March 24, 2019

Whenever I’m trying to solve a really perplexing problem, I pack my saddle bags with a few apples, a package of beef jerky, a couple of mason jars full of old Kentucky bourbon, tie an extra blanket, rolled up, to the back of my saddle, put my harmonica in my shirt pocket, saddle up Hubris and head for the high timber country. Nothing clears the head of confusion like the smell of  tall pines in cool, clean, high-mountain air—from the back of a happy horse!

     Jack’s problem gave me quite a bit to think about. I had a pretty clear view of the situation within Lefty’s bunch and there was still plenty of time to watch that mess come to a boil and bring the better elements to the top of the pot. Lefty’s problem was how to find a pot big enough to fit all the characters who wanted to jump into that hot water. Jack’s problem was finding anyone who wanted to even get near the pot, much less jump into the water. That “Present Management” that Jack was complaining about had the rest of his team living in fear of being the bosses next Twitter target. Besides, in that business, the crew had learned to stick with the captain even when their ship was sinking—due to his bad decision making and/or serious flaws in his character. The closest story in history and literature I could think of was Nordhoff and Hall’s Mutiny on the Bounty, but the crew on Jack’s ship evidently hadn’t quite reached that point—yet.

     I was rolled up in my blanket, close to our first night’s campfire—and I hadn’t taken a sip out of either Mason jar—when an old owl started to hoot. Owls have a way of hooting that makes an old curmudgeon like me think it is saying words— and the reason it is hooting is that it wants me to listen to what it is saying. All I could discern was that the owl was saying, “Wait!”,

“Wait!”, “Wait!”  I had no idea as to what the owl was asking me to “wait” for!  Maybe that old

bird was trying to tell me I shouldn’t waste my time trying to help Jack solve his management problem too quickly and that there was a possibility that the problem would solve itself, sooner than later?

     Rumors had been floating around in Lefty’s saloon for almost two years that there was a serious investigation of Jack’s top management in the works but if a real investigation goes on that long either the investigator can’t find anything wrong or he finds so much he can’t figure out who to put in jail first. Some guys at Lefty’s thought Jack‘s boss was really working for the Russians—but that kind of a story seems to come up about every four years—and, just between Hubris and I, we thought their top guy, Vladimir, was too smart to hire him for any job more important than “doorman” in a Moscow hotel. Besides, Vlad was an expert con-man and our top guy was a sucker for any ego-driven, tough guy willing to murder his enemies at the drop of a story in the Washington Post, or who fired off nuclear missiles like they were Chinese new year firecrackers, or miss-placed a few million Russian rubles.  Our top guy’s “best friends” were named Sal, Un and Vlad. With friends like this trio, his enemies stayed hidden in the nearest closet—that had secret access to a bathroom, the kitchen and the family room bar.

     Hubris was happily hobbled out in a grassy space in the woods and I was next to the campfire feeling warm and cozy. I decided it was time for a sip of the Kentucky nectar from the nearest Mason jar in the saddle bag next to my head. I took a few sips, pulled out my harmonica, and started to play a few bars of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”—and then I had second thoughts—and I took my harmonica away from my lips. I realized that this country of ours was in serious trouble. The old owl had gone silent, the stars were still in place above my eyes, and a cool breeze was comin’ through the pines.  “Yankee Doodle” just didn’t seem to fit my mood. I took another sip from the Mason jar, put the harmonica back to my lips and started to play “America the Beautiful” like a funeral dirge. When I finished the first verse and chorus I decided the woods had heard enough of my harmonic playing, put another log on the fire, rolled up in my blanket and—just before I fell asleep—decided the owl had told me how to deal with Jack’s problem. I just had to wait.      I awoke with the sunrise, ate an apple for breakfast, brushed my teeth with some of Kentucky’s finest, saddled up Hubris and decided to go to Howie’s place for a cup of his expensive coffee and a alfalfa cookie for Hubris. So with a hearty shout of HI Ho Hubris, Awaaywaay! –We headed down the mountain.  

Copyright, March 24, 2019, Louis J. Christen

Lou, The Lone Curmudgeon Writes Again