Friday, December 12, 2014

Humiliation Coffee and Purgatory Pie (Wranglers' Canyon No. 8)

I revived in my jail cell, which was now occupied by me, myself and I, seeing as how Mumblin’ Pete got unceremoniously acquitted by the Kangaroo Court presided by that big, fat hyena. Judge Horseshit did something right – acquitting Pete, before he did something really, really wrong, which was sentence me to death by hanging.

It made me ponder about the bad things, and I mean the really bad things that I have done in the past, like the time I stole two plump chickens, and the time I stole some watermelon, and I lied to a gal, or two, maybe more. I suppose you could say it was temptation of the flesh that drove me to sin. And then there was that time I shot that bull, but I did not kill a God-fearing man, woman or child. But here I was, behind bars, sentenced to death.

But a man should be allowed to sin every once in a while, though. How can one learn the meaning of virtue if one hasn’t committed acts to make the devil proud? So what if I spent half my cattle driving days dozing off on my horse while I still got paid? Someone went home happy doing all the bossing while I did just what they wanted, riding my horse with both my eyes closed.

Everything is good or evil and there are no inbetweenies. If there was I’d be the king of it all. I’m too smart to be good and too dumb to be evil, and if I said it once I would say it again, once to the devil and twice to God. By the way, did you ever notice that when you take the D off of Devil it just means evil? Sitting in a jail cell all day makes you think things like that.

But all good things come to an end. I had a rude awakening the very next morning when I awoke with a gag tied around my mouth and my wrists cuffed behind me. Sheriff Frehley pulled me out of my call and dragged me outside where a small mob awaited.

It started with Miss Teresa tearing off my shirt so Miss Clara could write all over my chest in greasepaint, which looked something like, “I AM A YELLOW-BELLIED KILLER HANG ME NOW”. She took her time writing it while everybody laughed. I tried to twisty myself free but Sheriff punched me a few times in the face to keep me down.

What I didn’t expect next was when some pud puller from the saloon propped me up and Bo, the blacksmith, wrapped about two yards of barbed wire around my chest and neck, which made me scream in pain. There as blood seeping out of every part of my torso. Then he wrapped some more barbed wire around my head, which made everybody laugh some more.

“Well, well, well”, someone cracked, “He looks mighty familiar”.

Just to make sure they humiliated me even more they let some of the snot-nosed brats of the town tie a bunch of old tin cans around my waist, like I was some kind of damn fool cat. I couldn’t walk without a train of cans clanking around me.

“G’WAN!” Frehley smacked me on the behind. “GIT!”

“GIT!” the little kids whipped me with bush branches, and it hurt a little bit except when they hit me in my open wounds. Then that really hurt! It made my bleeding even worse.

Could there be an even worse sight than a poor old ranch hand cuffed behind his back, a thick gag in his mouth, a big mess o’ slander scrawled all over his body and a whole lot of barbed wire cutting up every nerve ending inside of him? No? I didn’t think so. They wanted to fix it so by the time they got through with me I’d be begging for a good and proper hanging.

I tried to crawl away from all this abuse, cans a’ clankin’ CLANK CLINK CLANK, but someone would go, “DON’T LET HIM GET AWAY!” and then I’d be taking punches in the face while some fucking brat would whip me with a branch. Frehley just stood there laughing it was all good fun.

Through all the blood and sweat pouring down my eyes I could see Sailor Jerry in the distance standing in front of his saloon, sadly shaking his head, clearly disgusted with what his neighbors were doing and perhaps empathizing with my plight.

Mayor Randall joined the mob, his fat gut pushing out all those brass buttons on his vest. He shushed the crowd and announced, “SO! YOU STILL WANT THE KEY TO THE CITY? WELLLL, HERE IT IS, MR. WALKER!”

And then he booted me so hard I fell down and ate dust. The fall made my barbed wire girdle cut into my arms and chest. I felt like screaming but I couldn’t because my mouth was silenced. This got a big laugh from everyone like they were at some smelly barn dance hoedown.

Bo jumped around in front of me cussing, “Yoo voo-man killer. I can’t vait to see you hang!”

I gave him the stinkiest stink eye I could still muster in my pain and strife. I got up on my knees and looked across the square at a furious Mumblin’ Pete, fingers twitching and fighting the impulse to reach for his guns and shoot everyone down. I looked at him and simply shook my head, “No….Don’t”.

Miss Clara began chanting, “SING US A SONG, PRETTY BOY!”
Miss Teresa kicked me in the face (It didn’t hurt – gals can’t kick for shit) and joined in. “YEAH, PRETTY BOY, SING US A SONG!!!”

Everybody brayed like a pack of constipated jackals and joined in yelling at me. “SING US A SONG, PRE-TTEEE BOY!”

Some of these turd eaters even imitated my yodeling. Now that really hurt! I am the best bona-fide yodeler west of the Pecos and they had the nerve to mock my yodeling. If I ever got the chance to break from my bonds I was going to strangle everyone who mocked my yodeling.

Frehley finally showed a tad of mercy after some polecat threw a rock at the back of my head and I almost passed out from the impact. He called over Deputy Shugg.

“Give me a hand, Shugg, with this hombre. He’s got another day of freedom before he meets his maker”. Shugg ambled over with a real disgusted look on his face. “Never let it be said that I allowed an unclean execution in my town”.

So these two numb nuts grabbed me by the legs and wheel barrowed me up the steps to the Sheriff’s office to my jail cell while a chorus of angry townfolk screamed their rotting lungs out. Those two slatterns were still screaming, “SING US A SONG, PRETTY BOY!” I figured they were too stupid to think of yelling anything else.

My body was so numb from the shock of the metal stabbing my flesh that I quickly passed out in my bunk.

When I awoke, Sailor Jerry and Mumblin’ Pete had a tiny palaver with Sheriff Frehley. Frehley joked to Pete, “You must like this place some to come back. Sure you don’t want to join your old buddy?”

Sailor Jerry moseyed over to my cell and held on to the bar with his hook.

“How you holding up, son? You look awful bad”.
“Bjh fghdb ikio reytu retwy!” Pete buzzed. I hobbled over to them both, tin cans clanking behind me. Mumblin’ Pete loosened my gag.

“WHAT’S GOING ON THERE?” Frehley craned his head from his desk.
“Nothing, Sheriff. Everything’s just okey-dokey”, Jerry fake smiled.
I breathed a sigh of relief after having the bond on my mouth loosened.

“Now, listen up, Pete”, I whispered, “The best thing you can do right now is ride around the Hiss Ranch and have a look-see at what they’re doing. I reckon they’re responsible for the murder of Miss Willa”.

“WHO’S WHISPERING OVER THERE?”
“Just Pete, Sheriff!” Jerry lied. “He’s praying for his condemned friend”.
“Huh!” Frehley snorted.

“They don’t give a damn about the bull or the clown”, I continued whispering. “They just want to see some blood shed over that dead gal, and I’ll just bet it was a revenge kill from Hiss and his boys”.

“Zx fgr uith nhdg tyer!” Pete agreed, nodding his head.
“OKAY, DANG IT, THAT’S ENOUGH JAWING FROM YOU TWO”, Frehley angrily stomped over. Pete jumped over and shoved the gag in my mouth again. They both cleared out leaving me back to my state of shock. I’ve always been a good dancer, but I never counted on ending my life dancing at the end of a rope.

My peace was further interrupted that night by a noisy mob outside, most likely the same bunch who acted up earlier that day. It made me wonder what these folks did with their time before this whole ruckus began.

