True Grit from the Wichita Lineman.

I didn’t remember it, but one of the stars of the 1969 film True Grit – was Glen Campbell, who played La Boeuf, a Texas Ranger. I probably didn’t remember it because I’m pretty certain I never saw the movie.

The BIG star, of course, was John Wayne. And that may be the reason that I never saw it. (I was never that big a fan of Mr Wayne, an admission I put in parenthesis to keep it on the down-low.)

After reading the Wiki listing, I now know that Glen Campbell also sang the theme song, which made the music charts back then. That’s Back Then, as in – back when movies began with a fixed camera shot while the opening credits rolled up the screen.

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That was also Back When I didn’t ever listen to country music (a practice I have since changed). Back When I didn’t watch Westerns – movies or TV shows – or read Old West fiction. Times do change.

I still don’t read a lot of western books, but True Grit is a genuine classic, in my opinion. It’s also fun to read, in that it takes place in this general area, with specific references to McAlester, Oklahoma, where I graduated high school. (…and where someone who REALLY liked John Wayne also attended, thus the above down-low admission.)

All of that makes the book that came in today all the more special.

I’ve written about True Grit before, about how author Charles Portis was able to weave authentic western Arkansas colloquial phrases into stretches of dialogue that are almost poetic. The book was an instant hit when it was released in 1968, and Mr Wayne won his only Academy Award for his performance just a year later.

The First Edition hardback that arrived today features an inscription on the title page, hand-written by Glen Campbell that reads “You’re gentle on my mind, always.” Gentle on My Mind, of course, was the name of the theme song for the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, his popular variety show. (Variety shows used to be popular. That was before they invented Reality.)

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I’m sure the book would be more valuable if signed by Charles Portis. Probably John Wayne’s signature is more collectible than that of Glen Campbell. As it is, I’m happy to have in the shop a copy of one of the most memorable western stories ever to be made into a couple of movies.

The movie opening is available on YouTube, and was an instant reminder of the singing abilities of Glen Campbell, regardless of his acting skills.

Now, if I can just get the book to talk I’ll learn all about how it went from the hands of Glen Campbell – circa 1969 – all the way to Broken Arrow, OK, 2017.

Might be a great story right there!

A Walk Down Memory Lane (Carrying a Gym Bag).

When I was a kid, there were a couple of fellows that could be seen regularly, walking about our small town. Others walked too, of course: many of us tumbled our way home from school on foot. Tramping downtown. On our way from the swimming pool in the summer. But even those who walked regularly to and from places like church or the grocery store seemed to blend in to the canvas of the community.

Like I said, there were a couple of fellows that could be seen regularly, walking about, who might catch your attention.

There was a large man – tall and broad-shouldered – who conducted his journeys in those big and sturdy brown work boots and faded blue overalls. We referred to him as Rufus, although I can’t attest for certain that was his true name. “There’s Rufus,” we would say, spotting him crossing the train bridge on Washington Street. Invariably, someone would comment about the gym bag with Puterbaugh school markings he carried, and we would wonder all over again about what unfortunate middle-schooler had given up his bag to the man.

This was all legend, of course. We knew nothing about him based in fact, and as far as I know he never caused a problem for a soul.

Except me.

I was working at my first job – a bag boy at a little corner market – and I had advanced up the career ladder to the point that I was allowed to clean the meat market so the butcher could leave early. (Ahh, the naiveté of youth – considering it a privilege to wash meat shavings from a band saw.)

One evening, there came a pounding at the back door and I went over, pulled it open, and immediately hopped backward a half-step.

It was Rufus.

Even though he was standing down on the step below the threshold, he was looking me eye-to-eye. I was a kid, and like I said: he was a big man.

Deejeebone, he said.

To which I answered, with hesitation, “Do what?” It was an affectation I had picked up from my boss which served as a response to most conversational hiccups.

Deejeebone, he repeated, in a slightly louder voice.

“Say again?” (Another of Marshall’s affectations I had borrowed.)

DEEJEEBONE! He said emphatically, and repeated it once more for good measure.

At that point, Rufus realized I was clearly challenged in the conversational department, and he whipped out a little spiral pad and pencil from the front of his bib overalls.

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Dog Bone, he wrote quickly, in a hard-pressed pencil rendering that looked to be a written shout.

Ah. Meat market back door. Bones. Looking for a snack for his dog. He pointed at the floor behind me, where I spotted a smallish cardboard box filled with scraps.

