Uncle Red Gets A Billy Goat Valve

Katie Mae is on the phone and I can hear the worry in her voice. The news is not good. Uncle Red is having medical problems and there are a couple of things that have the doctors perplexed. First of all he had a nasty fall that left him with a slight bleed in his brain. This has to be taken care of before they can tackle the major problem which they discovered only after they had stabilized his dizziness from the fall. After taking a stress test Uncle Red was found to have a heart valve that had calcified like a piece of petrified wood and if they couldn’t get that valve replaced, soon, Uncle Red was not going to have a bright future.

The first thing the family heard was Uncle Red’s heart valve was going to be constructed from a pig’s tail. His daughter, Sissy, had tearfully related this sad news to Katie Mae on the phone. I had a four way by-pass back in 2001 so I understand more than a little about coronary artery bypasses and I know they have used pig valves to replace human heart valves but who in the hell ever heard of replacing a heart valve with tissue from a pig’s tail. The whole family was in a tizzy. Red and his brood are all out in Louisiana and I know those Cajuns and Coon-asses do things a little differently out there but a heart valve from a pig tail was more than I could handle. Maybe Red’s doctors were on one of those reality shows from out there. In that case, I would have understand it if they wanted to replace Red’s valve with something off an alligator or a possum but using a pig tail was awfully hard to imagine. They even had me picturing the doctors cutting out a little round section of the pig tail and shaping it into a little round heart valve. That was shortly before I looked in the mirror and slapped my mind back into the right frame.

I knew Red was feeling low because of his condition and especially because old Red liked to smoke a cigarette and drink a cold beer on occasion and, as you know, neither one is allowed for a guy as sick as he was; and he was practically a prisoner in that big hospital. So it was, “no smokes and no brew” for Red. I knew he was scared and lonely and pretty unhappy there so I thought I might cheer him up a little bit if I gave him a call. I’m from South Georgia and I talk slow like a lot of people from the South but my first real job was working with a bunch of mean ass Irish guys from Metuchen, New Jersey and the first thing I learned from them was how to out-talk them. I can pick my speech patterns up about ten or twelve notches and talk just like a New Jersey Irishman.

So I did that and when he answered the phone I immediately went into a long spiel about my being Frank Murphy and I was an associate of his doctors. I told him I had been assigned to locate the proper tissue to be used in the heart valve replacement and unfortunately we had not been able to locate the correct porcine or pig valve and we had the same bad luck in finding bovine or tissue from a cow that we could use. I then said, “We were extremely lucky to locate some tissue from a kid, and by kid, I do not mean a small child, but rather we have a perfect match if we use the ass-hole of a baby billy goat!”

I could hear gasping and coughing on the other end of the line and it scared the hell out of me. I was praying, “Dear Lord, don’t let him die. What if I have killed him!”

I threw the phone at Katie Mae and said, “Try to talk to him, I think he may be dying!” She held the phone for a few seconds and looked at me and said, “No, you fool. He’s laughing!”

It scared me so bad, I refused to talk to him again. The operation was a great success. He’s out and about now and even though he’s a free man, he has not felt the need for beer or cigarettes. I’m not sure which animal tissue they used but Sissy called a few days ago and said that everything was great with her Daddy except every time they pass a Chick-Fil-A  bill-board he starts mooing in a low voice.

Old Goats

Old Goats

As I have grown old and continue to grow older (thank God), I am fascinated by people who are even older than I am and how they have managed to hang in there for so many years.  Do they have secrets we can pry out of them that will help us win the gold in longevity?

The object of my latest fascination is none other than Charles (Ches) McCartney, better known as America’s Goat Man. McCartney was born in 1901 (maybe) and he died in 1998. He would have been 97 at the time of his death but no one knows exactly when he was born. He may have been over 100 when he died. Let me throw out a few strange facts and dumb questions about the lifestyle of America’s Goat Man and you tell me if his lifestyle had anything to do with how long he lived.Ches left home (Sigourney, Iowa) when he was about fourteen and ran away to New York City.

*My question is: Did running away from home increase his life span?  None of that         “Bring in the dog and put out the cat!” Yakety Yak.

He married a 24 year old Spanish knife thrower. She learned there was more money to be made in exhibitions at bars and diners if she used Ches as a target instead of her usual dart board. He learned if he kept her knife points sharp, she would make the knife stick in the backstop on the first throw and she didn’t have to throw the same knife at him again.

Many questions come to mind:

* How long was he married to her before he became her main target?   * Did he    understand that becoming her target was non-habit forming? * How long did it take him to learn a sharp knife sticks and holds better than a dull knife,(in wood and flesh)?                  * Do stupid people live longer?

The knife slinger became pregnant so Ches took her back to Iowa to the farm. A tree fell on him and he was so badly injured, people thought he was dead.  He was revived by an undertaker prodding and poking him.  *Question: Will a near death experience inspire you to live longer.

The great depression slam-dunked his farming, and his cash flow. He was cleaned out, even out of his old worn out over-alls. He had a few goats left over from his farming venture. He got his wife to construct neat and fashionable outfits from goatskins for him, herself and their small boy child.  He built two totally rickety, ramshackle iron-wheeled wagon like vehicles.  He piled his wife and the boy and his few worldly possessions in the wagons and hit the road. She soon bailed out on him and the boy and for 38 years he took this crazy caravan up and down the roads of America. He sold pictures and post cards of himself, the wild wagons and the goats. The wagons were covered in lanterns, pots and pans, wash tubs, pails and buckets, old auto tags and other scraps of metal. He lived on hand-out meals and goats’ milk and what little food he bought along with hay for the goats. He claimed he was an ordained minister and would preach sermons. He could curse blue streaks just as well as he could preach if he happened to injure himself.  He claimed to have traveled over 100,000 miles. He often said the Lord had promised seven wives for every man and he had married three and left the other four for some other lucky man to snag. He was not known for being truthful.

