A Buffalo Named Woodrow

A native Texan, DILLON ANDERSON established himself as one of the ablest young lawyers in Houston before he took time off for his fiction. In 1951, we published his first book, I and Claudie, a salty Texas narrative of two happy wanderers who fortunately do not take themselves or their victims too seriously. Clint Hightower and his oxlike companion have adventured their way in and out of the oil country, Texas politics, hurricanes, revivals, and state fairsand now they are off again.


OUT northwest of Amarillo there’s a place where you can get up on a big rock by the side of the road and look a hell of a long ways, You can look farther and see less right there, I do believe, than you can anywhere else in the whole world — at least anywhere else in the State of Texas.

It was along toward the end of August that I and Claudie passed the place, and nothing would do but we should stop the car so Claudie could climb up on the rock and take a look. When he finally came down, he said, “They’s a little old white cloud way off out there to the west, Clint.”

I and Claudie had been in the Texas Panhandle all summer, shy the whole time of enough money to get out of there; and since only three clouds had come up the whole time that I could remember, I climbed up onto the rock myself. The morning sun had about burnt the little old cloud off. So I watched a whirlwind start close by, with only a few dry thistles and stickers stirring at first in the yellow dust; I watched it twist and weave and grow until it was a mile or more high and the bottom bouncing along like a bull whip against the rocky ground. Then it blew itself out.

I was about ready to climb down when I saw a sight that you will not believe, and I’ll admit that I didn’t either, at first. It was a buffalo — a real live shaggy buffalo, standing in a rocky red gully not over a hundred yards away, and he was looking right back at me. He pawed his front feet a couple of times, then started loping toward us with his big fuzzy head lowered and swaying from side to side in front of a big plume of dust he kicked up as he ran.

“Get on back to the road, Claudie,” I hollered. “Hurry. There’s a buffalo after us.”

I climbed down from the rock and passed Claudie before it soaked in on him what I’d said. Then, instead of running for our car so he could drive us off, Claudie pushed his way into our trailer house right after me.

“Just how,” I asked him, “are we going to get away from any buffalo with both of us in this trailer house?”

Claudie could see his mistake by this time, and he started out to get in the car, but it was too late. The buffalo was standing just outside the trailerhouse door, staring in at us through the isinglass. He was a pretty mangy buffalo, with curved horns grown way long and sort of rusty-looking. When he moved his head his eyes stayed right on us, and I could see the milky white around the edges of his big mud-colored eyeballs. Also, there was a little yellow foam along both sides of his mouth.

“Claudie,” I said, “that old bastard don’t look so mean to me now. Maybe he’s only thirsty. Reckon we’d better give him a drink of water?”

“How?” he asked. “Where’s any water?” and I remembered we didn’t have a drop in the trailer house.

“Claudie,” I said, “tell you what you do. Get that little stewer — you know, the one that don’t leak — and drain some water out of the auto radiator for this buffalo.”

“I can’t get out; I’m skeered of him,” he said.

“But no,” I explained. “You can get out under the trailer right through this hole in the floor. You can crawl under the car to the place where we drain the radiator, and the buffalo can’t get at you. Also, I will keep him busy back here looking at me.”

Claudie was covered with dust and grease when he came back, but he had the stewer full of brown water, and I passed it to the buffalo without stepping outside the trailer house myself. And, of course, I was right. He was awful thirsty, and after he’d drunk the water he bawled for more, so I spoke to Claudie and said, “We’ve got us a pretty valuable animal here, and I believe you’d better get him one more stewer full of that water.”

Well, it turned out that we had found a fine friendly buffalo. We gave him some apples and part of a loaf of bread that we ate the rest of ourselves— along with some sardines. Claudie said he wondered how the buffalo would act if we got outside, so I said, “Why don’t you try?” He did, and sure enough, the buffalo acted like a pet.

