The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cool Hand Lafe

The humidty of the day had finally given way to the coolness of night. Our protagonist, Lafe, was walking into the local Wal-Mart to try and figure out something to eat, even though he wasn't very hungry. He stopped right at the automatic doors The doors opened, but he looked to the left.

He saw three huge pallet size boxes of bright orange pumpkins. Like three small Ozark mountains of pumpkins.

He went over boxes and lifted the first pumpkin that he saw. He turned it around and inspected it, looking for any bumps or imperfections. When he came the small indention, he rubbed his finger around the small hole five or six times. Then he raised the pumpkin up over his head with both hands. He threw the pumpkin down against the asphalt as hard as he could, and it oddly felt good. He picked up another pumpkin, this time he lofted it up in the air, the arc creating a perfect splat. He kept smashing the pumpkins on the ground. A few customers had stopped by this time, looking at this mad man, smiling and throwing pumpkins down on the ground.

Finally, a store employee came out to try to put a stop to the madness, but with all the pumpkin goo on the ground, the manager slipped and busted his ass something fierce. He was wallering around on the ground trying to find his radio so that he could tell someone to call the cops.

When the cops arrived, the found Lafe sticky and laughing on the sidewalk curb. They drew their guns.

"What's so funny?"

Lafe just kept on laughing, laughing so hard he was in tears.

The cops cuffed our protagonist and introduced him to the asphalt on a more intimate level. Lafe was amazed at how warm the asphalt still was from the day's heat. They threw him in the back of the squad car and apologized to the store manager who was already mopping up the big mess. Lafe looked at him from the back of the car and smiled, but the manager just rubbed his busted ass and tried to look as menacing as possible back at our protagonist.

Lafe adapted to the jail quite well. When the road captain asked him that first day about why he was sent to jail, Lafe answered with a hint of pride in his voice.

"Public Mischief, I smashed a bunch of pumpkins at a local Wal-Mart."

The Road Captain asked, "Smashed a bunch of pumpkins, huh? Well where did you think that would get you?"

Lafe just smiled, "Well, Captain, you might say I wasn't doing a lot of thinking."

Our protagonist was sent off on many a work detail, dusting back country roads. At night, he played cards with the rest of the boys.Bubba Joe Jean gave Lafe his nickname, Lafe liked to bluff a lot at cards. As he said, sometimes "nothin' is a real cool hand."

One day the boys were taking bets, who could do this, who could do that.

Lafe jumped up and said, "I bet I can eat 50 mozzarella sticks in an hour!"

Everyone shouted back, "Can't nobody eat 50 mozzarella sticks in an hour!"

Bubba Joe Jean took the bets and eventually every man around had money on whether Lafe could eat 50 mozzarella sticks in an hour. Lafe trained and trained.

There was a large plate of 50 mozzarella sticks sitting on the table, waiting for Lafe. He sat down at the table an started. He started out really well, he ate the first 10 within 5 minutes. But he slowed down after that. There were times when everyone thought he would puke, but he kept going. When it came time for the last cheese stick, Lafe was laying down on the table. He was bloated and an odd shade of blue. He shoved the last stick in his mouth and swallowed it whole. He had already passed out when all the others checked to see if he had swallowed the last cheese stick. When they opened his mouth, there was nothing. Lafe had won the bet.

Our protagonist decided to run a few times. The first two times, he was successful, but he was eventually caught.

The road boss tried to make an example out of him.

"What we've got here, is a failure to communicate!"

He made other successful escapes, but escaped one too many times.

Now, when the boys tell the stories of old Cool Hand Lafe, they smile. Bubba Joe Jean tells the story of his last escape well.

"He was smiling... That's right. You know, that, that Lafe smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't a-gonna beat him. That old Lafe smile. Oh, Lafe. He was some boy. Cool Hand Lafe. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker. "

He surveyed the pumpkins one last time. Our protagonist then walked through the automatic doors and got what was on his grocery list, spinach and chicken.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Two Mornings In September, Four Years Apart

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

William Faulkner, failed poet, failed postmaster, and Nobel Prize winning writer

September 11, 2001

The night before, I was working out with a friend of mine. He told me about a member of our church who had passed away that day. He was relatively young and healthy. He had been working on a ladder, he had a heart attack, fell off the ladder and died. We talked a lot about life that night. About how in a matter of moments, the world and everything in it, can turn on it's axis...

The next morning, I was putting on my boots to go to work. I was going to walk up to my dad's shop. I was putting on my boots, watching the morning news and thinking about the day when the second plane hit. The news went from something that was a freak accident to we are under attack when the newscaster said "Oh my God, Oh my God!"

The day is now a blur, but if I remember right, it was pretty much a blur going through it as well.

