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Memoirs of a Yankee Cowboy

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Benjamin Patrick starts by sharing his crazy childhood. He tells it like it was in the undisciplined, crazy and wild farm country he was born to and grew up in.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - 99 Bottles of Beer

Submitted: April 11, 2019

Reads: 423

Comments: 2

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Submitted: April 11, 2019

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Memoirs of a

YANKEE COWBOY

(C) Cookie Reece April, 2019

Chapter One

 

There is a very quiet audience in the large room at the large Addiction Anonymous gathering.  Every person is mesmerized as they listen.  The tall, muscular speaker is a distinguished older man with large blue eyes and thick white hair showing below his black western hat.  His black leather vest sports badges of varied motorcycle rallies.  His voice is husky as he walks back and forth across the front of the room with the microphone.

“My full name is Benjamin Patrick.  I got shorted on a middle name.  That’s not the only thing I got shorted on.  My life was no ordinary one, although I thought it was normal at the time of each event.  Every time I tell it, I relive the disfunction, the deceit, the crashes, the losses, the highs, the lows, facing death and the results of all my addictions.

The experts say that people evolve from many places, experiences, and role models in their journey through life.  An individual’s life will be shaped by what one absorbs in the environment, culture, and/or the actions of others for or against them.

The journey in my life started in a small North Country, New York state village, only thirty- five miles by car to the Canadian border and at the foothills of the Adirondacks mountains.  When people think of New York, they think of New York City with high living, theatres, opera, Wall Street, mobsters and crime.  Some people think of the resort areas just north of the city with the term “Upstate New York.”  Further north, in the little towns below White Face Mountain, the World War II era influenced the lifestyle and the people in an entirely different way,

When I tell my stories, I have a following of people who listen for the entertainment, but they really don’t believe them to be true.  I can ensure you they are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  They are true as wild as they seem.  Well, with an embellishment here and there…maybe.”

 

The audience chuckles as the man clears his throat and takes a drink of water from the glass on the podium in the center front of the stage.  He sets the glass down and continues.

 

“Life and times were tough.  That was always Ma's excuse for the choices she made.  But one thing was for sure, she always aligned herself with others who made the same rotten choices.  During all of Ma's escapades and trips to the hospital, I never knew what to expect.  Life was colorful to say the least.  Ma would leave the house and then come home or just show up with another baby.  I never knew when she was pregnant.  She never told anyone until it was over.

As a child, I always thought some of the results of her choices were funny, except for the choice to dump me at my grandmothers and separate me from my growing number of half siblings.  Mostly, I was scared to death of the faces of men who would show up in the windows after dark looking for Ma to come out to play.

I never quite appreciated my grandmother, but she was a jewel of a lady to put up with a mixed-up kid like me.  I blamed my grandma for my mom “giving me away” to her.  It happened when my mother’s new man didn’t want me.

So, Ma took me back to live with Grandma.

One night I got bored sitting in the lamplight in the small narrow renovated chicken house.  Grandpa was sitting and smoking his pipe by his favorite place by the wood stove.  Grandma was doing her sewing.  I was sitting on a chair slightly behind and to the side of her by a big plant.  I started picking the dirt out of the plant pot and throwing it into Grandma’s hair.  Now, Grandma was not as unaware of what was happening as I thought she was.  She was also prepared, because this kind of aggravation had happened many times before when I had run out the front door.  She finally rose from her chair and turning she walked toward me as I ran to escape.  The door was locked and the only way to open it was with an old -fashioned key that Grandma had taken from the hook and was now in her apron pocket.  It was the only time I can ever remember being disciplined.  Grandma had me by the ear before I knew what was happening.”

 

There is the sound of giggles in the room.

 

“Grandma did her best.  Like the time when Ma brought me money for a haircut.  I wanted to use the money for candy, so Grandma said, ‘I’ll cut your hair, and you can keep the money.’  I jumped on that.  Grandpa sat in his favorite spot by the old wood heating stove and watched as Grandma clipped with the sewing shears.  As she cut, I watched the expression on Grandpa’s grinning face.  My last name being Patrick, he always called me Pattie and finally he chuckled, ‘Pattie, yous look like you’ve been hit in the head with a two-bladed ax.’  I ran to the mirror and to cut the story short, the next day, Grandma took me and my candy money to the barber for a fix it job.  Problem was, the barber had to give me a shaved head.  That would have been the style years later, but back then, it was time to wear a hat in every place that was permissible.

