Howdy! Our old house was born in 1890 B.P. (Before Privy). Imagine stormy winter nights—Shudder! Confidentially, it creaks. At night, sometimes, our south bedroom window gently rattles. “Tis the wind and nothing more,” says wife Babs. I say it’s low-flying jets or low-flying SUV’s. The long-bearded gent next door says it’s pixies. We considered naming our house Franz (It lists). We named it Limberlost (I lost my limber years ago). A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST was my Mom’s favorite childhood book.
In ‘95 Babs and I made our Eastward Ho! Eureka! We found our Limberlost. It’s our enchanted Irish woodland of a backyard. Fitting, for our wee house was built for Leprechauns. How wee is it? Well, the mice are hump-backed. You have to go out on the porch to change your mind. When you turn the door knob, you rearrange the furniture. I’d call that pretty wee. For a long time, seven folks inhabited this house, plus pets. How they managed, I’ll never know. They must have used Vaseline.
After her Mom died last August, Babs, the good taste lady, set about re-birthin’ Limberlost. She had the outside painted from tattletale gray to barn red with mustard yellow and Limberlost green trim. She interior-decorated American country style. She just loves antiques, I being a case in point. Over our newly crackled fireplace, Babs took down a life-size portrait of her sainted ex-husband, Chris (his eyes used to follow me all around the room). She replaced it with a big print of bears dancing in the forest. Then our Polish pals, Roman and Marek, peeled, planed, plastered, primed and painted upstairs and down. Everything was under control. Why, at last, I managed to get some grass growin’ out on the tree-shaded bald spots. Limberlost is Babs’ beautiful year-long valentine, a magic heritage for the neighborhood and for those who follow. Good goin’, gal.
When you come into our house you are greeted by a stairway leading up to the bedrooms. Prior to the paint job, the stairway wall was a mosaic of black-framed autographed 8x10 glossies of our pals. The pictures on our wall of fame covered a multitude of stains. The house looked not unlike a cheap agent’s office. Now, our rogue’s gallery is consigned to the deep…to the walls of my basement playroom, my guilt-free zone, where I practice my Four R’s: Readin’, Ritin’, Ruminatin’ and Roisterin’—all I lack is Hutch’s Hideaway (entrance through a secret panel), to be used only in emergencies, such as visits from Aunt Hattie or Babs stalkin’ me to mow the lawn.
I’m computer challenged, but I have my share of websites down here. I never get lonesome, not with all my compadres on the walls. Howdy, Jocko, Irish, Sue Ane, Dobe, Verna, Jim—Ah, Jim! What a nifty photo, pard. Ol’ Jim in cowboy duds, battered hat like his dad’s, lookin’ over his shoulder with a shy, honest smile—the inscription: “To two great new friends, Will and Barbara—Thank God for Memphis, Jim Rogers.” Ay dogies, the son of The Cherokee Kid, Will Rogers, my all-time hero.
You know, one of the good things about being an ex-TV cowpoke is travelin’ the Nostalgia Trail, meetin’ old friends, makin’ new friends. Back in August ‘85, Babs and I were invited to the Memphis Western Film Festival. Horse Sense told us to fly Republic Airlines—Rough ride—no atheists aboard. I never met a Jim Rogers I didn’t like. At the welcome dinner I had the good luck to sit next to him. Felt I’d known him all my life. Like his dad, he seemed to have time for everybody. We exchanged secret Sagehen handshakes. We’d both gone to Pomona College in California. Memphis is a mecca for movie crazies. I was a kid again in a candy store. Couldn’t get my fill of serials and oaters. Loved Jim and Noah Beery Jr. in Hal Roach Jr.’s “Calaboose”. Wild slapstick. Jim allowed as how his dad was the world’s greatest all-around roper, and seeing “The Ropin’ Fool” made me a believer. I asked Jim what was the hardest trick for Will: Throwin’ a figure-eight around a speedin’ horse, lassoin’ a rat with a string? “Nope,” said Jim. “The opening shot shows Will, hell bent for leather, ridin’ down a hill, twirlin’ his lariat above his head, in hot pursuit of a longhorn. Took all day to get the critter to run straight at us. He was plum camera shy.” Yessir, Jim told me some mighty spellbinding yarns about his childhood, his dad, Mom, sister and brother—and brother, I’d like to tell ‘em to you right now, but I believe they’ll wait till next we gather ‘round the campfire. I see ol’ Boyd in the wings with a pretty big hook—so, I guess I’ll just do my Sugarfoot shuffle off…I figure y’all know that Jim Rogers passed on through at 84 in 2000 up at his ranch in Bakersfield. I’ll always have his picture. Adios, Jim, Sunset, Elvis, Woody, Wayde. Our ranks diminisheth. As poet Edna St. Vincent Millay put it: “I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind… I know—But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”