…and in walks Abby, the one-eyed dog and…Mike’s wife?

I graduated from Brookfield Central High School in 1963 with no clue on what I was going to do with my life. Some of you may find this difficult to believe, but I am not a scholar. I am confessing today that my monumental vocabulary is driven by the liberal use of the Thesaurus. Even though I graduated in the top 3/4 of my high school class and I was the captain of my high school basketball team, no universities were knocking at my door to invite me to visit their campus.

That summer I was spending a couple of weeks in Wisconsin Rapids with my grandparents. I had been doing this since I was five years old and had developed some close friendships with a couple of guys, Larry and Dennis Davis, who are a few years older than I am. I often wondered why they let me hang out with them. Larry is three years my senior and Dennis two. They even snuck me into a beer bar when I was only 14 years old where I had my first beer, a Michelob, whose bottle I fell in love with and kept. I think explaining to my grandmother where I got the bottle was the first lie I told her.
So, getting back to the summer of ’63, the Davis boys were home from college for the summer. Larry was attending Bethlehem College, a Moravian school, in Pennsylvania, and Dennis was attending Central College of Iowa, located in Pella Iowa, on a basketball scholarship. They called and asked me if I wanted to join them. They were going to the YMCA in Port Edwards to play in a summer basketball tournament. I still loved basketball at that point in my life and I was more than ready to join them.
It turned out most of the players were college players or former players and it was a three on three half-court tournament. I cannot remember everyone’s name, but there are two guys whose names stuck with me all these many years later. One is Larry Hilgendorf. He had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse, then LaCrosse College, where he was the captain of the basketball team. He was returning to LaCrosse that fall to get his masters degree in Chemistry and to coach the freshman basketball team. Larry recruited me right there on the court of the Port YMCA! Well, maybe recruited is not the proper word to use. He might have said something along the lines that I should consider going to LaCrosse and of course there was no scholarship money or even a free trip to visit the campus. But, I was like the proverbial wallflower at the school dance where nobody asked me to dance; so, the first person to do so… Well, not only was Hilgendorf the first, but he was the only person to ask me to play ball for him. So that is my college basketball recruiting tale and it was the first door that was opened to me that shaped the rest of my life because that is where I met my wife, Jacqui.
Oh, yeah, the other guy. He was a 6’6” all-state basketball player from Wausau Wisconsin who went to the University of Michigan on a basketball scholarship and later transferred to the University of Wisconsin to play basketball where he received his undergraduate degree as well as a masters degree and doctorate in business law. His name was Mike Schmidlkofer and that is what has stuck in my mind for the past fifty-some years. He was a very good basketball player, as well as baseball, but so were the rest of the guys there, but nobody had a moniker like “Schmidlkofer.”
Last night, Jacqui and I went to the Fish House in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida for dinner. We were the only people present at the time. It is “out of season” and most of the tourists have left for home and that is why we visit during this time of the year.
We ordered their award-winning tuna dip and a glass of wine and were visiting with the young bartender, Nicole, when in walks a lady, named Barbara, with her one-eyed dog named Abby. Immediately it became obvious to us that she was a regular as Nicole put a Bloody Mary in front of her and a bowl of water on the floor for Abby.
We struck up a conversation with her and she began to tell us about her life and how she ended up living in Santa Rosa Beach. We asked her where she was originally from as most people in Florida are originally from somewhere else. She said Ashland, Wisconsin. Well, Jacqui’s father was the principal of Ashland High School for a few years and Jacqui asked her if she knew him and a good friend of the Turner family, named Bill Woods. She did know their friend, Bill Woods, but she didn’t go to high school in Ashland because her family moved to Wausau where she attended Wausau High School.
Whenever I hear the name Wausau, I identify it with Mike Schmidlkofer, not Wausau Insurance Company, as many others do. So I asked her, “Do you know Mike Schmidlkofer?”
“Know him?” she said. “I married him.”
You could have knocked me off the bar stool if I had been sitting on one. This was really bizarre. I read where there are about 317 million people in the United States and here we were, the only two people in the Fish House that night and in walks the former wife of Mike Schmidlkofer and her one-eyed dog, Abby. I mean, what are the odds?
So, come to find out, after Mike, a non-drinker and non-smoker, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, he was offered a job to teach at the University of Florida and before he started, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and passed away in 1969.

Tuintsunde Mescalero Renegades – Texas Bounty Hunters

 

