SS: THE LIVES OF THE COWBOYS....brought to you by Jackson Whole Wheat Cracker....the favorite snack of cowpunchers and magpies alike....and now let's join Dusty and Lefty out on the trail....
(OUTDOOR AMBIENCE, HORSES HOOVES)
GK: We were on our way to Bozeman, me and Dusty, feeling broke and lonesome, when he had this real bright idea that we head for Yellowstone Park, for the 4th of July, and pick up some easy money in the rodeo and the spitting contest.
TR: All the professional spitters'll be up at the Mammoth Springs Rodeo, you just wait and see. We'll clean up. Big prize money.
GK: What event in the rodeo you planning to ride?
TR: Well, actually, m' back was bothering me, so I thought I'd enter you.
GK: Me! I ain't rid in a rodeo in years.
TR: I got full confidence in you, partner.
GK: I ain't goin t' do the calf roping, Dusty. I draw the limit there. And no Brahma bull. I ain't crazy, y'know.
TR: Got you entered in the bronc riding competition, the spitting contest, and the talent show.
GK: Well, talent I can understand, but bronc riding!
TR: First prize is a hunderd dollars. For each of the three of them. That's three hundred dollars. (PAUSE) Now what do you say to that?
GK: Something about three hunderd dollars does seem to focus a man's mind, Dusty.
TR: I knew you'd see it that way.
(MUSIC. CROWD TUMULT. AT THE RODEO. HORSES, CATTLE IN BACKGROUND.)
GK: We got to the rodeo just in time to pay my entrance fees and then we ducked into the Old Faithful Saloon to have us a beverage and let me work up some saliva. A man in black was sitting alone at a table at one end.
GK: Howdy, mister, the name's Lefty, and this here's my partner Dusty, we just come in off the trail for the rodeo today, a little saddle-sore, you mind if we sit down here at the table with you?
TR: Thank you. Very kind of you. Much obliged.
GK: Is there a waitress around here who might come and take our order or is it self-service around here?
GK: You from someplace nearby around here, mister?
GK: From a ways away then, I gather.
GK: You seem to be what one might call a bit taciturn or even close-mouthed, mister. You don't say much, do you.
GK: There any particular reason for your being this way, if you don't mind my asking?
GK: Care to say what it is?
PW: I'm saving my spit.
TR: Oh, I see, so you're entered in the spitting contest too.
SS: Howdy, boys.
GK: You the waitress, ma'am?
SS: I ain't the Princess of Wales.
GK: How about a glass of your best rotgut ginger ale for me, and ---
TR: The same for me.
(SHE OPENS BOTTLE, POURS TWO GLASSES, SLIDES THEM ACROSS TABLE)
TR: Thanks. ----You care to have a little warm-up round against my partner here, mister? Old Lefty is a notable marksman of mucous.
PW: Is that right? (MOSQUITO PASSES, AND CIRCLES. PW HAWKS AND PTTTs AND MOSQUITO DIES)
TR: That's nothin. I've seen my partner spit in a grasshopper's eye at fifty feet and put out a candle at sixty paces. What do you say we step outside and salivate?
SS: No need to step outside--- Hey! Joe!
TK (OFF): Yeah? what?
SS: Lower that window by you....
TK (OFF): Okay. (SCRAPE OF WINDOW)
SS: See that skillet hanging from the lower limb of that there spruce tree longside of the wood box out yonder?
SS: Show em, Ptui.
PW: Okay. (HE SPITS, A SHORT TIGHT PTTTTT) (PAUSE. DISTANT BWANG)
SS: Pretty good spittin. Now you, cowboy.
TR: C'mon, Lefty.
GK: I don't know about this, pardner. (HE HAWKS, AND SPITS.)
TK (OFF): Hey!
GK: Sorry, mister. You need a handkerchief?
TK: Need a face mask.
TR: Okay, that was just a warmup --- how about we make a little bet and see if Ptui can hit that horse tied to the hitching post across the road from that skillet?
SS: Pretty tough shot, I'd say. Gotta make it through the leaves of that there cottonwood tree.
TR: Well, my man can do it.
SS: Okay. Ten bucks. C'mon, Ptui. Show em.
TR: If you don't mind my asking, how'd a man as silent as him develop such oral coordination that he can spit with such accuracy?
SS: Let me tell you, mister. If you're a Democrat in the state of Wyoming, you gotta learn to spit with accuracy or else.
GK: You a Democrat, huh, Ptui?
GK: One of them tax and spend Democrats, I guess, trying to give over this country to the federal bureaucracy, taxing us out of house and home, imposing ridiculous rules and regulations, so a man can't even spit anymore without filing an environmental impact statement---
SS: No point in trying to distract him, mister, he is a champion spitter.
PW: You want to talk, mister? or you want to spit? (PAUSE. THEN HE PTTTs. LONG PAUSE. DISTANT HORSE WHINNY)
SS: Ha! ha! ha! got im right in the left ear! Oh boy! You might as well give me the ten dollars right now!
TR: C'mon, Lefty. You kin do it. Just take a swallow of ginger ale and work it around and take bead and get a nice arc on it. Thatta boy. C'mon. Take your time. You kin do it.
