by: Wes Ishmael

There may be no more helpless feeling in the world than sitting in a vehicle with the burglar alarm going off—horn honking and lights blinking incessantly—when the driver has gone shopping and taken the keys.

Hooter figured that out when he climbed out of Uncas Bingelmeyer's pickup, which somehow tripped Uncas' customized alarm system. The flashing lights were blinding, the sound deafening—the high-pitched beller of a mad bull in between air horn blasts.

Uncas had pulled into one of those strip malls off the interstate, proclaiming that Chief Daddy's Smoke Shop had the best pipe tobacco at the lowest prices. Hooter had been on the phone and lagged behind.

Everyone stared at Hooter of course, shaking their heads at someone who obviously had no business driving if they couldn't control the horn. It didn't help that the pickup was a motley shade of primer green with a perfect set of Long Horns perched just above the chrome brush guard. Or that there was still Christmas tinsel dangling from the headache rack.

Hooter's first reaction was to stop the incessant racket. He climbed back inside, pulled every knob and pushed every button he could find, opened and closed every door. If anything, the volume increased.

Hooter's next instinct was to find Uncas fast. He ran into the smoke shop. Everyone stopped to stare, somehow knowing he was behind all of the racket. Hooter scanned the shop, no Uncas. He spied a door at the back of the shop for the humidor, burst through it and caused a yuppie-type to singe his nose rather than start the cigar dangling in his mitt.


“You know those things will kill you,” Hooter growled slamming the door on his way back out. All the while, Uncas' burglar alarm kept bellowing. Hooter scanned the store one last time before exiting in high gear.

Hooter saw a crowd gathering around the pickup. He looked up and down the sidewalk, no Uncas. If Uncas wasn't in the tobacco shop bathroom, he figured his wayward pal had to be in one of other three shops: Lucy's Hollywood Dress Emporium; Peeper's Video and Novelty; or Frosty's Old Fashioned Malt Shop. Even he couldn't imagine Uncas wanting anything in the other two shops, so he chose the latter.

Same story, second verse: lots of disgusted stares, but no Uncas.

He though about going back to the pickup, but, the flashing lights of a mall cop car encouraged him to find the pickup owner first.

Hooter scampered back to the smoke shop, thinking maybe he'd missed seeing Uncas, or that his wayward buddy had ended up back there. Scowls and the yuppie with the sizzled shnoz glaring at him.

Hooter slammed the door and headed to Peeper's, the closest shop he hadn't yet checked. Two mid-age men dropped whatever they were looking at as soon as they heard the door bell. At least they didn't glare at him. Still no Uncas.

On his way to the last shop, Hooter glanced toward the blaring, flashing spectacle that was Uncas Bingelmeyer's pickup. Evidently such bright lights and loud noises were big news. The mall cop was opening and closing the pickup doors trying to look important.

Hooter burst into the dress shop.

“Good Lord, Hooter, is that any way to enter a respectable business establishment?” scolded Uncas. He turned to the elderly lady behind the counter. “My apologies, Miss Lucy. My friend here doesn't get to town often.”


“Your manners, Hooter, your manners,” said Uncas. “I want you to meet Miss Lucy Hoselhost, the proprietor of this fine store.”

Hooter quickly tipped his hat. “I'm sorry for the interruption Ma'm. But I need to talk to Uncas here who I thought was going to the smoke shop.”

“All in good time, Hooter. I always visit Miss Lucy first. Did you know she was one of those pilots during World War II, ferrying all kinds of aircraft around?”

“No Ma'm,” Hooter said to Miss Lucy. “But Uncas…”

Uncas held up his hand and smiled at Miss Lucy. “Again, my apologies. We're heading to a bull sale and my friend here is beside himself with excitement.”

Hooter glared at Uncas. He wanted to tell the blue-haired hero that the only reason he was going to the sale with Uncas was because the sale hosts heard Uncas was coming and begged Hooter to come with him for damage control.

Though a prized repeat buyer, Uncas was a loose cannon. Two years earlier, sifting through bulls prior to the sale, Uncas excitedly told any prospective buyer who would listen that he always liked buying purebred bulls (big wink) there because he suspected a touch of heterosis was responsible for the added performance punch he'd noticed.

“It's not the color of the pudding,” Uncas would announce, “It's how the pudding tastes (wink).”

Last year, after a fast-paced start, Uncas had stopped the sale mid block speech to inform the crowd, “Don't worry if you don't get one bought here today. If it's like other years, these fine folks will have some of these very bulls to dicker on after the sale, God Love Them.”

Rather than share such tawdry tales with Miss Lucy, though, Hooter took a firm hold of Uncas' shoulder and demanded, “Can't you hear that racket?”

Uncas scrunched up his brow in concentration. “Now Hooter, some might call that a racket, but I actually think it's a noble attempt at a bagpipe version of Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

“Not that,” Hooter growled, following Uncas' gaze to a speaker in the corner pumping out elevator music. “That!” Hooter shouted, pointing out the door.

“Oh, that alarm,” Uncas said with a shrug. “Obviously some poor soul's prized vehicle has been assaulted by a would-be thief.”


“No sir, Hooter McCormick, you let the bells of justice ring true and loud until the culprit is apprehended. Besides, that's nearly as loud as my own system.”

“But that is your system, you idiot!” Hooter shouted. “It's been going off like that for at least 10 minutes.”

“Well, why didn't someone tell me?” Uncas wondered, making no move to silence the racket.

“I have been trying to find you,” Hooter seethed. “You told me you were going to the smoke shop. That's where I started, then the malt shop, then Peeper's…”

“You must have been desperate to go looking for me at Peeper's,” Uncas chuckled (wink, wink).

“But Uncas, I don't think you unders…”

“Besides, everyone knows I always come to see Miss Lucy first.”


“Do you know that she and my mama were friends all the way back to grammar school? She's been knowing me since before I ever showed up.”

“That's right, precious,” Miss Lucy chimed in as if Uncas was her own boy.

“Uncas,” Hooter said more firmly. “Before you resume your stroll down memory lane, could you at least put a stopper in all the racket your pickup is making?”

Uncas shook his head and pressed his nose back to the glass. “Like I said, Hooter, you let the bells toll until justice is served and they find the horse rustler.”


“Thank your lucky stars you got out when you did. I'd hate to think what might have happened.”

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