I grew up feeling animosity toward my mother.  My ma taught me some very valuable lessons though, simply with her failures and mistakes.

I have never made, nor will I ever make excuses for who I am.  A person will either like me or not like me.  That's not to say that I can't grow and learn to be a better person.  It's a little like falling in cow shit face first, getting up and looking around to see if anyone saw you.  Then you clean yourself up, and go on with life, vowing never to do that again.  Not that I really care who sees me make mistakes.  But whenever I change, it's for me, not for the crowd.  Like an old tom cat, I've lived many lives, had a few wives, wine and women.  I’ve been at the bottom of the human chain, lived life with careless abandon and took advantage of others if need be.

These are the stories of how I evolved and I hope that there will be many who see more than just the humor in it all.  Most of all, I hope that many will learn that living a careless, reckless life should only be scenes in movies and that the consequences in real life will lead to heartache and destruction.

I’m neither bragging or making excuses about the astronomical things I did that affected so many, and I don’t mean to make judgement on anyone who laid the groundwork for me.  Certainly, God was not approving of the wild abandon and movie style scenes that I created.  I’m just telling it like it is.  It’s my story of survival, mistakes, facing my sins and forgiving myself and others.  It’s a waste of good life to bemoan a life lived with reckless abandon.  I did what I knew how to do and when I knew to do better, I changed my path.  Having said all that, I got my start with the influence of booze, whoring around and occasional taking advantage of others from babyhood.

We were poor.  No, we were poorer than poor.  In upstate North Country, New York, post 1941, the war and poverty were just facts of life.  While some communities had bounced back from the Depression, we were still in it.  Some of those that worked and found a way to make it, didn't know what to do with it.

My mother, my mom’s sister and their men went on a spree around the village one night that scared me and my cousins.  I remember the men driving the cars and the women would let our hunting dog, Bruiser out to chase and grab free range chickens from their owner’s yards.  Bruiser was a good retriever and he’d run back to the car with his catch and the women would throw them in the trunk of the car.  Then he’d take off again for another chicken.  Later at our house, the women were dipping the dead birds in the boiling water, plucking the feathers, cleaning and cutting them up.  There were feathers, blood and guts all over the kitchen.”

 

There is a slight teetering of laughter in the audience.

 

“I was watching from a window when the bubble light on top of the local cop car flowed across the driveway and lit up the house.  There was a knock on the kitchen door as the women quickly threw towels and lids over the carcasses.  My aunt dimmed the lamp light.  Ma opened the door just wide enough and the cop said, ‘We hear that there are a lot of missing chickens here in the village.  Would you know anything about that?’

‘No sir.  No idea.’  Ma said as feathers floated out and landed on the cop’s nose and shirt.  He pushed the door open wider to the view of blood and guts all over the kitchen, obvious even in the dim lighting.”

 

There is laughter throughout that part of the story.

 

"Later, it was determined that the men would have to go to jail, but the mothers needed to be able to stay and take care of the children.  The men were only kept overnight at the small village lock-up.

This event happened just before Thanksgiving and since the evidence was not confiscated by the police, chicken was the entrée at the family dinner.  A distant cousin was invited and was not required to bring a potluck dish.  The conversation went something like this.  The cousin commented on the great taste of the meat and Ma’s answer was ‘Thank you, Raymond.  I believe that might have been your prize rooster.’  Raymond chuckled and answers: ‘Yes, well, thank you for your expert preparation and baking of him.’  I wondered as a child why that was so amusing and why Raymond wasn’t mad.”

 

The crowd is roaring with laughter.  The speaker takes a sip of water and continues.

