess you could say we dropped on our first pitch, because the two old goats don’t count. I’ve thought about it a few times and I sure would have liked to see the expression on the foreman’s face when he opened the door to his pickup and instead of finding the half inch socket set like I promised, he got a slightly used, second hand accordion.
The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, Christmas not far away. Since I’m not a big fan of the Hallmark Channel, I guess I need to tell my own holidays stories.
Westbound on I-10 just before dusk, many years ago, I see a hitchhiker on side of the road. I had just passed the north bound entrance to 1-75, so I guess it’s fair to say this guy was heading west, same as me.
My hitch hiker, a short bearded fellow wearing a blue flannel shirt, threw his gear, a sleeping bag and a back pack into the rear of my truck and climbed up front with me. I asked him his name and destination. He told me in a very thick French accent that his name was Andre Beaubleur. He was from Ontario, Canada and that he was headed anywhere that he could find work.
I told Andre that if was willing to work, that there were plenty of good jobs to be had. His response was slow coming out, like he was having a difficult time forming his sentence. “Not for one such as I, I am afraid. You see, I have no papers. I am zee lumberjack. In my family I have 11 brothers, I am zee youngest, we cut trees. But to work here, I must have zee papers.
I was sort of surprised to hear him say he was a lumberjack. Andre was kinda small, short you might say, about 5 foot tall. To think of him as a lumberjack was stretching it a might. I asked him why didn’t he cut trees in Canada, don’t they have plenty of trees up there that need cutting?
Andre replied, “Zee bears, I am much afraid of zee bears.” I told him that “the Bears around here play in Chicago, ain’t that a long ways from Ontario?” He said, “No, not zis Bears, but zee bear in za woods, big bears, zey will hunt you and eat you.” Finally catching on, I had to laugh. Little ole Andre wouldn’t have a been much of a meal for a hungry old bear, I don’t think.
I had a six pack of beer in the front seat. I finished the last beer and put the empty bottle back into the carton. Then as we were approaching a highway sign, I asked Frenchy to lean back a might. He did as I asked in bewilderment I’m sure, until I zipped out two empty bottles and nailed the sign as we were passing by.
I think he was impressed because he said, “Sacre bleaur, you are zee marksman I think, you can do that again?” I told him “oh yeah, no sweat, I’ve had plenty of practice, watch this.” Then I nailed the next sign with three empty beer bottles, Looping the first one up high, following it up with two more direct tosses that all ended up in the middle of the next sign at the same time.
Frenchy as I started calling him, came back with “For this I have never seen, you must be extraordinaire, I think.” I told him, “No, I’m from the South, all the guys in the South can do that, it’s just the way we was raised.”
Andre asked me what type of work did I do. I told him that I was a traveling tool salesman, a “Jackman.” He asked me if he could work for me, I asked him, “Doing what?” He responded by telling me that he could take care of the truck, keep it clean, check the oil, clean the windshield, watch my tools when I was away and keep them nice and clean. To top it off, he said, “Merci, pardon me if I may, I will sleep in the truck.”
Well if that didn’t beat all, he was offering to be my French valet. The tools do get heavy when I have to lug them into the motel room at night. To top it off, he said that if I was willing to teach him to speak zee American, he would be very happy to teach me to speaka zee French. This was too much, I had to laugh. Okay, I figure why not, I was just going to Baton Rouge to work, if he didn’t pan out, I could leave him with some Cajuns or something.
From then on, if I got a six pack, he drank one maybe two, he always marveled at my accuracy when I target practiced with the empties. Once I hit the same sign with all six of the bottles at once. He marveled at this for days and would brag to the other guys on the crew about my unique talent.
When it got cold, I let Frenchy sleep on the floor of my motel room. He had his sleeping bag. He refused to sleep in a bed. The first time I let him in the room, he disassembled the the meter on the night stand for the vibrating bed while I was in the shower. When he showed me the stack of quarters, his face was lit up like a Christmas tree.
I let him know that I was pissed about it. I told him that when I needed money, I worked for it, I didn’t steal. I told him he could find more money than that behind the seat of my truck. Later I realized it wasn’t the money that intrigued him. It was just the fact that it was a mechanical device that he sought to outwit. I over looked it and told him we live in motels, we don’t steal from where we live.