The mob barged into the Sheriff’s office and since Sheriff was out blowing suds at Sailor Jerry’s that meant that I was temporarily under the jurisdiction of that stupid Deputy Shugg. It didn’t help that the leader of the mob this time was some pock-marked preacher man.

The preacher was a tall, thin man with a receding hairline. His nose was very long and his chin was even longer so he had the look of frowning even when he didn’t do any frowning. He dressed all in black but his clothes looked like they were meant for a fat man because they hung off him like was some kind of scarecrow.

“Deputy, before you expedite justice upon the head of your prisoner I wish to request a formal hearing before the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yea, Jesus spake to me and commanded me to present this sinner to Him so that said sinner would be allowed one last chance to repent”, the pit-faced holy man commanded.

“This here man is in my custody and I cannot endanger the safety of the people of Jonestown by letting him out of my sight”, Shugg whined.

“Deputy! Please! The Lord awaits!”
This made Shugg kinda rinse the whole business in his mouth. He sat there hemming and hawing the whole time while the minister and a few minions stood around shuffling their feet like they had to pee.

“Well, all right, if it’s God stuff”, Shugg nodded his head like some stupid bloodhound. “But he ain’t leaving my sight and the cuffs stay on! AND, you can have him for only ten minutes, Father Timmons”.

Here we go again, getting my sore, torn-up body dragged out of my cell and pulled out for everyone’s entertainment.

I got dragged out into the dark night into the street all lit up with dozens of flaming torches held by the same group of idiots. There were the church women, the dentists, the bank and insurance flim-flammers, and a passel of citizens I never did have the pleasure of meeting yet.

Timmons had a little soap box he stood on top of. He had a Good Book in one hand and the other he did a lot of finger-pointing and waving.

“Bring him to me! Bring him upon the eyes of the Lord!” he commanded.

They dragged my barbed wire-bound body with the “YELLOW-BELLIED KILLER HANG ME” scrawl still loud enough to see.The crowd formed a circle around the minister with Shugg hanging on to me like he was afraid I was going to fly away.

“Bring this sinner upon me! Tonight, the night before this killer’s unclean soul will be delivered to his Maker, tonight is your last chance to beg upon your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ for forgiveness, lest you burn in eternal damnation. Repent for the souls you have taken, repent for the murders of three innocent servants of Christ Almighty. Let us all say, Amen!”

“AMEN!” everyone chanted, raising their torches. The light from the torches made the pock marks on his face stick out like the craters of the moon.

“O, Lord, please show mercy upon this lost soul in the wilderness misguided by Satan and slew three souls in the promise of their lives. Please grant this misbegotten gent one last chance to redeem himself before his final days, what say thee?”

“REPENT!” everyone chanted, especially some fat, toothless woman with a puss like a snapping turtle. I wouldn’t kiss her pan on a gold-lugging prospector’s dare.

“Then, Brother Shugg, I pray thee, loosen the bonds on his face so he may finally repent before his final day of judgment!” Timmons made with the hands again, twisting his wrists like some two-bit magician. Shugg complied and undid my gag.

“What say thee, brother?”
I cleared my throat and blew out a loogie that almost ricocheted off of Ol’ Turtle Face.
“If my dick was as long as your tongue you’d be the happiest son of a bitch in Hell!” I growled.

Everyone gasped.
“SACRILEGE!”
“BLASPHEMY!”
“THE DEVIL HAS SPOKEN!”

Shugg jammed the gag back on my face. “Okay, folks, that’s enough. Showtime’s over!” Like a rag doll I was dragged back from the dusty street with the good church folk spitting on me all the way to my jail cell.

It took me awhile to sleep peacefully with those pins digging into me but I did my best to just pass out without tossing and turning. I slept and I dreamt and then it was the big day. The final day of judgment.

I could hear a lot of noise outside like there was a carnival being set up. Didn’t make much sense since this was the day I was going to hang, but there were crowds and sounds of things being built. Sheriff Frehley didn’t spend much time talking to me anymore, probably because he felt guilty he was going to send his old drinking buddy Crash Walker to his death.

I tried to say something but then I realized my mouth was still gagged. I thanked the good Lord above I could breathe through my nose real good, otherwise I’d suffocate to death.

“Do you hear that, Hoss? They’re building your gallows, they’re building it god-damned high so when the floor drops you’ll swing real good”, he told me as he pulled out a fifth from his desk and bought himself a shot. I sure could’ve used one right then and there.

An hour went by and he had a few more shots. Deputy Shugg walked in and murmured a bunch of stuff I didn’t catch. Frehley nodded his head and said, “Well, if Timmons is finally off his bender we can get started. Let’s get this shooting match over and done with”.

He finally got off his traitorous ass and opened my cell.
“Did you see the dummy out there?” He asked, referring to my only pal left.
“Yeah, he’s twitching and shaking like he already got hung from the rope”, Shugg chuckled.

Frehley laughed. “Yeah, it’s too bad we can’t make it a double hanging. Damn that Judge Horseshit”.

They hobbled me out of my cell with the cuffs behind me and the tin cans clanking, CLINK! CLANK! My head still throbbed from the rock which hit it in the back. We walked out into a day of blinding sunlight. I squinted my eyes and thought my skull was going to crack like an egg.

There was a fancy town picnic in full swing with the same band I once sung with. Folks were eating and kids were playing and games were going on, leapfrog, potato sack race, horse shoe tossing, etc. The only thing that spoiled the whole thing was a newly built set of gallows in the background.

Mayor Randall stood by the gallows above everyone and bellowed to one and all, “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MAY I PRESENT TO YOU, OUR GUEST OF HONOR, MISTER CRASH WALKER!”

People stopped what they were doing, playing and eating and drinking beer and began booing me like I was the villain in some stage show.

I looked across the street and Mumblin’ Pete was standing there with some big metal instrument in his hand, like some heavy pair of scissors. It made me wonder what that funny galoot had on his mind.

“ - BUT BEFORE THE GLORY OF GOD’S JUSTICE MAKES HIM PAY HIS DEBT TO SOCIETY HE’S GOING TO ENTERTAIN US ONE MORE TIME!”

Over my dead body am I going to sing for these bastards. But I was wrong. They didn’t want me to sing at all. Someone pulled out a donkey, a real surly one and attached it to a cart. Then they pulled another cart and placed the lead bit into my mouth.

“WE’RE GOING TO SEE WHO CAN RACE BETTER, A DONKEY OR A SINGING JACKASS!” Randall beamed. Everyone laughed uproariously. “PERSONALLY I NEVER SAW THE SINGING JACKASS LOOK ANY BETTER!”

They placed the donkey next to me and Shugg drew a line across for us to pass. Frehley stood at the end of the line, about two yards away with a victory flag. I tried to turn to see Pete but I couldn’t. The lead held my head up stiffly in one place.

“I’M PUTTING MONEY ON THE DONKEY. HOW ABOUT YOU FOLKS?”

Everyone laughed and clapped their hands, and some snip ran away from his daddy and kicked me real hard on the butt and ran back.

“ALRIGHTEE, NOW, LET’S GET THIS RACE HERE STARTED!” Randall announced.

Sheriff Frehley stood at the finish line with his piece raised high in the air. “ONE – FOR THE MONEEE!”

I could hear hoofbeats thundering towards the picnic grounds behind me, almost drowning out his voice.

“TWO – FER THE SHOW!!!!”

