Monday, March 17, 2008

Faux's Pa -- Myles and the Moonshiner

I've always wanted to say that my pappy was a pistol and i'm a son of a gun, but, somehow, there is no way to get around that particular gender issue. Suffice to say, my old man sent me off into adulthood with a revolver and a bottle of jack. I'm not sure what his intentions were.

This story was written for a literature class in which we had to retell a story that we had originally heard in the oral tradition. I've always rather liked it hearing it from my father and as he is now 75, I have lost count of the times i've heard it.

I don't normally post pictures of my family, but this particular image sets the place, time and the character known as my father better than any words i could conjure up. ..


Myles and the Moonshiner

cl mccoy

This is a story told to me by my father, Myles, about himself as a young man. It takes place in the Mormon laden hills and valleys of northeastern Utah in the 1940s. Drinking was frowned upon by the society and a variety of blue laws that are still in existence attempt to keep alcohol out of idle hands. As a free and independent thinker, my father rejected these laws and developed his own coping strategies. First and foremost, he says, is if you're going fishing you can't just take one Mormon, you have to take two so they watch each other and not your beer.

This story is real and true and retold to the best of my ability. The names, however, are all true.

Old man Murray, that's Uncle Hatch Murray to my dad, was the sheriff of Uintah County, Utah. He was a pistol packing card shark; a scary son of a bitch who could usually be found in the back room of the Vernal Hotel playing cards with my Great Grandfather. Hatch had a no good son, named Skeet, who was my dad's age. Skeet always stayed just a few steps ahead of the law, which wasn't too difficult, seeing as his daddy was the law. This story begins when Skeet told his dad one day that he had finally found some work, but that it was out of town and he needed some good work gloves.

Now, no decent father wants his son to be throwing hay bales without adequate protection, so Hatch gave Skeet enough money to buy a fine pair of leather gloves and sent him down the road. A few days later, Skeet came crawling back into town – with no gloves and missing one of his boots. He muttered some story about getting too close to a mountain lion, which although possible in that country, was unlikely in absence of claw marks. Most folks doubted that Skeet had even bought gloves. Dad figured that Skeet had hooked up with the local tribe of Utes for a few drinks.

Skeet's first course of business upon arriving home was to go out and visit my dad. Apparently, Skeet hadn't had his fill of whiskey because he asked my dad to give him a ride out to Cooter's, the local moonshiner. Dad wasn't too interested until Skeet mentioned that he planned to ask old Cooter for a pint to be purchased on time. My dad happened to have a few bucks in his pocket, an old Chevy, and his chores were done for the day. He figured that watching Skeet try to "borrow" whiskey would provide some good entertainment. Sure enough, it did.

When they got to Cooter's, the old man poured them a each shot and they visited for quite a while. Cooter asked Skeet how his new job was working out. "Not so good" Skeet said, then he asked if he could have a pint now and pay later. As I sad, dad had enough money to buy the whiskey himself or to lend the money to Skeet, but opted not. He knew that the drink was swill and that Skeet was a bad credit risk. Cooter, too, was aware of Skeet's inability to pay for anything. Cooter practically choked on the plug of tobacco, according to my father, with laughter at the suggestion.

It was time for Skeet to learn a lesson of manhood and commerce, a lesson smart folks just know – that dealers (whether it be crack or corn whiskey) do not sell on credit, it drives away paying customers.

"Well" old Cooter says, really slow "I'd like to help you out, son, but you see, I've got a deal going on with the bank in town. The don't sell whiskey and I don't lend money." Skeet had the grace to shuffle his feet and look embarrassed. He realized it was time to go and asked my dad for a ride home. Dad obliged and then stopped at his grandfathers house for a beer and to tell the tale.

Just a short little story, here, with a lesson to be learned. I wish people could hear my dad tell the story, he has a quite the gift for storytelling as did his father and grandfather before him. I'm sure he told me this one once over a shot of Kentucky's finest when I asked for some gas money.

