A Wild, Ill-tempered, Bowlegged Woman
by Delo White
“Who are you guys? Just let me tell you, there isn’t any cash inside!”
The one formerly known as Jessie, now calling himself Bad Ass, laughed and said, “Hey, man. It’s us. The band. We need you back now, Brad. We’ve finally discovered what music we’re destined to play.” This coming from the guy who sold us on disco.
As I let them in, I stared at the former Peter, now calling himself Death. He pretended to be tough and mean, but all the makeup he wore made him look like a drag queen with emotional problems.
Once again, Jessie (Bad Ass), always the salesman, excitedly said, “There’s this crazy music called punk. We’ve been listening to a lot of groups like the Clash and the Sex Pistols, and it’s really wild stuff!”
As I looked at my former band mates, I couldn’t help but chuckle. They were men in their mid twenties dressing like morons. Already I could forecast disaster.
Peter (Death) jumped in and said, “The music’s really very antiestablishment. Give the kids a reason to hate, and they’ll love you. I’m telling you, Brad. There’s no way we can lose with punk. You can be the worst musician, and it doesn’t matter. In this case bad is good. The kids only care that the music attacks adults and traditional values and gives them an excuse to beat each other up.” Peter (Death) became so excited that his mascara ran.
I was on the verge of throwing the lot of them out when Anna walked in. She looked at them in disbelief before breaking into laughter.
“You guys look so awesome!” She hugged each of them and gave Peter some makeup tips.
“The guys want me back, hon,” I said, prepared for an explosion.
She pierced my soul with her sharp, green eyes, smiled most deceptively and said, “That’s wonderful, babe. You will keep the teaching job, right?”
That night as we lay in bed, she patted my head and rubbed my belly and seductively announced, “I’ll kill you if you get a piercing!”
Once again I invested in a wardrobe that would help sell the group but leave me feeling foolish. Again I visited my favorite wig specialty shop and had a wig spiked with a sign interwoven that subliminally said, “Help me. I’m a prisoner to stupidity!”
Now calling ourselves the Putrids we spent little time practicing, since for punk it was a waste of time. Instead, we practiced playing as bad as we could and acting very antisocial.
At our first gig the punks didn’t quite know what to make of us. As freaky as they were we were ten times freakier. But after a series of songs about disillusionment and anarchy, we won them over. Once again Jessie penned our single: “Death, Malice, Mischief, Mutilation and Bad Complexions.”
I just shook my head as the punks danced stupidly about, mauling each other while laughing at the lyrics. Once again the song was meant to be serious but quickly drifted into total nonsense.
One night a record producer, Larry L. Lipton, of Anarchy and Disgruntled Records, approached us.
“You’ve got something, boys, or should I say, men and lady.” He seemed uncertain as he looked at us carefully and had to do a double take on Peter (Death/lady). He also sniffled between words. “I’d like to record you, but I need Daddy’s permission. I’ll bring him with me tomorrow night, and if he approves we’ll set up an appointment.” Sniffle.
We were totally wigged out; at least I was literally, with subliminal message interwoven. It was our first break. If only we could convince Daddy.
The following night the crowd was particularly rowdy and violent. Unlike the previous night where the crowd was rather sedate but still managed a civilized level of mayhem, this crowd didn’t need a reason for blood. We knew once we saw their angry, snarling faces that tonight was the night for police protection. Sure enough, standing right in the middle of the crowd was Larry L. Lipton and a large, serious man who had to be Daddy.
As soon as I intentionally struck the first bad chord, all hell broke loose as bodies slammed against each other. Knives, bottles, bats, and even a life preserver could be seen within the carnage.
Panicking, I yelled to the guys, “Let’s play our song!” I thought maybe humor would restore calm.
Suddenly the bloodied mass stopped and stared at us in bewilderment. I heard one brave soul laugh before the crowd attacked us. Somehow they weren’t in a jocular frame of mind. As we beat a hasty retreat, I heard someone call us traitors; someone else mentioned that the comedy club was on the other side of the city.
Later we learned that Larry L. and Daddy had received beer bottles to their respective heads before being arrested along with twenty other outstanding members of society. Needless to say, we didn’t receive a record contract.
The Putrids shortly disbanded. I threw my spiked wig, with subliminal message interwoven, into a garbage bin outside. Later a bedraggled orange and white cat discovered it, dragged it out and hissed at it, then finding it defenseless and rather fashionable, put it on and marched away. One cool cat, huh?