The thundering hoof beats got louder until a bunch of horses stopped right by me. I turned around so hard I thought my back was going to crack. Good lord Bejesus, it was Hiss and his bunch.

There were about ten hombres sitting on their horses all bigger and beefier than their nags, and they were all loaded with pistols and rifles.

Hiss, looking as ornery and mean as the day I first saw him, nodded at Frehley.
“Frehley, what’s goin’ on here?”
“We’re just havin’ ourselves a good ol’ picnic with our –“Randall barged in.
“Shut up, Mayor! I’m talking to the Sheriff”.

“He was sayin’ that we’re having ourselves a picnic along with a hanging”, Frehley had his hand on one hip and the other on his holster.
“A hanging! Ain’t nothing wrong with that”, Hiss smiled, his beady eyes gleaming, dark as night.

“Yes, you see, we –“Randall barged again.
“I SAID SHUT UP!” Hiss screamed.
“What he was tryin’ to say, Mister Hiss, is that we’re hanging the man who killed your boy. Justice will be served”, Frehley placated.

Hiss leaned into his saddle and looked at his men
. “And, who, pray tell, is the killer of my boy? I want to see that dirty buzzard”, he spat.
Frehley pointed at me, and said, “There’s your killer!”

Hiss stared hard at me with those ugly rattler eyes of his and then suddenly shook like crazy laughing his head off. He turned to his boys and they were all laughing their asses off, too.
“I gave you 48 hours to find me my boy’s killer and you toss me this ugly jackass? This stupid clown couldn’t kill a june bug!”

Frehley and Randall joined the laughter, too. Hiss’ laughter stopped and his smile twisted into a sneer.

“AND JUST WHAT KIND OF A DAMN FOOL IDIOT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR????”
“But he’s the killer, and-“
“FREHLEY, YOU’RE THE KILLER AND I ALWAYS KNEW IT”.
“No, you’re wrong –“

Hiss mumbled something to one of his men and in a second both ears were shot out of Frehley’s head. Then all ten hombres including Hiss opened fire on Frehley and shot him to pieces. Frehley’s body flew around like a puppet full of holes.

While this was happening all the womenfolk and the kiddies ran off screaming and squawking like old laying hens and I swear Shugg ran away, too.

Hiss said, “Let’s vamoose boys, we killed the scum!” and all the boys rode off. There were still a few hombres standing around watching Frehley twitch like a gutted frog, blood pouring out of every hole in him.

I pulled my cart towards him and leaning over, pulled off his badge and lifted it up towards me.
“Take it”, he whispered.
I took the badge and looked up for Mumblin’ Pete.

“PETE!!” Pete ran over and used the big metal cutters he was holding to cut off the barbed wire from me.
“Hgt riu njsh iojknk!”
He ripped the gag from my mouth and then searched Sheriff’s pockets and found the cuff keys, unlocking my hand cuffs. “Hgt riu njsh iojknk!”
I pumped some circulation from my arms. They were numb as hell and hurt like fuck.

What hurt like fuck even more was pulling the barbed wire out of my back and chest and pulling it out of my hair. But I was standing up straight again. I faced the crowd and lifted up the dead man’s badge for all to see.

“NOW, LISTEN UP YOU COCKSUCKERS! I’M HOLDING THE BADGE NOW, I'M THE MAN AND YOU ALL BELONG TO ME!!!!”

WRANGLERS’ CANYON

END PART ONE

Friday, December 5, 2014

I Thought It I Said It I Did It So There

As a general rule I don't make a habit of attending punk rock reunion shows. So many of them have the air of a high school reunion, people checking out each other to see who's still carrying off their punk rock moxie and who isn't; Who's held up through the years and who hasn't, and even worse, people who were never friends in the past blowing kisses to each other like phonies. But all those anti-reunion sentiments were blown out of the water when I heard about the Dangerhouse Records Show at The Echoplex on November 9, 2014.

The lineup, which featured The Alleycats, Rhino 39, The Deadbeats, The Avengers and The Weirdos, couldn't be beat. The show was amazing on several levels. Not only were all the performances top-notch but the bands stuck pretty close to the script: each set was a brilliant approximation of what it was like seeing any of those bands at the peak of their musical power in 1978. Every set was a perfect replication of what each band sounded and looked like back in the day.

The Alleycats played a locomotively charged set that was high on energy and low on frills, just like the old days. Randy Stodola was reliable as usual, although I thought his guitar could have used better grounding and a reunion with his signature Big Muff from the past. A lot of people were asking about former bassist Diane Chai, but like all punk legends she's just a ghost in the ethereal ozone.

Rhino 39 were pretty clever by doing a batch of Dangerhouse covers, like The Randoms' classic "Let's Get Rid Of New York" and Black Randy & The Metro Squad's "I Slept In An Arcade", so even if you weren't a fan of the band they still had your attention with their cool choice of covers.

The Deadbeats mixed their weird theater with atonal jazzisms and it was great to hear "Muggsy" and "I Just Shot A Girl Called Maria" again after all these years. Scott Guerin's voice is still pretty dynamic and it was great to see Geza X playing his awesomely warped guitar. I wish I caught their previous reunion show with my pal Pat Delaney on sax but there's always You Tube to catch some of that wildness.

The Avengers came on and played everything I remembered from the shows we used to play with them at The Whiskey in 1978. It was so close to the old days I was stricken with an overwhelming case of melancholy, and I don't even drink anymore. One great song followed another: covers of Paint It Black, Money, and the classics: Car Crash, The American In Me and White Nigger. The only blemish was Greg's overly chorus-laden guitar, a little too BritGoth for my taste, but there was no question that Penelope Houston is the queen of West Coast Punk and one of the first (I did a show with her at Mabuhay Gardens in the summer of 1977).

The nostalgia flashback got to be too much and we decided to leave The Echoplex - no Weirdos tonight but I'm sure they were great. Watching Dix Denney walk around the club in septuagenarian Keith Richards drag was disturbing enough! The show was sold out even at a ticket price of $22 - I remember when these shows were a quarter of that price, but nevertheless it was a priceless night watching old friends play and simply enjoying the fact that you can't go home again but every once in a while it doesn't hurt to pretend.

*****************

If there's anything I like it's a band that doesn't take themselves too seriously and Status Quo are all that. I discovered a terrific collection by them of their songs played "unplugged" (they call aQUOstic) including their cover of The Everly Brothers' "Price of Love" as well as their classic "Paper Plane", sounding surprisingly less like the metal heads they once were and more like Nick Lowe's Rockpile. There's some great stuff going on here!

By no stretch of the imagination am I a big Everly Brothers fan but I'm loving this strange album they recorded around 1967 time called "The Everly Brothers Sing". Their arrangements take a more psych-pop approach to the great Everly's vocals, and there are several cool drug songs on here, too, like Talking To The Flowers, Mary Jane (MURRRRAAAY JANE!!!!!) and A Voice Within, which was the B-side to the equally great Love Of The Common People. Also check out their awesome cover of the Buffalo Springfield classic "Mr. Soul", which features slide guitar and mandolin from Ry Cooder, the premier session demon at Warner Bros. during the psych era. You can find Mr. Soul on You Tube - you won't believe your ears.

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Rebecca recently played at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Feliz on November 5, 2014 with her pop-up band Cat Sabbath. In addition to Rebecca from Frightwig, Cat Sabbath included the great Sara Landeau from Julie Ruin,

Marissa DeMeglio from Wolf Prize and a mystery singer. Rebecca's growling and crackling guitar was as menacing sounding as ever! It was quite a spectacle: four witches dressed like cats playing Black Sabbath songs like "The Wizard" and "N.I.B.", 21st Century variations on the "Double Bubble Toil and Trouble" incantation from Macbeth. Yeth!