They saw a pack of Mexican Red Wolves, wearily watching their approach on the distant horizon. They stopped and watched them for a moment before kicking their mounts as they climbed upward. The wolves turned and scampered into the sage and Creosote bushes that lined the vista and disappeared.
They were cotton-mouthed and dusty, sweaty, and growing weary when they stopped to water their animals. They hadn’t seen or tasted water for a long time.
Shoots Plenty felt he had something important to say.
“This is the land where the shunkaha is lord.
“Why don’t you speak English so I can understand what you are saying, you old squaw? What is a shunkaha?”
“You should know our language, Wasichus. The white eyes call him wolf the Mexicanos call him Lobo, but he is shunkaha to the Lakota. But even he is disappearing because of your people, Wasichus.”
“Are you sure he just ain’t hiding because of this heat you’ve been complaining about?”
“I am sure because now we see many more coyotes. They have moved in where the shunkaha used to be. The coyote is smart. The white eyes will not make the coyote disappear. He is too smart for the white eyes.”
Esben absently nodded his head as he scanned the horizon for any movement. Shoots Plenty had been talking for the past month about how the white man drove the Lakota from their ancestral land. He silently agreed with just about everything Shoots Plenty said, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of letting him know.
“I dreamed that I was back in Paha Sapa and I was with Gray Grass and she was braiding my hair. Do you dream, Wasichus?”
“No, I don’t have time to dream. Dreams are just a waste of good sleep.”
“When our Creator sleeps his sleep is filled with dreams of His creation.
My people tell of the time He saw strange things in His dream. He saw animals crawling on four legs, some on two. Some flew with wings, some swam with fins. There were plants of all colors covering the ground. Insects swarmed everywhere. Dogs barked, birds sang. People called out to each other. Everything seemed out of place. The Great Spirit thought He was having a bad dream. He thought nothing could be this imperfect.
When the Great Spirit awakened, He saw a beaver nibbling on a branch. He realized the world of his dream became His creation. Everything He dreamed about came true. When He saw the beaver make his home, and a dam to provide a pond for his family to swim in, He then knew everything has its place, and purpose in the time to come.
We must not question our dreams, Wasichus. They are our creation.”
“Why are you dreaming of Gray Grass? You have been spending a lot of time with Carmen.”
“I dream of both women but not at the same time. That would not be wise.”
Above them Esben noticed a falcon circling, looking for a meal.
“You see that, Shoots Plenty?” he said pointing to the sky. “It’s not too hot for that Falcon to come out and look for food.”
“He probably smelled your one-eyed mule and thought it would make a tasty meal.”
At that moment they saw movement behind the plateau in front of them. They looked at each other. Shoots Plenty motioned with his hand in the direction of some Pinyan bushes.
“We are being watched, Wasichus.”
Esben kicked his mule, “Let’s ride.”
Outside of Tornillo, they came upon the bodies of a family of six Anglos. They were scalped and their eyes were poked out and they were all stabbed up. Their throats were cut too, and they were full of bullet holes. The woman’s breasts were cut off and they all were butchered between their legs. The odor of rotting flesh was overwhelming. Flies were everywhere.
“Reckon they killed everyone or did they take the rest prisoners?” Esben asked.
“I do not think so. Why take prisoners? It is not the way for the Tuintsunde Mescalero, who you call renegades.”
“How far are they ahead?”
“I would say they are here and they know we are here.”
After burying the six Anglos they continued toward Tornillo. When they got there it was deserted. They both glanced down at the dust below them and were shocked at what they saw. There were tracks of at least a dozen rigs, buckboards, wagons and carts as well as horse tracks, all shod, headed in the same direction – east.
“People left for a reason, Wasichus,” Shoots Plenty said, gazing in the direction the tracks led.
“Afraid of something.”
“Apaches.”
“Tuintsunde Mescalero Apaches. That’s who they are afraid of and who we came looking for. The people of the town have not vanished into thin air, they made a sudden frightened panic-stricken rush to get away.”
“I feel evil in this place,” Shoots Plenty confessed.
They looked over the desert toward the mountains while a lonely dust devil danced around them. Nothing met their eyes save an unbelievably vast stretch of desert.
“The Tuintsunde Mescalero are getting bolder and are on the warpath, burning, killing, maiming. The people of the town fled like sheep. Let’s get ready.”
Shoots Plenty didn’t argue. They tethered their animals in the trees near the shady spot they found. They loaded their rifles and Colt .45’s along with the Winchester ‘73s they took from Max Bentley and Wilson Kerrick and opened boxes of ammunition and then lay out, Esben lighting up a cheroot.
“Those small smoke sticks smell almost as bad as your one-eyed mule. You should only smoke Kinnikinnick.”
“I want to see the Tuintsunde Mescalero when they come for us, not some narcotically induced ghost.”
“When the renegades smell your smoke stick they will know you are a white eyes and think you must be a mule skinner because you smell so bad. That is why you should smoke Kinnikinnick it smells better. The Mescalero will think you are their people when they smell it and then we could ambush them.”
“Once you told me, Silence is the mark of respect; so, respect me.”
Before long they viewed a band of renegade Tuintsunde Mescalero appear over the horizon. There were twelve of them heading their way at a gallop.
As soon as they were in range, Shoots Plenty picked up his Henry rifle and began firing off as fast as he could aim, getting off five quick rounds.
Soon four Apaches lay dead on the ground and a fifth was dragging himself with his hands toward some brush, attempting to escape.
Esben rolled out three shots, all of them hammering into a Mescalero’s chest and throwing him backward off his horse.
At the same time, Shoots Plenty fired from behind a barrel at the front riding Mescalero. One of the slugs smashed the Mescalero’s elbow; the second tore his throat out. He went down with blood pouring from the wound. It looked more black than red in the fading afternoon sun.
One renegade had rapidly fired his gun at Esben but missed with every round. He was desperately thumbing fresh cartridges into the cylinder as Shoots Plenty and Esben were firing at the rest of the Mescalero’s who were falling around him. He snapped the weapon closed and lifted it, grinning as he aimed it at Esben.
It was Esben’s gun that was empty now. He couldn’t do anything as the renegade thumbed back the hammer of the old Army Officer’s Colt .44 revolver.
When the renegade was about to pull the trigger, Esben left his feet in a dive, snatched one of the Winchester’s from the ground as he rolled over, and came up firing. There were two shots left in the rifle and he put both of them into the Mescalero who was firing at him. The renegade went over backward and twitched a couple of times, and then lay still as a dark bloodstain spread over the front of his shirt.
When the dust cleared Esben and Shoots Plenty stood over ten renegade Mescalero’s dead bodies while they watched the last two riding hard toward the Rio Grande and back into Mexico.
Shoots Plenty, holding the scalp of the renegade who had crawled for cover in the surrounding bushes, said, “How will your Captain Smith know that these Mescalero are the renegades that he wanted us to kill? All us Indians look alike to you white eyes.”
“He’ll know. Let’s get these bodies loaded on the horses that were left behind and get them photographed and sent off to the captain. We got more work to do.”