 

“Since there were more women than men due to the war, sisters dated and perhaps married the same men one after the other in many cases.  When a woman got tired of one man, she might pass him on to the sister.  As a consequence, I had siblings who were also my cousins.  That was a practice that never set well with me, even as a child after I was old enough to understand what was going on.  It was hard to sort out relatives or know who to date when I grew old enough.

As I got a little older and my half -sisters that belonged to my ma came along, we were used to help in the scavenging business efforts of Ma and her new husband.  The men would take us to an old abandoned military base.  The men would tear out iron beams and the women and kids would pick up scrap on the property.  One day I found an object that had a button on the top.  I ran and took it to Ma.  She about flipped out and took it from me. ‘That’s a hand grenade.’  She yelled.  My step-dad took the object and I never saw it again until maybe once in a story that I’ll tell later.

As for the iron beams, picture this.  The men hooked those beams onto the backs of the old trucks and pulled them into town and to the scarp yard.  The iron dragging across the blacktop created sparks that flew up in the air over the tops of the trees.  It’s amazing that the cops either didn’t notice or chose to ignore the obvious theft of government property.  But as Ma always said., ‘Times were hard.’

The thievery of other property such as ripping up of railroad ties and other items from the copper mines became family outings.  Everyone knew about it, but somehow it was not a priority for the scrap yard owners to investigate where any of it came from.

The actions of those adults set the stage for how I rationalized my actions as I grew up and as my stories evolve, you will understand what I’m talking about.  It was all done under the disguise of survival.  However, the concept of having food on the table was second priority to the parties and drunk wild memory making events at the local bars.  There the war was a betting game and excuse for rebel rousers to find a good drunken brawl and women to breed.

After my ma took me and left my pa and the farm in the few months after I was born, she was one of the women who loved to get bred.  Ma had a habit that drove her to the bar every night.  When she had a job, she spent it at the Bloody Bucket.  If she didn't have a job, she found those who enabled her habit with all the rounds she wanted, and sometimes, she would drag me along.

I can remember Ma standing me up on the bar to sing.  The patrons thought I was so cute that they would give me coins to keep singing.  I was the alternative to the juke box.  I guess I did pretty well and it got Ma the attention she so desperately wanted from men.

Now iimagine the following as a movie script that it would go something like this.

Spring,1945, The Bloody Bucket: A bar in upstate New York, foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, 35 miles from the Canadian border.

The Bloody Bucket is noisy and packed.

A small five-year-old boy stands beside a bar stool.

The woman pulls the boy up beside her A man yells out, ‘Hey, Cassie, get your boy singing.  Hey little Benny, how about 99 Bottles of Beer?’

The crowd grows quiet.

Benny grins, turns around on the revolving bar stool and belts out, ‘99 bottles of beer on the wall….’

The crowd jumps in and sings with the boy.

Benny laughs as the crowd claps their hands.

‘Hey, Benny, yous are too damn cute.’

The men gather around the mother and child.

They put coins in the fruit jar in front of the boy on the bar.

Some buys the mother rounds of beer.

Little Benny watches his mother’s glass.

When he sees an empty glass, he starts to sing, ‘On the Atkinson, Topeka and the Santa Fe.’

He pulls the pretend whistle cord, and makes the sound, ‘Whoo ooo’.

The crowd does the Whoo ooo sound with him.

He ends the song and people are clapping.

A soldier walks over and hands the boy a coin.

Little Benny laughs and bows.

‘Benny, yous are better than putting money in the juke box in the corner. Here’s a nickel.’

‘Thank you.’  Benny says and pockets the coin.

The soldier walks away without buying the mother a beer.

The boy puts some of the coins in his pocket and makes them jingle as he twirls on the bar stool.

The mother is talking to the man next to her.

Benny yells, ‘Ma, finish your beer.’

The mother keeps talking to the man.

The man slaps his leg and yells, ‘How about another round.’

The bartender puts another beer in front of mother.

The man keeps staring at the mother.  He neglects to give the boy a coin.

The boy jumps down from the stool and slaps the man on the leg.

He stares into the man’s eyes and holds out his right hand.

The mother grabs the boys left hand and pulls him around her.

