My last act as a long-time gunslinger for Pollardville Ghost Town involved a road trip up to Jamestown for an event known as the Gunfighter Rendezvous. Basically, it's a Shriner's convention with guns or a cowboy version of Comic-Con. The visiting gunfighter groups from around the state differed from us-a merry band of goofballs, clowns and miscreants-in their whole approach to the concept of wild west shows. They were re-enactors, not unlike those Civil War buffs that play out the Battle of Gettysburg in some Wal-Mart parking lot near East Bumfuck, Texas. These folks were historically accurate in every way-costumes, speech, demeanor-and their shows were deadly dull to the bone. This made up the bulk of those attending the Jamestown Rendezvous. Then there was us, dressed in our finest thrift store gear, parading about the proceedings like a bunch of rodeo clowns on happy juice.
Needless to say, we weren't very popular with the other groups. As for the audiences watching our shows, well, let's put it this way. No one yawned. Instead they laughed and laughed often. We provided something the others weren't: ENTERTAINMENT. (Well, at least our interpretation of the concept in this context.) It sure beat the hell out of sleeping through their version of Gunfight at the OK Corral. It was the kind of crap that kills Living History.
(Not the Pollardville version of that legendary Tombstone tale of which I did not take part. That was lean and mean...and about a half hour shorter.)
The big to-do at these proceedings involved a recreation of The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, the attempted bank robbery by the Jesse James gang that ended in a massive shootout. All the gunfighter groups were to participate in this re-enactment,even us. Well, once the shooting started, it didn't let up. I, for one, didn't go down with one shot. Naturally, I had just been winged and kept firing long after the James boys were long gone. Hey, I didn't come all this way to be merely atmosphere. I wanted to change history. But when the gun smoke cleared, reality reared its ugly head. We were just playing Cowboys and Indians or Good Guys and Bad Guys or as we used to call it in my neighborhood, Guns.
Some things never change. Boys will always be boys.
The Pollardville Gunslingers' main show that day took place on, naturally, Main Street not far from the Jamestown Hotel. We picked the perennial "favorite" gunfight known as SADDLE DROP, the first skit most of us at that time learned as soon we strapped on a gun belt. We chose this because it utilized all the gunslingers we brought along, specifically the "3 free shots" gag we had added over the years. At one point, the sheriff tells his adversary that he probably couldn't hit the broadside of a barn, so he allows the varmint three tries to take him down. The first shot could be a guy standing off to the side holding a filled paper or strofoam cup with his finger covering a hole near the bottom. When the shot is fired, the finger is removed and water pours out of what looks like a bullet hole. It is then that the first victim of collateral damage falls to the ground. (This was Bill Humpheys' gag.) The second shot, a squawk is heard as a rubber chicken is flung up in the air and into the middle of the street. The last is a trick bullet that nails about four to five cowboys that drop to the street one after the other.
The only problem was that we forgot the rubber chicken. Steve Orr, who didn't participate in this particular year's Rendezvous but came up to support us, came to our rescue. He told us not to worry and went into the local market to make a purchase: a whole raw chicken from the meat counter . When the second shot was fired, a squawk rang out and Steve, standing off to the side, lobbed that poultry into the air. It landed smack dab in the middle of the street....SPLAT! Right on cue.
Neil Pollard, who also had been visiting that day, checked out the carcass after the gunfight.
"You know, it shame to waste a chicken like that. I should bring it back to the restaurant," he said.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if Neil wasn't kidding.
That late afternoon, John Himle, the legend known as JT Buck and I hopped into his car and headed down Main Street out of Jamestown and back to Stockton. I was only a passenger, not in control of the situation, much as I had been the whole weekend. To tell you the truth, I was just another body. The time had finally come to hang up my six gun once and for all. The fun had gone out of it way before this trip and I wasn't just going through the motions, I had just been showing up.In true Himle fashion, John popped in a cassette of the COLORS soundtrack with Ice-T on the title track, rolled down the windows and cranked up the volume. Sure, it was an ass move but the absurdity of it made me smile. After all, what were cowboys but the gangbangers of their time? As we low-rode out of town , all eyes on the street-gunfighter, tourist, resident- glared at us as we passed.. I rode with my friend Buck into the sunset, a ill-fitting, but somehow appropriate to this, my last round-up as a Pollardville Ghost Town gunslinger.
You were expecting "Happy Trails"?