It's time for another look into Pud Gannon's scribblings while we wait out the winter. If you missed or have forgotten the previous entry, you can find it here. I haven't quite figured out the timelines or Pud's actual age yet. He isn't thoughtful enough to provide dates, though the anecdote towards the end of this entry must be around 1917, and the ruminations in the first part must pre-date WWII, my guess is the late '30s to 1940. But you can draw your own conclusions. Enjoy.
Pud Gannon Memoirs #2
Most of the boys in Shor's turned their backs to me. Some I reckon were scared of me. I was filled out pretty good then, and everyone knew me for a scraper. Not afraid of nobody and usually eager to show it. But most were just sore on account of giving money to me. There have been plenty that didn’t come around no more, giving me their money then takin’ it personal and outside we go where I come out on top. I ain’t got any rules in alleyways and parking lots. Rules I’ve got in other places but not those. Not having rules gives a man certain advantages. Can make for a rough night’s sleep, but of course, that opens up other opportunities. Nothin’ good happens in the early hours of the morning, but plenty of great does for sure. I don’t do guilt for the money people have given to me. I never took it. They always gave it to me, oftentimes without my asking for it. More times than I can remember I was forced to put a man on the ground, each one of ‘em with a billfold or money clip bulging in a pocket. But I never once took advantage. My business in those hot moments was always with them, not their pockets. If anything I would take their license, or draft certificate. Let them know to leave me be ‘cause now I could find him if I wanna yow yow yow. You don’t like to do it, but threatening a man’s family will either make him come at you for keeps or make sure you never see his face again. Usually the latter, though both ways work to keep matters brief.
Anyway, the boys that did talk to me, my pals, they called me Bush. You know, as in busher. They didn’t give me any money, usually I gave it to them but with no love lost. A man’s gotta keep friends and he’s gotta keep heroes. Keeping them close worked well for me for years. They liked that I played ball. It amused the proper ballplayers and impressed the writers. That ratter Jimmy couldn’t of survived in the bush leagues for a day and he knew it, which made him like me. I think he even mentioned me once or twice in the paper, though I can’t remember which name he called me. They called me Busher. The Dago started that. He called a lot of people busher, but with me he had a way of dragging out the ‘sh’ and then swallowing the ‘er’ as if it didn’t taste good on his tongue. I always felt he hated me almost as much as he wanted to like me, which is why he kept me around for so many years. If you knew the man you may understand that. In the end I knew him more than I cared to. But it can be hard to back away from a burning fire.
They liked to poke around for stories of the bush leagues, as most of ‘em didn’t get out that far west, and those that did were playing in proper leagues like the PCL or Texas League. They liked the roughness of it. Shook their heads at the way we cheated and fought and worked. Envied it even, I think. They loved especially the ‘superstitious sallies’ of Abilene. I had wandered my way there, hopping boxcars. Used to be a great way to see this country. Folks don’t seem to move so much anymore. Insurance concerns, I reckon. I caught on with the team there, I think we were the Armadillos, but I don’t really recall anymore. So the war was coming on pretty soon, we could all feel it. The horses and cattle coming in on the trains even seemed to sense the country turning. Most men were worried; honestly I didn’t think much of it. I was playing ball, drinking, chasing skirts about, having a general good time. I think I was batting .340 when my season ended.
I came up on one of the boys praying to stay out of the war, on account of a girl he met and wanted to marry and he didn’t think she would wait for him to come home seeing as how she was just so pretty and all yow yow yow. And a coupla days later our third baseman, I think his name was Tolliver, showed up to the park with one pant leg pulled down to his shoe. Looked like a damn fool, we all laughed and rode him pretty hard. But he just looked straight serious and said it was good luck. He had land to tend and luck would let stay home and tend it. He never explained how he reached this conclusion, but it just struck me as odd. Like with the prayer-boy, looking up at shit they can’t see to help them with shit they can’t avoid. So I got to thinking and decided to have a little fun.
During a game against some team I don’t remember which, when both the prayer-boy and one-sock were flanking the two half steps that led onto the field from our dugout, I pulled in a deep breath, real loud so they could hear it before walking onto the field on my way to the batter’s box. Luckily, I roped a double, kicking up dirt the whole way. I get stranded out there on 2nd, and when the boys come out with my glove one-sock asks me why I held my breath leaving the dugout. And I says it brings good luck, in fact it does better than that. It keeps the demons from entering my body, as they respect a ballplayer. Sucking in a breath was a show of respect to them, and so they returned it in good fortune, in baseball and other. Well word got around and boy if by the end of the month everybody on the team was holding their damn stinking breaths everytime they left the dugout to take the field or hit. Every last one of ‘em. Thought it gave them hits and would keep them out of the war. And I had to admit, it sure seemed to. We won something like 15 of 20 during that stretch before some asshole spoiled the party. And of course, that asshole was me. I had played along with them, holding my breath, looking up at the sky pretending to lasso demons floating in the clouds with the rest of those boys, until I just got bored with it. I always got bored with things pretty quick, except for ball of course. When I could no longer play, I bet on it and watched it and found other ways to influence things. So one day I just kinda forgot about the whole thing and walked up those steps humming a tune that escapes me now. Prayer-boy heard me and cast me a look that I couldn’t figure out ‘cause I had already forgotten about the whole ruse, not even in my brain anymore. Well I played the inning, made a putout on a hard hit ball, and trotted in thinking about my next at-bat. And wouldn’t you believe I stepped bad on the dugout step, twisted my knee something awful and somehow managed to fall straight on it. I heard the pop and I’m sure I let out a yell of something awful. All the boys just stared. I had let the demons in, and damn if I didn’t deserve it.
That was the end of my season. They sent me up to the hospital, not just any hospital, but a training hospital for the army. And so they set and cast my knee and run all sorts of tests on me, working on their speed and thoroughness, getting ready for the real work over in Europe. And wouldn’t you know, it comes back that my eyesight is off the charts sharp and the knee won’t take long at all to heal and won’t affect my flying much anyway, and so now I’m enlisted and sent off for flight training. Just like that. So my funny war game with the baseball demons got me sent to war. The boys in Shor's just loved that story. Must've told some of ‘em half a dozen times. Always made ‘em howl.
So at the time I was pretty bitter and angry about the whole affair. I was having a good go of it in Abilene, and now here I was learning to fly, which I actually quite liked a lot, and getting ready to go to Europe and I wasn’t even sure who we were fighting. Little did I know that I would die over there. And that that would teach me how to make a world like this work for a guy like me.