Anna and I married in April of 1978. Her behavior was almost normal thanks to the medication her psychiatrist prescribed. After getting into a slugfest with the male engineers at the firm and chasing them up to the roof of the building, she was given the choice of getting help or being fired.
I’d returned to teaching music at the community college and gave private lessons on the side. I also appreciated the fact that young bands were enlisting my advice.
My relationship with Anna was stronger than ever. She knew that I was the only person who understood her occasional maniacal behavior. When she was ordered to get therapy, we agreed to do it jointly, and that’s when her condition was diagnosed. Though not the primary problem, Anna’s bowed legs were a definite factor.
The doctor seemed mildly impressed with us. We were very unique in that our love was based on an attraction to each other’s physical flaws. The more obnoxious we became to others the stronger our love grew. When he recommended institutionalizing both of us, we kindly rejected his offer.
A few months passed without incident. Then one day at work Anna blew her top. Cornering the CEO and the board of directors in the Executive Room, she first verbally abused them, then one by one pinned them to the carpet until they agreed that she was equal to any male engineer. Fortunately, she was only fired. Once back on her medication she returned to an acceptable level of sanity.
I had become very involved with work and kept in touch with the guys, who each held jobs, playing weekends at small gigs as the Lonesome Non Category Musical Trio. Anna in the meantime had returned for more counseling.
In 1979 we met Joseph and Josephine Pepper at church. Though we’d never been terribly religious, we were advised that it might prove helpful. Both Peppers were odd. Joseph was a successful tax lawyer who wore long hair and a beard, wore outlandish suits, was very much from the sixties and smoked pot. Josephine, an office administrator, was kooky and as hotheaded as my Anna. With no children, they enjoyed partying a lot. What they had in common with us was that they were equally dysfunctional.
“Let me tell you, Brad. I’ve had many lawyers and judges question my sanity,” Joseph said with a wink. “The fact is that you don’t have to be what they want you to be as long as you get the job done.”
For the first time Anna had a real friend in Josephine who understood her suffering. Though having no apparent physical impairment, she definitely had little tolerance for fools and had trouble dealing with people.
Friday nights the Peppers enjoyed dressing up in western wear and hitting the country and western bars. Though not much for country, Anna and I joined them and truly enjoyed the environment. Country folk are laid back, friendly, and enjoy drinking beer and square dancing.
In this relaxed and accepting environment Anna started to change. Suddenly she wasn’t tense and on the defensive. Nobody seemed to notice her legs. In fact never had she been surrounded by so many bowlegged country folk. She and Josephine would sit talking while Joseph and I acted the male part by exchanging dirty jokes and belching from our intake of beer.
I must admit that I’d never listened to Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings but quickly developed an appreciation for their music. When you spend the amount of time that we spent in country and western bars your entire system is saturated in it. I liked the fact that they were rebels with long hair and beards and made the hardest rocker a fan.
The first time Anna laid eyes on a mechanical bull was at Hefty Humphrey’s. It was an immediate attraction. Every large, macho, tobacco-chewing cowboy stepped aside as this little, crew cut lady swaggered forward and climbed on top of the beast. She then took the bull by the horns and went for the ride of her life. It jerked her this way and that, at first at a moderately slow speed, then turned to the highest speed, where she became a blur to me. Everyone looked on in awe as I saw a look of gratification that I could never offer her.
It was during her ride that Joseph broached the idea of the band converting to country.
“You guys need to jump on the bandwagon fast, Brad. Country’s really becoming popular. With your interest in rock you can easily combine that with country. Why, there’s many southern rock bands doing it. You can easily harness both country and rock fans. To quote Donny and Marie: ‘A little bit of country and a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll.’”
Actually the idea really appealed to me, unlike disco and punk. I could appreciate the values involved: hard work, love, pain, sorrow, having a good old time and drinking beer.
When I suggested the idea to the guys, they were both pleased and relieved.
Peter sighed and said, “We were afraid that you were going to suggest polka. You know, I just couldn’t handle wearing one of those little German outfits.”
Every night after work we were in country and western bars absorbing the lifestyle and the music. It was after listening to Hank Williams that we understood. After all our failed attempts we’d finally found ourselves. We were a country rock band.
The guys grew their hair long and grew beards. We all agreed to the red, fake diamond-studded outfits with accompanying guns and holster. We decided to be the ultimate outlaw band, chewing tobacco and picking fights.