THE LAKOTA SACRED RED ROCK – THE TEXAS BOUNTY HUNTERS


“Wasichus, did I reveal to you the Lakota story of the sacred red stone?”
“Is this going to be another of your crazy stories, you old squaw?”
“You should listen, le mita cola, for my words are simple. You have not heard them because you have not taken the time to listen.”
“Oh, I listen. I can’t help but listen. You talk all the time.”
“You should open your ears and heart to the words of wisdom my people have to say. My people found a sacred red rock. It was shaped by the proud Sioux people upon the prairie of what the white eyes call the Black Hills in the Minnesota territory where the buffalo roamed known as Paha Sapa, to the Lakota.
We smoke it before battle and offer it in peace. There is power in this rust colored rock. When the winds blow ancient memories return to my people. The spirits of forefathers echo across the grassland. This red stone has powerful magic the Wasichus can not take it. The Great Spirit speaks to us through this rock; it speaks to our soul.”
“Why don’t you carry on your crazy conversations with your sacred red rock then and quit bothering me?”
Shoots Plenty continued, “When my people walk the windswept prairie of this Minnesota Territory we can feel the power of the haunting Red Stone. This is why when our people die we take them back to Paha Sapa, our holy land.”
“You better pray to the red rock that the white man doesn’t find gold or something in your Paha Sapa or you will have to find another place to plant your dead.”
“Sadly you are right, Wasichus. It is a shame what the white eyes do to the land of our ancestors. You know, we should shoot that one-eyed mule you are riding and eat it and get you a real horse. It would be nice to taste meat again.”

“I told you we are not killing this mule so just quit talking about it.”

“He smells too.”
“Hold up there, Shoots Plenty. Is that a body near that big rock?”
“I cannot see, I am old and my eyes are tired.”
“But your mouth doesn’t tire, does it? Let’s ride over there and take a look.”
Their animals snorted and pranced about nervously as the smell of rotting flesh entered their nostrils.
Esben and Shoots Plenty stared at the bloated and decomposing body of what appeared to be a young Charro, covered with rocks and lying among the dry sage next to a large boulder. He was wearing a serape, the garment worn by the farmers in the area.
“Some one shot him, Wasichus and it was not Apache. If Apache did this, they would have taken pecokan sunpi, a scalp lock. He was killed by the white eyes or possibly the Seditionistas that took your horse and guns.”

“There were twenty of them.”

“They would not be able to sneak up on a Lakota.”

“Maybe not a young Lakota.”

“That boy looks to be no more than twelve or thirteen years old. Shot through the left temple. Appears like he was executed. Someone tried to keep scavengers away from the body by covering him with rocks.”
“Why would someone kill a young boy? His family must be looking for him.”
“If he has a family. It appears like he has been here for a few days. I’m surprised the buzzards haven’t found him.”
“It is too hot here even for buzzards.”
“There are tracks over there. It looks like a shod horse and a small burro. The burro most likely belonged to this Charro. Perhaps he was robbed and then killed.”
“It is a shame to kill a small boy for his burro.”
“It’s a shame to kill a small boy. Let’s follow the tracks and see if we can find this person.”
They had almost reached the San Pedro River when the sun went down. The Cottonwoods lining the river banks were starting to shed their leaves. The ones remaining were yellow and faded. Their animals breached the water and they noticed what looked like another young Charro in the distance, leading a burro. They spread out about ten yards and each approached him from different sides.
“What is your name, amigo?” Esben asked.
“It is Juan.”
“Juan, we just found the body of a young Charro a ways back. Shot in the head. By any chance do you know him?”
“That is my brother, Pedro. He was trying to get his little burro back from a very bad man and he shot him.”
“Do you know this man’s name?”
“Si, señor, his name is Martin.”
“Brace Martin?”
“Si, señor, that gringo he take all thees belongings from me and my brother Pedro. We jeest getting it back when he come on us and he keeled my brother. I run off on my burro because I know he keel me too if I stay.”
“How did he get your things, Juan?”
“He ride into our camp and take everything we have off Pedro’s burro and beat us bad and leave us tied to a tree with no clothes. We find this hombre’s camp and sneak in at night and find our clothes and take what was ours and start to leave when the hombre he wake up and shoot and he keel Pedro.”
“Well, we have been following his trail. What kind of horse is he riding?”
“It is a beeg brown horse and he was leading Pedro’s little gray burro.”
Esben looked at Shoots Plenty and said, “You want to come with me or go back and play house with that Carmen lady?”
“I think I should go with you, Wasichus. She wants me to take up wah ti living and wants me to become her mihigna ki. I think I am too old.”
“You are old but not too old to become that woman’s husband.”
“No, I am too old. We should go. Who is this Brace Martin that we look for now?”
“He’s a stage robber out of the New Mexico Territory. He and a cow-boy by the name of Curly Bill Brocius tried to rob a U.S. Army conveyance near El Paso, Texas and wounded two soldiers. They were eventually captured but they broke jail and escaped to Mexico.
Martin came back and formed a gang of horse and cattle thieves. They have been riding out of the San Simon Valley of Arizona Territory. It’s time we ended that.”

CAPTAIN WHO? MAX FLY, PRIVATE EYE, AND THE GREEN BAY PACKERS

 

 

