Thursday, December 27, 2012

Conejo Rojo

Conejo Rojo (If this ain’t a true story, then I don’t know what is.)

For six long months I’d been ridin the trail;
My mind was so weary and so was my tail.
When I got to El Paso I whooped and I cussed;
Headed straight for Roberta’s to settle the dust.

Roberta’s Cantina was known far and wide
To every cowpuncher who ever did ride;
They had the best buffet and had the best brew,
And the law of the six-gun was all that they knew.

I walked through the door, headed straight for the bar,
Hopped up on a stool and laid down my guitar.
While lickin the beer from the moustache I’d grown,
I noticed a girl who was sittin alone.

(Talkin Part)
She was the most beautiful woman I ever did see. She had hair the color of molten Glory and a smile just as warm. I leaned in and asked the bartender who she might be. I said, “Give it to me straight, pardner, and make it rhyme because the talkin part’s over.”

He said, “Why, mister, that’s Lizzie, the Queen of the West;
She’s the one all the boys who come in here like best.
But she won’t be taken by just any guy,
And Conejo Rojo is the name she goes by.”

Conejo Rojo—I pondered the name,
Picked up my guitar and started to sang:

“Conejo Rojo, Lizzie my gal,
Come sit beside me, my red-headed pal.
Come sit beside me and make me feel nice.
Conejo Rojo, don’t tell me ‘No dice.’”

I walked to her table, said “Hi.” She said, “Hey.”
I was lookin for somethin real witty to say.
I come up with a line I knew would not miss:
“What’s a nice girl like you doin in a place like this?”

She told the sad tale of a few months ago
How her pappy’s old age had started to show—
Said his heart beat irregular, and he walked with a jerk.
She’d just turned 18, so she started to work.

Now, the only two jobs for a girl young and poor
Was this one and sellin magazines door-to-door.
She weighed the reputation of what each one does,
Chose the lesser loathsome, and here she was.

As she spoke, the tears ran like rain down her face.
I said, “Lizzie, I’m takin you out of this place,
So you pack up your things and ride out with me.”
She said she’d like to, but she wasn’t free.

“Says who?!” says I in an angry, loud roar.
“Says me,” says a man with a cocked .44.
He said, “I own this town, every tree, every branch,
And I own the deed to this girl’s pappy’s ranch.”

I stood up and looked that man square in the eye.
The folks left the room knowin bullets would fly.
It was 6:59, and before it was seven,
Someone was headed for Hillbilly Heaven.

I looked over at Lizzie; I looked at the man;
I looked at the gun he held in his hand.
I knew one would lose and the other would win,
So I picked up my guitar and sang once again:

“Conejo Rojo, Lizzie my gal,
Speak thou unto me, my red-headed pal.”
She asked, “May I whisper?” I said, “Of course.”
She said, “If you die, can I have your horse?”

I said, “We can share him, that’s almost the same.”
I whistled for Big Fella—that was his name.
I pulled Lizzie up there with me on the saddle.
“Hi-yo, Big Fella! The backdoor! Skedaddle!”

Hooves flashin sparks, through the barroom we split!
There was no backdoor! “Holy…cow!”
“Git outta that storeroom,” my nemesis said,
“Before I fill you and your crew full of lead!”

Roberta’s was built in 1849,
So the storeroom now sat just across the State Line.
The bad guy, despite all his bellow and blow,
Had no property rights in New Mexico.

The old-timers commenced to hoot, laugh, and shout.
Me and Lizzie are fine long as we don’t come out.
We’re livin on love and on hot wings and beer.
Big Fella does not improve the atmosphere.

Yes, friends and neighbors, don’t that beat all?
Just when your back is against a big wall,
Fairytale endings can really come true.
If you’re lucky, it won’t happen to you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another One Bites the Crust

One last time break out the Zingers and the Ring Dings

Blow up red, yellow, and blue balloons

While we build strong memories a dozen ways

And Yodels a cupcake bucket-kickin tune

I thought that hombre had no expiration date

What a sugar shock to find that he did

Makes me want to pack up my lunchbox

And ride into the sunset with Twinkie the Kid

Who thought we’d live long enough to lose our Ding Dongs?