Maybe him being from another country had something to do with his morals. It wasn’t long after, that Frenchy showed me another bag of quarters, a big bag. I got mad at him and told him that I thought that I told him to leave those vibrating boxes alone. He used his hands to motion for me to calm down, then he said, “Dis is not from zee motel but from zee booth with zee telephone. I use zis clamp to put pressure on zee box and zee lid, she pop off. Now, we have zee quarters to buy more beer.”
Here I am earning five hundred to a thousand a day, if the weather’s good and this guy is jeopardizing that by stealing chump change again. I picked up a hoist handle using it like a club and slammed the top of the table. I told him that I don’t know how they teach people not to do things up in Canada but if I caught him doing it again, I was going to straighten out his learning curve.
It was getting time for a break. I liked this guy, but he was getting on my nerves. I told Frenchy about my brother and his friend Arnie Fields that lived up in Arkansas. I suggested that we go pay them a visit. Arnie had bought a 40 acre farm for $8,000.00 and my brother bought the land next to it. The Ozark Mountains were heavily wooded and these two tracts of land were nestled between the tops of three mountains and the two valleys in between.
The main drawback to me, were the ticks and the lack of women. If you have money though, the women will come out of the woods and find you, but you have to be in one spot long enough for them to find out just where to look. The tick problem was solved when Arnie bought 200 chickens. Then we had plenty of eggs and lots of chicken and dumplings.
Frenchy was pretty industrious. He went to work building a chicken coop and felling trees for firewood. Most of the trees on the two parcels weren’t that big, two or three year old saplings, about 4 to 6 inches in circumference. We went out to work in Oklahoma City for a couple of weeks, leaving Frenchy in charge of getting the homestead into shape.
It sure was cold that winter, 40 below freezing in OKC. So cold that we had to put cardboard in front of the radiator of the truck to keep it from freezing up. One thing you notice when you work Oklahoma is the fact that they don’t have any trees. My brother Gary and I dropped a load of tools to a feed lot. We sold the feed store owner our load of tools for cash and got a 16 foot utility trailer to boot.
Gary saw a dwindling pile of fence posts for sale and asked the man how much did he get for his posts. The guy told us that since there weren’t any trees for hundreds of miles, that every farmer and rancher needed all the fence post he could get. He said that they were in short supply. He asked us if we knew where he could get any. He said he would pay us $5.00 a piece for all the fence post we could get.
That sparked an idea into our heads. Gary and Arnie probably had 80 acres between them of nothing but fence posts, ready to be cut. When we got back to the farm, we saw that little ole Frenchy had been busy. First off, he had the land around the front of the 2 BR House cleared of any trees and underbrush. That and the cold weather had killed off any ticks. He had cut several cords of firewood near the house and had the wood stacked between trees that grew close together. Then we found that he had taken an old truck that I had rolled over a couple of times and hooked it up to a portable saw mill that we had bought, without a power source. Frenchy had put it up on concrete blocks, took the tire off one of the rims, made a belt from an old fire hose and used the motor and transmission as power for the saw mill. I was afraid to ask where he got that fire hose from. He had a stack of railroad ties cut from oak about head high (his head), about 40 foot across.
We went to work making bridges across the many little streams that criss-crossed the property. Then we parked the trailer, bought a chain saw and told Andre to start cutting some of the thousands of small trees that covered the property into 6 foot fence posts. The next week when we came home for the week end, Andre had that trailer loaded down with over five hundred fence post and another thousand or so laying nearby.
We not only hauled fence post to that Feed Store but another half a dozen as well. There are plenty of tiny cedar trees in the Ozarks, not so many in Oklahoma. The size of these trees may not be good for much of nothing else, but they were plenty good enough for fence posts in Oklahoma.
After about a year’s time had come and gone. Frenchy was ready to see the bright lights of the city. When I mentioned that I was heading back home to Florida, Frenchy begged me to take him with me, so I did.
Driving back home, I always take the back roads, scouting out for future territory to sell tools. We took Highway 82 through Dothan, Alabama. About an hour or two after dark we passed a night spot that looked pretty hot. I couldn’t just pass it by, the next day was Thanksgiving. I just had to have me a couple shots of “Wild Turkey.”