By noon we’d got used to him, and he was used to us. Claudie even got on his back and rode him all around the trailer house. “All we need now,” I said, “ besides some water for ourselves, is a way to get this buffalo to Amarillo. He’s probably worth a lot of money to a zoo or a circus.”

Claudie was rolling a cigarette at the time, and before he could answer me or put his sack of Bull Durham back in his pocket, that fool buffalo grabbed it and ate it. That little round yellow tag on the string was the last thing I saw as he stood there chewing up Claudie’s smoking tobacco.

“Was it a full sack, Claudie?” I asked him.

“Nearly full,” he said, and then the buffalo snorted, bellowed, pawed up a lot of dust from the ground, and started bucking. He made for us with his head lowered, and we barely got indoors in time. He ran and butted the trailer house so hard I knew something had to give, and it was tin that gave, not that buffalo’s horns. Then he settled down and so did the dust, and pretty soon he was his same old gentle self again. 1 and Claudie both got out and rode him some more just to prove it.

I declare, I don’t know how we’d have fared if the two sheriffs hadn’t come along about the middle of the afternoon. “Sheriff’s Department, Potter County,” if said around a big white star on the side of their car.

“Here’s your buffalo, Chuck,” the fellow that got out of the car said. Chuck got out too, and they came over to the trailer house, both wearing pearl-handled pistols and silver sheriffs’ badges.

“What are you doing with this buffalo?” they both seemed to be asking all at once.

“We found him here,” I said, “and we’ve been taking good care of him, too.”

“Well, he belongs to Quagmyer’s Dog and Pony Shows,” one of the sheriffs said — the biggest one of the two. “ He got away after the show last night. We’re going to take him back and collect the reward.”

“How?” I asked, and Chuck, the little sheriff, looked at the other one without saying anything.

“Maybe you fellows can watch him until we can send a truck for him,” the big sheriff said.

“And maybe you can give us about five hundred dollars of the reward,” I said. “If we don’t keep him, he’s liable to go out there,” and I pointed west where there was enough country for a buffalo to go and hide in forever.

“The reward ain’t but twenty-five dollars,” the big sheriff stated.

We settled for ten dollars out of the reward if we still had the buffalo when they came back for him, and we had him all right. The sheriffs came along about sundown in a truck and brought along some water I’d told them we needed for our radiator.


THE next morning, with the ten dollars in my pocket, I and Claudie went all over Amarillo looking for Quagmyer’s Dog and Pony Show, since during the night I’d turned up with such a fine idea about the buffalo and Claudie that it fairly dazzled me. But I found the show was not of the size to do as big a town as Amarillo. It played in small towns only, and I learned at the newspaper office that it would go on that night at Canyon, Texas.

Claudie drove us the seventeen miles down to Canyon, and I kept him quiet all the way so I could think my whole idea out. We got there before noon, and the first thing I did was to study the poster about the show pasted up on the side of a feed store. I wanted to see what the buffalo did in the show. The poster had a lot about Celeste Booker, the daring lady bareback rider, and it showed her picture in black tights and red hair; it had some colored pictures of trained lions and tigers sitting up on stools while a guy in bright green clothes cracked a whip at them, and clowns; but I liked to have never found anything about the buffalo. Way down in one corner where they’d run low on glue and the edge of the picture was flapping in the wind, it mentioned several wild animals, and along with Gila monsters, anteaters, two elks, and a boa constrictor, it sort of admitted they had a buffalo, too. No picture of him at all.

“What a shame! What a waste of talent!” I told Claudie.

“Howzat?” Claudie asked, but I didn’t go into it any further since I hadn’t yet told him anything about my idea. I only set about to find the head man in the show.

“Mr. Quagmyer,” I went up to the man and said where they had pointed him out to me in a little green diner across the street from the show tent. It was a diner made out of an old streetcar, with the wheels off, and this guy was eating fried chicken at a table about where the motorman would have used to sit.

