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Thursday, May 30, 2013

TnT part 4 Hanging Is for Bad Guys

Nowadays, we laugh about card cheats, it wasn't always that way. Just 25 years ago, people didn’t blink to see someone smoking in a public restaurant, but would have condemned anyone putting a leash on their kid.

Times change.

This is part four of five excerpts from chapter one of my book, Trouble in Taos. It’s the story of Slimy Beach, Gunfighter, Latrine digger, and terrible storyteller. Slimy killed the local blacksmith in part three. If you’d like to catch up, here are the links to part-1 part-II part-III

Ordinarily, even back then, there was some fuss when one man shot another in cold blood. Most people figured a hanging might be the proper thing to do, or at least a search to find the sheriff, who habitually left town whenever he heard gunshots. He could usually be found after a day or two at Miss Katherine’s House of Comfort.

It was Estevo’s response that changed the mood. At least it confused the thinking of men who were already in a group stupor from Estevo’s mud, a mixture of beer, whisky, cider, turpentine, and tobacco juice. (The tobacco juice was mostly from the backwash of half-empty glasses, the contents of which were the main ingredient in mud.) It wasn’t just Estevo’s mud and mood that confused those present. Estevo was what passed for an educated man in those days.

Estevo spoke Spanish, English, Tiwa, and a couple other Indian languages to boot. He could even read and write a little. He was also an inventor, if you consider mud an invention, and Two-Bucket Joe, along with the others present, figured that any man with such intellectual accomplishments had to know more about the law than they did. If he hadn’t been such a coward, Estevo might have been mayor, or even the territory governor – or more likely just dead.

But this story is not about Estevo, who really wasn’t all that interesting; it’s about Slimy, who was even less interesting. Slimy had shot a perfectly good blacksmith, and blacksmiths were pretty useful and hard to come by in the West. Not only that, he wounded two poker players and destroyed what was, by western standards, a very fine chair.

The poker players were understandably annoyed until one noticed that the blast also surprised Lefty Hagar enough to drop his extra hold card from his sleeve. Lefty was a man of uncommon luck, which is to say, a real unpopular guy. Those who had the most cause to call for Slimy’s hanging were perfectly happy to trade a cold-blooded murderer on the gallows for a card cheat. The point, according to Two-Bucket Joe, was to have a hanging, and when it comes to people who needed hanging, card cheats come first.

Jacques de Tiwa, a man who claimed to be the son of Maximillian, the dead ex-Emperor of Mexico, went down to Miss Katherine’s to wait for the sheriff to show up. The injured gamblers split Lefty’s winnings and purchased bottles of real whiskey to treat the house. After the second round, most people had not only forgiven Slimy, but thought him a fine, though smelly, fellow. Some even admired his watch.

By western standards, this is a happy ending – unless you’re a card cheat or a blacksmith. But the folks at the Rosa Linda that day didn’t do all the deciding. To read the conclusion to this excerpt, see the next post: Slimy and the Law.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Estevo's Shotgun

This post is a little violent. It’s hard to do a story about a gunfighter without… Of course I could have done it like A-Team where ex-military “elites” fired thousands of rounds each episode and never hit anybody.   More better – I could have done a gunfight like Mr. Bean had in this clip.

This is the third of five installments of an excerpt from my book Trouble in Taos, the story of Slimy Beach, gunfighter and latrine digger. If you’d like to see the first two here are the links. part-1 part-2

But back to the story. I’m pretty sure Slimy never thought of taking up fisticuffs to defend Miss Flossy’s honor. Being so small, Slimy was not one to resort to fisticuffs if he could avoid it, and certainly not with the village blacksmith. Furthermore, Flossy was not the sort of woman who expected, or even desired, men to defend her honor. That would be economically inconvenient.

It wasn’t the liberties Mike Finn took with Flossy that irked Slimy; Slimy just never could tolerate being ignored.

Slimy grabbed the barkeep’s scattergun from the top of the bar and shot Mike Finn dead. He also winged two poker players and shattered the chair that Claybourne Petree, the undertaker, was about to sit in. According to Two-Bucket Joe, Claybourne was pretty scared for a minute, but took it pretty well. Of course, he got some business out of the deal.

This was Slimy’s first killing, and it came as a surprise to the people of Taos. He’d been in town a year or two and was, after his own fashion, a successful businessman. People found him tedious, and nobody liked the way he smelled, but no one thought of him as dangerous before.