He had one of his nightly capers broadcast on the evening news, not only that but a country singer recorded a song about it. If that wasn’t enough, he knew Max Fly, Private Eye.            Max had the pleasure of spending some time with him, but not on that particular night which, upon conclusion, became a part of Atlanta’s folklore.
After reporting about our wild days in Atlanta during the ’70’s and ’80’s, when Lewis Grizzard and Ron Hudspeth, two local characters, would spin yarns at a bar off Peachtree Street in downtown Buckhead, I received many responses from long ago friends, some of whom spent time with me as well as without me at that Buckhead bar, as well as other guys who wanted to share their stories about Lewis Grizzard. One friend went to high school with Grizzard in Moreland, Georgia and another remembered the name of the bar – Harrison’s.
There was another character that wasn’t mentioned because I couldn’t recall his name.  I was reminded who he was and immediately I wondered how in the world I could forget his name. It’s former Atlanta Falcon’s football player and ex South Carolina Gamecock’s All American running back, Alex Hawkins.
On many occasions, while we were there, he would stumble into the bar. I do mean stumble. His friends would yell out, “Hey, it’s Captain Who!”
He acquired that nickname from the days he played for the Baltimore Colts when he was one of the team captains. Before a game against the Chicago Bears, the captains of the opposing teams were being introduced and the Captain for the Bears was Hall of Fame middle linebacker, Dick Butkus. The referee said, Captain Butkus, this is Captain Hawkins. Butkus blurted out, “Captain Who?” Prior to that, he was known as Captain Midnight, due to his late night escapades.
The guys who frequented Harrison’s were a loosely connected fraternity of drunks. It was fun to be with them, but you didn’t want to pledge.
To say Alex was colorful would be an understatement. After his football days with the Atlanta Falcons, he worked as the color commentator for their games (he was the only excitement that team had at the time). He was a sports reporter for a local TV Station as well.
When Hawkins was in the bar along with Lewis Grizzard and Ron Hudspeth, nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted the evening to end. Hawkins was in a class by himself when it came to telling side-splitting stories. This is the story that made the evening news and it is priceless.
Evidently, Hawkins stayed out all night, which wasn’t unusual for him. His wife was out looking for him and was unable to locate him. When he walked in the kitchen the next morning she screamed, “Where have you been?”
He replied, “I have been out in the hammock all night. The moon was so beautiful I didn’t want to leave it.”
“You don’t expect me to believe that, do you? We took the hammock down two weeks ago,” his wife said.
After giving her a blank stare for a few minutes, he quipped, “Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
That yarn started flying around Atlanta and immediately another parable was added to the legendary life of Alex Hawkins; it was reported on the local news stations and a song was recorded about it by country singer Collin Raye. He has a video on you tube. Here is the link if you wish to listen to it. It’s an entertaining song. https://youtu.be/BewKY_BpVXg
Alex played in an era when the money wasn’t crazy, but the players were. Most of them were just big kids who never grew up.
He turned 80 this year. Sadly, he is one of the oldest living professional football players and he is possibly suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, CTE, brain damage, previously referred to as dementia pugilistica because it was thought to exist mainly in boxers.
He was drafted in the 2nd round by the Green Bay Packers and he was just one of the many crazy characters that we were fortunate to meet at Harrison’s that made us laugh, and that’s a good thing.
In between reading Lewis Grizzard’s books, you may want to consider picking up “My Story And I’m Sticking To It,” by Alex Hawkins.”
You’ll be tickled.
Well, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

LEWIS GRIZZARD-ATLANTA-MAX FLY AND THE GOOD OL’ DAYS

 

 

The ’70’s and the ’80’s were wild times in the city of Atlanta. It was emerging from a sleepy southern town to an international city. Robert Edward ‘Outrageous Ted’ Turner was on the field, running CNN and the Atlanta Braves baseball team. As Outrageous Ted, he decided he could manage the Braves better than the current manager, so he fired him and took over the team, causing quite a stir in the traditional bourgeois baseball world. He had a way of staying in the news. He would say things like, “My son is now an ‘entrepreneur.’ That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.”
We also had Maynard Jackson, serving as Atlanta’s first African-American Mayor, and then there was our Peanut Farmer, Jimmy Carter, up in D.C. running our country, I guess.
Behind the scenes, we had a couple of local celebrities, journalists, one of whom was about to break on the national arena as a great humorist along the same lines as Mark Twain and I was growing old right smack dab in the middle of all this.
It was during this time that a group of us middle agers were desperately attempting to hang onto our youth. We formed softball and basketball teams and joined metro Atlanta “Adult” leagues to stay in shape, attempting, and failing, to compete with the younger bucks. That was okay, it was really about having an opportunity to get together and have a few drinks and burn off a little pent-up steam.
Some of us even carried it over to meet once a week, I believe it was a Wednesday, at a local watering hole on Peachtree Street in Buckhead. Today, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you the name of the bar.
We would arrive around 4:00 p.m. and most of the bar stools were already taken. There was a group of local celebrities that hung out there; two being hard-drinking journalists, Ron Hudspeth who wrote for the Atlanta Journal, and Lewis Grizzard, who wrote for the Atlanta Constitution, two different newspapers that happened to be owned by the same corporation, Cox Enterprises. This was before these two guys became “Big” celebrities and authored books, chronicling their lives and times on Peachtree Street but they kept us laughing so hard, it hurt.
Hudspeth started a rag called The Hudspeth Report, one of those free papers you can pick up around the city. It’s filled with advertisements hawking everything and anything imaginable. Hudspeth would critique local restaurants and watering holes. This was a smart maneuver by him, as he was comped more than a few drinks and meals. I heard from an old friend that Hudspeth is still publishing this rag but now he lives in Costa Rica. I can only imagine why he is living down there.
Ron Hudspeth was fired in 1987 by the AJC for starting The Hudspeth Report, prompting his pal and drinking buddy, Lewis Grizzard, to resign in protest. Grizzard resigned on a Saturday and rescinded his resignation three days later. He said at the time, “I’ve quit four times, and this is the fourth time I’ve come back.”
I mean, why wouldn’t he come back? He was only writing four columns a week. What was not to like about that job? He was also syndicated in close to 500 newspapers around the country.
As they say in the rural South, Lewis Grizzard “dog up and died” in 1994. Wow, that long ago? Grizzard said one of his big worries was that “somewhere there is a great party going on, and I’m missing it.”
Well, the world is missing you, pal. He didn’t make it to 50. He was only 47 years old.
Here is the clip that brought back old memories and the many laughs we shared:

 

CEDAR KEY FLORIDA – JACQUI’S BOATING EXPERIENCE – WILL THEY ALLOW US BACK?

Deck at Harbor Master Inn Over the Cedar Key Bay Enjoying a Cohiba and a glass of Chianti wine

Jacqui and Max Fly just returned from a short vacation in Cedar Key, Florida, named after the Eastern Red Cedar trees that once were abundant in the area until they started using them to make pencils. In fact, from 1866 until the early 1900’s, Cedar Key was a major center for pencil manufacturing.

We posted some of the great pictures we took so you would have an idea of how idyllic the area is. Kids would be bored after about 5 minutes time spent on the key and that is one of its enduring features. They built this Key for fishing and that’s just what they do.

