Click the title of the sample below.
Joy and Ben
(SOUND: Fades out. LIGHTS back to normal. BEN walks to the tracks.)
Texarkana sits smack on the border between Texas and Arkansas. You can go to the post office and for what they call a nominal fee, you can have your picture taken while straddlin’ this line – one foot in each state. I got to town on a bright, sunny morning. This would be May 19 and 12. I jumped off the side-door Pullman. I saw a slip of an old newspaper, so I picked it up and saw this picture of a big boat out on the ocean. The headline: “Unsinkable!” I went to howdy the depot agent, who looked at me like I was an ole stray dawg… ‘Nah, you keep movin’, tramp, we don’ need your kind around here!”…”Oh yessir, and I hope you git them teeth fixed real soon!”…Bah…
I needed me a bite to eat. Quickest way is to find a saloon, ‘cause they just throw it all out at night. I had to climb over a drunk or two to get there, but…some bread, little bit o’ ham. And an orange…a nice surprise. One of them drunks pulled out a knife.
Wanted to cut the orange in two, you understand…We settled that argument. (Pulls a knife; shows the blade and puts it back) Headed north to the Red River, just outside town a ways.
Clouds were gatherin’ out west…somethin’ was a-comin’. When a man lives on the road, he welcomes the rain. It’s a good way to git clean.
(Slow cross to center)
Problem is you can’t just take off your clothes in the middle of the street. Musta waited there an hour or so, sittin’ and thinkin’, when I felt the cool rain fallin’ down. Then it was nice, hearin’ the rain patter down the trees, while the wind blew and the river kept a-windin’. I took my clothes off. Walked the yards into that river. My God, it was warm and wonderful.
First time I saw her, she came walkin’ out the mist by those woods. We locked eyes. Pile o’ clothes on the rocks behind her; she had just washed them out. And an old Colt peacemaker sitting beside them. I found myself slowly walkin’ toward this woman. She spoke first.
You’ve seen it all before, I trust…(Laughs) There’s plenty o’ water here for everybody. Need soap? (Throws the soap) I have more where that came from!…So – hello. You got a name? Mine’s Joy.
Ben. Ben Porter…Well hello, Ben…Ben Porter…
You got family? I have a baby sister, Ruby. We’re stayin’ at the Huckins Hotel here with my father. He runs the Miller Ranch in Oklahoma. You’ve heard of it, right?…Ben! You never heard of the Miller Ranch? The Wild West Show and Rodeo? It’s near a little town called Bliss. Named after my family…Well, one of us has to get out of this river. Ben, it ought to be you. I’m shriveled up like a raisin. We’re on the train back tomorrow morning.Papa says ‘leave early and go slow. You don’t wanna miss nothing.’
It was right then that I remembered I was naked and showing this woman my…carrot. And it wasn’t hangin’ off the vine very well, you know what I mean? I held my head high and walked into the river. Slowly…
(To JOY) Don’t imagine what I look like, young lady…And don’t be too shocked at what you see walkin’ away. I’ll see you down the road! (Slaps his butt as he walks away) Goodbye, Joy Bliss!
Joy Bliss…Of COURSE she lived in Bliss…Bliss, Oklahoma.
I wasn’t kiddin’ nobody. She took my breath away. Came the rest of that day into the night. Couldn’t sleep; I was worn out seein’ her in my dreams. I’d not had many women by that time. And those I knew never had many hopes and dreams to show the way; they’re tryin’ to survive, just like me. All I ever bet on was what I learnt in life.
Brother, I was fully taken now….
(SOUND: Horses in a corral/blacksmith)
It’s a real art, groomin’ a horse. Four, five different brushes for the job. Curry brush, body brush, dandy brush. You start at the neck and work your way to the rear. Then you switch sides and start over. So much fun, and I was gettin’ paid to do it. The stables and corrals were right next to each other, so I watched the boys while they worked the stock. Some o’ these riders were pure horsemen.
One day, a new bull come in, and the boys wanted to ride him on the short-go. That means a man has to stay on this bull for up to eight seconds, while the damned thing is buckin’, twistin’ and turnin’ ever’ which way, and all there is to hold him on is a rope harnessed to his wrist. This was a Brahman bull, crossed with a Hereford cow. Big, thick, lots of muscle.