Slimy grunted an apology for the mess and offered the smoking scattergun back to Estevo, the bartender.

Estevo, not a man known for his courage, failed to take it.

Looking back, a lot of lives might have been saved if Estevo had reached over and taken that shotgun from Slimy. Others might point fingers, but I'll wager that not a single one of his accusers ever ran a saloon in a 19th-century western town. Bartenders dealt with the rowdiest (and drunkest) characters in what was already an unruly and violent environment. Lawmen rarely spent time in saloons, and it wasn’t because there was more business elsewhere. They knew that if you sat around in a bar with a gun and a badge, someone would eventually think it a good idea to take a shot at you – maybe in the back.

Bartenders like Estevo didn’t have a friendly jailhouse to retreat to. If they started disarming their clientele, some clever fellow might figure things out. If he managed to smuggle one gun into an unarmed bar, the only thing he needed to do to be king of the bar was kill the bartender.

I’m sure there were a few brave bartenders in the West. A couple might’ve lasted a year. Estevo lived to sixty-eight and would have lived even longer if he hadn’t eaten his way to three hundred pounds by the time he was fifty.

It was a younger, slimmer Estevo who said to Slimy that day, “No, Mr. Beach. Please don’t be concerned about the mess. Accept the shotgun as my gift. Here…” And at that point, Estevo reached under the bar and produced a matching weapon. “Please accept this one as well.”

That’s nice of ya, Estevo,” said Slimy. “Thanks.”

So Slimy just killed a man in cold blood. What will the folks at the Rosa Linda do about it? Find out in the next post: Hanging is for bad guys.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

TNT Exceprt Part II Slimy's Watch

Pocket watches have a tradition among Gunfighters.
Slimy's watch didn't play music. It didn't even work – but then again, Slimy dug latrines for a living.
This is the second of five excerpts from the first chapter of my book – Trouble in Taos. It’s the story of Slimy Beach, a notorious gunfighter, and gifted latrine digger as told by his friend, Walter Bego. If you want to read the first excerpt, here’s the link.
According to Two-Bucket Joe (one of the ones that was really there), Slimy and Finn were sitting at the bar. Slimy was never much of a drinking man, but he loved to sit in a saloon. Slimy was telling Finn about his watch. Slimy, like many people who weren’t very bright, liked to advertise it by telling stories. One of his favorite themes was his watch, and I don’t doubt that Finn had heard the story more than he cared to.
I should probably tell you about Slimy’s watch, because it was the thing he was proudest to own. According to Slimy, his dear mother bought him that watch for his seventh birthday, spending the entire sum of five Confederate dollars.
Slimy turned seven in the fall of 1864, and by that time Confederate money wasn’t worth much anymore, but you could never convince Slimy of that fact. He always emphasized the word Confederate to impress on his listener the tremendous value of the watch in question. Confederate money was, to Slimy, the finest money there ever was. In his adult years, he insisted on being paid in Confederate scrip, as opposed to silver or federal money. Slimy hoarded his Confederate funds and never spent a single Jeff Davis
if he had any worthless Yankee notes to spend instead.
The watch was made of tin, and the glass was long gone. By the time I saw it, the minute hand was gone. Slimy told me how he loved to hear it ticking, but I don’t think the watch worked past his eighth birthday. Though he missed the ticking, Slimy didn’t care about the watch not working. He never learned to tell the time.
So Slimy was sitting at the bar with Mike Finn, trying to interest the blacksmith in the virtues of his watch. I’m told that Mike was a patient man, but he had had enough.
I tell you, Slimy,” said Mike, “I know as much as I care to about that watch of yours, and I’m sick of hearing about it. I’d much rather look at Flossy.”
I suppose W. G. C. R. Colmes was referring to Flossy when he wrote about Miss Purity Homebody, Slimy’s schoolmistress. I met Flossy years later, and I’m pretty sure she was never a schoolmistress. Learning and purity were not the first thoughts that came to a man’s head on making Flossy’s acquaintance.
Not that Flossy was what you’d call a pretty woman. Broken and dented as it was, I’d have to say that Slimy’s watch had a more pleasing face. But being out west makes a man lonely, and many a frontier man was happy to settle for cow pie if the only other choice was no pie at all. Mike Finn, like many others, used his imagination to make up for Flossy’s unfortunate shortcomings.
Now that I think about it, I don’t recall any schoolmistress in Taos ’til long after Mike Finn’s muscular frame was reduced to bones and dust. There was a feller, a schoolmaster I suppose, that taught some of the children at Saint Frank’s. I don’t know if I ever met him. I don’t think he was there very long.
Things start happening after that, so I’ll stop. You could make up what happens. Maybe you could play a game of plot association – or you could wait for the next post – Estevo’s shotgun.