“Colonel Quagmyer, please,” he answered without looking up. “Colonel A. Frisbie Quagmyer.”

“Hightower is the name,” I said, and I found I could hardly keep my eyes on the Colonel because the lady that was eating there at the table with him looked so familiar and pretty at the same time. L noticed, too, that she was eating with nice dainty manners and daubing around her mouth with the blue calico napkin every time she took a bite.

“Where have I seen that pretty face before?” I was wondering when the Colonel said — stern like — “I’ll see you outside later. Right now I’m eating lunch with my little niece here.”

“Vour niece? Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” I said, taking oil my hat, but she didn’t look up also.

“Outside!” The Colonel seemed almost peevish.

“ Yes, sir,” I said, catching one more glance at the Colonel’s niece that he was eating chicken with.


WELL, this niece came out of the diner first, and in the bright sunlight her hair was the color of corn silk, but fine enough to make corn silk look like old rusty bailing wire.

“Please, ma’am,” I said, tipping my hat, “is the Colonel about through eating? We wish to talk some business with him — I and my associate. Hightower is the name, and —”

“Tell it to him,” she said and walked across the street to the show tent. I noticed her plum-purple dress was very tight in the waist.

“A man might like it at the time,” I told Claudie, “but I could never really care for a lady that would be too friendly right at first.” Then I saw the big billboard, and it all came to me where I’d seen that pretty face before. She was Celeste Booker, the lady bareback rider, but the picture didn’t begin to do her justice.

“All right, men, what is it?” the Colonel was saying. He’d come out of the diner when we weren’t looking, and I saw that he was a lot taller than he’d seemed sitting at the table, He was picking his teeth with a gold toothpick and holding his broadbrimmed straw hat in his hand. When he put it on, a lot of his hair, the color of a Palomino’s mane, still showed behind like senators’ hair.

“It’s about the buffalo,” I began. ‘We ‘re the ones that found him.”

The Colonel said, “But, dammit, I’ve already paid the reward.” Then he looked across the street toward the show tent, He had little eyes, and the skin under them was pink and puffy like persimmons after a hard freeze.

“What,” I asked him, “does the buffalo do in the show?”

“Old Woodrow?” he asked. “What the hell can any buffalo do besides be?”

“Be what?”

“A buffalo. He’s almost extinct. That’s the reason old Woodrow is with us.”

“But Woodrow may not be so near to extinct as you’d think,” I said. “He can act.”

By this time some more people from the diner were hanging around, and the Colonel sized them up before he said out loud, “Well, I’ve played to overflow crowds in Madison Square Garden; I’ve given command performances before the crowned heads of Europe; I’ve been impresario to talent in the sparkling sawdust of the greatest shows on the globe; yet I have to be told in Canyon, Texas, that I have overlooked latent virtuosity in a tame buffalo. I bid you good day, gentlemen.” And while everybody around laughed, the Colonel bowed and walked across the street to the show tent.

Trouble was, the Colonel didn’t know me; a haughty spirit, like that has always been just my dish. I walked right, across the street with him, and at the main entrance to the tent I spoke. “Colonel, in Woodrow you have a feature attraction and don’t know it. Non have a bucking buffalo.”

’flic Colonel threw back his head and laughed. “Why, Woodrow is gentle as a pussycat,” he said. “The children all ride him. You’re taking a lot of my time.”

“Would you let us show you?”

“Now?” he said.

“Now,” I told him. He was tough, but he saw he’d met his match. He agreed to let us put on our act inside the tent since the show didn’t come off until that night, and by the time word went around among the show folks we had a pretty good crowd. Celeste, the Colonel’s niece, came too, at the last minute, and one of the show flunkies marched old Woodrow out into the ring. He seemed to recognize me and Claudie; he mooed a little and came over to us, shaking his shaggy head.

“Who’s going to ride this ferocious bucking buffalo?” Colonel Quagmyer asked, laughing, and all the show people laughed. In fact, about everything the Colonel would say seemed funny to them.