Deejeebone, said Rufus, much less gruffly, and I replied with the first coherent thing that came to mind.

“Oh!”

After handing over the box (and realizing that it was probably a routine that I – as a just-promoted market scrubber – was unaware of), he nodded to me and gave a sort of half-smile and walked down the steps. I followed his progress until he went around the corner of the building and I lost sight of him, carrying the box in one hand and the Puterbaugh gym bag in the other.

After that encounter, the Rufus Mystique was pretty much lost. I never again speculated as to whether the big man had devoured a middle-schooler for his gym bag. Some time later, I was driving my sports car with the top down and spotted Rufus trudging down the street pushing a shiny shopping cart.

I waved and thought little of it, except to marvel at how many deejeebones that contraption would carry.

The other walker? I knew his name to be Frank McSherry, Jr. because he paid his bills by money order instead of personal check. When I graduated from meat market scrubber to clerk I got to use the money order printing machine and, over time, I created enough bill-payments for the man that I still remember his name.

Turns out – that other walking-fellow was a book author and editor. The attached image is of one of his many, many published books, and this one happened to come into the shop today.

Funny, though. Saw the name on the cover and immediately thought of Mr Rufus, the gym bag, and the dog bones that became a story.

Vintage car now. Wasn’t back then.

My father had me on his lap with his hand around mine, showing me how to shift through the gears. Three-on-the-tree, or whatever they called those old steering column shifters. It’s the earliest model car I remember our family owning.

1948 Plymouth.

“Maybe you’ll be driving this one of these days,” said my father. “Maybe pigs will fly,” I answered. (Just kidding.)

Back then I thought it was a possibility. Heck, maybe a certainty. I remember several times giving it the car-buyer-once-over. Checking out that sailing ship emblem on the trunk badge, exploring the curved lower door that was almost a running board. A moveable spotlight on the front fender with the grip and switch near the steering wheel. (Not one in the image, but WE sure had one!) Fine stuff. A visor-awning over the windshield. Light-up radio. Little chrome horn bar.

Yeah. All mine. One of these days.

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Man, what a beast. As you can tell, I’m driving down memory lane today. As a Craigslist browsing regular, I ran across a picture of a wreck of a Plymouth (project car, as it was described) that will – in all likelihood – remain a wreck until gravity pulls it into the earth’s crust.

It made me think about that old blue cruiser that used to sit in our driveway, though.

The whole car thing was an adventure. It belonged to my Uncle Maury and Aunt Evelyn, and they must have bought a new car, because – next thing I know – I’m riding on the train with my father to Wichita. One of the few times in my life I rode a passenger train. We’re going there to get a car and drive it back home.

I must have been pretty overwhelmed by the whole experience (I was just a little kid, easily overwhelmed…) because the next thing I recall about the journey was driving for hours and then pulling into my Great-Aunt Eva’s driveway. As he shut off the engine he explained to me that we were just there for a pit stop.

“Hello, hello!” said my father to Aunt Eva, who was smiling in the doorway, obviously not expecting us. “Can’t stay,” he said, as she let us in. He nudged me toward her as he diverted to pit lane.

“You’ll have some pie, though,” she answered.

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From somewhere down the hall, his muffled voice said something to the effect of ‘little time’ and maybe something about miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep.

Aunt Eva leaned down to me. “You’ll have some pie.” (It wasn’t a question she put to me. It was a statement of fact.)

Faster than humanly possible, she drew out the pie, sliced and plated it, and handed me a spoon. It was one of THOSE kinds of pies – all creamy and meringue-y and delicious – the kind that requires a spoon.

Faster than humanly possible, I inhaled it. Hey, it was a kid-covert mission of sorts. I’d heard him say “no time” but Aunt Eva and I set out to prove him wrong, and we did. She anticipated his return and quickly towel-dabbed my face clean before he rounded the corner.

He exchanged the briefest of conversations with Aunt Eva, and then asked if I was ready to go. I nodded my assent, not trusting that the pie was completely swallowed.

It must have been a special kind of hug that Aunt Eva gave me, because – ever after – I believed she was the sweetest, kindest, kid-loving-est Aunt a kid could ever have. And my father and I walked down her tree-root-broken sidewalk to the new car.

The 1948 Plymouth.

Even today, seeing the rusted-out Plymouth in the picture on the internet, I suddenly think of pie and those childhood events we only later recognize as miracles.