By the way, if you're really into wimmyn rockers or Riot Grrl music you might want to check out my latest eBay auction: The Courtney Love & Hole cover issue of Flipside Magazine, which also includes Bulimia Banquet and Mudhoney. Here's the link, folks:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/171562661930?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

***************

Lately I've been feeling pretty nostalgic for the good old days of rock brought to you by Circus Magazine, the gnarliest and ugliest rock magazine of all time. Although Circus was big in the late Sixties they really hit their stride in the mid-Seventies when they ran some of the most unflattering photos of rock stars performing. We're talking about live photos of Freddie Mercury coated in sweat with his hair getting nappy, Bryan Ferry singing with boogers hanging out of his nose or Ian Hunter from Mott The Hoople emoting with spinach leaves or stale pussy hair sticking in his teeth. You couldn't beat Circus Magazine in the disgusting factor.

Yes, hard-working musicians were shot at angles aimed right under their nostrils or luckily capturing their double chins, and there was always plenty of angles getting all those hairy chests just holding up all that valuable rock star sweat. Yum! Who couldn't resist dynamic snapshots of Ian Gillian's sweaty armpits with arms raised in the air? It's like that Junior High School newspaper covering the latest sports event.

The very pages of Circus just dripped ooze no matter how you sliced it and it was two steps away from being Scratch & Sniff. Why, Hit Parader Magazine almost turned green with envy. They tried to compete with their own brand of sweaty, smelly looking rock stars but they were no match for the true herpes festival that was Circus Magazine! Excelsior!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Murder In My Heart For The Judge (Wranglers' Canyon No. 7)

The first thing Deputy Shugg had us do after we put our hands up was make us put them down again and undo our gun belts.
"Drop your guns and kick them over to me, real slow-like", he gave us the stink eye with his pearl handled .45 trained at our heads. We kicked our beautiful guns towards him, and not leaving us from his sight, wrapped both gun belts around his free arm.

The next thing Deputy Shit For Brains did was make us put our hands up again. Did this idjit even have any idea what he was doing?

"What about Miss Willa?" I nodded towards the gutted corpse of my former bed hostess.
"Well, that is none of your concern any more, Killer", Shugg sneered. "Phineas Lexington the undertaker will handle her remains. Now, git!"

We both marched angrily in the dark with Deputy Numb Nuts holding up the rear. We walked from the alley to the main drag and towards the sheriff's office. I was cussing under my breath to raise the devil and spank his ass. Pete stopped crying long enough to start spitting angrily.

"You'd better have a good explanation for all this ruckus, Shugg".
"Never you mind, Killer. You just keep walking and when we reach Sheriff's door you open nice and slow, and no funny stuff from either one of you, hear?"
This big-eared jackass was full of piss and gumption. I was dying to take the gun out of his hands, stick it up his ass and pull the trigger.

I let Pete open Sheriff Frehley's door as we marched in, catching Frehley almost choking on his coffee when he saw us.
"Alright, Shugg, what is this all about, now?" Frehley asked at the sight of us all rolled in.
"Sheriff, once again there's blood all over these boy's hands. They hung Miss Willa in the alley right behind the old barber shop!"

Frehley rubbed his face irritably. "You just told me you weren't a killer, Walker. What goes on here?"
"I didn't kill Miss Willa, Sheriff. We found her hanging against the fence by the barber's".
"Don't tell me that! What is it with you two? This used to be a pretty quiet little town. Ever since you two rode in you've left a trail of dead bodies, one after the other. First there was that rodeo bull, then the clown, and now Miss Willa. I wouldn't be surprised if you two are responsible for the dead Hiss boy that's got that darn family in an uproar".

"MYUT OIO VDEYFT JKJIOIUO!" Mumblin' Pete protested.
"What the hell is he sayin'?" Deputy Shugg sneered.
"What the hell do you think he's saying? We're innocent, you turkey necked bastard".
"HU TREP IOYT FCDX!"

Shugg waved his gun at us. "Hand over your bandanas!"
I frowned. "Our bandanas? What the hell for?"
"Evidence".
"Evidence? Why you piss-breath gopher, I said we didn't do nothin'!" I yelled.

"He's right, Walker. Hand over them bandanas, both of yous".
Cussing blue streaks, we took off our bandanas and practically threw them at Frehley.
"Now head on in to the cell. You gotta admit, Walker, three dead people -"
"TWO dead people AND A BEAST", I corrected him.
"A very expensive beast. And like I said, for all I know you might be responsible for that Hiss death, too". He slammed the jail cell door and turned the key. "I'm going to have to formally charge you both for the death of Young Rance Hiss, Miss Willa, The Rodeo Clown, and a Very Expensive Bull, Property of Dr. Tarr's National Rodeo".

Pete angrily kicked his bunk. I sat on mine, angrily rolled a cig and smoked. "Ain't that some sweet sheepdip? Self-defense don't count for much around these parts".
"Blaga hiy weg nhyt desp!"

"Frehley, you coward. I didn't kill Rance Hiss and you know that. You'd rather turn me over to crazy old Hiss than have your town burned down".
Frehley walked up to our cell. "I don't do the tryin'. I just do the arrestin'. We'll let justice be served tomorrow when you come up before Judge Harschaw".
"WHAT??? I'm being judged by Judge Horseshit? Are you kiddin' me?"
"Know him? I always found him to be pretty fair, Walker. Seems to me if you're seriously innocent you got nothing to be worried about".

I groaned and turned to Mumblin' Pete. "We're going to be judged by Judge Horseshit. Let me tell you all about Judge Horseshit, this no-necked pecker faced old puke I got into a tussle with at the barber shop a week ago after I sang at the Town Fair.

"Well, I was still feeling pretty puffed up and full of myself after singing and yodeling for all the ladies, breaking hearts and what not. So I decided to celebrate by getting a good and proper barber shop shave and a few cuts on the back and sides.

"Ty Flint the barber was taking good care of me with a nice hot towel over my face, the whole bit. I was telling him about that song "Campfire" and how I swung all the gals with it.
As I was talking about it this big bo I didn't pay any mind to before started snorting in the next barber chair. It kinda rankled me, you know?"

"Bzza yty pomi def tyu!"
"That's right, you got it", I puffed away. "So, anyhoo, I got all chuffed about my next song 'Buffalo Babe' and telling Flinty about it while he's a-shaving me, y'follow? So this big galoot starts rumbling words like 'Ballll-der-dassssshhhh!' and 'Tuurrrr-nip Juice!'

I look over to the next chair and there sat this Humpty Dumpty behemoth of a man. Fingers like fat sausages, legs like four ham hocks tied together and a belly bigger than six Horns O' Plenty put together. His nostrils were so large you could see all the bush a-growin' inside them! The man was fatter than an Easter Sunday Hog on a spit. He had the bushiest eyebrows covering this little piggy squinted eyes and an even bushier beard rolling down to his ol' belly bucket.

"The smell coming out of that body was so pungent even a tin o' talcum powder couldn't kill it, and did he come in for two bits and a shave? Hell no, he's there for a manicure, can you beat that? He wants his piggy fingernails cut, cleaned and lacquered like a Kansas City whore!