I probably should have told Frenchy to watch the truck. He wasn’t a bad looking fellow, he was just short. His beard had grown considerably living out in the woods back in Arkansas and I couldn’t swear that his “Englise” had gotten any better. Any way, I was having a good time, really enjoying myself meeting lots of new lady friends, next to chucking empty beer bottles, my forte. I saw that Frenchy was having a problem with some big dude across the dance floor and I walked over to see just what the problem was. As I walked up, I could hear the big guy saying “Tell me what you told her.” Then Frenchy saying “I say to her, you give me service?” Now I was kind of use to Frenchy’s bastardization of the Queen’s English, it didn’t bother me that much. He was just asking the lady for a dance, but I could put myself in this guy’s shoes. If some guy come up and asked my old lady for service, I would have got hot about it too.
I knew what was fixing to happen, even before it did. Frenchy was short, this guy was taller than I was. I looked for something to use as a weapon. I spotted an empty bar stool on the other side of the dance floor and I was just about halfway back with it, when the big dude picked Frenchy up by the front of his shirt, held him up over his head and started shaking him like a rag doll. Just about that time me and the bar stool caught up with them, me catching the big man behind the head with the meaty end of the stool. He let go, rubbed the back of his head and turned to face me. I swung the stool again, this time catching him in the knees. Bending down rubbing his sore knee he was just about the right size. I hit him with a beer bottle and he went down.
In the background behind the bar, I could hear some one say, “The police are on the way.” Then far off, I could hear the whining of a siren. I knew we had a few minutes because we were 7 or 8 miles past the city limits. I grabbed Frenchy up from where he had been tossed and herded him to the truck. The name of the bar was the Wagon Wheel, it’s still there. It’s been closed for years though, when I drive past it today, I can still hear the sirens approaching and visualize the police cars as they passed us heading for the bar as we drove back towards town.
The area we were driving past was nothing but pulp wood trees, large, giant pulp wood trees. In my rear view mirror I could see the far off blue lights leaving the bar and coming towards us. I turned off the head lights and drove in the dark, looking for a logging road to pull up in and hide out. Before I could find a road, the accelerator linkage decided it had enough and came apart on me. The motor was running at idle speed but no power. Still coasting, I crossed the ditch and put the truck between two trees before it came to a stop. I was pretty sure it could be seen from the road, so I took off running. I thought Frenchy was right behind me. I shinnied up a pine tree and crawled behind some branches as the police cars pulled in behind my truck. In the glow of their headlights I could see Andre walking out of the woods with his hands held high in the air, hollering out, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, I am afraid of zee bears, don’t shoot.” His silhouette against the trees, while standing in the glare of the headlights made him look 10 feet tall.
That damn Frenchy. I wouldn’t be in this spot if it weren’t for him. I only 60 feet from the truck, up in the air. I could see and hear everything. The cops were searching the woods for me with their flashlights. I could hear Frenchy telling them to be careful, I was a deadly accurate shot, he had seen me place six shots dead center, with the truck going very fast.
That little rat. Now he’s got the police thinking I’ve got a gun. I wanted to shout out that he was talking about beer bottles, but I didn’t want to give away my spot. I guess though it served its purpose. The cops didn’t want to search the woods at night for some one who was “a deadly shot.” They might of been scared of “zee bears” too. All I know is they called a wrecker to tow my truck in. I didn’t want to be left stranded in the woods at night. The road was dark and lonely. It was too far to walk back to town, besides I was pretty drunk at the time. The police cars pulled off into the night, one with Frenchy in the back seat. I could see the tow truck driver was still hooking up his chains. I decided that now was as good a time as any.
I climbed down the tree and in the dark I ran to the truck and jumped in the back, crawling under my load of tools, just as the driver was pulling off. When we got to town, the driver put my truck in the compound and shut the gate, locking it behind him. Then the driver went inside, did some paper work, got into his pick up and drove off.
After making sure that the coast was clear, I raised the hood on my truck, hooked the linkage back up on the accelerator. Then I got my spare key out of the tool box that was mounted on the fender, under the hood and a hack saw. I cut the chain to the gate, drove my truck off into the dark, without any headlights.
I found a nearby apartment complex to hide my truck in, parked and got out on foot, searching for the police station. Frenchy might be a rat, but we got into this together, I wasn’t going to leave him behind without trying to get him out of jail. I called a taxi from a convenience store and asked him to take me to the jail. Oh, the driver was a talker. He asked me if I had heard about the police chase and the shoot out. He said that he heard the whole thing on the scanner. The guy they were hunting got away, but he was supposed to be a real desperado, that is according to the hostage that the police had brought in.