Monday, May 20, 2013

TnT Excerpt Part 1, The Preface.

An excerpt!” he says to me.

A hippo,” I reply, ‘cause I had no idea what he was talking about and figured we were playing word association.
I was never very good at word association . I don’t recall winning it once. I never could figure the scoring.
You should put an excerpt in your blog,” he says more completely.
So the next five posts are excerpts from the first chapter of Trouble in Taos. It’s the story of Slimy Beach, a notorious gunfighter and gifted latrine digger as told by Walter Bego, his best friend. In 1934, decades after Beach’s death, Walter discovers a western novel written about his friend…

Slimy killed more men than any three gunslingers I’ve ever heard of. His twin double-barreled sawed-off shotguns looked scary as hell even lying on the bar. They looked even scarier flashing in Slimy’s hands. Even without them, no man in his right mind would get within horseshoe-tossing range of Slimy. He smelled worse than a skunk and was the most boring man alive.

No man in his right mind but me, that is. Slimy was my best friend.

I picked up the Slimy book. There weren’t a lot of pages, but they were nice and soft. Norry Basset gave me a wink. I wanted to punch him in the nose, but I winked back because bad things happen when small, eighty-six-year-old men punch large, middle-aged storekeepers.

I put my dime on the counter and, without asking permission, headed straight for Norry’s crapper.

Walter,” Norry called, “why don’t you wait ’til the Sears and Roebuck catalog comes in before you use my toilet? The pages don’t clog up the works so much.”

I pretended not to hear him. There are advantages to being old. No one can say for sure what you hear and what you don’t.

Norry installed an expensive brass crapper back before Wall Street crapped on the country. It was one of the fanciest bits of seating I’ve ever been pleased to utilize, but it was too high off the ground for my taste. I guess a big man like Norry likes to keep his knees from cramping. It’s a good thing he didn’t have children. A three-year-old might fall right in a toilet that size.

I climbed up to take a seat and cracked the cover of my new purchase. The book had the usual illustrations of horses, saddles, and six guns you see in every western dime novel. I’d never seen Slimy shoot a six-shot Colt in my life. It wasn’t a promising start.

The text wasn’t any better. According to W. G. Chesterson Rawhide Colmes, Slimy was a large brawny brute with fists like railroad sledges. Such a statement indicated that Mr. Colmes probably acquired his “rawhide” from sitting on a barstool in Philadelphia.

I’ve been accused of being an ounce shy of pint-sized, but at five foot three, I had the clear better of Slimy Beach. Slimy’s railroad sledge hands were smaller than I’d seen on a few ten year old boys, and I imagine there were a few boys that age that could whip Slimy in a fair fight.

Slimy didn’t believe in fighting fair.

His perfidious reign of justice began when Beach was only fourteen. The rapacious giant, Mike Finn, forced his unwanted attention on Miss Purity Homebody, Beach’s beloved schoolmistress. Finn was an infamous brawler who routinely killed and maimed men with his bare hands. Young Beach traded thunderous blows with the titanic Finn before the exhausted villain reached for his gun. Beach drew his pearl-handled Colt 45 and spun the weapon twice in his hand – just to give his opponent a chance. Slimy Beach dropped that evil violator of feminine virtue with one shot through the eye. So the legend began.

W. G. C. R. Colmes, Slimy Beach, the Tornado of Taos, p.18

Well, the page was nice and soft anyway, but Norry was right. The pipes of the fancy brass throne didn’t sound too pleased after I flushed.
Just in case a flood was coming, I skedaddled as fast as an old fart can.

Next post, Slimy and his watch.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Going After Starbucks

The most popular post so far on this blog isBasketball, BWG, but no Little Debbie Twinkie where I offer an advertising deal with Little Debbie. Little Debbie has yet to get back to me.

It’s time to change the lure, and go for other fish. Starbucks!

So what makes me think that Starbucks and I are a match made in Wall Street? It’s true I’m not a customer. (I was saving to go, but then I blew it on kidney surgery.) But I’m only too happy to help them raise their percent of GDP into double figures if they’ll toss a few crumbs my way.

