Sunday, June 04, 2017

A Good Story

Brown Smith and Wilmeth
                           A Good Story                         
In Search of Moochie
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            This world is far from sane.
            In fact, the chaos outpaces any hint of goodness. There is violence or slander in every direction. The daily cultural assault is matched only by the cynicism that has enveloped every aspect of our lives. When digging post holes is preferred to being subjected to any form of media, something dramatic has taken place. That is why mornings have become preferred times. The cool air is wafting through the open window and there is temporary peace. It won’t last long, though. I am headed out shortly to spend the day in surroundings that I have some degree of control.
            It is there that ideas often come to visit. They don’t appeal to most, but they appeal to me. If only a fence could be built there, a water source installed there, or, more importantly, if we could only have a real monsoon.
            Each of those is the basis of a good story. What did we learn from Pollyanna as kids? There are some 826 good stories. We just have to find them.
            In Search of Moochie
            The times of the ‘50s and ‘60s were the best. That was particularly true if rural or small town America was the setting. Among all the influences were movies with good stories. Walt Disney was a huge influence and we knew him personally. He spoke to us every Sunday evening when he introduced the story line before his Wide World. During the week, we watched Jimmie, Annette, and the rest of the Mousekateers. We could sing along.
            Old Yeller was the only real hiccup out of all his productions. Dragging us to see Old Yeller shot from a case of rabies was a most traumatic experience. I can remember the theater lobby when we were filing out in tow by our parents. It was akin to the recovery room after a morning of delight with Dr. Walsh separating a half dozen school mates from their tonsils. Kids were crying. The popcorn counter was closed from lack of interest and Bullard was just an avenue to escape the horror of what we had witnessed. Worse yet, we left Moochie in a permanent state of depression from the loss of his canine buddy. He would exist into eternity hearing that shot in that barn as Old Yeller was put down.
            What were you thinking, Walt?
            Perhaps it was just a forewarning of the things to come, but, in the meantime, the wonder of it all continued. The aforementioned Pollyanna was an example. What was ever wrong with making us feel good? The characters were our friends. We would forever run to see Hayley Mills in anything she did, but the character of the half century had to be Moochie. His real name was Kevin Corcoran, but he was Moochie to us and remains so. With that mop of hair and sing song voice, he was the absolute epitome of our childhood good guy and friend. Our familiarity with him was absolute and complete. He would have been sitting there on Saturday mornings tuned with us to Sky King or Judge Roy Bean. He would have baited hooks on the river bank trying to catch a sucker. He would have been swinging from the rafters in the barn with us. He would have ridden pigs with us under the ultimate threat of execution by Sam if we had been caught. He would have eaten sardines and apples and drank ditchwater with us. He would have played sports, but the message from coach would have too often been, “Shut up Moochie and listen!” If he walked through the door of our class on Monday morning, it would have universally been, “Hey, Mooch, how you doin’?”
            Indeed, we knew him well. He was our friend.
            Brown Smith and Wilmeth
            I knew two real life Moochies. One was a cousin and the other was Brown Smith, he of Texas Brazos river country.
            I didn’t know Brown until we were long passed grown, but, if Moochie was real, he existed in the human form of Brown. Brown was a field man for Met Life Ag Investments based in his home state of Texas. I was always led to believe he didn’t have to work, but he liked the loan business and he liked the rural clientele. Met liked him and his near fame across the Lone Star state. He was really good at what he did.   
            “Brown Smith?” the question invariably was.
            “Yep, there has been a Brown Smith on this earth every year since before the War of Southern Rights,” he would state proudly.
            “When I was a kid, I was real bad to run off,” he said one day out of the thin air. “My dad could stand only so much of that nonsense, so he fitted me with a harness, cut a railroad tie in half, and chained me to it.”
            “Really, your dad chained you to a tie?” was the quizzical response.
            “Yep, save him lots of time and it gave me the freedom to go wherever I wanted,” was the response. “He or mom could trail me up when they wanted me to eat or sleep.”
            His delivery was always immensely effective. His timing was perfect and his sense of humor was deadly.
            His personal life was fascinating. He would do things like fly his Cessna to the tip of Tierra del Fuego.
            “You flew your plane from Texas to the tip of South America?” was the question trying to read his eyes and expression.
            “Yea, why not?” was the answer. “I only had two weeks or I’da flown it further.”
            The story for the ages, though, was when he described how he came to be a member of Prince Phillips’ hunt club. I can’t remember the actual genesis of the invitation (or is it the discreetness of keeping some things left unsaid?), but his rendition of practicing riding in his “colors” on his newly acquired English saddle was hilarious. His English stable mates had an underlying fear that the new member from Texas would embarrass them on the day of the big royal hunt. They had insisted he acquire the right clothes and tack. Their worst fear was that Brown would show up with his boots, leggin’s and seasoned M. L. Leddy silver belly. They also insisted he practice before he made the crossing.
            “So, I was down in the pasture jumping mesquites when I noticed neighbors stopping on the highway watching me,” he remembered. “There they were leaning on the fence and talking among themselves.”
            “They were offering encouragement, too,” he recalled.
            “Hey, Brown, are you practicing to be a jockey?”
            When he assembled with the hunt master and the crew in England, he was assigned a special host to make sure all went well. He had been asked if he needed a second ride during the day.
            “No, me and one old horse ought to be able to make it just fine,” he had told him. When they brought his horse to him, though, he hadn’t expected something he needed a ladder to climb aboard.
            “They offered a leg up or suggested to rely on the point of the lorry,” he continued. “I didn’t know what they were talking about.”
            Finally, they were off and going cross country through the English countryside. He and “James” worked things out but he had a hard time remounting after midmorning tea. Taking time to “whistle” was an even harder nut to crack.
            “There wasn’t a ladder and not a lorry in sight by that time.”
            By the second half of the day, Brown had decided that nobody could ever convince him those Limeys didn’t know anything about riding.
“Those ol’ boys are horsemen I’ll tell you!”
Finally, at 4:00, the huntmaster sounded his horn and the dog master was told to kennel his hounds. Brown was looking for a lorry to load their horses and trailer them the 20 miles or so home.
“They sounded the damn horn and told us to assemble on the hard surface,” he recalled with horror. “We trotted 20 miles home!”
The following morning Brown had a hard time rolling out. By the third morning, he could hardly get out of bed.
“James wouldn’t even come out of his stall when he saw me,” was his final line with those eyes lit and that smile dancing Moochie like. “I had hammered that old horse’s back so bad he had a permanent crease, but, hey, I had hunted with England’s best and me and the queen’s men are buds.”
Indeed, Brown … you had many buds.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The Brown Smith and Wilmeth idea was intended to be our retirement vocatioin. We were going to sell farms and ranches and Brown thought the name had a Wall Street sort of ring to it.”

Here is the trailer for the Old Yeller DVD

If you are up to it, here is the rabies scene. I had to turn the volume way up to hear it.

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