She turns and points to the stool beside her. ‘Back on the stool.’  She says gruffly.

The boy crawls back up on the stool.  Another man yells out. ‘Hey little Benny, sing Bottles of Beer again.’  The boy starts again.

As it gets late, the drunks stumble out the door.

The boy yawns and slouches on the bar.  He jerks awake when the mother shakes him.

Annoyed, he slaps at her.

The man with the mother jerks the boy up onto his feet.

The mother puts a coat on him as he stumbles across the wooden floor.

The boy shivers in the cool night air.  He is shoved roughly into the back seat of a car.

‘Ma, we walked here. Where are we going?’

‘You’re going back to Grandma’s.’

‘Where are yous going, Ma?’

‘Never mind.’

The sound of the car motor hums along an old dirt road.

The boy looks up at his mother’s arched neck close to the man’s neck.

The man’s breathing is heavy.

The car stops and the mother gets out and opens the back door.

‘Go on in and go to bed.’

As the boy slowly turns and makes his way to the door,

An older lady opens the door and the boy steps inside.

The boy makes his way to the small bedroom next to the kitchen.

He grins as he pulls out his coins and lays them on the dresser.

He counts them and listens to his grandparents talking in the kitchen.

Grandmother: ‘When she’s not working for a paycheck, she’s working the men at the bar.  When she’s got a job, she’s spending it at the Bloody Bucket.  She’s always got a way to get the booze, and to hell with her little boy.  Why she drags him with her, I don’t know.’

Scene fades

It is morning. The boy exits his bedroom dressed.

The grandmother is showing the grandfather something in a chamber pot. ‘See I’m healthy as a horse.’

The boy sneaks out to the outdoor toilet as the grandmother yells, ‘Benny, come and empty this pot.’

The boy pats a dog on the head before entering.  ‘Bruiser, yous guard this door.’

Exiting the outhouse door, the boy’s attention is drawn to the car that brought him back the night before.

The man is sitting behind the wheel.

The boy walks into the kitchen where he hears an argument.

The mother is saying, ‘O.K. I’ll take Benny with us.  Pop can watch out for him while me and Bud work.’

The grandmother is speaking. ‘Well, if you’re hookin’ up with another man, it’s up to you to put your child first.’

Scene fades.

The car is stopped in front of a large farmhouse in the middle of a field.

The boy steps out of the car and looks around.

An old man stands at the door.

The man called Bud speaks to the older man. ‘Pop, yous are gonna take care of C’s kid.’

The old man nods his head and pats the boy on the back. ‘He’ll be company for me.’

Scene fades

The old man and the boy walk along a road.  They pass an orchard and come to a pasture.  Cows are feeding on the grass behind a barb wire fence.

Boy: ‘I’m afraid of the cows.’

Pop: ‘I’m here.  They won’t hurt you.’

Boy: ‘Why didn’t Ma come back last night?’

Old man: ‘Don’t know.  I’ll take care of you.  I’ll come after school and walk back with you.’

Scene fades

Winter wind blows around the old farm house and into the front door. A long telephone pole is sticking out the door and the other end is sticking in the oil heater opening.

Boy: ‘It stinks in here and it’s still cold.’

Pop: ‘Keep your coat on and stay in the kitchen.  The pole will burn down and we can close the front door.’

Boy: ‘I’m hungry.’

Pop: ‘I cooked a possum on the oil stove today.  Got him with a sledge hammer this morning.’

Boy: ‘Where’s Ma?’

Pop: ‘Who knows?  Probably her and Bud are out spending their paychecks at the bars. Bud makes good money as a painter.  I never see any of it.’

The boy sits down at the table and hungrily eats the tough meat on his plate.

Boy: ‘I like squirrel and rabbit better.’

Pop: ‘Me too.  But raccoon ain’t bad.  We have to be thankful for whatever the lord provides.’

Scene fades

It is morning.  The boy is hugging his teddy bear.

He peeks out his eyelids at a figure in the room.

The door closes as he rolls half way over and looks at the daylight filtering through the hole in the roof.

He brushes the snow off his naked butt and shivers.

