INT: AT THE BAR IN A WESTERN SALOON – PRESENT DAY – NIGHT
“Howdy Mam, You’re not from around here are you?
“Well, yes I am. I live three miles East of town with my husband and raise Hereford cattle.
She smiles and takes a sip of Pinot Grigio.
Yeh, but you weren’t always from here, were ya?
The woman swivels around in the bar stool, unwraps a gorgeous large scarf, and faces her inquisitor square in the eye:
“Well, Pardner, you got me there. It’s a long story, but let me buy ya a drink and I’ll try and give it to you short and straight.”
This exchange happens about every week. Some stranger at the local watering hole in Little Twig, Montana asks the woman, that is, me, those questions. Not sure whether it’s the hat I’ve got on, or the cat’s eye glasses, or the designer scarf, or what, but I get spotted for an outsider right away. Oh, and, before we go any further most people don’t talk in Old Timey kind of jargon. That’s just how I hear it in my head sometimes.
I could begin my story by telling the tale of how I met a rancher while visiting a movie set in Montana and soon after got the boot from a Hollywood talent agency and ended up moving to the ranch.
Or I could begin my story when I stopped working on my doctoral dissertation on “The Actor’s Studio’s Influence on Film” and flew the coop to try and act and direct plays in New York City.
Or further back yet to watching “Smilin’ Ed’s Gang” that I called “The Buster Brown Show” because it was sponsored by Buster Brown Shoes. “Buster Brown, he lives in a shoe. Here’s his dog Tige, he lives there too.” When Ed died, Andy Devine took over and it became “Andy’s Gang”. “I’ve got a gang. You’ve got a gang. Everybody’s got to have a gang.” Both shows featured Squeaky the Mouse, Midnight the Cat (a very creepy black cat with a real head and fake paws), and most memorably for me, Froggy the Gremlin.
Sister Deb and I getting ready to watch Froggy.
Each week Froggy would be summoned by Andy with a strange command: “Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy.” And Froggy would appear in a puff of smoke on top of the grandfather clock and greet the kids with a deep gravelly bass voice, “Hiya kids, hiya, hiya, hiya.”
He would do something horrible to an adult each week. Then he would hop up and down and say, “I promise to be good, I will, I will, I will. For example:
MONSIEUR BON BON (with French accent)
So you take zee noodles and mix them with zee red tomato sauce….
FROGGY (who appears on top of the clock)
And you pour it on your head.
MONSIEUR BON BON
And you pour it on your head.
(and he pours it on his head)
Oh noooooo! Look what you have done.
FROGGY (hopping about)
Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am, I am. I promise to be good. I will, I will, I will.
The next week, the guest is a scientist.
SCIENTIST (with German accent)
You take de tube of sulfuric acid…
And you pour it in your ear.
And you pour it in your ear.
(And he pours it in his ear and smoke comes out of it)
OOOOH NOOOO! Look what you made me do.
FROGGY (Hopping about)
I promise to be good. I will, I will, I will.
Froggy stirred things up and every week proved that adults were a bunch of boobs. Also, Froggy liked to say to Andy, “You big square!” So Froggy had more than a bit of beatnik in him too. That was some cool gremlin. Be bop a do. No wonder I dreamed of being a real hip cat and blowin’ each current pop stand I was inhabiting.
When I think about this show that encourages defying authority and at the same time preaches the importance of solidarity as in being part of a gang, it’s no wonder some parents viewed this as wicked and subversive. Well, because it was…subversive that is. I especially liked the subversive part at the end of the show when Andy would tell all the kids after they had watched Froggy do his magic, “Remember to go to church this week and Sunday school.” Oh right, that’s the ticket. Sin all week and then make sure you go to church to even the odds.
So with family runaways like Aunt Dorothy in fox furs and Grandpa who stowed away in a ship’s hold to get to America as role models and a mentor like Froggy, how could I not become a little anarchist with a tendency to try to escape the cage called adulthood? Hey, I’m sorry, I am, I am, I am!
Further study on Froggy and Friends:
And the creepy Midnight the Cat and Squeaky the Mouse do Three Blind Mice
Old Blisters: Cracking More Bar Codes
It was a cold, dark, and icy night as Daphne made her way toward Little Twig, Montana. The sun had set at 4:30 PM and there was hardly a sliver of moon to light the way into town. As she pulled up Main Street the sign on the bank read -2 degrees. The outfits in front of The Grand Saloon were all running with nobody in them as she pulled up beside them. Daphne decided to turn her outfit off since she was just coming in for a quick one. Making her way through the exhaust fumes, she entered the bar. As usual for this type of weather she was wearing her sister Deb’s long mink coat, a trapper’s hat and knee high boots. (There was no reason to forsake fashion in sub zero weather; none whatsoever.)
On nights like this, Daphne liked to imagine herself in an old 1930s Klondike movie like “Call of the Wild” with Clark Gable and Loretta Young. Her real life saloon was very much like those movie saloons that sat at the edge of the frontier. It was also very much like that bar at the edge of the galactic frontier in “Star Wars”. And like that outer space bar, all kinds of aliens from all kinds of different planets would meet, rub elbows , and occasionally get into a scuffle.
She stopped and cased the joint. As usual Ed who sticks to himself was sitting in the corner eating an oyster poor boy special. Jingo John sat in the rocking chair by the fire singing a old-timey tune to himself. That’s mostly because nobody wants to talk to him as he is not endowed with much for imaginative talk and usually has his underwear showing underneath his overalls. At the bar sat the regular happy hour duo of Cal and Carl who are just about to leave as it is a little after six and the drinks go up a buck. Behind the bar Claudia, the sultry Mexican bartenderess, scribbled down what they owed. Daphne sidled up next to Carl. Just then a blast of cold air ushered in Sonny Stevens who sat down at the end of the bar. Continue reading →
Posted in Low Places, Montana Life, Social Commentary
Tagged feminism, gender, Montana