BITS and PIECES # 29

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May 20, 2013 by palamow

BITS and PIECES # 29

Hello again from Luquillo,
I’ve been working non-stop on three new stories — regrettably, none of the three are at a stage of development that I deem sufficient to share with you. So, I’ll continue to grind-away on them, in hopes of having at least one of them available for you to read with my next blog posting in a week or so…

In the meantime, I have ‘resuscitated’ a short piece from my 2011 short story collection ‘Snapshots from the Road’ that I think you might enjoy, especially if you haven’t already seen it…

See what you think:

A COWBOY CONVERSATION

In 1950, my father had just finished portraying medicine show entrepreneur, Dr. A. Locksley Hall in John Ford’s epic western film ‘Wagonmaster’. He had convinced my mother that they should host a “wrap” party for the cast and crew at our home in Beverly Hills.

On the appointed day, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Joanne Dru, Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Jane Darwell, James Arness, and other members of the cast and crew gathered in our living room to share mom’s delicious hors d’ oeuvres and sample drinks from dad’s ample cocktail cart. They were all quite ready to relax and ‘let their hair down’ after working long hours for an exacting taskmaster.

As the afternoon wore on, someone — I believe it was Joanne Dru, organized everyone into teams to play a popular parlor game of the era, called ‘Charades’.

At this point Ben Johnson ambled to the kitchen in search of coffee – he was no parlor game enthusiast and not much of a drinker either. When he saw me seated at the kitchen table working on my homework, he asked if I wanted some company.

I had been introduced to Ben on a recent Saturday afternoon – dad had taken me along with him to the studio to watch as some of Wagonmaster’s interior scenes were shot .When I discovered that Mr. Johnson was not merely an actor, but a real-life cowboy and champion bronco rider and roper, I was hooked!

I quickly agreed –- he sat at one end of the table, tipping his chair back, crossing his long legs in front of him. I was an awkward, bashful teenager back then, so I was a little tongue-tied at first, but Ben’s easy-going manner quickly changed that. We talked for an hour or so – at one point I ran upstairs to my room to fetch my prized Remington pump-action .22 caliber rifle –- when I proudly showed it to him, he drawled “Handy lookin’ piece”.

At some point during our conversation, I noticed that although he wore a western styled suit and carried a tall Stetson hat, he wasn’t wearing cowboy boots!

When I asked him why he wasn’t.’ He replied ‘Cowboy boots have those high heels –- I was always turnin’ my ankles on ‘em and they got stuck in my stirrups, so I bought me these low-heeled boots.’

The next day I used my paper-route savings to buy a postal money order so I could send off for a pair of ‘Norm Thompson Adventure Boots’ I’d seen advertised in ‘True Adventures’ magazine –- they had low heels, just like Ben’s…

Even now, I can still picture Ben Johnson sitting across the kitchen table, laconically sharing tales of his cattle ranching and rodeo ridin’ an ropin’ days –- treating a spellbound teenage kid just as if he was an old cowboy pal.

Following Ben’s lead, I promptly named my pump-action Remington rifle “Old Handy”…

© 2011 Alan Mowbray Jr.

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One thought on “BITS and PIECES # 29

  1. Alan: A superb story…Ben Johnson was a great ‘Natural’ in westerns , as well as Ward Bond..with the Duke….Ben was terrific in the “Wild Bunch< "Shane". "Dillinger" with his sidekick Warren Oates. Ben rode "Tall in the Saddlde" with the very best….and I read that Ford's "Wagonmaster" was one of his, JF's, favorite films….I do just recall Alan Sr's role as a snakeoil salesman
    A wonderful real-life experience……hadda few Myself….regards and keep Laffin'…ph

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