He grabs the clothes laying on the floor and runs to the stairway.

The boy hears voices and stops to sit at the top step.

He pulls on his pants and goes to sit at the top of the stairs.

Pop: ‘We could die from inhalation of the smoke and fumes if it wasn’t for the air from the open door.  Of course, the house is still drafty, but the heat from the stove keeps us from freezing.’

The boy recognizes his mother’s voice: ‘There’s a big hole in that ceiling over Benny’s bed.  I think he’s getting plenty of air, but it’s a wonder he hasn’t frozen to death up there.’

She laughs as she says, ‘I went up to check on him and his butt was bare and covered with snow.  If he’s gonna stay up there, we need to put something over that hole in the roof.’

The man, Bud speaks, ‘Well, I’m not spending money to fix it, so I guess you’ll need to stretch a quilt or something over it.  If he don’t come down here and eat with us, I’m eating his share of breakfast.’

The boy rubs his burning butt cheeks and breathes in the smell of eggs and bacon.  He hurries down the steps to the kitchen as his Ma and her boyfriend head out of the house.”

 

The speaker pauses and takes  a sip of water.

 

“Pop was my guardian angel.  He always tried to take care of me.  He left an impression somewhere deep in my brain that I eventually, but not soon enough, fell back on.  His acts of kindness, and his patience taught me lessons about strength in hard times.

As I grew up, I saw my benefactor from time to time and then as an adult, I saw him on the street one last time.  I don't remember if I ever thanked him.  I hope he knew how well I thought of him and how grateful I was (and am) that he was one of the greatest, positive influences of my life.”

 

The old man pauses again and then continues speaking.

 

“There were a lot of things that happened as a kid that I most certainly can’t blame on anyone else.  I got hit by lightning standing by Ma’s car as it was sitting between the house and barn.  I was standing on wet ground.  The lightening went through me and I remember the shock vibrating in my elbows and through my body, even though it didn’t knock me down.  Some said that’s why I was always acting so addlebrained.

When I was out trick or treating with my siblings and cousins on my mother’s side, I fell on a buzz saw blade on Halloween when a man came out of a house with a vampire outfit on.  It scared me half out of my mind.  I fell up a ramp and onto the saw.  The outfit that I had cushioned me.

Now, things like this happened to everyone.  I can truly say that I had a guardian angel many times.  I just let life happen instead of living it with a purpose.

Having said all that, I can say that not all times were bad.  My cousins and my siblings had some great times together, got into some really naughty situations together and stuck together like family.  Our favorite time was to go to Sylvan Beach, ride the rides and get our pictures taken in the photo booths.

I was always angry with Ma for getting pushed aside, but after I was a bit older, she would come and get me from Grandma’s to watch the siblings while she went traipsing off with their father at night.  Mostly as a young one slightly older than they were, I instigated sneaking off across the field, climbing a fence, pulling down a car mike from an empty secluded spot and watching the drive-in movies.  That’s how I got a taste for all things adult, scary, and sometimes fun.  I decided that I wanted to be just like the daring heroes.  Then I’d have to carry or in some cases drag the kids back across the field and put them to bed before morning.

That activity came to a screeching halt one Saturday when Ma went to shop in a larger neighboring town.  I was a teen by then and living on a farm which we can talk about later.  She came out to the farm to pick me up and I didn’t want to go.  I was mad because the last thing I wanted to do was to be watching the kids.  I wanted to be back on the farm and driving the tractor and my motorcycle, which we will also talk about later.

The first thing I did when Ma was gone was to start a pillow fight.  The kids were loving it, especially the younger boys.  We had feathers all over the house.  Then came the food fight.  We threw more food than we ate.  With feathers and ketchup, mustard and eggs busted everywhere, and then add in the flour, baking powder and other ingredients…yeah that was a mess.

Ma still hadn’t come home and I took the kids outside and got them to playing hide and seek and that turned into cowboys and Indians.  I went in to the house and broke into Ma and her man’s beers.  When I came back out, the two older boys were hanging the youngest one from lower limb of a big oak tree with a rope they’d found in the shed.  Ma and her man drove in as I put down the beer and ran to lower the brother out of the noose.  I was checking him to make sure he was breathing as Ma’s man grab me with one hand and I backed away, grabbed the beer from a stump by the drive and headed out.