Strangely, I’d not only lost the hair on my head but my eyebrows mysteriously fell out. I was also unable to grow facial hair due to some metabolic disturbance. So, my hair prosthetic specialist had triple duty.
As Billy Bob and the Practitioners we became quite good and quickly developed a following. We played all kinds of venues, the weirdest being a truck stop outside of Amarillo. Unfortunately, the truckers weren’t in a good mood that day since the price of gas had gone up.
When we were offered the gig of a lifetime, playing Gilley’s in Houston, made famous in the movie Urban Cowboy, the band as a whole decided to sacrifice everything by giving up our regular jobs and moving to Houston. Anna was all for it since she no longer had a career in engineering and was pursuing a new career: riding mechanical bulls for money. She’d already won several professional competitions, earning herself quite a mint plus a reputation as the “feisty, little bull riding lady.”
Though I encouraged Anna in her pursuit of bull riding, the aggressiveness she applied to bull riding didn’t translate well in the bedroom. Thinking that I was a bull, she damn near killed me one night. It didn’t help that she’d started wearing spurs in bed.
You know you’re a redneck when you buy a ten-year old blue and pink trailer house and plant it in the boondocks where your closest neighbors are cute little squirrels and deranged porcupines with bad attitudes. It was Anna’s idea. All day she would play Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, growing increasingly country to the point that she developed a heavy Texas twang.
It was time for the band to come up with an original song. Seeing that we could never get a serious song out of Peter and Jessie, I decided to try my hand at it.
One night as Anna and I watched her favorite new channel, the twenty-four hour, all bull riding/rodeo channel, the song came to me. My inspiration sat right in front of me.
The next day I had the song completed and played it for the guys. There was a mixed look of excitement and fear.
Jessie gulped and said, “We all know who this song is about, Brad. Do you really think we ought to do it?”
I didn’t know what was wrong with them. It was a serious love song. How could they object?
Peter leaned over and said, “’The Wild, Ill-Tempered, Bowlegged Woman’? This isn’t a serious song, Brad. You’ve accomplished joining Jessie and me in writing yet another silly song. And it’s making fun of Anna.”
How could I be so blind to what I’d written? I truly thought it was a serious song paying homage to my beloved bull rider. I then figured out why we were failed serious songwriters: we were musically dyslexic. Perhaps if we intentionally wrote a silly song it would come out serious.
“It’s a good country rocker, Brad,” Peter said sensing my angst. “We could play it, but how will Anna handle it?”
I was very nervous that night as I played it for her.
She smiled, laughed and said, “That song never leaves this house!”
Never had I broken a promise to her. Part of our bond was that trust. So after promising never to play it in public, I turned around and told the guys that she’d approved of it.
While performing at Mac’s Knife In the Back Steakhouse, a drunken, unruly customer started a fight after complaining that his steak had been overcooked. He had in fact ordered spaghetti and meatballs. I felt it an appropriate time to unveil Anna’s song as I believed that humor would soothe this drunken beast.
As we swung into the first verse, the dining audience slowly chuckled and towards the end was dying from laughter. Even Mr. Unruly laughed, although it caused him to choke on a strand of spaghetti, which required use of the Heimlich.
Over the next couple of months Anna’s song became the most popular as well as most requested song from our repertoire.
At this point Anna’s entire life was mechanical bull riding. The money she won allowed her to buy a second trailer house. She began spending more time in it, barring me entrance since it was devoted to bull riding. Though we shared the first house for marital purposes, she began spending less time here, choosing to develop a new life in the house of bull.
At the time I didn’t get what was happening to Anna and me for I was so involved with the band. Our fan base was growing as there was talk of touring with another band. I wouldn’t see her except late at night and usually only to exchange news.
When she informed me that she’d been accepted for membership in the professional bull riding organization, I felt happy for her. For once she truly seemed at peace with her legs and was doing something that brought her joy. Somewhere inside, however, I knew that our individual pursuits were sending us in different directions.
The night that she beaned me in the head with the beer, I lay thinking about the future. I was excited about finally making it in music but saddened by the chasm between Anna and me. I could see that as she grew confident she had pulled away from me. I still loved her, for she was my inspiration, but things had changed.
She became responsive as I gently caressed her legs. She in turn patted my head and rubbed my belly. She then softly said, “Say those words I love to hear.”
With tears in my eyes, I smiled as the words rolled off my tongue, “Snarzen dillem whoffle. Ender roven piffle moffen. In kaputzken, my rindiffen.”
Copyright © 2004 by Delo White