(I mean money – not actual crumbs. Starbucks has lots of lawyers jacked up on mocha-latte so I have to be careful how I put things.)

So why does Starbucks need my help with all the money they spend on marketing? Marketing like this truck?
Memorable – but might not be the effect they were looking for.

They need a commercial with a jingle. It should be light and breezy, giving the impression that a cup of Starbucks coffee will make life easy as opposed to transforming it into a steaming, bloodshot, caffeine-induced stressfest.

Image is everything.

Here’s the tune


Music by Tony Hatch, lyrics by Headley Hauser

You’re driving to work and though you know he’s a jerk

You call your boss and say


My eyes are a blur, my words are starting to slur

But I am on my way”


You pull into the parking lot and cut off those in your way

No need to enter in the place; the line leads out the doorway

Checking your watch

Espresso will curl your hair

You know your boss will be angry, but what do you care? You’re at


People are waking here


Then they start shaking here


Caffeine is waiting for you.

(hauntingly in background,) Starbucks, Starbucks…

(A musical interlude begins where jittery dancers in green aprons tantalize those in line with scones, muffins and Ventis of other people’s refills that they are delivering to tables. Behind this scene, hoodlums in Duncan Donut uniforms break into customer cars stealing sound systems, GPSs, and small pets. Nobody leaves the line.

Barista’s asking out a girl. You hear him call her Dottie.

Your bladder says you need to pee, who cares if she’s a hottie?

Get with the brew!

Hey Romeo, throw me a bone”

Caffeine is cheaper than cocaine, less stigma than methadone


Everyone’s waiting here.


Too early to switch to beer.


I’ll tip you ten bucks now just pour”

Monday, May 13, 2013

Short Kisses

May 13, 2013
Editors note: Due to complaints from Homeland Security (apparently this blog contributes to the perception of decadence in American society,) Just Plain Stupid will be presenting shorter (hopefully less idiotic) posts.
Headley: What? I have 1250 words ready!
Make it 250.
You’ve used 7.
Okay… here’s a story.

Bob and Julia are in love. Bob sidles over to where Julia perches expectantly. He sticks out his chest in a masculine fashion, and Julia looks duly impressed. Bob is a fine specimen, and she knows it.
But he thinks the same of her and he gently rubs against her. She lets out a delighted twitter. He leans over lovingly, and Julia knows this is the moment – the first time. Her mouth opens slightly, invitingly. Bob’s proud head descends. He pauses a moment. Anticipation ripples through his body. Then he takes the promised kiss, sweetly, though rapidly – they are new to love, to sharing.
Thanks for half your worm,” he twitters.
You’re welcome, My Love,” she trills, and then flies off to search for more.
I told you they were Cardinals, right?
Well blame Homeland Security if you don’t like the shortcuts.

I’ve never understood kissing. For me, kissing was something that was taught, not instinctual – similar to not peeing in the living room.

I’ve got that one down.

“Kiss your Aunt Herpurbola, Headley.”
“Couldn’t we shake hands?”
“Kiss your Aunt Herpurbola!”
Aunt Herpurbola smelled of Haley’s MO and prunes – not a great introduction to the practice of kissing. I think my first girlfriend resented me holding my nose while I kissed her. People can be touchy.
But then I saw these cardinals, and kissing made sense. I’m ready to try it! If it’s a really hot date, waffles…

That is all.

Homeland Security
Nothing to see here

Move along

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Marmalade On Trial

May 9, 2013
It's been a hard week working with the ghost of Jim Henson on the screenplay for Dead Muppet Society Part Two, The Revenge of Fozzie, Walka Walka Walka.

By the way, Elvis says, "Hey."  He's real happy about Twinkies coming back.
I feel like a neglectful parent, but I'm going to have to give you something I wrote back in 2002.  I think I might have eaten too much fruitcake at the time...

Dangerous Intro

What, exactly is the attraction of marmalade? Pieces of orange peel floating in goo. Would plastic or metal filings become delectable if we could just find an appropriate sugary suspension?

Lawsuit-proof disclaimer

Personally, I’ve always been fond of Marmalade. My policy has always been to never put down a food product that not only represents such a strong tradition but also has potentially intimidating lawyers representing it. Unfortunately, not all people have a podium from which they might express their views (misguided as they might be). While I have no desire to risk the ill will (lawsuit) of the marmalade industry as a whole, I feel it incumbent upon me to represent the views of the minority. As much as I enjoy marmalade, I still recall asking my mother long ago, “what are these stringy bits?”