“My associate, Claudie,” I answered; “as long, that is, as he can stay on,” and they all laughed again. “But, first,” I went on, “we need a few minutes alone with Woodrow.”

The buffalo followed us out, and we took him into a little side-show tent. I looked everywhere to see that nobody was around, and then I whispered, “All right, Claudie, slip him another sack of Bull Durham.”

“But 1 ain’t gunna ride him after he’s et it,” Claudie argued.

“Oh, yes, you are; we’re in the money, Claudie. This is no time to be unreasonable.”

Claudie didn’t get the point until the show people started yelling for us to come out, but after I’d given him the ten dollars from the reward he agreed, He gave Woodrow the sack of tobacco, and damned if he didn’t seem to like it even more than he had the day before. Then, with Claudie on him, I led Woodrow into the big tent. “Ladieeees and gennntlemen,” Colonel Quagmyer announced, “Woodrow, the bucking buffalo.” He was laughing fit to kill, and all the show people laughed and laughed. Then it happened.

Woodrow snorted a couple of times and made for Colonel Quagmyer. The Colonel got behind a tent pole just in the nick; then Woodrow started to buck, and for a lot longer than you’d think, Claudie stayed on him. But about the fourth or fifth buck was a lollapalouza, and it sent Claudie sailing off through the air like a big old water bird of some kind. He landed in the steam calliope and then tumbled off limp onto the ground, But he got up and dusted himself off, and while he still looked a mite dazed and ruffled, he was coming around fast. And there stood Woodrow, licking the seat of Claudio’s pants as friendly as ever again.

“Now, Colonel, I hope you see what I mean,” I told him, loud enough for Celeste to hear. By this time all the show folks were cheering, and I figured like this: If people in the show itself take on like this over our act — people that are used to the best in entertainment and have been all their lives — what would the public do:'

The Colonel tried to run down the act some, but when I said, “Okay, then; let’s just drop the idea,” he followed me to the tent door.

“How did you make Woodrow buck?” was the way he put it.

“Colonel Quagmyer,” I said as all the show people stood around, and Celeste too, with her eyes very bright, “Woodrow comes from a long line of fierce and proud ancestors. His ancestors were here, kicking up dust, bucking and enjoying themselves long before our ancestors got up the Mayflower trip. All the time you’ve kept Woodrow in the cellar, using him for no act except to be, he’s been building up the ginger that was born right in him from his ancestors. I and Claudie have simply brought it out. That’s all.”

“ But how . . .”

“You couldn’t be expecting to learn that and then use some other bronco busier, could you, Colonel?”

I cut in. Oh, I had him right where the wool was short.

“Certainly not,” he said, acting like a Colonel with his feelings hurt.

“Another thing, Colonel.” I pointed out. “Just imagine the billing ‘WOODROW AND CLAUDIE, THE ONLY SHOW IN THE WORLD FEATURING A WILD DUCKING HUFFALO.’ The act will put you in big towns like Amarillo and Lubbock. You’re through with skirting the edges. You are in the big time.”

You can see how, standing on such firm ground as this, I and Claudie made our deal to get on the Quagmyer pay roll and for our board, too.

Sure enough, our feature got us into bigger towns right away. At Lubbock the following week Colonel Quagmyer threw away all the old billboard signs and had some new ones made. Woodrow took some of the space away from Celeste, and after she saw the new billing she would not even look at Woodrow, she was so furious. It seemed to turn her against me and Claudie, too. At first, that is.