GK: HAWKS. SPITS. DISTANT SPLISH.
TK (OFF): Hey! You just spit in my beer, mister!
GK: My apologies, sir. (FLIPS SILVER DOLLAR ON BAR) Mighty sorry. --- Let's get out of here, Dusty. (FOOTSTEPS ON WOODEN SIDEWALK, OUT SWINGING DOOR, CROWD, OUTDOOR AMBIENCE) Say, they look like the rodeo's already started.
TR: We better hurry, pardner. (FOOTSTEPS, CROWD)
TK (on P.A.): The next contestant in the bronco-riding contest---- riding The Widowmaker, No. 4, Rusty Buckets. (HORSE WHINNY, COWBOY CRIES, CROWD ROAR, HORSES HOOVES, STUTTER STEP)
GK: Boy, that is one mean horse. (HORSE WHINNY) Look out! (TK DISTANT SCREAM RISING AND THEN FALLING, THEN CRUNCH OF WOOD) Ouch. Threw him right into the bleachers.
TR: Right here, pardner. Right up here. You're next. (COWBOY HUBBUB, HORSE, ETC.)
GK: I'm next?
TR: Hurry. Put your number on.
GK: I'm number five?
TK (ON P.A.) Next out of the chute....riding Death and Pestilence....No. 5.....
GK; My bronc is named Death and Pestilence?
TR: There you go. That's right. Get your feet in the stirrups. (HORSE RESTLESSNESS) Wrap that rope around your right hand. Thatta boy.
GK: I don't know about this, pardner.
TK: Let him go!!!! (CREAK OF FENCE, COWBOY WHOOPS. HORSE HOOVES ON DIRT. STUTTER STEP. THEN PAUSE FOR LEAP. GK REACT. HORSE WHINNY. HOOVES. LEAP. GK REACT. LEAP. GK REACT. COWBOYS WHOOPING IN BACKGROUND. HOOVES. WHINNY. LEAP. GK REACT. HORSE LAUGH. HOOVES. LEAP. GK CRY. GLASS BREAKAGE. WOOD CRUNCHING. TRASH IMPACT. MUSIC)
GK: That horse threw me forty feet into the concession stand and the next thing I knew I was looking at a woman put a couple doughnuts in a deepfat broiler. (SIZZLE)
SS: You care for one?
GK: No, thank you, ma'am. Would you tell me something? is something sticking into my head?
SS; You got a straw up your nose.
GK; I see.
SS: And I wouldn't move your right arm if I were you.
SS: Nope. It looks like it's been folded up for storage. Looks like it's got a joint in it that wasn't there before.
GK: Oh mercy. (MUSIC)
GK: They carried me out of there and put a splint on my arm and a mud plaster on my contusions, and I got over to the show tent in time for the talent contest.
TR: This is our last chance to get the big money, pardner. I'm countin on you.
GK: Yeah, but how am I going to sing if I can't play my guitar?
TR: Actually, I think not playing guitar improves your chances.
GK: Who's that on stage now? (PAT D GUITAR, FADES IN, "UNDER THE DOUBLE EAGLE" OR OTHER FAST TUNE, ENDING)
TR: That's Wild Pat Williams, the Chet Atkins of the Absaroka Range.
GK: Pretty fancy playing. And with his guitar up behind his head.
(TUNE ENDS. CROWD ROAR)
TR: You're next, pardner. Go on. Knock em dead. Break a leg.
GK: Thanks for your support. (LONG WALK OUT ON STAGE) Thank you, and for my number I'd like to sing a traditional cowboy number that has been very important to me these many years on the trail, and many is the night----
TK (OFF): So sing it!
GK: I'm about to. Thank you.
I'm just an old cowboy with twigs in my hair,
I'm two-thirds alligator and three-quarter bear,
And one half a liar, but let it be known,
I never told one lie that was not my own.
Whoopi ti yi yo
TK (OFF): Next!
GK: Git along little cowboy, it's your misfortune....
TK (OFF): Next!
GK: I'm not quite done, sir.
TK (OFF): You are now.
GK: You don't care for the song?
TK (OFF): I heard all I cared to.
GK: There's another four verses.
TK (OFF); I thought there was more. That's why I stopped you.
(LONG WALK OFFSTAGE. MUSIC BRIDGE)
GK: Well, pardner. I done the best I could.
TR: I'm afraid so.
GK: I don't know where to go from here.
PW: I don't either.
GK: Yeah, but you won the spitting contest ---
PW: Life is more than spitting, mister.
GK: You want to head for Montana?
GK: Or Colorado?
TR: Could do that too.
SS: Anybody care for another rotgut ginger ale?
PW: Why not?
TR: We're in no rush.
GK: We'll just sit here and wait and see what happens. And when it does, we'll happen right along with it. (THEME)
SS: The Lives of the Cowboys.....brought to you by Old Faithful Brand Deodorant.....with thousands of tiny time-release aromatic capsules....so every 72 minutes or so, you smell really good.
© 1997 by Garrison Keillor