Ma’s man and the father of those kids wasted no time chasing me off the property.  As I was going down the drive, I looked back to see that the little guy was now running and chasing the boys who had tried to hang him.  I walked the full five miles back to the farm, got on my motorbike and headed out to the pastures.  I needed to vent my frustrations on running some cows.  I was half way out when I thought better of it.  I would be in a lot more trouble if I got the cows all riled up and running for the barn before milking time.

In spite of the strong influence of Pop, my mother and other adult members of my family were a stronger pull.  I can’t blame others for my transgressions as a teen and through into adulthood.  However, the Bloody Bucket played a big role in my life for the next 20 some years.  And it's still there today.  I don't know if it has the same notoriety that it did back then, but the history of the place will never fade for many of the people who were spawned from within its walls.

While I was living here and there and when Ma was hooked up with Bud, I didn’t have to go to the bars with Ma because she had a boyfriend to buy her booze.  However, during times when they were separated, and as I got big enough to reach the peddles on the car she and her sister used, Ma took me to the bars and had me drive her home when she was drunk.  Again, after I was ten years old she had me sit on a bar stool and sing for change.  Guys bought all the beer for Ma.  Ma said, ‘I might be cheap but I ain’t free.’  I never forgot that.  For me that was normal.

I don’t remember when I learned to drink.  I know that it never interfered with my work.  I learned how to work and worked hard on the dairy farm living with my Dad.  And that is another story.

I didn’t know who my father was until I was six years old.  Before that I was looking for my father in every man on the street and in every man that Ma hooked up with.  My other siblings had fathers, but I was made aware early on that none of them were my father.  If a man showed the slightest attention to me, I would ask my mother if that man was my dad.

At the one room school that I attended, the teacher had a rotating chore sheet.  There was no running water in the school, so the boys took turns going to the farmhouse across the road for a pail of water every morning.  When it was my turn, there was a man there who gave me a nickel or a dime which was a big deal back in 1946.  He never gave any of the other kids any money.  I told Ma about it and asked her why the man did that.  ‘He is your dad.’  She said.  I can’t tell you how excited I got over that confession.

After that day, Ma introduced him to me and I was allowed to go spend weekends with Dad, stepmom and young half-sisters.  I delighted in helping with farm chores and I loved playing with my new- found siblings.  I learned to work hard feeding animals, milking and as soon as I was able to handle it, I was driving the tractor and plowing.  At twelve, I went to live with my Dad full time.

My favorite job was plowing and I loved driving the tractor and handled it very well.  One morning, Pa went out to the outhouse and came back in to report that he had seen a skunk crawl into a hole of the tool shed.

‘Benny, it’s apparent that a skunk has taken up residence in the shed.  Leave the tractor where it is and just help with the milking.’

That did not set well with me.  Retrieving the tractor every morning, plowing and clearing out old tree stumps was my job and the most favorite of all my chores.  My response was that of a cocky self-assured 12 -year old.  ‘I’m getting that tractor out and I can handle the skunk.’

To which Pa replied.  ‘If yous set that skunk off, you’ll be responsible for the cleanup and you’ll be sleeping out there with him for a while.’

I didn’t care.  That meant that the tractor and all the equipment in it was mine to run and for a 12-year old who had never had any toys except for a teddy bear before, that was like Christmas.  That was when I learned from my step-mom that tomato juice baths would cut the smell of skunk.

I was given an allowance from Dad for my chores which I was expected to use for haircuts, clothing, etc.  Ma sometimes would try to compete with that by giving me money when I visited wherever she lived.  She bought me a bike once, so that I could ride it into town to see my cousins and other sisters and go to the movies in town with them.

