Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Perfect Day Gets "Perfecter"

This morning, a couple hours before the parade (me and the banjo are riding the "bandwagon" with some floozies from the Oriental Saloon) I am in the dusty streets of Tombstone, enjoying the perfect weather, the brilliantly bright but not oppressive sun, trying to teach two German girls the fine art of "moseying." The mosey is an essential gait to master if you wish to be comfortable in the west. It is done at a leisurely pace, not aimless, but not driven either. I'm pointing out some of the beautiful customs of the Old West. Hats are tipped, strangers greeted politely, children addressed as equals. The German girls are getting into the whole thing. We stop by the Dry Goods store so that they can buy some appropriate apparal for the shows today. Last night they felt very left out because they were dressed in modern clothing. We aim to remedy that, but, this is the west, there ain't no rush.

They are Germans though, their eyes keep leaving the street to check our progress toward our goal. Their strides lengthen, they begin to ignore passersby and purposefully move toward their goal. I gently remind them that there is plenty of time in the day. We ain't burning daylight mien damen.

We settle back into a gentle mosey when from out of nowhere I am grabbed about the waist by two sets of arms. Then the joyous shouting starts "Uncle Minstrel! Uncle Minstel!" I look down to find the Sgt. Major's beautiful twin daughters. Hugs and introductions are made and they girls breathlessly tell me that their father is riding with the 9th Cavalry Color Guard for the first time in today's parade. One of the beauties gives me a very solemn look and says "He's real nervous. He's riding on a borrowed horse and he thinks that it doesn't like him much." I begin to laugh it off and the other girl says "Did you bring your horses Uncle Minstrel? If he could ride Sally or Rosalita it would make him feel so much better." I tell them that I did, indeed, bring my horses. Except it might not be proper, that Color Guard is a very important duty and that the horses they have are trained especially for staying in line and close together. I suggest that there is something I have back at my trailer which will help to make their father less nervous. First however, we have to get the Germans to the store, and, giving a wink to their mother, "I think that they have some good old fashioned Wild West Candy at that same store." The little girls tell me I'm a genius.

We are chattering and having a great time the rest of the way to the store. The girls want to know what I'm doing down here and I tell them about the two shows we're doing at the opera house today, then I ask their mother if they would like to be my guest for tonight's big show. She promises to talk it over with her husband but she can't think of anything else they would want to do tonight.

Clothes and candy are purchased and with only a short stop into the Oriental Saloon for a Sarsaparilla on draught we head to my trailer digs. I duck in to change into my show duds. Nothing outrageous, just a bit cleaner, and brighter colors of my usual jeans, shirt and hat. I'm wearing the pearl grey, gunfighter blocked, Stetson with the coral snake hat band and two eagle feathers. I snatch up my banjo and grab my present for the Sgt. Major out of a drawer.

We head off to the staging area for the parade and the girls drag me at a rapid clip off to where their father and the other 9th Cavalry troops are putting the final spit and polish touches on themselves and their mounts. He beams 200watt brilliance when he sees who is with his girls. He looks perfect. They are wearing their "dress" uniforms, with full medals and I can tell at a glance that the Sgt. Major has seen the elephant a time or two himself. He introduces me to the other members of his unit and we shake hands and go through the required pleasantries. Just when the pauses begin to feel pressured I remember that I have brought him a gift. I tell him that the 9th and the 10th Cavalry were both stationed up in the White Mountains and that their scouts and a good percentage of their complement was made up of full pledged White Mountain Apache troopers. I tell them that my grandfather remembered making a little extra change when he was a boy by shining cavalry boots and always said that African Americans were among his favorite white people, they were in a tie with the Irish, who are only technically white. Then I open my banjo case and bring out a little bundle of red cloth. I tell them that when the Apache and the Buffalo Soldiers rode together the Apache gave battle honors to the Cavalry troopers in the exact same way they had always done. I open the bundle and hand a red-fluff-tipped eagle feather to the Sgt. Major. I tell him that I can see that his Bronze Star has the "V" device and Oak Leaves. I tell him that an eagle feather decorated like this one is the highest honor that an Apache Warrior can give to another.

Then we go over to the Sgt's mount and I braid the feather into the mane, just behind the ears. It looks gorgeous. I tell them that I have to find the people that I'm riding with in the parade but hope to see them all after the show.

As I track down the bandwagon and the floozies and see the owner/producer of the Birdcage there. I suggest to him that the Color Guard and their families would be a great thing to have in the Mayor's box at the afternoon show. He agrees that this would be a wonderful idea and scurries off to work it out with Buffalo Soldiers.

I get "Susannah" (my banjo was given a name by the people that made it instead of a serial or model number) and tune up.

The parade begins and the floozies and I begin to sing

words and music by Daniel Emmett

I come to town the other night,
To hear the noise and see the fight
The watchman was a running around
He hollered "Old Dan Tucker's come to town!"


Get out the way for Old Dan Tucker
He's to late to get no supper
Supper's done, breakfast's a cookin'
Old Dan Tucker's jest a standin' there a'lookin'

Old Dan Tucker was a mighty man,
Washed his face in a frying pan,
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
Died from toothache in his heel.


Old Dan Tucker he come to town,
Riding a billygoat, leading a hound,
Hound dog bark and the billygoat jump,
Throwed Dan Tucker on a stump.


Old Dan Tucker, he got drunk,
Fell in the fire and he kicked up a chunk,
Red hot coal got in his shoe,
Oh my Lawdy how the ashes flew.


Old Dan Tucker, he come to town,
Swinging the ladies round and round,
First to the right and then to the left
And then to the gal that he loved best.


Ol' Dan Tucker clumb up a tree,
His Lord and Master for to see,
The limb it broke and Dan got a fall,
Never got to see his Lord at all.


Ol' Dan Tucker went to the mill,
To git some meal to put in the swill;
The miller swore by the p'int of his knife
He never seed such a man in his life.


Dan Tucker begun in early life
To play the banjo and the fife;
He'd play the boys and gals to sleep
And then into some bunk he'd creep.




Blogger Sherry said...

a perfect day. so much more than just a "small bright spot"

thanks for sharing.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Boxer rebel said...

That does sound like a perfect day. I also have to say that the guitar/music teacher at my preschool taught my kids Old Dan Tucker and now they love to sing that. We even hear it occasionally just randomly out of the blue where they will start to sing the chorus. It was great for me to see the actual lyrics to the song as I only really knew the chorus.

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

When my brother and I were little, my dad would give us baths and teach us songs like "Old Dan Tucker." I was reminded of this last weekend when my Dad and other family members were in celebrating his 85th. We went around the room, telling Dad of fond and or funny things that we remembered about growing up with him. I came up with this and, immediately, my bro and I launched into songs that we haven't sung in 50 years. Dad was really surprised, I think.

On another note--I spent part of my childhood in California and still have a romantic nostalgia of the Old West--never quite made it to Tombstone, though.

I'm sure your gift to the Sgt. Major was most cherished!

3:16 PM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Please please tell me someone took a photo of the feather in the horse's mane. I have an owl feather inside over my front door. Someone told me it brings good luck. So far, so good.

12:08 PM  

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