And restaurants? Well, let me say this, the drinks are good and the establishments open and close when they darn well please. Immediately to the left and across the water from the room we stayed in, is the back deck of the Black Dog Beer-Wine-Cigar Bar. As I was sitting on the deck, enjoying my morning coffee and watching the dolphins swimming about in a feeding frenzy, the guy who owns the bar stepped out on his deck for a smoke and I started up a conversation with him.

Black Dog Beer-Wine-Cigar Bar

“You normally won’t catch me up at this time of day, but I have some work I’m finishing up inside and I wanted to get it done,” he told me.

I asked him if his place was open now. The last time we were in Cedar Key it wasn’t.

“Yeah, it’s open, stop by between 4:30 or 5:00ish.”

Back Deck of the Black Dog Beer-Wine-Cigar Bar

We found out that all restaurants and bars on the key operate on “ish” time, or according to Jimmy Buffet, they are on island time. In fact, our bartender at Steamers said that most of these guys don’t even open the next day if they brought in enough money the previous night. They don’t care about the money, it’s the fish.

We stayed in the Harbor Master Inn, a place that features rooms built over the Cedar Key Bay. We were virtually surrounded by water with windows that gave us a fantastic view of the sunrise. When we sat outside on the deck, we were virtually over the water and the launching area for all the boats was right next to us so we were able to watch all the fishing boats as they came and went each day.

As mentioned, Cedar Key is a small fishing village. The population is about 750 people and all the residents know each other. By the time we left, they all knew Jacqui as well.

While there we rented a pontoon boat for a day. I thought I finally found a place where Jacqui could drive without having to worry about hitting something – the ocean; however, I was soon to find out that wasn’t so, as she barely missed a couple of the channel markers before getting hung up in some crab traps in a restricted area of Cedar Key Bay. We knew it was a restricted area because the guy standing on his deck, blowing a whistle and yelling at Jacqui to get out of there, let us know so – in a not too friendly voice, I might add.

The lovely Jacqui Hesse, a Pirate’s Mistress
Former Pirate Captain Max Fly

 We were in about 1.5 feet of water. We knew that because of the map of Cedar Key Bay, that the boat rental people kindly provided, indicated this. The problem was,  Jacqui ignored the map.

It was at this moment that she relinquished her captainship to Ol’ Max Fly, noted Private Eye and an old sea captain in his younger days. After trimming the motor and jockeying around all the crab traps, he was able to get the boat into the deeper water and out of shooting range of the irate man on his deck.

Big Deck Bar & Grill

 

Big Deck Coconuts

After our sea adventure, we needed some refreshment and Max decided to treat his lady to some island drinks at the Big Deck, a little bar and grill across the street from the Harbor Master Inn. The Big Deck features a picture of two big coconuts in a bikini top painted on the ceiling over the bar. It was placed there for all the old salty dogs who fall off their bar stools.

We spent the evening jawing with some of the locals, who still hadn’t heard about Jacqui’s little seafaring misadventure. Evidently, rumors don’t travel fast on Cedar Key.

 

