Monday, January 25, 2010

“Get comfortable. It’s a long story.”

So says Dan Mercer, cowboy protagonist in Bobby R. Woodall's western, Mercer's Manor. I met Bobby Robert on Facebook and knew right away I'd linked up with a real storyteller. He's a cowboy from way back, wearing a patch over one eye, boots and the ubiquitous hat. He's in his mid-sixties, a Christian ("worshipping with the saints" every Sunday), and is happily married with two kids and four grandchildren. Bobby calls his wife "Babe" and every other woman "Doll." He was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps on January 9, 1964. And now--he writes. To date he's published two westerns, Clearwater and Mercer's Manor. Of his novels, Bobby says, they "have neither profanity nor graphic sex scenes. The English language is too full of proper words to have to resort to profanity. Also I am not the world’s mommy and daddy. People should learn about sex from their parents."

Bobby agreed to stop by F&F today to answer some questions. Which means--tell a few stories.

Bobby, you have more than one down-and-dirty barroom brawl scene in Mercer’s Manor. I suppose that’s about required for all rip-roarin’ westerns? I hear you have a story from your own life about a barroom fight.

I’m from Oklahoma originally but have lived in Indiana for the last 39 years. I used to be a cowboy. In fact when I met my wife I was shoeing horses and mules at a dude ranch (Stupid Charley’s). The name of the ranch is funny, as my wife and her college roommate had a lab mouse from college named “Stupid Charley." This mouse was all the time running backwards, so they just named him Stupid Charley. Anyway, the two girls wanted to have an adventure and summer was coming up at college, so they decided to look in magazines for dude ranches. In the meantime, a buddy of mine and I decided to go to California to become gigolos. We figured we were good looking dudes, and women would be falling over each other to get at us. As luck would have it, we two Romeos were in a bar, got in a brawl and finally deposited at the gutter in front of the establishment.

The brawl started with my friend, Robert, who had a firecracker called a screamer in his back pocket (it was around the 4th of July). One of the patrons at the bar was a drunken Indian who decided to walk around us. In the process, he spied the firecracker sticking out of Roberts butt pocket. Grinning to himself, the drunk applied the lit end of his cigar to the fuse of the screamer. I was at the far end of the bar, trying to put the make on a lovely Indian maiden. I say lovely because she had at least three teeth in her mouth--two stained with berry juice and one yellowed and broken. Plus her hair looked as if it was due an oil change any minute.

All of a sudden, Robert let out a whoop and holler. Seems as the firecracker was burning its fuse, he was being burnt in the butt. He quickly reached behind him to remove the offending screamer, but got burnt; therefore he threw his hand up in the air and hollered. I thought he was making fun of the Indians by doing an impromptu war dance. The battle was on. I looked around and hit the first person I saw (a big Indian). My Paw had told me to always get in the first punch. He in return hit me back (it was only right as I had hit him first). After having my facial features rearranged by Hiawatha and moving my nose to where my right ear was, I backed up to a juke box that was blaring out "Honky-tonk Angels." Raising my fists to ward off more blows, I looked out of the corner of my eye that was not already closed and saw Robert take on two more of the noble breed. To make a long story even longer, we were thrashed royally, or to put it in plain English, beaten almost to a pulp and thrown in the gutter.

We crawled to our car, and the next morning there was a tap on the side window. Bleary-eyed, I looked out the window and could have sworn it was Wyatt Earp or maybe Wild Bill Hitchcock. This apparition staring back at me was dressed up in full cowboy regalia; chaps, boots, Levis, etc. He even had a handlebar moustache stained with tobacco juice. His dishwater hair peeked out from under the biggest Stetson I'd ever seen. Rolling down my window a smidge, I asked what he wanted. "You boys shoe horses?" I was raised on a farm so I stated that we did, although I knew Robert was scared of horses. That meant that yours truly would be doing all the work.

We worked at the dude ranch, and there I met my wife. I knew her 30 minutes and asked her to marry me. I'll be the first to admit I was a tad slow, but I had to know her name first. One has to set his priorities right. We eloped and then started the long saga of the adventures of BobbyRobert. We just had our 40th anniversary last August 1st.