*Questions – Will traveling with goats at one MPH and listening to a small child and a woman talking 90 MPH when you are walking one MPH make you a little bit wary of spending your whole life with other people, especially women who tend to ask a lot of questions that you cannot even begin too answer and not to mention that 32 goats must have been raising a hell of a racket too? *If the woman divorces you and you send the boy home to live with your parents, can you tack a few more years onto your time line?

McCartney would go for years without bathing. He said the goats did not care how he looked or smelled. The more layers of dirt he had on him, the warmer he was in cold weather and if the temperature got down to 30 degrees, he would drag a goat in the wagon with him for additional warmth. If it got down to zero, he said, “That was a five goat night.”

There are a lot of questions I have about the connection between how he lived and how long he lived.

If you look like a goat and smell like a goat and few people will come near you and those who do, do not linger long in your odoriferous presence;  you have little or no contact with women who (I believe are absolutely marvelous) talk an awful lot about many different subjects that are abstract, oblique and of little significance; you are encapsulated in several layers of bacteria defying dirt; you drink goat milk all day long; you walk from six to ten miles every other day; you may be capable of living longer than 99.99% of all the people who have ever inhabited this old world.

I leave it to you who read this to decide if you want to give it a try. As for me, I’m a creature of comfort and there is little doubt in my mind that the good Lord meant for me to carry on with my foolishness in air conditioned dwellings.




Looking Back.

Do you ever stop to reflect on some of the crazy things you did when you were young that are now making you wince and moan and grumble with the stress of trying to do something simple like get out of bed in the morning or bend over to put on your socks? If you are as screwed up as I am, you do not bend over to put on your socks. You have to sit on a little bench or stool and gently coax your socks over your toes with one hand at a time as you attempt to bend just slightly forward toward your feet. If you can do this and cuss at the same time, you have not lost your ability to multi-task. There is no doubt in my mind that we lived our youth during the best years Americans have ever seen but one thing youngsters have on us today is they are more educated about stress on the back and spine and what permanent damage it can do to a person’s back. They also have labor-saving devices that can help them pick up and move large objects that we used to have to move manually. Probably the thing that is really saving their backs is that most of them are lazy as hell and they are not going to pick up any thing heavier than a knife and a fork (they don’t need spoons because we are still spoon feeding them).

The reason I brought this up; my back is killing me. I feel like an old broke-back mule. I was told about 50 years ago by an orthopedist that I have scoliosis which is a lateral curvature of the spine. The spine has a natural front to back curvature but the lateral is abnormal. I forgot all about scoliosis until about five or six years ago when I began to have more back pain than I had already experienced. I knew I had degenerative vertebrae, which generally gives you a fit, and I expected aging would not improve the degenerative part. Aging seems to cause further degeneration. Can you believe it? Nothing seems to get better at 70.

I went to my general practitioner who sent me to one of those groups who have pleasant looking women who are all descendents of people who designed Nazi torture machines. I was not sure where the name “Physical Therapy” came from or what it meant until I had a visit each week for several weeks with some of these unbelievably happy women. They joyfully punch and poke at you and twist you with great glee and hum pleasant little tunes as they try to rip limbs from sore old sockets. Now I know what “PT” stands for. It is an oxymoron that means “Pleasant Torture.”

One day when the crippling bitch from Buchenwald, who was torturing me, showed a human side to the beast in her and went off to the rest room, I crawled away from there as fast as I could. I found solace in knowing that I was still alive which made me feel much better physically for about two years and then the pain began to ratchet up on me again.

I arranged an appointment with a pain management professional who immediately told me that he managed pain, not with oral medications, but with a computer guided hypodermic needle straight into the spine. I want you to understand that he was talking about my spine and I felt a dirty crawling sensation run up and down that very same spine and something in me recognized him as just one more merchant of torture.

As I was leaving he recommended the Physical Therapy office across the hallway and, even though I knew better, I went through the door right into the arms of another “mad-at-the-world” mean woman just thrilled for the opportunity to see me scream and cry real tears. Boy was I surprised to find that this gal was actually a human being and not a heartless robot with evil intent to do me wrong.

She made me take my shirt off and told me to turn around so she could look at my spine. After she took a good look, she said, “Do you know you have scoliosis?” Believe it or not, I had forgotten all about the scoliosis. It had been about 45 years since the old home town orthopedist had told me I had it and it never seemed to bother me or cause me any problems. Not being the brightest light on the chandelier I mumbled, “Is that causing me a problem?” She said, “Well it throws your spine all out of whack and causes a lot of the pain you are experiencing and the worst part about it for you and your spine is one of your legs is shorter than the other.”

“Really, I said, which one is the shortest?” She told me my left leg was shorter. I put my shirt on, thanked her and rushed right on down to Wal-Mart where I located a whole aisle of heel supports and arch supports and whatever else I could find to put in that left shoe so my legs would be the same length or, at least, closer to the same length.

For over five years those heel supports kept me virtually pain free and I am sharing this with you in hopes you can also take a closer look at what doctors are telling you and at the many different ways you can possibly help yourself avoid pain and ailments. There is a world of good doctors in this country but being good creates a problem after they have been practicing a few years. A good doctor gets so covered up with patients, he doesn’t have as much time to spend with you as he did when he first began his practice.

Always see your doctor but remember, nobody knows your body like you do and if there are ways to avoid sickness and pain that work for you don’t be afraid to entertain those methods. Tell your doctor what you’re doing. If he has no problem with it, give it a shot.