"Not content to say those dopey words he starts up with, 'Good responsible citizens work for a living. The fair people of Jonestown have no need for deadbeat, no-account fancy boys who refuse to toil God's earth and waste time instead indulging in their vanity and singing obscene songs for the sole purpose of corrupting the good Christian ladies of their maidenhood'.

"I looked at him and said, 'If you are referring to me, Tubby, you can take all that Sunday School sermonizing and go shit in your flat hat'.
Well, the next thing you know this big fat ass jumps out of his barber chair with his bib still on and screams at me, 'Sir, I'll have you know you are addressing the Good Judge Clinton Harschaw! Unlike you, neighbor, my lips do not touch alcohol, nor do I indulge in demon weed tobacco!'
I said, 'I reckon there's a lot of things your lip's ain't touched. Maybe that's the problem, Elephant Pants!'

"We both jumped out of our chairs, ready to attack. He tried to grab me and I was ready to hit him back until Flinty stuck a cane between us and pushed us away from each other.
'No fighting in my salon! Both of you, back in your chairs!'

"Well, Judge Horseshit threw his bib down and started walking out of the barber's, but he stopped and turned around to face me. Do you know what he said before he left?
'It'll give me great pleasure to sentence you. I'll be looking forward for that day to come, and knowing your scurrilous type, that day can't come soon enough!'

"He snorted like a pig and stormed right out. Best shave I ever had!"

Deputy Shugg drifted over to our cell bars. "How do you sleep at night knowing you're a killer?"
"Leave the prisoners alone, Shugg!" Frehley barked.
"Jig frde vncjkdhj yyue bil koh!"
"Yeah, when do we eat?"

Frehley got tired of Shugg cutting up like some attack dog so he sent him home and slept in an empty cell next to us. he was a pretty good host, I got to admit, lighting a fire and turning down the lights so we all got a good night's sleep. Every once in awhile and I'd wake up thinking about Judge Horseshit and get all riled up knowing my life was in his fat, smelly hands.

I hoped I had some good representation - I was going to need it, especially since I was in the company of people who were damned good at forgetting who their friends were. These weren't fair weather friends, they were no weather friends. One day I was the singer they all applauded and now they were ready to blame me for everybody's death.

It was true I killed the Straight Razor Bull and The Rodeo Clown but it was in self-defense. I had nothing to do with the other murders. Well, Pete killed that Hiss boy but I wasn't about to pass the hanging rope to him, and anyway you could say that was self-defense, too. Defense against a bunch of man-buggering coyotes.

What rankled me the most was the way everyone in Jonestown was so quiet, fair and eager to party with their whiskey until things got a little too tough and then they couldn't point the finger at me fast enough. It was like they had their fun handing me the key to their city and now they were going to beat me to death with it. Cowards.

All those drinks and nights sharing laughs with Frehley meant nothing. He was going to dump me on old man Hiss's doorstep, letting him kill me so he can have his revenge. It's as if our friendship meant nothing. Here today, gone tomorrow.

I can see the darkness evaporate into a growing light creeping through the door crack and windows. Soon the night will be over and the new day I hoped would never come will finally arrive and take over. Damn it.

******************

Hours later we were cuffed and put in a caged wagon like a couple of rodeo beasts and they rode us over to the old school house down the road. As we were taken through town all the citizens stared at us and some even got on their horses and followed us. Some of the girls who swooned at my singing a few days ago stared at me in surprise.

"Where they taking you, Crash?" they asked.
"I don't know. Follow me".
"Why are you behind bars?"
"I said I don't know. Follow me". And that they did.

When we got to the school house Sheriff Frehley jumped off the running board and unlocked the cage and treating us like he was some kinda fool lion tamer and we were trained lions.
"Alright, both of you out nice and slow, and no funny stuff". Deputy Shugg was on the other side of the cage with his pistol pointed at us.

As I jumped off the wagon I realized there were already a passel of horses and wagons hitched by the front of the school house. It seemed people were waiting for us, and Lord, I smelled trouble.

Whatever disarray the school house was in when I fought The Rodeo Clown was all cleaned up. Where once there was an empty floor with broken furniture there was now rows of chairs filled with an already seated townsfolk, a jury box to the side and a nice little platform for the judge to park his big, fat ass on.

The judge was already sitting on his big, fat ass, chuckling quietly and murmuring, "Well, well, well...heheheh". He had a wide cage next to his chair with a large vulture perched in it, hopping around every once in awhile and ruffling his old, stinky feathers.

There was a large cage wide enough for me and Mumblin' Pete to stand in and Sheriff Frehley ushered us in. He and Shugg sat down towards the front of the courtroom.
I saw Mayor Randall sitting at a table facing Judge Horseshit.
"Hey, Mayor, you representing me today?"
"Hell no, he's the prosecuting attorney", someone shouted and everyone laughed. Everyone but me and Pete. Randall looked sheepishly ashamed of himself.

"Well, where's our attorney?"
"Killers don't get attorneys!" the man shouted back again and I turned to see Bo the squarehead blacksmith doing all the yelling. He never did like me.

"Order in the court! Order in the court!" Harschaw pulled out a bull whip and snapped it so loudly you could hear the wind rustle around the room. "CRRAAAACK!" "No one gets to speak in my court until I tell them to! Mayor Randall!"

Randall stood the floor of the court room and barked.
"The case of The City of Jonestown, Festus County, plaintiff, versus Mr. Crash Walker and Mr. Mumblin' Pete, defendants in the matter of four charges of murder in the case of Mr. Rance Hiss, Miss Willa Parton, one John Doe rodeo performer we'll name Rodeo Doe, and one, uh...rodeo bull".

Everyone laughed at the last charge.
Harschaw belched and spat into a brass spittoon to the side of his dais. "Let's forego the charge on that dead beast. We have enough to hang these two without some damned bull".
Mumblin' Pete nervously gripped my arm.

"Bring on the first witness".
"Teresa Mullins, please take the stand". Miss Teresa was all duded up for this shebang and she looked finer with clothes on than she did in her usual Jezebel finery.
"Miss Mullins", Randall puffed up his chest, "please tell the judge and jury what Mr. Walker asked you the night of Miss Parton's murder?"
"He asked me where Miss Willa was like he really had to see her something awful".
The court murmured all over.

"Did you see her alive after he asked you about her?"
"No, Mayor...I couldn't. She was dead!" She gripped a hanky and wept, dabbing at her baby blues.
Everyone talked even louder around the room.
"Thank you, that will be all".

"Quiet in my court room!" he banged a pistol instead of a gavel on his desk.
"Wait a minute! That don't prove nothing!" I yelled.
"I SAID BE QUIET - YOU'LL SPEAK WHEN IIIIIIIIIIIIIII PERMIT IT!!!" He pulled out his whip and cracked it closed enough to almost reach our cage bars. "CRRRAACK!"

"Next witness, Mayor Randall".
"The court calls on Phineas Lexington, undertaker, please take the stand". A potato faced man of dumpy build with saggy eyes and a soiled suit took the stand.

"Now, Mister Lexington, are you a certified undertaker?"
"Why, yes, I attended Good Shepherd of Christ University in Baltimore, Maryland and have buried more than a hundred deceased souls".
Harschaw hacked up a green goblin and spat it into that brass spittoon again.

"You examined the late Miss Willa Parton, did you not?">br/> "Yes, I did, sir".
"Considering the physical damage that was done to Miss Parton, would you in your estimation say the little man in the mustache inflicted any form of pain on her person?"
"No, not at all. He's too short of build. He couldn't reach her".

