by: Wes Ishmael

“A near-sighted, one-flippered walrus could get closer than that,” cackled Myron. “It's all in the timing, and the wrist.”

Myron was referring to Hooter's errant shot at the 13th hole of an ancient and dilapidated miniature golf course somewhere in West Texas. Hooter had no idea where exactly, and knew Myron wouldn't tell him if he asked.

The only way to the hole was through the rusty blades of a squeaky, but fast turning windmill. Hooter had no interest in golf of any kind, let alone on a raw, windy January day. He'd already tried making it through the windmill eight times, clutching the club with cold, numbing hands. Each time, his neon pink golf ball hit the blades and flew back at him. It was starting to sleet.

On the 9th attempt, with a mighty whack, Hooter hit the upper part of the windmill; the ball ricocheted off the blades, careened into the clubhouse, where it bounced and clattered around for an amazingly long time. The attendant was not amused.

“Like this,” Myron said. He wasn't even wearing gloves. One quick flip of the putter and Myron's purple ball was through the hole and into the cup on the other side. “See?”

“What I see is that we're wasting daylight and freezing to the bone. What I still don't see is why you wanted to meet,” Hooter growled. “Or why it has to be bouncing balls off of windmills in the middle of winter.”

“Because we're waiting for that myopic miscreant, Benny, to grace us with his presence,” Myron said.

Monumental Makings

Hooter hadn't seen Myron (just Myron) or Benny since enlisting their help to extricate the misguided Eunice Nickelcock from the clutches of the larcenous cheats behind two sham organizations called the Pet Protection Society and the People for the Ethical Treatment of All Animals.

Roy Bean, “Benny” Wilson was a cantankerous West Texas rancher with a law degree he acquired after a corporate bully filed frivolous lawsuits against him in order to wrongfully procure some of his property. Since then, Bennie ran cows and yearlings, while seeking vengeance through the court system, going after those he believed were hurting innocent people the way they had him. Benny loved a good fight when it counted.

Then there was Myron, a shadow within a whisper, seemingly nowhere and everywhere. In appearance, Hooter always thought Myron resembled an ambitious hippie: barely 5'5” and fit—neither chunky nor slender—with a happy, child-like face and unkempt, shaggy gray hair over his shoulders. He always wore faded Levis and a black T-shirt emblazoned with one saying or another: “I am the Problem” “Weather's Here, Wish You Were Beautiful,” etc. That was beneath his ever-present, long, wrinkled, tan trench coat, which seemed to contain an endless number of bottomless pockets.

Bennie was lots easier to find than Myron. Plus, for various reasons, only some known to Hooter, Bennie would never work with Myron unless there was any other way. Whatever they wanted to chat about, Hooter knew it was worth waiting.

Divergent History

Myron took the licorice stick from between his lips and pointed with emphasis. “In the meantime, we happen to be here for historical context.”

Hooter said nothing and whacked the ball again with the same result.

“You could always forfeit the hole,” Myron said.


“Suit yourself. While you beat that ball into submission, let me tell you a story.”

Hooter concentrated harder, actually tried to apply logic and physics. No dice.

“Midget golf, mini golf, Putt-Putt, widows' links. Do you know where it all started?” Myron asked.

“No idea and less desire to know.”

“According to history, it started at the venerable St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland, where the owner developed a sort of putting course to occupy the ladies while their husbands played a round. That wasn't long after the Civil War here.”

Hooter was still whacking away.

“Then, in this country in the early 1900's, in North Carolina, the Thistle Dhu course opened, which was putting only. Next, someone got the idea you could do the same thing on non-grass surfaces, then someone got the idea of obstacles, natural and otherwise. There were thousands of mini golf places across the country in the 1920's, then came the Depression.”

Hooter turned his back to the hole, belted the ball, which bounded between the wooden rails on either side of the dilapidated green mat, then disappeared behind the blades of the windmill.

“What's that, about 99?” Myron said. “At least we get to change scenery now.”

The next hole rested on the other side of a wagon wheel. There was only a single gap between two spokes. Miss it and the ball dropped into a gutter and fell to a lower level, from which you had to putt onto a miniature Ferris wheel in order to get back to the beginning. That's where Hooter was when Myron continued the story.

“Along about 1954 the Putt-Putt Corporation was born. Know what the difference was?”

“Nope.” Getting the ball on the Ferris wheel was harder than it seemed.

“The Putt-Putt folks stuck to the purity of the game. It was all putting, and there were obstacles, but luck wasn't necessary. You could win if you could putt accurately. All of the other ones were similar to this one here, gimmicked to the hilt.”

Hooter's ball was finally taking a ride back to the beginning of the hole.

“Also note that sticking vegetables, fruits and meat in cans goes way back, at least to the Napoleonic wars,” Myron said.

“Huh?” Hooter was beginning to wonder if the belt on Myron's elevator was starting to slip. “You do understand that I have no idea what you've been talking about since I got here, and I have absolutely no idea what Napoleon and canned okra has to do with that.”


The Next Operation

Bennie was already leaning over the fence before Myron and Hooter saw the cloud of dust from his arrival.

“You kiddies enjoying yourselves?” Bennie bellowed. He spat a heavy black stream of plug tobacco. “I said to get Hooter up to speed, not give him pneumonia, you boneheaded nut job.”

“It's swell to see you, too,” Myron said. His smile was genuine. “Unfortunately, there hasn't been much time to get to the facts, given all of the flapping.” He pointed to Hooter, who was on the lower level once again, trying to get his ball to hitch a ride back to the start. “And you know how he is, once he starts something…”

“Hooter, give me that thing,” Bennie said. He took Hooter's putter and broke it over his knee. “Game over. Get in my pickup.”

Hooter couldn't remember the last time the inside of a crew cab felt so good. He suspected Myron didn't notice the change in atmosphere. Somewhere in the depth of those pockets, he'd already retrieved another stick of licorice, a deck of cards and a voice recorder.

“Hooter, we can't go into all of the details here,” Bennie said. “But, moron there has something to listen to that you might find interesting. Remember Operation Bald Coyote?”

Myron flipped the switch on the voice recorder…

To be continued.

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