That's quite a story, Bobby. I'd bet a lot more of your life may have ended up in your novels in some form. In Mercer's Manor
Dan Mercer recalls his mother saying: “Son, you always be prepared. Never know when the good Lord has a surprise waiting for you, be it good or be it evil.” Has this saying played out in your own life?

Sure it has, very often. My Granny used to tell me that when I was growing up. The lesson I learned was be prepared. I don't cotton to surprises. That way when they come, be they good or evil, I accept them. But I try to make the bad experiences be good. For instance, I had a horrible auto accident 35 years ago that left me with brain damage. (No, I’m not a babbling idiot, although my wife would disagree with me sometimes.) My car hit two mail boxes and one telephone pole, and rolled end over end five times. I was declared legally “dead” three times. I was in a coma for 47 days. Funny thing though. I did not break one bone in the accident, but after two weeks in the hospital's neurological unit, I was dropped out of bed and broke my hip socket. Let me tell you the hospital wasn’t safe at all! The doctors told my wife if I survived I would be a vegetable. This carrot not only survived but authored and got two novels published.

I'm beginning to think your life has been anything but serene. Makes me think of another of Mercer's lines. He says, “All I want is some peace and quiet. I don’t want to bother anyone, and I don’t want anyone to bother me. I’ve seen enough violence and bloodshed to last me a lifetime.” Is this true of your life today?

Yes, it is, ma'am. Red Foley had a song called "Satisfied Mind." I have a satisfied mind. I don't bother people, but at the same time don't want to be bothered. When I first met my in-laws, they were shocked at my appearance. I had on Levis, pearl button cowboy shirt, Justin boots and a Stetson cowboy hat. The Midnight Cowboy didn't have anything on me! Concerning violence and bloodshed, I've been in enough fist fights to see all the blood I want, especially my own. But life is too short to wallow in self-pity. Of course I did my fair share of holding pity parties for ol' Bobby, but then I remembered. Back home in Oklahoma there was a sign that said, "I felt sorry because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet." Sure, I wear a patch, but I’m not blind. I limp somewhat especially when I’m tired, but I'm not confined to a wheel-chair. I talk in a slurred tone, but at least I’m not mute, although there have been times when my kids and wife wished it to be so. I am considered by Social Security to have Cerebral Palsy and am classified as totally disabled, not handicapped. Any time your cerebrum is damaged, the Social Security people put a large umbrella over it and call the condition Cerebral Palsy.

You sound like you're doing anything but wallowing in self pity. The mention of these physical issues reminds me of another passage from Mercer's Manor. The passage reads: Mercer … could judge people by their handshakes. Some shook your hand so weakly it felt like they had a dead fish attached to the end of the arm, a limp wrist. Others shook so violently that one would have thought that you were a well gone dry.
Bobby, can you tell a lot about a person from his/her handshake? Is there a time you misjudged someone?

It calls to mind when I first met my mother-in-law. She approached me and held out a limp wrist...


Come back tomorrow for the rest of Bobby Robert's stories. Meanwhile you can connect with Bobby on Facebook and Twitter. To read more about his books, visit his Web site.

Mercer's Manor on Amazon ($13.99)
Mercer's Manor on Kindle ($5.98)
Clearwater on Amazon ($16.95)
Clearwater on Kindle ($5.98)

Don't forget to vote for your favorite caption for Photo Friday. (There's still time to leave captions throughout today.) Winner announced tomorrow.


Winter said...

He reminds me of my great Uncle Pete. There's a story in there, just wait, it'll come. <};^)

Anonymous said...

This was great! I'll definitely be back tomorrow for more. I've never heard of this guy, but he's already blessed me with his outlook on life. And, I'm heading over to check out his books right now.


Nicole said...

He must be related to John Robinson! Love his talkin'.

Lydia Smith said...

Bobby is a natural storyteller. Thanks for sharing.

Sheila Deeth said...

I loved listening in on this conversation. I'm sure I'd love his writing too.