Sunday, October 13, 2013


Met a character today. He was a storyteller, too, which is a plus. As always there is a back story, so bear with me.

We have friends. They just aren't here and we miss them terribly. Since we have been in Virginia, our social life has consisted of the kids, and that's it. Nothing wrong with that, but when a neighbor stopped by to invite us to a Halloween party, it seemed like a novel idea to meet some of our other neighbors.

Costume party. Threw out the typical costume ideas, cut arm and leg holes in really big trash bags, snug them around our necks with a few napkins and kleenex sticking out and go as "White Trash." Or, brown smocks with silver stripes running from top to bottom saying "Hershey's." Hers would say, "Plain," mine would say, "With Nuts."

Instead, we decided to go as if we were playing "Kowboys and Koreans." Well, she doesn't have to "play" Koreans, but you know. She is going to wear her hanbok, which was ordered for her by a friend and custom made in Korea. Gorgeous, huge garment; the empire skirt is pink and the jacket green. I love it when she wears it.

So, I had to do the "Kowboy" thing. I have the Stetson, the belt, the big silver buckle, kerchief, Levi's...but I didn't have boots anymore. I really loved those old boots, but they finally gave out. Craig's List yielded a pair of boots for thirty bucks, but I thought I needed something more, so I searched for chaps. Found new ones, of course, but wow were they expensive. I guess I could have worn the ones we have, which are either the ones that Linda's sons had as kids or the ones I had as a kid. They were identical.

Then I stumbled onto a pair of "Bat wing cowboy chaps, top-grain cowhide, work chaps. No emails." Well, the "no email" part stunk, but I gave them a call, anyway. A lady answered, and then the dreaded, "Let me have you talk to my husband." How often that then ends badly as you get stuck with a jerk. But this was different.

"Well, I was a real cowboy and I just can't quite let it all go. I have these chaps, bought them to hang in my family room, but they have never been used, never been on a horse." There was going to not be a problem with conversation with this old boy. "Retired now, so I'm here all the time. Come and see 'em."

It was "through the tunnel." And around here, that can be a full day's work, as if there is an accident or any kind of mishap in the tunnel, it could take hours to get there. But I went anyway.

"So, you are from Nebraska? Those Sandhills are God's country." Had to buy the chaps, then, didn't I? He grew up in Sweetwater, Texas, the place where they have the rattlesnake roundup. He was telling me one story after another, about working cattle in Texas, the central valley of California and eastern Montana. I was soaking it up.

"Yeah, I was listening to this call in program the other day, and a fella called in from Idaho. The host said, help me out a bit, whereabouts in Idaho are you located? Well, I'm about 8 miles east of Snake crick and four miles north of Lutin." That cracked me up, and it did Slim, too.

"Me and Jake, I really don't know what his real name was, was sittin' on horses lookin' at a valley, the San Gabriel mountains in the background, a little fog around the tree line, cattle grazin' in the valley." He had told this story more than once. "Jake rolled a cigarette, threw his leg over the pommel, lit up and said, 'Slim?' They used to call me Slim, I was so skinny they was afraid I had tuberculosis. 'Slim? Can you believe they pay us to do this?'"

We exchanged a lot of stories, and then I saw the bullwhip. A tag on it said $15. "Yeah, we had a garage sale the other day, and now the wife is tryin' to get rid of stuff on line."

"You know, that reminds me of when I was a kid in Sweetwater. Somehow they got a celebrity, Lash LaRue, to come and put on a show at the county fair. I was probably 9 or 10 years old, and my mother had made me a shirt like Roy Rogers, with the fringe across the chest. I was sittin' in the audience when Lash LaRue says, 'I need a volunteer from the audience for my next tricks. How about you, the boy with the Roy Rogers shirt?'

"So, I went backstage and he talked to me, let me touch his bull whip, and said, 'This will not hurt you, I promise." I believed him, but he warned me that I must never move! We went out on the stage, and he was a master with the bull whip. The one I remember most is that he had me hold a cigarette in my lips FACING HIM! And he picked that cigarette out of my mouth like nothin'"

There are probably about eleven people in the country who know who Lash LaRue was. I am one of them. Comic books were a luxury item for us, and that meant they were unnecessary and we just didn't have them. Somehow, I acquired a comic book with Lash LaRue as the hero. I can still see the picture of him defeating the bad guys with his bull whip, after locating the train by putting his ear to the rail. (I tried that, never worked).

So now I have the chaps and the bull whip.

Since he told me his best bull whip story, I had to tell him mine. When we were in college, some of the guys worked in the Sandhills during the summer at Shadbolt's ranch. They all had hats with sweat stains, a bit bent up when cattle had stepped on them. It was great sport to grab a guy's hat, throw it in the air and see if one of the other fellas could hit it with a pistol shot. So some of the hats had holes in them.

After a football game, they were in their hats, their Levi's, boots and full ranch gear, and decided it would be a "good idea" to put on a bull whip demonstration on the mezzanine of the Lincoln Hotel. I was not involved, so all my info is hearsay, but it is my understanding that, like a lot of "good ideas," alcohol was involved. Everyone was entertained...well, not everyone, as Lincoln's finest came to escort them to a place to stay for the night. On the way out, Jerry yelled over his shoulder, "I've been thoed outta better places than this." Slim enjoyed the story.

He told me a few more stories, and they were delightful, and being a fellow of a certain age, I had to tell him another one of mine. The one about my dad and me at the sale barn in Erickson. Wallie had experienced some prostatitis. We were standing at the urinal when he announced to no one in particular that he had gotten to the age when he spent half his time trying to pee and the other half trying to think of somebody's name. As expected, this entertained Slim quite a bit.

I introduced him to Baron, who stole a few pats from him, and he said they lost their little Maltese/Bichon mix after 19 years and it "Dang near killed me." We judged that dogs were a lot better than most people, and we finally said goodbye.

From now on, whenever I think of chaps, a bullwhip, cowboys or storytellers, a chance encounter with a good ol' boy from west Texas will pop in my mind. Or when I go to a costume party dressed as a cowboy. Slim will never see this, I expect, but I hope he entertains lots more people with his good humor and stories.

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