"So, would you say a man of Mr. Walker's height could have killed her?"
"Welllll..." he looked me over like he was fitting a brand new coffin to bury. "Yesss, I'd say so".
"This proves that Mister Crash Walker killed Miss Willa Parton!" You could hear Miss Teresa wailing like a baby in the background.

The court roared in outrage.
"NOW, WAIT A MINUTE!" I yelled.
Harschaw jumped out of his chair and cracked the whip. "CRRRAAACK!" The whip licked the bars of my cage while I heard the words "Killer" bandied around.
"You may be seated", Randall excused Lexington, "My next expert witness is-"

Judge Horseshit waved his pudgy arms around. "That'll be all, Mayor. I don't give two whoops and a holler about hearing any more. I've reached my verdict".
"WHAAAT?" I screamed.
"Don't need some meddling jury nohow. What's the name of that funny looking guy with the moustache?"
"Mumblin' Pete".

"Mumblin' Pete, the city of Jonestown, Festus County, finds you not guilty". Pete relaxed while Frehley stepped into the cage, unlocked his handcuffs and let him out the cage.
"Free that little squirt. I know my killers and he wouldn't piss on a fly", Harschaw muttered.

"And now, Mister Crash Walker. The court of Jonestown, Festus County, finds you guilty in the first degree -"
"YOU SON OF A BITCH, THIS AIN'T NO FAIR TRIAL!"
"CRRRRAAAACK!" The whip again.
"-for the murder of young Rance Hiss, god-fearing Rodeo Doe, and poor defenseless Miss Willa Parton -"
"THIS IS NOTHIN' BUT A DAMN CIRCUS AND YOU KNOW IT!!!"
"CRRRRAAAACK!"
"-killed in the flower of their youth, all good Christians and soldiers in the Army of Jesus Christ".

The court room roared louder and louder upon hearing my verdict. Judge Horseshit's mouth twisted into something that almost looked like a smile.
"The court sentences you to be hanged by the neck until stone cold dead this coming Saturday morning, the 24th of September. May the Lord have mercy on your murderous soul". He spat derisively into that spittoon again.

At this point I yelled so much I couldn't even hear my voice any more. The white hot courtroom became blacker and blacker until all I could see was a vulture flapping its wings wildly in its cage. My knees gave way and everything went...black.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Life Without Enemies Is A Life Not Lived (Wranglers' Canyon No. 6)

One of the most aggravating things about law enforcement isn't the part about catching your man or even killing him, but what comes after. Killing The Rodeo Clown was hard work, to be sure, but dragging his dead ass across town on the back of my horse and turning him over to Sheriff Frehley was even harder. I had to do it, otherwise no one would believe me about that guy.

I was just riding and praying old Clyde didn't get a hernia carrying me and that psycho bastard over his poor back, but fuck him, he's a horse. God made him that way. As we were riding through the woods in the pitch black darkness I have to confess to getting a touch of the heebie jeebies and turned around every so often to look at The Rodeo Clown, just to make sure he was really dead. I kept thinking he was going to come to and strangle me from behind, so sometimes I'd even stop riding and turn and smack his dumb ol' dead clown face.

"Hey! Stupid!" Naw, he's still dead. Stiff. Cold. Stiff, cold, dead clown in the dark. And then the thought of that shit creeped me out even more, so I kicked Clyde pretty hard with a stern, "GIDDYAP, BOY!"

I got to Sheriff Frehley's office after ignoring the townsfolk gaping at me like a bunch of loudmouth bass at the horror of a dead clown hanging from the back of my horse. Stare and stare again, folks. I'm doing all the work, not you.

After tying Clyde to the hitching post I had to lift this fat assed clown off the horse and carry him on in. There was a lot of heavy lifting going on and I was feeling mighty tired after that tussle with Chuckles, so after a few false starts I said FUCK IT and simply pushed him off the horse. He landed head first on the ground ass-over-elbows with Clyde shooting a jet of piss that luckily missed his sorry head. A dead head full of piss would be hard to explain to Sheriff.

I dragged Clowny up the wooden sidewalk and opened the front door taking him with me. Sheriff Frehley and Deputy Shugg both practically jumped out of their desks at the same time when they saw the stiff being dragged by his dead leg.

"Walker??" Frehley yelped. "What the hell?"
"Here's the jasper who killed the real rodeo clown in Tarr's show. See? He's for real. We had a tussle over yonder by the woods and I had to kill him, see? It was self defense, Sheriff. I'm no killer!"

Frehley and Shugg both walked over to inspect the dead clown from head to toe.

"Walker, give us a hand with this body", Frehley picked up the top side while Shugg grabbed the bottom.
"Get it yourself, I'm plum tired from all that killing". I sat down.

They picked him up and plopped him down on Shugg's desk, the clown's ass knocking over Shugg's coffee cup and tobacco fixings and shit.
Frehley asked me a lot of dumb fool questions while he was looking the stiff's body up and down.

"Any idea who this is?"
"Hell, no. I'm new here, remember?"
"Some of the paint on his face is all wiped off. Did you do that?"
"Yup. I was trying to figure out who he was, too".
"Any ideas?"
"Could be. I saw him dancing with Miss Willa at that big to-do the other day. Didn't know who he was then and still don't know who he is now".

Since I wasn't any help at all the two lawmen do what lawmen do best: they ignored me like I wasn't in the room and started talking to each other, treating me like I was the fifth wall.

"Who do you reckon it is, Sheriff? Could it be Hogg Stinson?"
"Naw, Stinson's a lot bigger than this fella. And anyway, Stinson's ass is always falling out of his pants".
"Haven't seen Clem Sturgis in awhile. Kinda looks like him".
"Sturgis shot himself in the face cleaning his gun last year. Couldn't be him".
"No fooling? Hmm, his wife's kinda fine...wonder if she's fixin' to get married again".
"Aw hell, ferget it, Shugg. You gotta get past five squallin' brats to get to her cootch".

There was a lot of head scratching and just as much ass scratching to boot, but they weren't getting anywhere.
"I GOT IT!" Shugg stamped his boot down hard. "It's Jedidiah McGrew!"
Frehley frowned and pushed his hat back. "Nope, nope, nope. McGrew hasn't been seen around these parts in a coon's age. T'aint him!"

Frehley turned to me and wrinkled his face impatiently. "Did you get a chance to talk to him before you killed him? What did he sound like?"
"He talked real funny like he head a cold, y'know, like he had a sore throat".

"That don't ring a bell", Frehley mumbled to Shugg, shutting me out again. "That's no help at all".
"Okay", I was getting fed up with this treatment. "I need a drink. Sheriff, you gonna press charges?"
"Of course not! Get out of here, Walker, we have official business to take care of".
"Don't let me stop you".

I moseyed over to Sailor Jerry's feeling weary and all punched out. I took a quick stool and blasted back a few shots of redeye. Jerry was banging some crazy barrelhouse piano. Tapping my feet like crazy, I looked around the saloon and saw my girls Miss Teresa, Miss Charity and Miss Clara. I smiled at them and thought it was time for a song.

"There's a hoedown down by the ranch
Grab your little girl git ready to dance
Don't be shy, there's no time
When the night is right for frontier romance.....
YODELYODELYODEL-LAYWHEHOOO!!!"

I yodeled and yodeled and yodeled, my tongue all loose for yodeling and the gals all yelling and laughing. The men saw the gals liking it so they kinda cheered, too. Most of the men were married and kinda walked around all scared their wives might run in and pull them out of the saloon. Every dude knew the ladies of Jonestown hated the saloon gals.