WITH being featured and all, Claudie soon let it go to his head. He wanted to wear a green uniform in his act, one with brass buttons and gold braid like the lion tamer’s, so only to humor him, I made Quagmyer buy him one. Also Claudie wore a big ten-gallon hat in the act with a little blue feather in it, and pretty soon he was putting on all sorts of airs. When Woodrow would throw him, he’d lie there on the ground where he’d hit: he’d wiggle and squirm like a worm in hot ashes, all so as to scare the crowd; then he’d get up and bow, grinning like a jackass eating briers to make the people cheer more. It was almost disgusting, but I did notice that he began to look better and happier than I’d ever seen him before. So did Woodrow. I told Claudie the day we played Brown wood, “We must be about the finest influence that, ever came into Woodrow’s life. They’re feeding him better, his mange is improving, and he’s getting some exercise these days. Just to be is no life even for a buffalo. It’s right next to being plumb extinct.”

“Let’s us give Woodrow’ a better brand of tobacco,” Claudie urged. “He must be tired of that Bull Durham.”

“The best,”I told him, “is none too good for Woodrow.” So the next day we took him out behind the lent and offered him his choice of several other kinds of tobacco. But he wouldn’t touch a one of them. He had only the Bull Durham habit.

Celeste came around the corner of the tent about this time, and I asked Claudie to kindly take Woodrow away so I could talk to her some. This was something I was doing more and more of since my part in Woodrow’s act left me with plenty of leisure time every day. I was finding out by this time that she was about the finest company in the whole show, with a nice personality and all, as well as the prettiest, whitest set of teeth I’d ever seen growing out of gums; and Celeste had been showing in several ways that, she could care for me too. That was the day she said why didn’t I come by her dressing room some night and talk to her after her act, and that was the night I went. Her act was over, and it wasn’t near time for Woodrow to go on, since he was always last so nobody would leave and stop buying popcorn and stuff until the very end. And that was the night Celeste really lifted the scales from my eyes about Quagmyer. “Clint,” she said, as she rolled a cigarette, “I’m afraid Colonel Quagmyer doesn’t like you very much.”

“Why?” I asked.

“He’s jealous of you.”

“How can that be, Celeste? He’s your uncle.” “Well, confidentially, he ain’t any uncle of mine. We only claim kin so the show people won ‘t talk.

This really flabbergasted me. Just, why Celeste would be telling me this I couldn’t tell. I said, “Celeste, I haven’t figured Quagmyer was all he was cracking himself up to be for some time now.”

“He ain’t,” she admitted; then she started speaking in a very confidential way and said, “Colonel Quagmyer is sort of new to the show. He’s been the owner for less than a year.”

“How’d he got aholt of the show, anyway?” I asked.

“Well, he went to see the show last spring when it was playing in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, He was running a pool hall there at the time. I he show had an elephant then — a little old flea-bitten elephant, a she. Quagmyer managed some way to get stepped on by the elephant —she stepped on his foot, I believe — and he fell down with a sprained back. So he sued ‘em for fifty thousand dollars and tied up the whole kit and caboodle with liens and things. Quagmver stayed sort of paralyzed until the case was t ried and the jury in Tuscaloosa gave him forty thousand dollars. The whole show wasn t worth that much, so Quagmyer took it over.”

“Are you pretty sweet on Quagmyer, Celeste?”

I had to know by then, with her showing this way how much she cared for me and all.

“i haven’t exactly quit him — yet. ...” I remember she was holding my hand at. the time she said this; then she went on, “Now, Clint, there’s something I want you to tell me.”

“Oh no, Celeste; you’re a fine girl, and I’m get t ing fonder of you every way, but I’m not about to tell you that.” I stood up and let her hand go. “What?”

“How we make Woodrow buck. That’s what you wanted to know, wasn’t it, Celeste?”

“Oh heavens, no,” she laughed. “I know how you make Woodrow buck.” She was teasing me; I could tell from the look out. of her pretty blue eyes. I know women. Then Celeste got very serious and said. “I only wanted to know that you really trusted me.”

“It isn’t that I don’t trust you, Celeste. I do, but I can’t tell you that,” and she looked so hurt I thought she’d cry. If you want to know the truth right here, some tears did come into her eyes.