Death of Brace Martin: The Texas Bounty Hunters

“We sleep so we wake before the heat comes and then we find that outlaw you want to catch,” Shoots plenty said as he stirred up the coals in the fire causing sparks to fly into the dark. Soon flames rose, like wild tongues around the oak logs and licked at the cool night sky.
“Why don’t you shoot that one-eyed mule. A mule is not like a horse. A horse will work with you but a mule just waits until he can kill you. We could eat him and then you can get a horse.”
“I like that mule. He’s smarter than any horse I ever had,” Esben replied.
“You never had an Indian horse. They are smarter than the Wasichus horse.”
“Why are they smarter?”
“Because the Indian is smarter than the Wasichus.”
“Yeah, so who is living on the reservations?”
“Ugh.”
The next day the blazing sun was rapidly emerging in the east and the temperature was rising when Shoots Plenty said, “We should go so we can travel far before the sun is three fists in the sky.”
They ate pemmican and corn while they rode West toward the Chihuahuan Desert
It wasn’t long before the heat was becoming unbearable as the sun beat down mercilessly on the two riders.
“She thinks I am a Lakota Chief,” Shoots Plenty said.
“Who thinks you are a Lakota Chief?”
“That Carmen lady.”
“I wonder how she got that idea.”
“Maybe I am chiefly.”
“Or maybe you lied to her.”
“She said her heart laughs with joy when she is in my presence.”
“Really?”
“That is what she said.”
“I don’t see it.”
“I was in love once, Wasichus. Yes, that is the truth. It was Chief Black Kettle’s daughter, Gray Grass. I said to him, “I love your daughter, will you give her to me, that the small roots of her heart may entangle with mine so that the strongest wind that blows shall never separate them.”
“Yeah, so what happened?”
“He said no. It made me sad. I cried. But you know, Wasichus, the soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”
“That’s too bad.”
“No, it is a good thing. Later Gray Grass had many little ones. She got fat. Now my heart laughs with joy because I am not with her.”
“What is with you Lakota and your laughing hearts?”
“We were a happy people until your people put us on a reservation. The Great Father promised that we should never be removed we have moved five times. I think you should put the Indians on wheels so that you can move them as you wish.”
They rode slowly for some time while the hot sun burned down on them before Shoots Plenty spoke again, “That meal was damn good. I am gonna think about living with Carmen if it is like this.”
“Can’t you just be quiet? I thought the Lakota liked silence.This is a bad day. The worst day. We have gone 35 miles in this blazing heat through cacti and blistering sands and all you do is talk. Our animals, they have gone without water the entire day,” Esben said, “and the water in our canteens is so hot we cannot drink it and all you do is babble nonsense about some Mexican woman.”
They made their way into the mountains, climbing all the while, going backward on themselves as they followed the sinuous path higher. In places, sections of the hillside had fallen away, leaving a gash of red earth and loose rock which slid dangerously as soon as their mounts hooves were set upon it.
Upon reaching the ridge top they were exhausted and came to a halt and rested. They had met no one, nor seen any evidence of habitation at any time since they had left that morning but they both felt the presence of something or someone.
“There is a cave up ahead with some water. We will rest there, Wasichus.”
“That looks out of place, stay alert,” Esben replied.
“If the Creator put it here, it is in the right place.”
Ahead of them, they saw layers of shale protruding from the summit of a small hill.
The heat in the canyon was intense. At the scent of water, Shoots Plenty’s horse and Esben’s one-eyed mule quickened their pace. Anything that moved had gone for cover and that was what Esben and Shoots Plenty had in mind when they hobbled and watered their mounts and approached the cave. The animals stood with their heads down with their ears laid back to show their unhappiness being near the mouth of the cave.
Shoots Plenty took his lance and poked inside to make certain no rattling-tails were lurking. They entered the cave.
The cave opened out, the sides spreading wide, the ceiling rising high as a church. Light filtered through unseen apertures, the slender fluted shafts falling from above. The sun filtered through the leaves of the nearby overhanging trees.
Then an explosion blew them in the air and everything turned black, leaving nothing but night.
Out of the darkness and into the edge of light Esben thought he saw something come rushing by him, tall and darker than night itself. A blackness inside a blackness. It’s footsteps echoed like thunder and its breath was foul like rotting flesh, eyes as hard as glass.
It disappeared deeper into the shadows of the cave.
The scent came to him, like stagnant water at the edge of a stock pond, with shat, urine, moss, algae, dead fish and fermented vegetation.
Esben opened his eyes. Where was he? How long had he been lying here. His head hurt like hell. What was that he just saw? What happened?
The last thing he remembered was the explosion. Someone must have booby trapped the entrance to that cave and he had a notion it was Brace.
He was unable to see due to the darkness surrounding him. He reached for his holster. His Colt .45 was still secure. He brought his Winchester rifle in with him. Where was it? He groped the damp ground surrounding him until his fingers found the rifle. He chambered a round.
“Shoots Plenty? Shoots Plenty, where are you?”
He hadn’t intended to get the old Indian tied up in this mess. It just happened. Shoots Plenty insisted on riding with him on the way to Artesia. He should have told him no but it was too late now. Shoots Plenty couldn’t see beyond the end of his arm, so he wouldn’t be much good to him anyway.
“I am here, Wasichus.”
“Are you okay?”
“I think so. My head does not feel so good.”
Esben struck a match and saw the form of Shoots Plenty sitting up with his back pressed against the far cave wall.
“I thought you Indians could root out traps. What happened? Are you sure you are an Indian?
“I am an Indian and something like this would never happen to me. I used to have power. Now I have been civilized and old age is creeping up on me.”
“More like old bad habits. Come on, follow me. Something or someone ran past us into this cave.”
“Maybe we should leave. It could be an evil spirit.”
“It’s evil alright, follow me.”
Slowly, Esben rose to his feet, putting his hand against the wall, he ventured deeper into the cave with Shoots Plenty holding onto Esben’s gun belt.
Esben’s back hurt from landing on the cave floor and his forehead was sporting a welt the size of an egg.
They felt someone run past them.
“Stop!” Shoots Plenty yelled.
They heard a shot and then saw a flash from the barrel of a gun before they heard the ricochet of a bullet near their head.
Shoots Plenty dropped to the floor of the cave.
Esben leveled his Winchester in the direction of the fleeing person and fired.
A cry of pain was heard. The shot found its mark.
Esben ratcheted another round into the chamber of his Winchester and started toward the cave entrance in pursuit of the suspect that had just about killed him and Shoots Plenty.
When they reached the opening of the cave they looked around. There was blood on the ground heading toward the stand of Cottonwood trees.
“I do not see nothing, Esben,” Shoots Plenty said.
“He’s gone. Let’s mount up and head to town. I think I know where we can find him.”
Esben found his one-eyed mule, grazing near the opening of the cave next to Shoots Plenty’s horse. They were glad they had the foresight to hobble their mounts before they entered the cave.
They mounted up and headed for the town of Artesia. Someone set them up and they knew who. He would pay.
The stock dogs were barking up a storm as they rode into town. They dismounted at the corral. There were tracks in the dirt and they didn’t want to disturb the ground around the hitch rack. Walking carefully, they surveyed the sandy loam in front of the hitching post. The boot prints in the dust were large, and the left one had a hole in it.
“Most of these hoof prints have been here for a while and are not from freshly shod horses. But this one is,” said Shoots Plenty. A Bay gelding was tied at the end of the hitching post and it was wet with sweat.
“That is his horse,” Shoots Plenty uttered, nodding in the direction of the big Bay horse. “The foot prints are going toward the dance hall. There are splotches of blood on the ground over there and more foot prints between the wagon track.”
They examined the tracks as they went along. After awhile Shoots Plenty said, “This is the way he came back. Someone was bleeding badly. See drippings of blood? See where the grass is flattened down over there?” he said, pointing in the direction of green grass running along the side of the bank building. “Here is where he laid down and it was a time before he could get to his feet. A tough man. Who is this man, Brace?”
“The son of a bitch is a cheating killer. He can take on three men in a fight and win. He is so cold he’s known as the Iceman in parts of this territory. He has no feelings at all, to my knowledge. But this is the end of the trail for him. Come on, follow me.”
As they got to the end of the building, Esben stopped and looked around into the back alley. There were some barrels and wooden crates and discarded trash and he spotted a man stagger around some wooden barrels. It was Brace.
Brace was a large man, bow-legged and barrel chested, with a mass of fiery red hair growing straight out from the top of his shirt and the sides of his hat. His face was broad and sunburnt above a great tangle of beard
Brace continued to stagger into the alley. He went in gun up and out.
“Come outta there or someone is gonna get hurt,” Esben yelled.
“It’s gonna be you, Bounty Hunter,” Brace said cocking back the hammer of his gun.
Esben’s hand went down to his sidearm and he was clearing leather before young Brace could blink. Esben’s .45 caliber round pierced his neck and he dropped to the ground, bleeding out next to the wooden crates and barrels that littered the alley.
Esben took aim and fired again.
Brace let out a scream. He was still alive. He stuck his head out and that was when Esben’s next round went between his eyes. He dropped back behind the barrel. He was dead before he hit the ground.
They ran up to the barrels with their guns at the ready.
Looking down at the prone body, Shoots Plenty asked, “Is that Mr. Brace?”
“What’s left of him. The son of a bitch finally got what he deserved. Let’s go get the Doc and have him haul him outta here.”
“Why does the white man get his medicine man for someone who is dead?”
“Just to confirm he’s dead.”
“I can confirm he is dead. Will we get our money now?”
“As soon as we have his picture taken I’ll send it back to Captain Smith and he will wire us the money. You best not let Carmen know you came into so much money or she may make you buy her a tipi.”
“I will not tell her. Let us go and get that medicine man.”

