It was 1835, the year when archaeologists admitted they were wrong. The Romans had actually been a race of skeletons that lived underground and ate off broken plates.
It was a Tuesday, and we’d spent the morning branding the cattle. We decided to go with the slogan ‘beef on legs’. The morning’s work had tired us out, so we decided to take the rest of the day off and head down to the local saloon. We were just about to go in when the Sheriff rode up. He got down from his horse. It was pale brown, and made great pillows. In fact, the more I think about it, I’m pretty sure the sheriff rode a duck. You know the saying; you can take a horse to water, but if it dives in and starts eating pondweed you’ve been conned by a dodgy horse salesman. Not one to admit his mistakes, the Sheriff duly tied his steed to the hitching post, next to our stallions. Not one to turn up a chance for a swim, his steed duly jumped in the drinking trough and paddled in circles, quacking contentedly.
When we called out our orders we were served by the Saloon-keeper’s daughter. She moved with grace and speed. She seemed to glide across the floor, like a swan on roller-skates. I would have liked very much to have made an honest woman out of her. For she was a compulsive liar, and it made it quite difficult to keep track of your bar tab.
We’d only just settled our accounts, denying that we had drunken three bathtubs of whisky and that she was the queen of Sheba, when the saloon door swung open, and a stranger sidled on over. He was wearing a ten gallon hat, tight pinstriped trousers, and a grimace. I supposed that the tight trousers explained his sidling and grimace. He opened his mouth as if to speak, and then spoke. People tend to do the two actions together.
“I was born in squalor, destitution, and Eastbourne, which explains the accent. You fellers seem like decent, honest folk. What’s say I’ll exchange you a story for a glass o’ firewater? A jug o’ hooch? A jar o’ moonshine?” We agreed to buy him some alcohol instead. He started recounting his story.
“I remember it as if it were yesterday, which is worrying as it happened this morning. I’d just ridden past Bover’s Rock, and I was heading towards Morningside. The Irn-Bru Kid had tipped me off that the mayor o’ Morningside was offering a large cash reward to anyone who could rid the town of its terrible infestation. You see, Morningside was experiencin’ a plague o’ mentalists. A travellin’ stage show had visited the town three months ago. A coupla stage magicians from the visitin’ rodeo musta ‘scaped, and started breeding in the woods. Within weeks, it weren’t safe for people to leave their houses. Every time they opened their doors and stepped into the streets, they’d be surrounded by a clamourin’ crowd urging them to ‘pick a card, pick a card, pick a card.’ This shoutin’ had been so loud it’d spooked the buffalo, so the local Injuns had packed up and moved on to hunt elsewhere.
After speakin’ to the Mayor, it was agreed that I would disguise myself as one of ‘em, and walk amongst ‘em to find out why they weren’t leavin’ the town. So I donned a tight suit, shaved my beard into a moustache, and walked out into the midday heat. When they leapt upon me, a crowd of fifty or so, I abandoned Hope. It seemed unwise to take my six year old daughter with me.
They accepted me as one of their own immediately. The disguise had worked. I followed them back to the woods, joining in their refrains of ‘A round of applause for the gentleman’ and ‘nothing up my sleeves’. As we walked closer and closer towards the raked ranks of pines, I realised that I was stopping short of breath. It wasn’t a steep hill, but the tight trousers made the going tough. Then it hit me. The town was in a valley, and the reason the mentalists were causing havoc in the town was that they were trapped. Like spiders in a bathtub. It wasn’t their fault they were unwelcome (like spiders in a bathtub). But they needed gettin’ rid of. Like spiders in a bathtub.
At night, I snuck back to Morningside to tell the Mayor what I had discovered. The townspeople built a large ramp, out of desperation, sweat, and pine. The mentalists left, filing over it, until the cries of ‘think of a number between one and a hundred’ faded into silence. The Injuns returned, and at last they could finally brutally massacre each other in peace.”
He finished his drink, and bid us farewell. We watched through the saloon doors as he untied his steed from the hitching post and slapped its rump, causing it to gallop off majestically into the distance. As he watched it recede into the sunset, he couldn’t help wishing that he’d climbed onto it first.