We were marvelously made and Wonder Bread

It won’t seem like Christmas without Ho Ho’s and Sno Balls

Without visions of chocolate donuts dancin in my head

We’ve come many miles and Mini Muffins

Now it’s time to say so long to Suzy Q

Later, alligator; after a while, Chocodile

Mrs. Freshley and Little Debbie will have to do

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home Port

I was born in Helena, Arkansas, a Mississippi River Delta town. We moved to El Paso, Texas when I was 10.
A little over a decade later, I wanted to find out what it’s like to work on towboats on the Mississippi.
More often than not, people would tell me one of two things: 1) “It’s hard work; you won’t like it.” 2) “Nobody wants to hire a green hand. I know guys been tryin to get on out there for years.”
I took all that good advice, weighed it, and went to work for a towing company out of Memphis.
I still had an apartment in El Paso and I loved the Chihuahuan Desert.
During the hiring paperwork, the HR guy asked, “What’s your home port?”
Not expecting to be taken seriously, I said, “El Paso, Texas.”
He looked up from the form. “Is there a river there?”
“Yes, sir, quite a famous one: The Rio Grande.”
“Is it navigable?”
“On foot. This time of year, you can pretty much walk across it in your good shoes and they’ll require little more than a cursory cleaning.”
Be danged, he wrote down El Paso as my home port. That obliged the company to fly me back to El Paso on my days off and to wherever the boat was when it was time to go back.
For every day we worked, we got half a day off with pay. Thirty days on followed by fifteen off and never miss a paycheck. A two-week vacation out of every 45 days. It was a grand life for a single person; it was a perfect setup for a disorganized one. For 30 days, I was working—6 hours on and 6 hours off, round the clock—with few distractions, followed by 15 days of wahoo with plentiful and most pleasant distractions. I loved being on the boat. I loved being off the boat.
We pushed 10 barges, each one the length of a football field and 50 feet wide. We’d load them with dry cement in St. Louis and drop them at various docks until we arrived in New Orleans with 2. We’d wait while they unloaded those two then head upriver, picking up empties all the way to Memphis, then on to St. Louis to reload.
We tried to arrange for crew changes in Memphis, but it didn’t always work out that way; sometimes it was St. Louis, sometimes New Orleans, once in Baton Rouge. Usually Memphis. I’d call the airport from Waterways Marine and ask for the next flight to El Paso.
It was fun getting on a plane in Memphis in July or August then getting off the plane a few hours later in El Paso. You can sweat in El Paso, but there’s not enough humidity to sustain it. Cools you off as it evaporates. Sweat will not, cannot, evaporate anywhere between St. Louis and New Orleans. There’s nowhere for it to go; the atmosphere won’t absorb it, it’s already saturated. I’ve observed donkeys during the dog days of a Delta summer. I have seen them weep. I have heard them curse. I have eavesdropped on their prayers: “Dear Lord, why durst thou treat thy humble servant like a waterlogged piƱata?”
My River pals said it many times and in many colorful ways: “I can’t believe they fly you back and forth to El Paso!” Perhaps the point here should be something akin to “You don’t know until you ask,” but the true moral of the story may be that one should never lead with a straight answer. Any River Man will tell you that there are times when the facts won’t quite fill the glass, so we are obliged to top it off with a little club soda in order that we might charge full price.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pieces of Ain’t

Listen to the thunder rollin.
Listen to that Beale Street guitar.
Listen to the River overflowin.
And listen to me wonder where you are.
I'd give my right eye if I could see you.
I'd give the world to have you around.
I'd give my right arm just to hold you,
And my low down life to be on higher ground.

Watch a monkey romance a football.
Watch an old dog runnin in his dreams.
Watch me try to figure out what happened,
And change horses in the middle of extremes.
I'd give my right now just to be then,
And everything if nothin had gone wrong.
I'd give my right away to see you later,
And my right here to have been there all along.

Feel a prayer bounce off of the ceilin.
Feel forgettin somethin once well known.
Feel a hobo's heart on Christmas mornin,
And feel me plannin how to carry on.
I'd give my right leg if I could stand it,
Give up the ghost for somethin to live for.
I'd give my right mind not to lose it,
And my best shot not to miss you any more.

Lesser love is kind of like a freight train:
The first few miles the most excitin part.
Sends a certain satisfaction screamin through my brain,
But it don't do nothin for my heart.
Excitin me, shakin me, but it ain't takin me home.

Listen to the thunder rollin.
Listen to that Beale Street guitar.
Listen to the River overflowin.
And listen to me wonder where you are.
I'd give my right eye if I could see you.
I'd give the world to have you around.
I'd give my right arm just to hold you,
And my low down life to be on higher ground.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Sea Saw