From The Novel :The Texas Bounty Hunters

 

 

The two men erected a tent that provided a welcome windbreak from the chill that had blown in from the north two sleeps ago.
The wind increased and a small twister blew past, picking up dust and debris on its way.
Shoots Plenty drew his blanket about his shoulders and looked in the direction of Esben who was leaning on his saddle by the fire.
“This whirlwind reminds me of a story,” Shoots Plenty said.
“Everything reminds you of a story.”
“That is because I know many. Have I told you the story about Coyote and death, Esben?”
“Most likely, you have told me just about everything you know, you crazy old Indian, and then some things you don’t know. You talk more than a squaw.”
“This I have not told you, so you should listen, Wasichus. In the beginning of this world, there was no such thing as death. Everyone lived until there were so many people that there was no longer any room. The Chiefs held council to determine what to do. One stood and said that people should die and be gone for a while and then return.”
“How did he figure that would solve the problem?” Esben asked. “It would just be a temporary fix.”
“Listen to the story, Wasichus. When that chief sat down Coyote jumped up and said that people should die forever. The world did not have room for everyone. If people who died came back to life, there would not be food enough for everyone.”
“It seems this Coyote fella is pretty smart.”
“Coyote is very smart, you must listen, Wasichus. The other chiefs objected to what Coyote suggested, saying they did not want their friends and family to die and be gone forever.
They decided they would build a grass medicine lodge facing the East and that the people who died would be taken to the medicine lodge and this is where they would bring them back to life by singing songs, calling the spirit back to the grass lodge. This made the people glad.
When the first man died the medicine man and the people gathered in the medicine lodge and sang songs.
In about ten days a whirlwind blew in from the West. The Coyote saw it and as the whirlwind was about to enter the lodge, the coyote closed the door. When the whirlwind saw that it could not enter it whirled on by.
In this way, the coyote made death eternal and from that time on, people grieved over their dead and were unhappy.”
“The Coyote causes you Indians much grief. Why do you let him in your council?”
Shoots Plenty ignored him and continued with his story.
“Now when my people hear a whirlwind they say that someone is wandering by. Ever since coyote closed the door spirits look for somewhere to go until they discover the road to spirit land.
Coyote then ran away and never came back, for when he saw what he had done, he was afraid. That is why he now runs from place to place, always looking back over his shoulder to see if anyone is pursuing him. And ever since he has been starving because no one will give him food to eat.”
When he finished, Shoots Plenty looked in the direction of Esben and noticed he was sleeping.

College Boys And Boes

 

 

Most hobo’s, known as Boes by the Yard Dogs, Railroad Detectives, hit the rails to escape their pasts, moving from place to place, broke and hungry most of the time. The same could be said about college boys

My dad said I was wiry, my friends said I was puny. In a bar, after pointing in the direction of a large girl standing by the jukebox, I asked a big guy if that was his girlfriend or did somebody put a dress on the jukebox? Two well placed left jabs that landed in my midsection made me realize it was his girlfriend and my friends were right, I was puny. After that encounter, my survival instincts kicked in and I began to hang out with the biggest and toughest guys I could find.
One of those tough guys was one of my high school friends and college roommate. He wasn’t the biggest guy by a long shot, but he sure was one of the toughest. His name was Bill Morgan and he was 6’ tall and weighed 170 pounds. He was wiry. He won the Wisconsin State Judo Championship in his weight class 3 years running and the overall state championship in 1968-69 and was selected to the 1968 United States Olympic Team. To do this, he had to beat a one-eyed monster named Dan Riordan from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who weighed in at 275 pounds. Bill got him in a choke hold and we all thought ol’ Dan’s glass eye would pop out before he tapped out. Bill was squeezing so hard his face was redder than Riordan’s.
Unfortunately, for Bill, he re-injured his knee at a practice session in San Francisco and never made it to Japan to compete in the Olympics.
Bill started his college career at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, but decided to leave, or, to be more precise, the dean of the college decided he should leave after he ruined the homecoming parade by dumping a pail of water onto the head of the Homecoming Queen as the procession passed beneath his dormitory window.
Bill said it was probably just as well because he missed his old friends and the last time he came to visit us in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, he hopped on the back step of a tractor trailer rig. Now, this step is simply a bar that is welded on the back of the trailer. It is used to step up onto the trailer bed. It is about 3’x3’ in size, just big enough to sit on. Bill had to hang onto the rung on the back door for over 150 miles in the cold Wisconsin winter. He said after the first couple of hours his arms went dead with fatigue. When the truck finally pulled into a truckstop, Bill jumped off the back. He said it took him over 15 minutes before he was able to open his fingers and thumb so he could hitch a ride the rest of the way.


Bill had a penchant for doing unconventional things like this. One that most folks would consider as unconventional as they get was hopping freight trains. In the Village of Elm Grove, Wisconsin, at the bottom of the hill on Watertown Plank Road, the road that runs through the middle of the village, train tracks cross the road. The Milwaukee Road ran their trains on these tracks and occasionally a freight train would come rumbling through at a slow speed and Bill would run out and jump on and ride it for about a mile or so. Before the train could pick up too much speed, he would jump off. This was usually around North Avenue. The rest of us guys would hop in a car and go pick him up. Pretty soon, more and more of us would join him in this unusual and illegal activity. We did it just for the fun of doing it until this became an alternative mode of transportation for us. As kids, we didn’t know the difference between fun and funerals and sometimes with Bill, I had my doubts to which I was heading.
Another friend of ours, while learning the ropes of hopping a freight, grabbed onto a rung that had iced up and he had a difficult time holding on as his heels bumped along over the ties as the train dragged him down the tracks at an increasing rate of speed. He pushed away from the train as hard as he could, falling away from the wheels as he tumbled down the right-of-way into the rocks and cinders dotting the landscape. Luckily he survived with just a few scratches and bruises.