Monday, March 3, 2008

D-i-n-g-0 was his name-0

from the start here, i'd like to be clear that blogging after a night of no sleep is a half-baked idea at best, but let's just dive on into it head first, whaddaya say? i'll mix some metaphors, throw up some misleading semaphors, hopefully have a few yuks and we can all go home and eat petit fours, ok?

if a one of you has read my drivel before, then you know i grew up herding prime angus for fun and profit -- and a very nice roast on sunday nights, thank you very much. i was lucky to have a horse, my brother, the sorry soul had to run in whatever psychotic direction my father was pointing in and try to decipher what was being yelled in some bastardized semblance of basque sheepherding dialect i've never heard before or since, which isn't that peculiar when one considers that my father is scottish and was yelling through a plug of tobacco.

but sheep are what the basques and the scots have in common -- they both do them well. and that's not what i'm talking about!

back to the round up (i did warn you)

the horse i rode pretty much new the drill. i was twelve and he was at least twice my age, old wahoo knew how to heard cows. this doesn't mean wahoo liked it, just that he was familiar with the general principles. so, there were thirty cows and at least that many calves/yearlings, more or less sixty bovines as the pasture could feed the beasts. now you've all probably heard of cows that walk up begging to be milked twice a day -- those are dairy cows, we raised beef, dammit. they don't all go in the same direction unless threatened with brutal punishment. so one old man, two kids and a horse were supposed to make 60 wayward beasts go wherever my father's mind wanted them to go, as open and direct communication with either my old man or the cows was out of the question.

it never worked out very well. my dad tried new and improved tactics -- like waiting till it got really hot (it routinely goes over 110 deg. in our summers) and the cows, being sensible creatures were in the shade. but oh, not us silly humans! NO! we were trying to round up the cows because at least they were all starting out in the same place and if we could just move them up pasture a bit and close a gate real quick and hope the fences held, why they'd be in a corral.

after many unsatisfying events at the round up my dad decided what we needed was a good hearding dog, and lo and behold, we happened to have our very own collie dog, Jack. Actually, he was King Jack the IV (jacks I-III having met their makers thanks to herding pick up trucks on the county road that ran past our drive). jack got pressed into service. after years of just keeping children safely occupied in one little spot this new trick was one our old dog wasn't learning. my father tried talking to the dog, pleading with him, begging, even went so far as to get on his hands an knees and demonstrate on the dog the precise point on which the heels of cattle must be nipped in order to garner their agreement to MOVE IN THE DIRECTION MY FATHER'S MIND BID!!!!

well, jack was having none of this and after more misadventures in the heat, my father finally consulted the local veterinarian as to what could you do with a herding dog that wouldn't hunt (oh dear, i have mixed that metaphor nicely now, haven't i?). the vet did suggest that we try a particular type of dog that was more used to herding cattle, and if there are any aussies reading, you'll know this means blue healer, queensland healer, they go by a number of names -- but what these dogs can do with a heard of cattle is damn brilliant -- make a heard of sirloin prime on the hoof head directly to the corral (we still had to mind the gates and fences however) and our vet just happened to have one handy.

never looking a gift horse in the mouth (metaphors, mccoy) my father took that dog and inquired as to the dogs name as to not confuse him. he was called shadow and he did his best not to confuse us.

well, as great as he was with cattle, he didn't exactly know what to do in his off hours and now with him around, there were plenty. shadow was a working dog and considered the antics of children and collies to be beneath him. about the only other activity shadow could conjure up was playing top dog, that's A-1 Alpha Dog to every other dog in a three mile vicinity.

Shadow guarded the driveway with one eye open and demonstrated his dominance by peeing on the tires of all cars that came our way, much to our mortification. you may wonder how this could possibly assert dominance -- i assure you, by the time the owner of those wheels returned to their home, the tire stench was assertive.

after a reasonable time, i had gone off to 'town' school for secondary education and became involved in various social activities, largely revolving around church. As the only other entertainment in 'town' was hanging out in saloons, this was considered a good thing. our church eventually had a strong enough youth interest as to hire a youth leader so a 'suitable' leader was found. i'll not digress too far on this issue, but i will say that said youth leader engaged in a variety of questionable activities with the youth until she eventually absconded with one and married him, but until that time, she was kind enough to drive me home after social events.

as i stated before, shadow was a working dog, not a particularly friendly one, but he worked for us. shadow seemed to delight in proving his dominance over the youth leader by not just peeing on her tires but by going full throttle and jumping on the hood of her '72 green demon and showing his canines to her while barking like, well, a dingo!!! my brother and i quickly realized the dog had more sense than the church hiring committee and had good reason to intimidate that woman. she was not going to abscond with any of the youth under shadow's care, by god! the youth leader refused to leave the safety of her car when she came a-calling.

it wasn't until years later that i realized the song my brother was singing every time that demon raised it's ugly head wasn't Bingo, either

submitted for your approval