Sunday, 22 June 2008

22 June 2008

earlier days I’d been to sea with a tall rawboned fellow from Ruston La. Called Big Slim Hubbard, William Holmes Hubbard, who was hobo by choice; as a little boy he’d seen a hobo come up to ask his mother for a piece of pie, and she had given it to him, and when the hobo went off down the road the little boy had said, “Ma, what is that fellow?” “Why that’s a ho-bo.” “Ma, I want to be a ho-bo someday.” “Shet your mouth, that’s not for the like of the Hubbards.” But he never forgot that day, and grew up, after a short spell playing football at LSU, and did become a hobo. Slim and I spent many nights telling stories and spitting tobacco juice in paper containers. There was something so indubitably reminiscent of Big Slim Hubbard in Mississippi Gene’s demeanor that I came out and said “Do you happen to have met a fellow called Big Slim Hubbard somewhere?” And he said “You mean the tall fellow with the big laugh?” “Well, that sounds like him. He came from Ruston Louisiana.” “That’s right, Louisiana Slim he’s sometimes called. Yessir, I shore have met Big Slim.” “And he used to work in the East Texas oil fields?” “East Texas is right. And now he’s punching cows.” And that was exactly right; and still I couldn’t believe Gene could really have known Slim, whom I’d been looking for more or less for years. “And he used to work in tugboats in NY?” “Well now, I don’t know about that.” “I guess you only know him in the West.” “I reckon, I ain’t never been to NY.” “Well, damn me, I’m amazed you know him. This is a big country. Yet I knew you must have known him.” “Yessir, I know Big Slim pretty well. Always generous with his money when he’s got some. Mean tough fellow, too; I seen him flatten a police-man in the yards at Cheyenne, one punch.” That sounded like Big Slim; he was always practicing that one punch in the air; he looked like Jack Dempsey, but a young Jack Dempsey who drank. “Damn!” I yelled into the wind, and I had another shot, and by now I was feeling pretty good. Every shot was wiped away by the rushing wind of the open truck, wiped away of its bad effects and the good effect sank in my stomach. “Cheyenne, here I come!” I sang. “Denver, look out for your boy.” Montana Slim turned to me, pointed at my shoes, and commented “You reckon if you put

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