There was another time when a friend of ours, Jim Mills, a tackle on our college football team, wanted to join us the next time we hopped a train and we obliged him. Fortunately, I was unable to make that trip as there was a railroad bull riding in one of the boxcars and they ended up jumping off at a time and speed that wasn’t as opportune as they would have liked it to be.
They landed and rolled into a farmer’s field. Jim twisted his knee. They got up and started to cross a farmer’s field with Jim hobbling behind them when all of a sudden they heard someone yelling, “What in the hell are you doing in my field?” This question was soon followed by a blast from his shotgun. Bill said he never saw ol’ Jim Mills move so fast as he hobbled behind them across the field. Unfortunately for all of them, they didn’t move fast enough as they found the sheriff waiting for them when they exited the field.
I received a call later that day asking if I would mind coming and getting them. They were sitting in the jail. Luckily, no charges were filed and it didn’t cost them any money; however, Jim Mill’s missed playing in two football games due to his injured knee.
Now you would think we would have learned a lesson from that experience, but we didn’t. The next and last time I hopped a freight train was in January of ’67. It was unusually warm for a Wisconsin January and we were wearing only a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt which is unheard of in January in Wisconsin; sometimes even in the summer. The sun had been out all day and the snow was melting. Bill Morgan and I were walking along the downtown streets of LaCrosse next to the train tracks. We were in the middle of one of our sophomore years in college and were restless. It was a little after twelve o’clock and we were discussing what we could do with the rest of the afternoon. There was always the bars, but it was too nice of a day to spend inside a dark place getting wasted.
We were walking across the road when the wigwags went off with its lights swinging and its bell clanging. We could hear the whistle of the train lift in the distance.
We saw the train slow to uncouple a couple of hoppers at the grain elevator on the corner across from where Bill and I were walking. The engineer bumped her ahead and then leaned into the throttle. The old engine groaned and stepped up to a walk. With each stroke, she picked up speed.

Bill and I stopped and looked at each other and nodded. We waited on the crossroad for a rail car to come down the line. We both lit out and set a pace to latch on to the grab iron and swing up. Bill was faster than I was and he reached the hopper car before me and grabbed onto the ladder and easily swung up and stood on the platform on the back of the car. By the time it was my turn to jump on, the train had already picked up speed, so when I got to the grab iron, my feet shot from the ground like a rifle bullet and I found myself hanging by my hands from the third rung from the bottom of the ladder.I nearly tore my arm off. For awhile, I couldn’t go up or down, so I just clung to the ladder in hopes that I could get my feet under me and onto the lower rung before I fell. Luckily I was able to hook the rung with my foot and gather my weight below me and finally crawl up the ladder onto the back platform of the hopper car.
Now, for those of you who have never hopped a freight before, I have to tell you that hopping on a freight train is only half the job. You have to figure out how to stay on once aboard and then get off without killing yourself. We figured this black snake would rumble slowly through town before picking up speed and we would be able to jump off near campus. Well, this train just kept gaining momentum and never once slowed, it only accelerated and we soon realized that we made a serious mistake not jumping when we had the opportunity.
We began to worry a bit when the train started to blast through the small Minnesota towns that dotted the banks of the Mississippi River with the beautiful rocky bluffs on the other side on its way northwest. When would this thing stop, we wondered? The first sign was LaCrescent, then there was Red Wing, Hastings, Winona, and on it went and I don’t know if this is the correct order of the towns as this was fifty years ago, but I do remember those names. When a train slows to a speed that would normally be safe to jump you may not be able to do it if you were crossing a river or gully or what was below you was sheer rocks as was the case on our journey

Soon the stars blinked on overhead like Christmas lights as we sat, listening to the clacking of the wheels as we lumbered through the night. Had we been on this iron beast that long already?
Some of the fun was taken out of the ride when we found ourselves shivering and freezing in a fifty mile an hour wind that was flying off the hopper car. Still, it was a good learning experience, I thought. I learned that intuition may only whisper, but it often speaks the truth and I would have been wise to have listened to it.
We ended up in the Minneapolis switchyards around 2:00 o’clock on a Sunday morning. It was pretty quiet and the smell of creosote filled the air as we jumped off the back of the hopper car that had been home to us that day.
We looked around to see if there were any yard bulls hanging out. We were lucky there wasn’t any around that we saw or that saw us.

We hitch hiked back to LaCrosse the next morning.

Granddaughters, Blue Ribbons, Milk, And Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer

 

 

Our daughter, Meghan Ratliff, informed us that our two granddaughters placed first in the events they entered at their swimming meet. For our oldest, Margaret, this is becoming second nature as she is an incredible athlete, but our youngest granddaughter, Frances won a blue ribbon for finishing first in the breaststroke for her age group at her first swim meet ever. Evidently, she tried to “cancel” the meet quite a few times before it started. Then after she was awarded the ribbon, she was asking when the next meet was. A big clap goes out to both of these cuties.

 


This reminded me of the first and only time I was awarded a ribbon. It was in 1955 and I was 10 years old. It was at the Wood County Fair, in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. I won first place for drinking the most glasses of milk in my age group. Now, some of you younger folk may not think that is such a big deal, but, back in those days, especially in Wisconsin the Dairy State, all milk was either whole milk or buttermilk; 2% and Fat-Free wasn’t invented yet. I do remember having one helluva stomach ache when my grandparents drove me home that afternoon.

I attribute this early victory in my life for dispatching me into a successful beer drinking career, for which I never won a blue ribbon, but I sure drank plenty of them.