Just about that time we pulled up in front of the police station. I’m still trying to figure all of this out but I was in a fog. A shoot out? A desperado? A hostage? That damn Frenchy. I was about to get out of the taxi when I see Frenchy’s blue sleeping back rolled out under some stairs next to the police station. It was him alright. He wasn’t locked up. He told the police that I made him go with me and they believed him and let him go.
The police had gotten a K-9 unit and were headed back out to the woods to search for me. The taxi driver was ecstatic. He couldn’t believe his luck. He wanted to drive us to Jacksonville on the down low to thwart the police. I had to use my head. If I didn’t lead him on, he would call the cops, and he just might do it anyway. I told him to drop us off at the apartments, go fill up with gas and meet us back here in 30 minutes while I said good bye to my girlfriend.
He ate it up. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. He told me he would only charge us us 400 bucks for the trip. I led him on. I agreed to the deal. Just as soon as he was out of sight, I jumped in the truck and went south on Highway 231 toward Cottondale and Panama City, leaving Dothan, Alabama in my rear view mirror.
Frenchy told me that he put the heat on me, to get it off of him. He said that he had no fear that I would get away. That’s why he waited at the Police Station, so that I could find him. That skeezer. I knew that was the truth, it’s hard to think of that good a lie in a foreign language.
The next day in Jacksonville, I needed a shower bad. My funds were getting a little low. The money from the fence post was running out. Instead of getting a motel room, I looked up an old friend Cherie Eagerton. Her parents owned a plumbing company, but her sister Angel worked for the FBI along with Jean Jones, one of my jack buddy’s sister. I sure didn’t need any more heat. Cherie and Angel were cut from two different bolts of cloth. While Angel was my age, she was straight as an arrow. Cherie was a couple of years younger, we had dated in high school. Back then, she looked older than what she really was. Cherie though, was my kind of people, she had a streak of outlaw in her, a touch of the wild side.
Cherie invited us in, she was glad to see me. Frenchy made the small talk, as good as he could I guess. That night, Cherie got a baby sitter for her daughter Amber and the three of us celebrated Thanksgiving at the Wrangler on Beaver Street. I had plans for the next day, leaving early from Cherie’s the next day, she kissed me by at the door and told me to hurry back.
I was counting my money at the gas station when we stopped to fill it up. Frenchy leaned over to me and gave me 60 dollars. I was shocked, amazed, just where did he come up with 60 dollars? Then he told me that he “was the jackman, when you sleep with zee girl, I take zee money from her pocketbook.” Oh man no, tell me you didn’t.
Cherie was my friend, an old girlfriend at that, you can’t steal from my friends. I grabbed him by the scruff of his outdoorsman’s vest and held him up with just his toes touching the ground. I cussed him and told him she was my friend. That we were going back to return her money and he was going to apologize. Cherie was in her housecoat when she opened the door. Disbelief covered her face when I tried to tell her what happened. A single mom with a little girl needed every penny. I couldn’t leave her with that hanging over my head. She seemed grateful but I couldn’t be sure when I left, I hoped she believed me.
Andre and I drove down to Orlando to join up with Wayne Holland’s crew. I needed to drop a load of tools or two to get cashed back up. No one knew the story on Frenchy, he had never been around these guys before. Wayne was gearing up for the Christmas break. He wanted all of his men to get cashed up before the break. He had bought a new brief case with all kinds of fancy locks, to keep his payroll money in. To add incentive to the crew and to fire everybody up, Wayne brought his briefcase full of Christmas bonus cash to the breakfast meeting to show the guys at breakfast. After the breakfast meeting, Wayne and I decided that we would take turns, going out with each guy on the crew to help them sell their load. The when we got back, we would divvy up the Christmas bonus money.
The next morning, our meeting place was the restaurant. Wayne left his brief case in his motel room. He and I made several sales apiece that day, helping everybody out with cash in their pocket and an empty truck for the holidays. That afternoon, with only empty trucks in the parking lot, the crew met back up at the motel restaurant for a celebration. We gathered round, had a big feast. To top it off, for the grand finale, Wayne brought out his brief case to spread the wealth. When he opened the brief case, it was empty. Yeah, bare to the bone. The money was gone. Disbelief all over Wayne’s face. All of the guys were down trodden with disappointment.
