“Everything God made lives in Texas, even the most foreign of animal, probably on some oilman’s ranch somewhere. The weather is perfect for all manner of beast from charismatic to obscure. Where elsewhere creatures might live, here they thrive. From chinch bug to chinchilla, there is little you cannot hit with your Cadillac.
“A Texan steers away from armadillos; towards rattlesnakes.
“My relationship with animals has always been multifariously faceted. Some I loved so hard! Some I shot so good. Others I enjoyed at a roadside stand, washed down with a Big Red from a glass bottle. Snared in my traps, snagged on my hooks, and once rescued from Louie Grabass’ desperate late-night fumblings. I have sold white rhinos on the black market, and I have bought black panthers at a white elephant sale. For a short period in the 70’s, a salamander did my taxes.
“I had never seen an amphibian wear a yarmulke before.
“Life on the road was dire drudgery. Worse than that: it was trying trudgery. My unstoppable party-legs would be packing the house in Michigan and Tennessee and Las Vegas, but my heart was in Texas. The money was fine, and the tequila was the purest of agave squeezings. Me and the Cascabel Crew travelled in comfort in our 1959 Flxible VL 100 Coach bus. We called her the Headwind, and she had one of those dealies so’s you can affix your name to the forehead of the vehicle. I had Skippy Joe double mine in size as to contain my name both regular-wise and in a mirrored fashion, as I wanted the drivers ahead of me to know that Roy Head was coming through. Yes, that Roy Head.
“You should’ve heard of me.
“The Headwind was appointed in high style. Skippy Joe had upgraded the mechanistics, and her 0-60 time was under five seconds, which is fast for something with a bathroom. The brakes were the size of a giant squid’s eye, but much more heat-resistant. We could stop on a dime, which we quickly learned was inadvisable to do in something with a bathroom. Skippy Joe had also installed a vast gas tank that could take us across America without stopping, and we watched him very carefully while he did this part.
“My good friend had an irrational exuberance to him.
“The interior was not under Skippy Joe’s purview. Though his skills with a tool chest were unparalleled, Headwind was to be my mobile mansion: her furnishings had to reflect my glory and Skippy Joe was not the man for the detail work and design know-how needed. Big Bucktoothed Pete was not just my road manager, but a fine and tasteful craftsman. He could carpent. He could upholst. He could cabinetmake.
“Skippy Joe could build the house, but Big Bucktoothed Pete could make it home.
“I had a private suite in the rear where I could rest my dangly, jangly legs after another night of igniting concert stages, usually metaphorically. There was a shower for my ablutions, and a toilet for my pollutions. Speakers, some that woofed and some that tweeted, were secreted within the walls to provide me with the highest of fi. The floor was covered in carpeting made from a single yak in Nepal that had never been out in the rain.
“It was so soft, it would suck the socks right off your feet.
“Though my personal compartment was luxurious, it could not compete with the sheer opulence that Big Bucktoothed Pete created in the main cabin. That which was not golden was filigreed, and the walnut had been burled to within an inch of its life. The captain’s chairs were upholstered with leather from animals I had personally shot, or found, or had purchased for me. The tables were made from ultrateak, which is like teak, but better.
“You’ve never seen rugs this Oriental.
“Pete had also built a kitchen, and not some hot plate in the corner, no. This was a full culinary laboratory for science both mad and yummy. There was a deep fryer for breakfast purposes, and though no one ever fully explained to me what it is, a sous-vide was possible. Louie Grabass was the fastest changa chimier on the highway, soothing our homesick souls with the texest of mexes. All the most modern and convenient conveniences were at his disposal, save a microwave.
“Skippy Joe had powerful beliefs about radiation.
“We called Headwind our cruise control castle, even though she did not have cruise control, as that was another thing Skippy Joe had powerful beliefs about. We loved her so, but even the gildest of cages can torment. After nineteen hours on the road, we screamed for respite. ‘Free us from this carcophagus, Skippy Joe!’ we cried. ‘The walls are squeezing us, and not even the most elegantly appointed conveyance will brace them open!’
“Getting Skippy Joe to pull over required a bit of salesmanship.
“There was a zoo up ahead, and even a man as possessed by forward momentum as Skippy Joe could see the wisdom and wonder in looking at critters, and perhaps a large varmint or two. We planned our zoological perambulations with care, as to experience the sight and smell of as many strange and marvelous and perhaps mythological creatures as possible.
“There was also the snack bar, and the gift shop if Louis Grabass was good.
“We had wholesome fun in front of us, so we threw some drinks back. Were our imbibations excessively ferocious? Perhaps, but can you not blame the lion? He had inspired us, as had all the other zoo animals. We drank in their honor. First, there were Monkey Houses, which are equal parts whiskey, peanuts, and stench. Next, we sipped Bull Elephants, which are martinis stirred with a swizzle stick made from ivory. Then, we moved on to Petting Zoos, which is when you put a quarter in a machine for a shot of whiskey, and then a goat bites a child. Last, we had California Condors, which drinking too many of makes you an endangered species.
“Better late than sober, Big Bucktoothed Pete always said.
“But we were too late! Our carousing in our rousing car had spanned hours multitudinous and the zoo was locked up as securely as the animals within! The mood soured, and all that was left was to kick at rocks in the parking lot, and think about what could have been. We could hear the lowing of the moose in the quiet night, and the growl of the leopard, and Skippy Joe yelling, “I CLIMBED THE FENCE AND NOW I’M GONNA WHUP THIS BEAR’S ASS!”
“This was not completely unexpected.
“Do not mistake our hasty retreat into Headwind for cowardice in the face of danger! We did not hide, nor did we flee! I leapt into the driver’s seat and rammed the main gate, roaring through the zoo with a viciousness previously only seen in its inhabitants! The sturdiness of the bus plus the enlivened engine equaled structural damage to many enclosures, and the breaking of many fences.
“Freedom was imposed on beasts of hunger.
“I had not been aware that keepers stay the night, but I became aware after watching several of them get eaten. Hippos, who waddle, wandered wild. Gazelles–graceful grazers–gazed, guarded. A zebra trotted into the prairie dog patch and began to stomp the furry tunnelers in a pointless dance of death. Bison walked on two legs. An alligator smoked a cigarette.
“Hell breaking loose is bad, but a zoo breaking loose is strange.
“Though despoilers of virgins and quaffers of ethanol, we were not bad men! Our mistakes could not be allowed to injure the nearby community who, although not Texans, were human beings. Big Bucktoothed Pete, Louie Grabass, and I knew what we had to do. We ascended to the sniper’s nest Skippy Joe had attached to the bus that I didn’t tell you about. Hunters all of us, we were capable of the task, but ashamed for the work: these were God’s creatures before us in our sights! We did what we had to do!
“Skippy Joe didn’t need rescuing! He whupped that bear’s ass!”
“Sir, is this for delivery or carry-out?”
“HEADWIND HAD EXTENSIVE FRONT-END DAMAGE!”
“Is this a prank call?”