November 29, 2022

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F Jordan


In an uneasy truce with cowboy poets of Sedona, I had rather deliberately withheld editorial comments, especially those of a derogatory nature, believing that while no castigation was undeserved there was the slim possibility these folks would either tire of their efforts or pass from the scene entirely. Indeed, the latter appeared possible until one of their number, Spade Hannigan, got himself run over by a logging truck while driving a small herd from one Doodlebug pasture to another. Then, as the expression goes, all hell broke loose.

While, the ensuing outpouring of range sentimentality made possible by memories of lost loves, comrades gunned down by rustlers; verdant valleys browsed by herds of wild mustangs, and the lonely job of busting broncs, mending fences, and raising hell in frontier towns was sufficient to swamp an ocean liner. Nor would you have been wrong to book passage on the next stage coach leaving town simply to escape the bereaved expressions of such maudlin quality as to challenge the euphoric heights achieved by Pentecostals at a tent meeting.

Cowboy poets of every description came pouring onto the Island, presumably leaving herds of untended cattle to roam at will over the countryside; and they appeared oblivious to the practical suggestion of returning to their posts in order to avoid such a thing as another roundup. No, their sights were set on more sublime accomplishments, including but not limited to wearing out the English lexicon of trite phrases, used-up cliches, metaphors that didn’t quite make it to the finish line, and couplets that were one syllable short or long by the same number.

Still worse were rhyme schemes that only left the gate before they reversed direction and went in again, or that featured words presumably rhymed with some end word appearing before but which required imagination past high tide in the Bay of Fundy. The results were ghastly!

The irony of the matter is that most if not all these sagebrush vaqueros are genuinely nice people except when under the influence of strong drink or mention of the words ‘cowboy poetry.’ Then their moral compasses go haywire. It’s at such times a twelve-step rehabilitation program would be helpful to them and imperative for the rest of us! But, like Narcissus, they see no other image but their own, and opportunities for character improvement recede like prairie wind or last year’s stock prices.

Well, they preached verse-laden sermons over the luckless Spade and did so to the apparent satisfaction of every versifyer there. I don’t believe that’s how you spell ‘versifyer,’ but the oppressive qualities of the event left me in no mood to quibble nor the patience to look it up. Speakers—poets to a man—rounded off the corners of reason, tact, and truth to the point you’d swear coyboying was right up there in the pantheon of angelic behaviors, and getting run over by a logging truck the next thing to martyrdom. Had he been around to hear it, Spade might not have recognized himself as the honoree thereby failing to employ the plaudits as bargaining chips for those many behavioral slips he knew stood between himself and judgment.

But despite notions to the contrary nothing lasts forever, as philosophers have pointed out to us countless times; the cowboy poets came and went leaving not so much as trailing wisps of mangled jargon behind them. With their departure, normalcy has returned to Doodlebug Island which means we have been able to resume anti-trump campaigns and the castigation of our state legislature.

But we are bracing for the onslaught of further mischief when the National Association of English Grammarians descends upon us for their annual convention. These folks compare favorably to the Vandals and Visigoths who waged terror during the middle ages, except the grammarians’ angry behavior is largely directed inward. In contrast to Shakespeare’s immortal words in The Merchant of Venice: ‘The quality of mercy is not strained,’ that exhibited by these people is greatly strained! And it drops in more violent forms than gentle rain.

They agree on nothing, have patience for nothing, and accomplish the same thing. Why they continue to meet borders on mystery so much greater than that of religious conjecture as to assume qualities of String Theory.

As editor of the Island newspaper, I attend and report public functions like those mentioned, but I’m looking for a replacement. If interested, forget the resume,’ just bring earplugs and a hard hat. Oh, and leave a will!

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