The first thought that entered my mind was that damn Frenchy. He was the only one that didn’t work that day. He usually rode with me but I was busy helping every body else. I couldn’t prove it, so I didn’t say anything. Wayne and I hit all the topless bars on the Orange Blossom Trail hoping to see someone spending lots of cash, to no avail. I still blamed Frenchy in the back of my mind. I had brought him into this, I felt responsible. There was 6 guys on the crew and I had earned about $2,800 in two days. I gave each guy $400.00. I told them it was from Wayne. Wayne asked me about it. I told him that I remembered him selling a load of tools with me, when I first started out with him in Orlando a couple of days before Christmas, many years before. He and I sold a load and made $2,890 dollars profit, he gave me all of it. I told him what comes around goes around.
The next day, we split up for Christmas. What goes around comes around. I stopped at a convenience store just before I got to the Beeline Expressway. I gave Andre $20.00 to go in to get some beer. I said we’re going to take some target practice.. Before he could come back out, I was gone.
I don’t have to worry about Cherie being mad at me anymore. About 2 years ago I got a private message from her, no not a friend request. She just wanted to cuss my butt out. She never returned any of my friend requests.
Frenchy? Oh, I think about his turkey neck every Sunday when I’m watching football. Because every week I pull for “zee Bears.” Tres bien mon ami, merci beau coup.
My kittens must have known just how tired I was. I got to sleep ’til 6:30 this morning. All of the festivity yesterday must have wore me out. Yesterday was the first time I’ve had anything to drink in almost 30 years. The last time, you might ask, well let’s see…………………
“Pedro is coming”
My brother Gary and I had been traveling together selling tools for many a year. Being Military brats, I guess traveling was in our blood. We had worked Texas, Arizona and Southern California often, many times I guess but we had never taken the time to go to Mexico as “touristas”.
One winter we were working in El Paso, Texas, a large city but down in the dumps economically speaking. It seems like the main source of income was begging, (no kidding). At every intersection, on all four corners, were people holding up signs “will work for food” or “Please help, need cash”.
Usually we could sell a load of tools at will, we were good at it. We acted like dumb butt truck drivers from the hills in South Carolina (Carolina Tool). It worked pretty good, I guess ’cause we didn’t need much help acting like dumb butts. We would tell people that asked too many questions “Don’t ask me, I just drive a truck”.
Our whole crew (about 25 men) were working El Paso with us. We stayed at the Congress Motel, I think because it also had a lounge and allowed dogs, (we had a couple of dogs working on the crew).
Since we were little kids I had always made an attempt to speak Spanish. We lived in Cuba and I was stationed in Puerto Rico and had lived in San Antonio, rather than duck the language barrier I embraced it. Well, this weapon in my repertoire paid off in El Paso. We worked that town for two weeks and the only ones to sell any equipment was me and Gary. We worked the “barrio” with delight. It was crowded, music blaring, all kinda of colors, people pushing and shoving. I remember one guy asking me “Who taught you to speak Spanish? I’d cut his throat.” I told him ” I learned it in “prison, now chew on that.”
The “barrio” is a neighborhood strip across from Jaurez and the Rio Grande, like a buffer between American El Paso and Mexican Jaurez. El Paso is a big town with about 1 million people. Jaurez while no metropolis, has two million people, mostly slums and more slums crowded together and sprawled out across the Rio Grande Valley and sloping mountain sides. At first we were timid to say the least, about being fairheaded gringos working the barrio but it paid off, we sold two loads a day, always got paid cash. Twice what any one else did while we were there.
In a festive mood Gary and I decided to drop our drawers, let our hair down and take our life in our hands and just go across the border for some fun and excitement. We left our truck in Los Estados Unidos and walked across the Customs check point promising to return by the end of the day. We tried to see it all. American money (US dollars) buys a lot more in Mexico, than pesos will. Leather goods like Tony Lamas boots cost less than a hundred bucks, versus 3 to 4 hundred here. Tattoo parlors every where, crowded street and street vendors, chicken fights in every ally and muchos putas por barrato, todas ahora. To say that their streets are crowded is a play upon words. Street lights didn’t exist, it was the guy with the loudest horn that had the right of way.
Gary and I decided we wanted a cold beer (cerveza fria) and tried to find a cantina that didn’t look like it was about to be condemned. We gave up on that and found a place that looked like an old style western bar that you always saw on TV westerns. The sign above the door said “Cantina de Royale”. It even had the swinging “bat wing” styled doors that guarded the door way, like gargoyles.