I learned to budget my money well and save for an old Indian motorcycle from a neighbor.  I learned to ride it on the farm and used it to get from one field to the other.  That began my many experiences on motorbikes.  Dad didn’t mind and was happy that I was able to get around the farm faster.  I used it to herd the cows up at night and together with our old farm dog, the cows were safe in the barn in record time.  That’s when I earned the nickname, Yankee Cowboy.

Dad was not an affectionate man and he was hard on me.  He was lazy in many ways and took advantage of my ability to do the heavy chores.  He used his sweet wife and daughters the same way.  He did a lot of drinking, hung out with a drinking crowd and used his family as farmhands.  He was a no-nonsense guy and expected me to tow his line.  I came to believe that drinking, having a good time and using others was an adult rite of passage.

The only time I ever got to have any kind of companionship with my dad was when we went hunting together.  Dad let me use one of his hunting rifles and taught me how to track deer and other animals during the respective hunting seasons.

I was in high school in the fall and winter and my milking chores were the least favorite of all that I did on the farm.  At 15 years old, I would stand and comb my hair in front of a mirror before I went to the barn to milk the cows.  My dad would say, ‘Them cows don’t care how you look.’  But my goal was to look like James Dean, the rebel actor from the movies.  Going to the local cinema once a week was one of the rewards for working hard.  And as a teenager, I had my share of heroes and heart throbs.  I was beginning to learn to rebel.

I was also beginning to like one special and beautiful girl in school, but no matter how hard I tried to talk to her, she was uppity and I got nowhere with my advances.  I had the attitude that if she didn’t want to be my girlfriend, there was something wrong with her.  After all, I figured all the other girls were trying to get in my pants.I was mostly shy after that.  I didn’t have time for girls anyway.

One wintry day, I was kicked by a cantankerous cow and shoved her against the barn wall.  My dad walked in just as I gave her the shove.  He yelled at me and told me to get out of the barn.  I did and then I went to my room and packed my bag.  Soon I was treading my way down the road and I never looked back.  I believe that if it hadn’t been for my love for my step mom and my sisters, I would have left a long time before that.

I quit school and from that day forward, I felt like I was a man and that’s the day that began my wild and uncontrolled journey.  At fifteen years old, I started working at the different farms in the area.  I slept in barns on straw and woke with rats crawling around me and starring me in the face.  They had plenty of grain to eat, so they never bit me.  That experience was a lesson in facing fear and adversity.

One old farmer fed me cream of wheat every morning.  I hate cream of wheat to this day.  Since I had many times in childhood when I didn’t have any food or any idea where my next meal would be coming from, I had learned to eat whatever was available to stay alive.  Therefore, I never complained.”

 

The old man wipes his forehead with his handkerchief.

 

“That’s all the stories for today.  To summarize, my life from that beginning was a whirlwind that turned into a tornado and landed me into unexpected and sometimes dangerous places.  To make it clear, none of what happened in my childhood and teen years is an excuse for my drinking and wrong choices.  However, the early foundation definitely formed the foundation of my knowledge of what was acceptable at the time.  In spite of it all, the influence of my step-mom and the strength of Pop crept in and gave me reason to keep searching for a better way of life.

 

Ben steps back and looks around the audience.

 

“How many of you can relate to any part of my story?”

Some of the hands goup .

“How many of you had a normal childhood with a father and mother?”

Many of the hands go up.

“How many blame or have blamed the adults or any adult for your food, drug, alcohol, sex, hoarding or whatever else addiction?”

All of the hands go up.

 

“We each can relate in some ways to each other.  When we are addicted, we tend to use that as an excuse to not do anything to heal ourselves.  Until you can accept that you and you alone are responsible for your own actions, your life will not change.  You may have a gene that promotes your craving for an addictive substance.  For you that is a disease that needs to be controlled.  However, it is not an excuse.  Like all diseases, you need to do what you have to do to control it.  Whatever your condition is, you and you alone have the power to control your need for substance abuse or for me, mostly it was women.

Addiction comes in many forms.  And there are many catalysts to the addiction.  I craved attention.  I searched my entire youth for my expectation and perception of love and acceptance.  I acted it out in the worst possible ways and you will learn why it is entitled “Memoirs of a Yankee Cowboy” when you purchase my book.