I do remember going over to Kevin's house that afternoon when his two boys got home from school. He and his wife told me that the school hadn't mentioned anything to the children about what happened that morning. We both commented on the fact that just the night before we talked about how the world could change so quickly, but we were still unprepared.

Kevin and I took the boys, Isaac and Elijah, to play some frisbee. They argued, fought, screamed, and laughed because they still could. They still had the innocence of not knowing that the world was totally different. They were still absorbed in a child's dreams, a child's perspective. They didn't notice the quietness that eerily absorbed the afternoon. They didn't notice the people crying on television or walking down the street. All they cared about was their turn to catch, their turn to throw.

Kevin and Julieanne let me stick around when they told their boys about what had happened. I remember the questions in their eyes. I remember seeing the innocence wiped away from their smiles like a blackboard into a blank stare searching for words, thoughts and meanings. There were tears and hugs. I could tell they were scared, I could tell we all were.

September 11, 2005

I woke up late. I had set my alarm clock for 5:45 P.M. instead of 5:45 A.M. I had been up all night, sick to my stomach, from watching football all day and eating cheesesticks and drinking beer.

We got to Siloam Springs just in time for our orientation. We got little wristbands so that we could be let in and out. We learned not to call anyone "refugees" but as "neighbors and guest." We were told not to cry when we hear their stories and to smile as much as we can. And most importantly, be flexible and try and do whatever is needed.

We were bussed in to the campground. We were told to unload a truck and then not to unload a truck. Then the truck was going to move and then it wasn't going to move. There wasn't really a very good directive so I decided to make my own.

I walked up to a porch where there were a few people talking. I sat down and started to talk with a couple of old men. They said that the coffee was okay. We talked about football. We talked about how they are getting by. We read the paper. We talked about how they were rescued. We talked about church. We talked about women. We talked about how it was the fourth anniversary of September 11th. We talked about the campgrounds. We talked about how in the world we all managed to find ourselves in Arkansas.

I don't think any of us really could tell you how that happened.

But mostly I just listened. Their stories were amazing and sad. One man, who I could tell was really jonesing for a drink, told me that he hadn't heard from all his family. But he was going to keep hope that they were going to be okay. He said he had seen other people cry, but he hadn't yet. He didn't want to cry because he didn't know if he would be able to stop.

A bus pulled up to take a bunch of people to church. All the guys I was talking with were going to church, so we shook hands and they left.

Jason Lofton and one of the directors pulled up in a golf cart. The asked me if I would help them out. They said I was loud and that they needed me to ride on the golf cart and announce that there was going to be a church service at 11 and that around 10:30 there would be golf carts to come down and pick up the elderly and sick.

After a tour of the campgrounds of me yelling about the church service, I sat down with Jamie Farmer who was talking to a woman,who I will refer to as W, in hospital clothes. We talked for a long time. We listened to W's story. She worked at a hospital in New Orleans. She tried to stay as long as she could. She eventually found her way onto the interstate. She said it was so bad up there on the interstate. She said there was no water and people were very sick. She said that there were no bathrooms, but she didn't have to go because the Lord blessed her and held her bladder. She said she saw a man shot because he wouldn't give up his vehicle.

W told us of her daughter, who she has been separated from for quite some time now. Not because of the hurricane, but because of different opinions, anger, and bitterness. She was hoping that her daughter would call her soon.

W also told Jamie and me about how she was looking for a job up here in Arkansas now. We told her that we would help her out as much as we could.

It was almost time for church, when Jamie and I prayed with W. W had an amazing prayer. She prayed very simply, "Lord, I don't know what I should pray for, but I know I am blessed."

W gave us her phone number and I have since talked to W on the phone a few times. She told me tonight that she has an interview with a hospital on Thursday and on Friday is going to meet someone with the Housing Authority.

Hopefully, when I talk to W tomorrow she will have some good news for me. Because Ol' Bill was right about us mortals, the human soul and spirit will prevail. Even though sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

It just took me four years to figure it out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

An Answer

My hands still smell like Play-Doh.

Tonight, I went to a dinner for some victims of the hurricane. There weren't really a lot of people there, in fact, there were a lot more people there wanting to help than needed help.

Towards the end of the night, I was playing with some Play-Doh with a little boy who was probably about 7 or 8. He made all these different shapes, but mostly just flattened the Play-Doh. He just mashed the blue puddy into a pancake. When I asked him what he made, he had a simple answer.

"It's my house."

Monday, September 12, 2005


I saw this picture of Little Reed and I remembered some lyrics from an old Soul Asylum song called "Eyes of a Child."

But he saw the world through the eyes of a child,
Big problems seemed smaller
And old things seemed new

I can't wait to meet Reed come October.