Jerry took a liking to my yodeling and banged the 88 keys even harder whenever I'd do my hooting. It all sounded real nice. I even threw in a few whippoorwill bird noises, too. Damn straight.
"GOOOOO-WRREEEEK-OOOO!!! WOOHEEHEEWHOOO!"
The gals all swooned.

"Roping, riding, hankering and loving is all I ever do
Hold me tight like you're a gonna reach right through
Grab my heart and love me all night
Rope me in and tie me up, to boot...
YODELYODELYODEL-LAYWHEHOOO!!!"

I was really starting to enjoy myself like a crazy loon but I got real tired and just plain stopped. Jerry just kept tinkling away like a madman. Miss Teresa and Miss Charity both joined me for a drink.
"You're really putting it away, Cowboy! You feelin' alright?" Miss Charity laughed.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I have a few questions I have to ask Miss Willa. Where is she, anyway?"
"Why?" Miss Teresa's eyes narrowed and her high steppin' blonde breasts rose angrily. "We're not good enough for you anymore?"

"No, it's nothing like that. I saw her with this fella the other day and I'm trying to get a hold of him".
Charity and Teresa looked at each other real puzzled, almost as puzzled as those two backasswards lawmen back there.
"We haven't seen Willa for awhile", Charity frowned as she grabbed a shot of sarsaparilla.
Teresa jumped at me. "Sing us another one, Crash!"

I waved her off. "Okay, okay, let me wet my whistle before I start vocalizing again".
But that chance didn't get to happen. Our not so peace and quiet was interrupted by a louder eruption.
The sound of what must have been ten horses rumbled towards the saloon, almost shaking everything in sight, and loud? It was louder than Jerry's loud-ass piano playing.

The saloon doors swung open and in marched ten hombres, and I knew right away who they were. It was that mean looking bunch that rode by while Mumblin' Pete and I did our shooting a week ago. I remembered the older guy with the beady eyes and the long, thin, scaly face. He still looked ornery as hell, so bad that even Jerry quit playing.

"Howdy. Something I can do for you fellas?" Jerry asked politely, almost knowing damned well who these boys were.

A wide, real wide like a train car wide guy stepped up to Jerry. "Are you the proprietor of this saloon, boy?"
"I am, and as you are addressing a former officer of the United States Navy I'll have you not refer to me as 'boy'".

"Someone in this town, and I mean SOMEONE, had a major altercation with the men of The Hiss Ranch and massacred them in cold blood. We aim to come right in and raze this little town of yours until we find the murderer of our men. D'you understand, nigger?"
Sailor Jerry's back straightened up to him. "I thought I told you -"

The old dude dressed in black pushed his way past the wide guy and leered at everyone with his mean old rattler face.
"One of my boys is LYING DEAD in a watering hole and I DEMAND to know who did it. You have no idea what trouble you SMALL TOWN PEOPLE got yourselves into. I'll give you 48 hours to TURN THE KILLER IN or you will SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES. You have awakened... a SLEEPING GIANT".

I looked over at Mumblin' Pete across the room, who was trying to melt into the wall like he wasn't even there. The mean-ass dude leaned straight at me, shoving his ugly face right at me.

"Are you my boy's KILLER? You have something you want to say to me?" He rasped.
I tried my best to match his stare.
"Nope, not at all. My name's Walker, and to who am I addressing if I may ask?"
His little eyes got kinda big for a second.
"I'm the one and only Clinton Hiss, owner of The Hiss Ranch, and if you had ANYTHING to do with my son Rance's death it will give me GREAT PLEASURE to kill you personally!"

Rance. That was the name of that dang Sodomite back in the prairie who had that sick little gang trying to invade my virtue. Shit. We killed Snake Face's ugly little boy.
I smiled and said, "I had not a whit to do with it, Sir".

He threw a pointed finger in the air at everyone. "FORTY EIGHT HOURS! OR SUFFER AND DIE!!!!"
The gang turned around and stomped out. It was dead silent in the saloon like all the air just dried out.
The thundering of their horses resounded again and faded out into the distance.

"Hell's bells, I need a drink", Sailor Jerry ambled over behind the bar. Miss Clara sympathetically rubbed Jerry's arm to console him. "ROUNDS FOR EVERYONE!"

Shot glasses appeared all over the bar as Jerry ran down the bar filling them up from his bottle. Mumblin' Pete grew a pair and walked over to me, taking the stool next to me, too.

"Nice little town you have here", I said to Jerry.
"Isn't it? And Sheriff and his Deputy are nowhere to be found while all this is happening".
"Where's Mayor Randall?"
"Shit. Who knows?"

I threw back a shot and looked straight at Mumblin' Pete. I leaned in and mumbled into his ear.
"Might be a real good time for us both to scram before we turn to scrambled eggs".
"Mghst rklji ji ghgd kleb uib bg jjhugdhvdhh".
"Hell yeah!"

I started tossing and turning the idea about Mumblin' Pete and me packing our sleeping bags and rags and skedaddlin' out of this ratty burg. It wouldn't take long before we'd get found out for being the killers of Sonny Boy, especially since no one in this boring little shed of a town was smart enough to kill anyone.

Not only that, we were also the new fish in town and a little weird, at least Pete was, so it wouldn't take long for these cowardly folk to start accusing us of all this shit anyway.

I smiled a phony smile at Sailor Jerry and mumbled into Pete's ear. "Just about two more shots o' this piss and we'll head on out to the hotel and skip out with our things and we'll shake these cactus-head fuckers, y'know what I mean?"
"Ght erfgd jkjiu ink opsneghu!" Mumblin' Pete chuckled.
"Sure as shittin', Hoss".

After we tossed our two final shots, I bid adios to ol' Jerry and the gals and we galloped the hell out with our cheap $2 smiles. Just to make sure we didn't make our adios too obvious we snuck down the alley behind the Jonestown General Store, the Jonestown Bakery, the Jonestown Post Office, hell and high falutin'.

"When we git on our horses we gotta keep them nags quietest as quiet can be, and then -"
"Fgkltny!" Mumblin' Pete banged against something big hanging against a wall and almost stumbled over his big clodhoppers.

"Watch where you're going, Pete!"
"Gjkl rtnvf eg jio wemin iyrt!!!" He kicked at the dark lump by the wall. I didn't know what he stumbled over but this real rancid odor wafted from it.
"What is that? It smells like -"
Pete touched it and jumped back a few feet. "GH REEE HPIJK!!!"

I lit a match to get a better look at what made my pal jump like a nervous gopher. I brought the match closer to the hanging lump and we both gasped at what we saw.

It was the already rotting corpse of Miss Willa hanging against the wall with a rope tied around her neck. One of her eyes was completely ripped out of its eye socket. Her nose had been bashed in until it looked like a bent tin can. Her hair was all pulled out and sticking out all over the place like a rag doll left out in the rain. Her once pretty dress had been ripped out wide open with burn marks and bruises all over her once pliable titties. You couldn't see her stomach any more because it was torn wide open and her intestine-type guts were falling out. Whoever did this really went to town on my former bed hostess.

"Will you look at that? Whew!" I pulled out my bandana and wrapped it around my nose and mouth. "Now that's what I call a perfectly good waste of a woman. OWW!" The match burned down to my fingers. I lit another one but got some old newspaper to burn a tiny torch to keep the flame going.