Actual Irresponsible Column

Years ago, that great gourmand, Andy Griffith, espoused the philosophy that anything is “good” if accompanied by the proper salted cracker. (It does make you think twice about the quality of Aunt Bea’s cooking)
It’s this sort of thinking, along with Bill Cosby’s assertion that there’s always room for cold gelatinous compounds that, in my opinion, perpetuates marmalade in our society. But how does such a thing get started?

Origins are a fuzzy thing, but I’m willing to guess it went something like this. Sir Francis Drake returns to England after another successful pirating of a Spanish galleon. Among the purloined stores was a supply of oranges. By the time they reach England the oranges have gone bad and the ship’s cook throws them out. An adventurous domestic with missing teeth and uncontrollable red hair (they always look that way in the movies) salvages them from the trash heap and takes them home. She tries one and though it’s rotting, it’s still several degrees better than any food served in England.
Recognizing that these little orange globes are the only things with “taste” she will ever encounter, she preserves every scrap in any way she can think of. Dutifully, recording her recipe (she also invented fruitcake but I think others have dealt sufficiently that treat) she foists it on succeeding generations who in the rush of nostalgia and tradition ignore its overall lack of edibility.

In the final analysis it’s all Sir Francis Drake’s fault. (I was going to blame Sir Walter Raleigh but I figured the tobacco industry has had it pretty rough lately, and he wasn’t known for taking too many Spanish galleons. As a matter of fact, he was pretty much a wimp when it came to ship to ship combat in general. He’d just sit there smoking his pipe and passing the crumpets to Pocahontas.)

Sir Francis Drake, on the other hand, was enthusiastic in arts of murder, mayhem and plunder. The kingdom of Spain pressured Queen Liz 1 to turn him over on countless occasions and to this day, he is banned from all the fashionable Iberian beaches and the Generalisimo Francisco Franco mausoleum gift-shop. Of course Sir Francis has been dead for nearly 400 years so is incapable of obtaining the perfect tan and can haunt the gift-shop whenever he wishes.

It’s just as well that Sir Francis has passed, for if he were alive today he would be subject to the capricious vagaries that is the American Civil Court System. No Dead queen with an inch and a half of cake makeup could protect him from a power so potent that it can take a murderer and make him give up his Heisman trophy.

Sir Francis, do you know why you have been called before this court?”

Well, I spent several years being a pirate. I killed countless Spanish sailors and quite a number of aboriginal people in the bargain. I made pirating fashionable and respectable among the lower strata of English nobility, which ushered in nearly three centuries of murder, mayhem and plunder. (It also did quite a number on the hawking and jousting industries) I also started a number of salacious rumors about Queen Elizabeth which led eventually to tabloid television.”

Gasps and cries of “tabloid television!” echo throughout the courtroom.

We’ll discuss the tabloid television charge at a later date. You’re here to answer for marmalade.”

What’s marmalade?”

A breakfast spread popular with English grandparents and Paddington Bear.”

I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

Try some.” The bailiff, who is actually an aspiring actor, hands Sir Frances a slice of toast with marmalade. He bows to the audience watching on court TV.

Hmm – a bit of flavor here. Like any good Englishman, I’m not used to that. I like the toasted bread idea. I do have one question though.”

Yes, Sir Francis?”

Sir Francis appears as if he’s not certain he wants an answer. “Just what are these stringy bits?”

Monday, May 6, 2013

Let Me Rot Your Brain With Facebook

May 6 2013

 Relationships are hard.  Are they worthwhile?  Some may say yes.  I say they're worthwhile as long as they're with people with soft couches, Pop Tarts, and an endless capacity to put up with my...
But saints are in short supply, and it looks bad if you have no friends at all.  That's why we have Facebook.  Facebook rots brains sufficiently to make us feel loved - or at least friended.
  One other benefit is that we get all kinds of stupid pictures.  Here's a few that made me ambitious enough to actually click my mouse a few times to save them.
 great inventions

 cautionary tale
 Have a Field and Steam Christmas
 Warning, cute animals alert

A no-brainer
 Animal truth telling

 American answer to Abby Road?
 sick as a...
These next three are real

 wish I'd written these
 Yes, this is a wood pile. Art?  or is winter too long for this person?
This is one of my FB friends