This is all the time I have to give you today.  I’ll be outside to sign my book for yous.  See that sweet lady in the back, that’s my little wife.  See her about pricing.  She holds the purse strings and tells me what to do with my money.  And don’t forget to put your name in for the free book drawing at the end of the workshop day.”

 

As the man named Benjamin Patrick tips his hat and leaves the podium the crowd cheers and Ben bows and grins.  “See you outside,” he says as he saunters out of the room.

 

Outside in the hall, Ben looks up from the signing table to see his wife standing in front of a familiar looking woman.  The woman is busy doing all the talking.  He greets the next customer and autographs another book and then lookes up into the face of the woman.  She holds a book but doesn't  hand it to him.  The woman grins and says, “Hello, Ben.  It’s been a long time.  You haven’t changed much at all.”

 

“Hello, Rita.  What are you doing out here in California?”

“I followed you.  Didn’t think I’d give up that easily, did you?”

Ben stands, steps over and hugs his wife to him.  “This is my wife.  To his wife, he says, “Let me introduce you. This is the woman I was going down to see in Las Vegas after my last divorce.  You know, the stripper.”

My wife holds back a laugh and smiles..  The woman with tons of makeup and bouncy black hair says, “We’ve already met.  I told her that we share a man.”

Ben stands straight as his wife squeezes him in the hug.   He addresses Rita.  “Have you been here for the whole event?”

“Yep, I read about it on a poster downtown and I sat up in the balcony to listen to you spill your guts.”

“Do you have a ticket?”

“No, I slipped past the booth.  I don’t think I should have a ticket to see my boyfriend.”

The third wife can't  hold the laughter back.  “Woman, did you not hear what he said?  We’re married.  He’s no longer available.”

“So?  I’m married.  I’m getting a divorce.”

Ben chuckles, “Rita, you were a three-month affair about ten years ago.  You said you were divorcing your husband the last time you disappeared.  I didn’t hear from you so I never made that trip down to Vegas to see you again.  You need to go on out there and make a better life for yourself with or without a man.  We’ve been over for ten years, if we ever were.”

Rita turns  to the wife.  “You’ll never know him as well as I do.”

“Really, and how long did your relationship last?”

“Doesn’t matter.  Three months or thirty years.”

Ben’s wife with a smirk on her face says, “There’s one thing for sure.  I already know more about you than you will ever know about me.  Ben has no secrets anymore as you can see when you read the book.  You weren’t worth a mention there but he’s told me every detail about you.”

Rita looks at Ben and says, “You’d better not have talked about me in this trash.  I’ll sue you.”  She turns to walk away taking the book she didn’t pay for and then turning to his wife, she adds, “Make him spend money on you.  He has it.”

 

A coordinator steps up to Ben.  “It’s time to get back inside for closing statements."   As he guides his little woman back to the side door of the auditorium, Ben points toward Rita and tells the usher to bar that woman from the room and get a seat for his wife up front.  He makes sure that his precious lady is seated before he steps up and takes his seat by the other speakers.

When his name is announced, he scans the room before he starts speaking.

 

“I want all of you to remember this.  No matter where you go, the results of your addiction or addictions will follow you.  You can try to hide from it, but it will be there staring you in the face.  The best thing to do is to face all issues head on and deal with them with honesty and open dialogue.  My wife is in the front row.  Because I told her my whole life story and because she aided me in writing my memoirs, she was able to stand up against one of my big mistakes just a little while ago in the lobby.  She should never have had to do that and I apologize to her for that.  But from this day forward, she will never have to worry about it.  Because until the day I die, I will never go back to that life.  I am and will continue to live my life with purpose.  I will never let events, other people and circumstances direct my path.  Thank you and I hope you’ll read my book.”

 

In a seedy motel room on the other side of town, Rita rolls up in a blanket on a little bed and starts reading the Memoirs of a Yankee Cowboy.  She reads through the stories that Ben had told in the seminar and then not being able to put the book down, she takes a drink from her beer bottle and reads on.

 


© Copyright 2019 Cookie Reece. All rights reserved.

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