Editor's Note: The Stumble Bum's been around -- gone places and seen things. He's poked
his silly old nose into all sorts of God-forsaken ports. Singapore, Rangoon, Shanghai, Algier -- they're
all old places to him. And us, well, we've been to Cicero. But have you ever heard the
Stumble Bum spin his yarns? (ed: Louis H. Engel)
By the Stumble Bum
It's a grey day and a cold day and all in all it's a damned good day to light a pipe and reflect on all things (including the honesty of these dice Bobby Mac is trying to seduce me with at the moment).
A tune has been running through my otherwise vacant head all day. "La Golondria" Do you know it by any chance? It brings old dreams -- memories of days spent in roaring ecstasy in Sonara ... "beyond the river" as the old heads have it. I remember one night when the "rurales" were rather hot on my widely spaced tracks, when I lay on the edge of a rocky, clean cut mesa with the white stars grouped in the seat of my Texas "cack" and pondered on tea dances and white shirts and all the delightfully insincere things that mean so much to a hungry youth coiled on top of a black mesa, in the night.
"La Golondria" ... I lived with it all last winter. It was the other side then. A State Officer in Colorado during the I.W.W. strike. It was the North, a bitterly cold North with the wind picking at the tent flaps and the snow sett'ling in outrageous comfort on the top of the Sibley stove. It was the Columbine Mine Camp -- and "Columbine" was a devil of a name to give to that desolate group of battered shacks. There was a piano in the "cantina," an "electerik peeano" as the Mexican miners assured me and the only tune the yellow oak thing had in its innards was, of course, "La Golondria." Long, long nights with the mine dump flaring up in dull scarlet splotches, the kerosene lamps throwing bars of yellow light across the dirty snow the street, and filthy, coal be grimed Mexican delvers in the bowels of earth closing their eyes and swaying slightly to the thin strains of "La Golondria" -- The Swallow. They were a different bunch the morning they came up the road from Lafayette in the sweeping compact mass, the knives flickering in the wan light like little tongues of white flame and the clubs held ominously quiet. They weren't the happy, carefree miners that morning, content with an electric piano and a half pint of Tony's liquor. They were a mob. A sullen, bitter mob, and worst of all they were quiet. Quiet and moving. I was afraid that morning while we waited. Desperately afraid and far below, down the hill, Tony's piano pounded on. Afterwards? Oh then -- it was just another fight.
Manila on a pay-day night.
White clad civilians and sailors and khaki clad soldiers crowding the "carremetas" headed for Lerma, Guadalupe or Taal.
Guitars and a polished ebony floor -- bare footed "boys" sliding silently around with cool beers, scotch and soda or Dr. Funk's.
Copyright © 2001, Mary S. Van Deusen