"Now who do you reckon did that to Miss Willa? Could've been that damn Rodeo Clown. I'm pretty sure Willa knew him. She probably knew too much. What do you think, Pete?"
I turned to look at Mumblin' Pete and he burst out crying.
"BAWWWW HAW HAW HAW!!!!" Tears were flowing out his eyes until his face looked like a busted out levee. It was the first time he made a noise that sounded halfway human, I gotta admit.

"Aw, Pete, I'm sorry. I forgot you took a genu-wine liking to her. Ah, that's love fer ya".
"BAWWWAH HAAHAHAWWWW!" Pete cried some more.
"Shit, amigo, she sure was good in the feathers, too. Where did you reckon her other eye went?"
"BUUUHAWAWAW!" Pete's face was wetter than the Rio Grande by this point.

"Wait a doggone minute. What's this?" I spotted a note scrawled on a piece of paper pinned to her lacy dress and pulled it off. "The killer left a note, Pete".
Pete stopped squalling for a beat or two.
"'THIS PIG IS THE FIRST OF MANY WHO WILL BE GUTTED AND SLAUGHTERED IN JONESTOWN.
JONESTOWN WILL BURN AND EVERYONE WILL BE FORCED TO DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES BEFORE THEY ARE MURDERED. YOU WILL DROWN IN YOUR OWN BLOOD!!!!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!'"

Pete bawled after I read that little missive.
"Whoever killed Miss Willa spells real nice, I'll tell you that for sure".
"BUUUHAWAWAW!"
"Shhh, quiet, Rubberneck. Someone's gonna come runn-"

"HEY! WHAT'S GOING ON OVER THERE???" A figure in the darkness walked over, spotting us. I still had the torch lit and couldn't put it out in time.
"BUUUHAWAWAW!"
"WHAT THE HELL???? PUT YOUR HANDS UP!!!" It was Deputy Shugg with both his guns drawn straight at us. He looked horrified at the mess of Miss Willa and then back at us.

"YOU'RE UNDER ARREST, BOTH OF YOU!" Shugg yelled. "KEEP YOUR HANDS UP AND FOLLOW ME. YOU'RE UNDER ARREST FOR THE MURDER OF MISS WILLA".
The jig was up. We weren't leaving town. We were innocent, but sneaking in a dark alley makes you look guilty as hell, don't it?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday Jackie Coogan

This year's Scorpio Birthday Tribute is a special one because it's not only in honor of one of my favorite silent film stars but it's also his Centennial Birthday, the one and only Jackie Coogan. F. Scott Fitzgerald once remarked that there are no second acts in life, but Coogan not only disproved that by having a second one, but an enormously popular third one.

I'll bypass a full-fledged biography on Jackie Coogan and simply talk about his work in films. Let's start with the first phase of his career as a child actor and one of the brightest lights in silent films. Many of his movies as a little kid were mostly comedies, beginning with a small part in Charlie Chaplin's short "A Day's Pleasure" (1917), one of his best. Two years later he starred in Chaplin's classic "The Kid", where Jackie plays a child raised by Charlot in a glass selling scam by smashing in windows so Charlie can sell his glass plates.

Jackie, only six years old, had a natural talent for comedy with an equal knack for drama, and his talent provided a hit for the then-troubled Chaplin, who had the smuggle prints of the film past several states from being confiscated.

A year later he starred in "Oliver Twist" opposite the legendary Lon Chaney, who played Fagin. It was said that Coogan was afraid of the wild eyed Chaney who had to things down a notch or two once the cameras stopped rolling to gain the friendship of little Jackie.

Unfortunately, prints of his classic comedy "Circus Days" (1922) are lost with a few surviving scenes available on the Warner Bros' DVD of Charles Chaplin's classic comedy "The Circus". Jackie plays Toby Tyler, a character later made famous by Walt Disney on television, however, Jackie plays the character with a better feel for slapstick than the Disney version.

At the peak of his popularity, Coogan was the highest paid child star of his time, making $2,000 a week as salary with his parents as the trustees.

What was saved, however, by Turner Classic Movies, is "The Rag Man" (1925), where Jackie plays the crafty runaway orphan Timothy Aloysius Michael Patrick Kelly, who befriends a tired old Jewish junk dealer played by the great Max Ginsberg. By now Jackie was ten and growing but still adorable and funny. His constant negotiating and wheeling and dealing with an old East Side Jew on the streets of New York is very funny.

By the mid-thirties Coogan suffered two major tragedies: (1) His father and best friend died in an automobile accident with him as the only survivor; and, (2) His discovery that his mother and step-father spent every penny of his child-star earnings. Both tragedies sent him towards a downspin complicated by heavy drinking.

A three-year marriage to Betty Grable resulted in Coogan raising the ire of MGM mogul Leo B. Mayer, who offered Coogan a 7-picture deal, which Coogan turned down and earned a blacklist from the monstrous Mayer. Coogan didn't work in films for another eight years.

It's at this point that Coogan's career becomes even more interesting, because Phase Two of the Jackie Coogan Story has our hero acting in the Fifties doing mostly exploitation schlock classics like Mesa of Lost Women, where he played the mad scientist Dr. Aranya (joined by Dolores Fuller!). Now that Coogan had lost most of his pretty hair he had the freedom to play mostly bad guys and psychos, attacking every role with nutty abandon.

A string of wild late-Fifties psychotronic dementia followed, all illuminated by Coogan's demented presence: Eighteen and Anxious, The Space Children, but he really hit pay dirt when he joined producer Albert Zugsmith's cast of off-the-wall players Mamie Van Doren, Steve Cochran, Vampira, John Drew Barrymore, Jock Mahoney, and an endless cattle call of Hollywood star babies (Harold Lloyd, Jr.!!!!)

You've seen at least two or three of these crazy films: Sex Kittens Go To College - Jackie plays a rich tycoon using an unfunny W.C. Fields voice while Mamie plays the busty, brainy college professor, The Beat Generation - Jackie's a cop who has to put on the drag during a stakeout with his partner Steve Cochran (comedy gold), Night of the Quarter Moon - directed by the great Hugo Haas!, but the magnum opus of that period has to be High School Confidential, where he plays the sinister Mr. A, resplendent in dark badass shades and heroin pusher to the high school kids at his hipster jazz club.

But alas, the sleaze stands alone and the well dried up for high school crime flicks so Jackie did a bunch of sporadic TV appearances for the next four years, until he reached Phase Three of his career and arguably the role he's still notorious for, the role of Uncle Fester on The Addams Family (1964).

Some of Coogan's best comedy work is on The Addams Family and a lot of fans even say he steals many of the scenes he's in because he's that good. Coogan's signature comedy shtick on the film was to stick a light bulb in his mouth and immediately have it light up. Kids would tune in every week to see what he's say and do next. He was the Soupy Sales of Goth!

The bizarre irony of the Uncle Fester character was that Coogan wore a thick sweater virtually identical to the one he wore forty years earlier in "The Rag Man", making virtually the same smiles he did back then but now older and more worn out. Also ironic about his popularity is that although he was once a child star he now had every child in America following him just like the Twenties.

But nothing spells closure to the Three Acts of Jackie Coogan's career than the day his old boss Charlie Chaplin returned to the United States after 20 years to accept a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award. Upon arrival at LAX he saw Jackie Coogan there to greet him and hugged his once young co-star. He turned to Coogan's wife and said, "Never forget that your husband is a genius". From million dollar kid to exploitation films to TV horror comedy, Jackie Coogan always delivered.