His name was Meat. And ole Meat kept throwin’ the boys off. Four in a row at first. Finally…
(SOUND: small group of cowboys cheering and yelling, as if underscoring the following monologue)
One kid finally gets on and rides him hard through the short-go, but he couldn’t get his hand out from the rope and loses his balance.
Meat is circlin’ like a great big whirligig, and this boy is hangin’ off the side. Terrible to see. Meat starts runnin’ and snortin’ toward my end of the corral. I throw my body brush down and hop on the fence. When Meat comes by – don’t ask me why I did this – I jump off the fence and onto ole Meat’s head. A Brahman bull has a big ole hump, where I mash my face and almost knock myself silly. By the hump was the rope holdin’ the boy down. Somehow I hooked my legs around Meat’s horns and was able to stay on long enough to loosen that harness and get the boy free. He falls off; now I’m ridin’ backwards, face down on a ton of Meat. I hold his horns with my legs, his hump with my arms, yellin’ “HH-EEE-LLL-PPP!!!” And the boys are laughin’, see…they think this is funny.
Finally the bull gets tired and just stops. I get my breath and slide down the side, all dizzy, skinned up and bruised. Meat turns his head, looks me over and goes “Phhttthhh!”…Bull hocky all over me.
(SOUND: applause and laughter from the boys)
Meat just trots over to the gate for his stall. I turn around to ‘em, I bow…and promptly pass out…When I came to, the boys were still laughin’…The kid was fine, just pulled his shoulder out. Me, I looked like I’d been in a fight.
And that begun a grand time for me as a rodeo clown…can you see it? (Laughs out loud) I did that for a long while. At least until my legs give out…It was the greatest time in my life.
(MUSIC: underscore. BEN stands center.)
Thomas helped me carry Tillie to bed and then he went to find Doc Jarvis. I was scared to death; Tillie was bleedin’ bad. I pumped water onto a white sheet I found and tore it into pieces. I went back to Tillie, who had stopped crying…in fact, her eyes were closed. I shouted “Tillie…TILLIE!” She opened her eyes and began shaking…
“Ben, I’m cold…”
I covered here the best I could, still holding the wet sheet down on her wound. The sword had cut into her neck; I couldn’t stop the blood. I ran back out with a bunch o’ torn sheets and pumped the water on them. Came back in and pushed the sheets onto Tillie’s neck again. Her face was right in the light of the moon, shinin’ in my eyes. I whispered in her ear:
“Doc is comin’, you just hang on!”
Her blood seemed to slow a bit, I really didn’t know, I was just trying to find some hope to share with her…I said through my own tears:
“Tillie…I love you, don’t go yet. Not yet…”
She reached up with her good arm and touched mine. And those nighthawks, all circlin’ and chantin’ their song. It was as if their wings had swept the fog away, so the world could see the reason why.
She said in a hoarse voice “We were just pickin’ apples, that’s all.”
I know, I know, you just keep quiet…
“Ben…” She kept reaching for her neck…Her good luck charm was not there…
I’ll get it, Tillie, I promise…just be quiet…
Then a long silence, just her breathin’. And we were breathin’ together…It’s all I could do. I took the soaked-in-blood sheet away and looked at Bull’s work for the first time. It was…well, I froze. I saw that whenever she breathed, blood was shootin’ out of her neck. I put the new sheet on and bent back down to her ear…
(To TILLIE) Doc’s comin’, Tillie. He’s comin’…
Tillie, from where I don’t know, then got a little energy and said “Ben…Ben, look at me.” I lifted my head. I saw my sister…tracks of tears moving down her face once more. But her eyes were that sparklin’ blue that we both had…
Ole Jake came in and laid at the foot o’ the bed; he knew. And the shadow he cast on the floor was like a drawing…
“Ben…take me with you, Ben…Take me with you… “
Tillie, I ain’t goin’ nowhere, I’m right here…
“Ben…the tree…take me back to the tree…”
I will, Tillie, I will… “Ben, take me back…”
(Breathes out slowly, as if a last breath)
I cried and cried, until Thomas got back with Doc Jarvis. He said softly “Ben…Ben, lemme in here, son…” I finally stepped back. Doc had brought a man I didn’t know with him. After some time to look at Tillie’s wound, I heard him say “It cut her where she just couldn’t take it…Get the stretcher for me, would you?”
Thomas buried his face in my chest, cryin’ “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” They took her out and onto the wagon… I said “Thomas, would you go out to the Holler with me? I’m lookin’ for somethin’… somethin’ for Tillie…”