BlowJoe the Whale surfaced like a rocket and splashed down hard enough to make a barracuda twenty feet below say, “Damn!”  He hooked up with his familiars and swam alongside his pal, Freak Willie.
Freak Willie was a free thinker. He liked to eat that seaweed that glows in the dark and he encouraged BlowJoe to try it. “This stuff will let you know, pardner.”
But BlowJoe had other things on his mind. He asked Freak Willie, “Have you ever heard of the Ocean?”
“No,” Willie said, “but I like the sound of it. What is it?”
“Ah,” BlowJoe said, scowling and flapping his starboard flipper “those airy-fairy dolphins told me about it. Bunch of reef huggers if you ask me. They said we’re all one, in the loving care of the endless Ocean. Or some such crap. The Ocean is supposed to be the giver of life. It feeds us and protects us.”
Willie winked. “Don’t sound half bad.”
“Yeah,” BlowJoe said, “but I just don’t buy it.”
“If this Ocean is all it’s cracked up to be, it wouldn’t matter if you believed it or not, right?”
“True,” BlowJoe admitted, “but those dolphins give me the creeps.”
Willie said, “At least that’s better than what this Tuna told me. The Tuna belongs to some outfit called Neptune’s Naysayers. She said that a creature must shun all fun and be afraid, guilt-ridden, and paranoid, praying constantly to be one of the select few that the Ocean will smile upon and protect.”
BlowJoe looked disgusted. “There’s that Ocean again. Man, I need this theology nonsense like I need another hole in my head. But I gotta know and I gotta experience it my own self; I can’t just believe a bunch of stories.”
Freak Willie smiled. “You’re starting to sound like the Doubting Tortoise.”
“No,” BlowJoe said, “I’m keeping an open mind. I’m just not going to believe anything until I see it.”
Freak Willie said, “Maybe you could ask the Orca of Delphi.”
BlowJoe shook his head. “Nope. That, too, would just be someone else’s opinion. I gotta see this varmint up close and personal.”
BlowJoe swam away.
BlowJoe asked a Shark, “Have you ever seen the Ocean?”
“I’ve experienced it,” said the shark. “It’s a dangerous place. Besides that, there is only one True Ocean. It’s called the Atlantic. There are a pack of nasty liars who say that the Pacific is the real Ocean and that one must live in the Pacific or suffer the fate of an infidel. We’ve been at war with them for centuries, killing millions of them in an effort to save them from their ignorance.”
“Yeah, well, good luck,” BlowJoe said as he waved good-bye and swam quickly away.
BlowJoe swam all over the world.
He encountered Urchins who told him, “You must follow the Starfish. Only they can lead you to the Ocean.” He met Sponges who offered to show him the Ocean, but he would have to pay a steep price. There were Shrimp who assured him that only 144,000 would be allowed to go to the Ocean and only after they died. He talked with Penguins who could take the Ocean or leave it. They didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Polar Bears gave him a stern warning to stay away from the warmer parts of the Ocean; that could only lead to no good. Saltwater Crocodiles swore that the polar portions of the Ocean were evil and would kill him just for the fun of it. The Clams volunteered no information at all. The Jellyfish couldn’t make up their minds, but they were sure they didn’t want to talk about it—they could talk all day, explaining why they didn’t want to talk about it.
Freak Willie was happy to see BlowJoe back home. He hummed a few bars of “That Old Gam of Mine.”
BlowJoe swam along in silence.
When Freak Willie could stand it no longer, he asked, “So what’d you find out?”
BlowJoe smiled and said, “There are too many conflicting stories about the Ocean. Therefore I have empirically concluded that it does not exist.”
Freak Willie floated on his back, trying hard not to burst out laughing. After a few miles, he asked BlowJoe, “Know what you call fish with no eyes?”
“That’s an old joke.”
“To paraphrase Voltaire: The Ocean is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”
“You sure there aren’t any dolphins in your lineage?”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nickname Brands

Brother John and I were eye rolling about some of the names they come up with for store brand\knockoff products. We’ve seen Dr. Thunder, Mountain Mojo, Chazoo (chewy fruit wads), Panner Peanut Butter, Panburger Partner, Corntown (cereal), and Casa Mamita Salsa Verde, to name a few. (What’s especially fun about Salsa Verde is that it’s a red sauce.)
In a sincere desire to help, we thought we’d nominate some other possibilities. John, as is his habit, came up with the best ones:

Nurse Practitioner Pepper

Taco Knocker (fast Mexican food—you get it fast, you lose it fast)

Himhe Bars

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butterfingers

Non-dairy Powder Ways

Uncle Jemima Syrup

Aunt Ben’s Rice

Cherubim Soft (facial-quality tissue you use nowhere near your face)



Supernatural Light (beer that makes you see…things…some weird damn things)

Coyote Brand Chili

Schmucker’s purple-flavored wiggly stuff (with a name like Schmucker’s, it better be good)

Dinky Debbie (cheap snack cakes that are even cheaper—if not in price, in quality)

iPhony (for making prank calls)

Inexperienced Giant (vegetables in tinhorn cans)

Tater Toddlers

Kansas Fried Chickens (“Try our Breakfast Dust Bowl!” Wash it down with a Gnu-Grape of Wrath.)


Maxwell Hovel (good to the last rat dropping)

Dairy Heir to the Throne (“We’ll make you feel like a Dairy Heir!”)

SHAM (“Made from real meat—no specific animal implied—from our driveway to your table!”)


Bear Huggies (“Sure, they’re too small, but at this price you’ll make them fit.”)

Chef Boy-Are-We (You kids hungry enough to eat this crap? “Boy, are we!”)

Secrete (“Chemically clogs your pits so you don’t go around smelling like a human.”)

Show-Me State Motor Oil (“Show me the dipstick!”)

Paul & Mary Pan Peanut Butter (“Try our new Dragon Puffs—they’re magically suspicious.”)

I know you’ll want to add your own.