“Don’t worry, Clint,” she said, and her lips were pouty. “I would never tell Quagmyer.”

The only thing I wanted to do right then was to kiss Celeste to make her feel better, but she pushed me away and said, “No, Clint, you don’t trust me.”

By the time we got to Waco, Colonel Quagmyer was beginning to show that he liked me less and less, but he was getting nicer to Claudie all the time; so I had to speak to Claudie about it, and he admitted that the Colonel had offered him his pay and mine too if he’d only tell how we made Woodrow buck.

“I have been tempted, too, Claudie,” I said, “but you know what, the Bible says about temptation. A man is not supposed to yield to it; specially if it might mean his job.”

“But I’m the one this here buffalo bucks off every night. My joints is getting loose.”

“Don’t you see it’s a trick, Claudie? Once the Colonel learned our trade secret, he’d fire you, too, and use Hung How, that little old Chinese eook. Hung How has been eying your job for weeks, He wants to wear that green suit.”

“He’ll never get it.” Claudie looked his stubborn best when he said that, and I knew this fire was put out for a wbile.

It wasn’t, long after this that the telegram came from Houston asking us to go to the rodeo there and take Woodrow’s act. After all, it was bound to happen; anything in Texas that is as good as Woodrow — and there is nothing else like it in the whole dadburned world — is bound to wind up in Houston. It’s 1 he way the state is set up.

The Colonel wired back that he’d go if they’d take Celeste’s bareback act too, and they agreed. Matter of fact, they’d have taken a temperance lecture if they’d had to, they were so anxious to get Woodrow.

I explained to Colonel Quagmyer that I and Claudie wanted just exactly one half of all ho got paid in Houston, and he finally had to take’ us up on this, since I stood pat. But when he agreed, he was reddish-purple in the face, like a west-ofAmarillo sunset during a dust storm.


WE wound up the regular circuit, in El Paso a week before wo were due in Houston, and by this time we had Woodrow famous. Even a little spell of indigestion he had in Laredo made the front page in the San Antonio paper. All this made Claudie more temperamental by the day—he got to where he wore his green suit all the time. Myself, I had to worry more and more about our trade secret, and not. even telling Celeste, but it was breaking my heart not. to, and hers also because I dkln t trust; her enough to tell her.

From El Faso we all went to Houston by train, except that I rode ahead with Celeste and Quagmyer on the fast, train that had sleepers and diners and everything, while Claudie rode on a much slower train that brought Woodrow also. “Be sure nothing happens to Woodrow on the trip,”I told Claudie just before we left El Paso.

All the way to Houston, Celeste teased me — the way people don’t do, I figured, if they don’t really like you — and right before Colonel Quagmyer too. She teased me in the club car, in the diner, and other places, too, on the train. The Colonel would listen to all of this he could stand; I mean until his face would twitch all over and the blue veins in his temples would stand out and quiver; then he’d get up and walk in the train aisles to cool himself off. What Celeste was teasing me about was still claiming she knew how we made Woodrow buck. She kept saying she’d spied on me and Claudie.

When we got to Houston, we found we were all over town — on posters, that is. The big billing was our act, of course, with pictures of Woodrow all blown up, his eyes blazing and blue smoke coming out of both nostrils.

While we waited for Woodrow and Claudie to get there, I found I was seeing less and less of the Colonel and more and more of Celeste. I found, too, that this was slap-dab exactly the way I wanted it. And long before Woodrow and Claudie came, I knew I had fallen for Celeste about as hard as a man has any business falling for anybody, except for one thing: why did she keep pestering me to tell her how we made Woodrow buck?

“You can prove to me that you love me,” she said one day out at Hermann Park Zoo. “Just tell me about Woodrow.”Her arm was around my waist as we walked along looking at the animals.