Next to the entrance was a guy without any legs, sitting on a skateboard, with a tin cup, looking for handouts. I think we gave him a dollar apiece, to which he replied “Gracias amigos” and grinned at us, when he did the sun flashing off of his gold teeth almost blinded us. I think almost every one we met that day had either gold or silver teeth.
The first thing that caught my eye when we entered the bar was the one bladed ceiling fan, tilted to an angle, turning slowly like a ticking clock, it was surrounded by sticky fly tape, hanging from the ceiling. This place was crowded, every one drinking and having a good time. “Selena” was blaring from the juke box, every body cried when she sang and loved her music. Guys would stand around and cry “Selena” hold their drinks to the sky and drink a toast. Seems like she had just been killed not long before and everyone was still shocked by her passing.
This place wouldn’t pass any health inspections stateside, but the filth didn’t seem to hamper any one’s drinking. There was one guy hustling drinks, he had a mouthful of silver teeth, he had an electric cord plugged into the wall outlet, the ends of the cord were frayed and the two wires were pulled apart. He would put the light bulb between his teeth and then hold both ends of the electric wire, one in each hand. The bulb would light up, sticking out of his mouth. (Don’t try this at home).
Gary and I went to the bar, pushed a few whores aside to make room for our elbows. We ordered a bottle of mescal and two draft beers for chasers. We were about half way through our first bottle, when we noticed every one looking out the window. It seems like the crowd of people in the street had started moving in one direction like “lemmings leaping into the sea”, the folks in the bar wanted to see what was the commotion, they rushed to the window to find out.
The murmur outside became a roar, instead of moving fast, folks began running past the window. The building started shaking. So many people moving in one direction, it was dumbfounding. The guy on the skateboard came inside under the swinging doors and hollered “Run for your lives, Pedro is coming!!!!!!!!!!!” .
Me, I was thinking that “Pedro” must be some rambunctious bull that some one had let loose and not thinking he could get in the bar, so I kept drinking my mescal. That stuff has a kick to it in case you haven’t heard. The people in the bar started leaving in a hurry, not even bothering to scoop up their change on the tables, knocking over chairs on their way out the front door. Big time, even the guy passed out on the pool table got up in a hurry and left.
The beer tender came up to us, wanting us to settle our tab. We asked him “What’s the rush amigo, we’ve only just got started?” He said “You must hurry, haven’t you heard? Pedro is coming; he is the biggest and the meanest hombre in all of Mexico”.
He was ready to go, so we got him to get us another bottle of mescal and he set it on the bar in front of us, before he too, took off running out the door.
Soon after that, the biggest, meanest and ugliest looking dude I ever saw came walking through the “bat wing” doors. He had tattoos all over his chest and one on his back that was a complete bull fighting ring, with thousands of people, a matador and a bull in the center, it covered his back. What I noticed most was even though he was bare chested he wore a shoulder holster, with a .45 automatic. He came up to me and Gary at the bar, pulled out his pistol, pulled back the slide slowly, then turned to shoot at cockroaches scurrying on the shelves. He holstered his gun and looked at us.
I reached over to the bar and grabbed the near empty bottle of mescal and chugged it straight from the bottle, clinched the worm between my teeth, bit it in two and swallowed both halves then tossed the empty bottle over my shoulder, never taking my eyes away from his. He reached over to the bar and grabbed the unopened bottle of mescal and broke the neck on the edge of the bar. Then he took his still smoldering cigarillo butt from his mouth, dropped it into the now opened bottle, then he raised the bottle to his lips, pressing the broken edges of the bottle so tight against his mouth, that blood started running down his chin. He drank and chugged until all of the mescal was gone, either down his gut or running past both sides of his mouth until he had that cigar butt between his teeth, and he even swallowed that.
The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I looked at Gary and he had his hand in his front pocket, I knew he was ready to whip out his blade. This guy shook his head left, and then right a couple of times, like a boxer that had just taken a good punch to the jaw. Then, all of a sudden, he turned to leave, just the way he came in.
I reacted in surprise I couldn’t stand the suspense and hollered out “Hey Amigo, wait where are you going”? He turned and looked at me , he spit phlem and blood. Then he said, “Estupido Gringo haven’t you heard? Pedro is coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!