I watched a slippery old hippopotamus climb up out of his wallowing place, and while the red and yellow parrots squawked outside in the sun, I sat there and thought and thought — like about Samson that was so taken, and then taken in, by the Gaza woman, Delilah; also about Joseph that, according to the Bible, walked right off, leaving Potiphar’s wife talking to herself there by the couch — and I said, “Celeste, I do love you all right, but Houston is a hell of a long ways from that trailer house in El Paso for a man to be sharing a trade secret with anybody.”

Well, with all the rest we did in Houston, this was about where we left, things until Woodrow’s and Claudie’s train finally got. there. And by the time it did, the Houston people had decided to change the place where we were to go on. The Coliseum wouldn’t hold our crowd, so they had it out at the big First National Bank Stadium near Bice institute. And what a crowd! They were still gathering when Celeste got into her black tights and went on first with her bareback riding act. Matter of fact, it was a sort of a preliminary they made out of Celeste, and I didn’t like it a dern bit.

I went around to Celeste’s dressing room after her act to cheer her up for being done wrong by in the program. We had nearly an hour to wait while some other smalltime calf ropitig and steer bulldogging acts were run off. Naturally, Woodrow wasn’t to go on until last. I sat there by Celeste watching her comb out her pretty red hair and talking to her until all of a sudden it was later than I thought. What really brought, the time up was that Claudie Stuck his ugly face inside Celeste’s dressing room.

He was all dressed up in his green suit with braid and brass buttons, but he had the same baffled look on his face as the guy I saw in a fine picture once, the guy with a hoe in his hand — except of course Claudie didn’t have any hoe in his hand. Claudie’s mouth was working, but he wasn’t saying anything, he was so wrought up.

“Take it easy, Claudie,” I said. “What’s the trouble?”

“I haven’t got it,” he managed to say. “Have you?”

“You moan—” I said, and I knew what he meant. He’d forgotten Woodrow’s tobacco.

“Hell, no!” I told him. “You’re the one that’s supposed to have it.”

“But I forgot.”

“What’s the trouble, fellows?” Celeste asked.

“Oh, nothing; nothing at. all,” I told her. Then I turned back to Claudie. “Where’s the closest store?” I found I was yelling at him.

“I’ve already asked about that,” Claudie said. “The stores are a mile or more away, and they’re all closed up this time of night.”

“How long before we go on?" I asked him, and Colonel Quagmyer answered me as he walked into Celeste’s dressing room. “Five minutes,” he said, “but don’t hurry. It may be six or seven. Woodrow is waiting for you in the little tent out there.”

Outside there was the hum and the buzz of all that big crowd ready for our act, and the whole thing seemed to be pressing down on my insides like a sack of wet oats. I noticed that Claudio’s color was awful bad and getting worse by the minute. The green suit only brought it out more.

“What’s the matter, Claudie?” Quagmyer asked. “Stage fright?” But Claudie didn’t have any answer. He was all froze up, and so was I.

Things got so quiet then that when Celeste spoke up I felt myself flinch. What she said was “I feel, like a smoke.”

Quagmyer offered her a ready-roll, but she said, “No, I’ll just make my own, thanks.”

She opened her purse, but what she took out wasn’t the tin can of Prince Albert, the kind Celeste always rolled hers with; it was a brand-new sack of Bull Durham. When Claudie saw what I saw, his mouth flew open and his front tooth showed more than ever. Claudie’s teeth never were very close together, and this time he looked like a man fixing to eat a pumpkin through a picket fence.

Celeste rolled, then fired up, her new cigarette and laid the sack there on the dressing table so that the little tag at the end of the string was hanging down over the edge. When she got up, she left the Bull Durham sack right where it was. She flashed a sweet cozy wink at me; then took Quagmyer by the arm. “Come on, Uncle Frisbic,” she said, “let’s go get ourselves settled in our seats so we can see the best part of this show.”

And as they walked out I thought no knights in tin suits or heroes in Hollywood ever loved their women any more than I loved Celeste.