by Jim Foreman
"I choose Joe Bob Puckett," the owner of the football shouted as a sandlot football game was being organized. Ownership of the football automatically made one the captain and quarterback of the team. Joe Bob was always the first one chosen on a team because he stood a head taller and was half again heavier than any other kid his age. In addition to his generous size, he had the longest arms of any kid around and could tackle a horse.
As his Uncle Charlie, who was also his Little League Football coach, put it when he was in the fifth grade, "Joe Bob knocks down the whole offensive line, gathers up everyone in the backfield and then tosses them out one at a time until he finds the one with the ball, and then he smashes him good." It wasn't that Joe Bob was all that good as a football player, he was just so much bigger than the other kids.
Joe Bob and his mother lived with her brother, Charlie, who worked as a handyman to keep the boilers working down at the steam laundry. They hadn't seen Joe Bob's dad in several years. He just walked out the door one morning and never came back. The rumor was that he disappeared at about the same time as the Avon Lady and neither was ever seen again. The police asked Joe Bob's mother if she wanted to file a missing persons report but she told them not to bother because he wasn't really worth the effort.
Joe Bob bullied and intimidated his way through Junior High Football but when it came time for him to enter West Fort Worth High School, the district in which he lived, he was drafted to play for Paschal High. If you think that there is no such thing as a high school football draft, then you just don't understand Texas high school football.
West Fort Worth High had what was not only the worst football team in the metroplex area, but probably the worst in all of Texas. They had not only lost their last thirty-eight games in a row, they hadn't scored a single point during the past season. Paschal High, on the other hand, had been Texas State High School Champions for the past three years and had no intention of allowing any other school to break that string, no matter what it cost them to obtain and keep the biggest and best players. As a part of the draft agreement, Uncle Charlie, who was now acting as Joe Bob's manager, was put on the school's payroll as a janitor and given a school pickup truck to drive so that he could bring Joe Bob to school each morning and take him home each evening. Other than chauffeuring Joe Bob to football practice, he had no other duties at the school. In order to make it appear that Joe Bob was a bonified resident within the Paschal District, the school listed one of the teacher's home as Joe Bob's residence.
Even as a Freshman, Joe Bob stood over six feet tall and weighed better than two hundred pounds. With a reach of nearly seven feet from one fingertip to the other, Joe Bob was a starter in every game. About all that he had to do as a defensive tackle was to stand his ground, spread his arms and very little could get by him. Their opponents learned very quickly that it was difficult to accomplish much with a running play in his direction.
About the only subject in school that Joe Bob took with any enthusiasm was football and seldom attended other classes more than once or twice a week, and then only to pick up girls. If his grades sagged a bit, all that he had to do was let his coach know about the problem and he would have a discussion with the teacher about how valuable Joe Bob was to the football team and school spirit, and how important it was for him to have passing grades in order to remain eligible to play. Failing grades magically became passing grades.
One of the most compelling reasons for Joe Bob to attend classes at all was the fact that, due to alphabetical arrangement, he was always seated right behind LuAnn Poovey who, even at thirteen years of age, had the best looking tits and the cutest little ass in school. LuAnn was the majorette for the band as well as head cheer leader. When the offense was on the field during a game, Joe Bob usually sat facing away from the field so that he had the best view of LuAnn's rear, made even more admirable by her tiny skirt.
LuAnn could care less that Joe Bob was a big defensive lineman because she had eyes for no one except Brad Hartley, the school jock and starting quarterback on the football team.
One day in English class, when LuAnn had been called on to stand and read something, Joe Bob was afforded one of his better views of her cute little ass. Evidently, the last time that LuAnn went to the bathroom, she accidentally caught the back hem of her skirt in the top of her underwear and as she stood, Joe Bob was face to face with nothing but thin, pink panties covering that beautiful ass. The temptation became too much for Joe Bob to endure so he reached up and patted her on the butt.
LuAnn spun around and screamed at him, "Touch my ass again you big, lecherous, horny bastard and I'll give you a knee in the nuts."
When college coaches go out to recruit high school students, they go armed not only with scholarships, but with various side offers which are usually furnished by members of the alumni. Most high school football stars select the college which they will allow to give them a free education, not based on how good the school is, but on how many side benefits they can negotiate and where their best chances for being drafted by the professional teams lie. Uncle Charlie took over the negotiations for Joe Bob's college career.
At least a dozen colleges approached Joe Bob about coming to their campus to play football. Those which offered nothing more than a year by year scholarship didn't stand a chance because Uncle Charlie had set a four year, no-cut deal as a very minimum. Once that point was established, they could negotiate on the side benefits.
Joe Bob's choices had been reduced to the three best possibilities; Texas A&M, Wyoming and the TCU Hornfrogs. Initially, the Wyoming Cowboys had the best offer with a full scholarship, the local Ford dealer would furnish Joe Bob a used car to drive while he was in school and he would get twenty tickets to each home game. Supposedly, the free tickets were so the player's family could attend the games without paying, but the more common practice was for the player to sell them to pick up some quick cash. The problem with Wyoming was that few of the professional teams ever considered drafting players from that school.
Using the Wyoming offer as a starting point, Uncle Charlie began some hard bargaining with A&M and TCU. TCU upped the deal with fifty tickets to each game and a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer would provide a new car to drive each year. A&M countered with the same deal but added a scouting pass with an expense account for Uncle Charlie. This would allow him to attend all the college and bowl games that he cared to see and bill the travel costs to A&M.
The deal with A&M was almost made until Big Bob Bradshaw stepped in. Big Bob had been a defensive tackle at TCU and wanted Joe Bob to play his old position. He called Uncle Charlie on the phone and said, "Howdy, Big Bob Bradshaw is my name and the All Bidness is my game. How 'bout you and Joe Bob coming down to my huntin' ranch shootin' a few deer and turkey with me? I'm having a few of my friends over and we'll cook up a cow and drink some good bourbon whiskey while we are at it."
When one of the biggest independent oilmen in Texas issues such an invitation, it's a good idea to accept.
"Sure thing," replied Uncle Charlie. "How do we get to your spread?"
"It is down south of Abilene, jist outside of my town called Bradshaw, but all you have to do is drive out to Meacham Field and stop at the big white hangar where it says Bradshaw Oil. My pilot will run you down in the Learjet."
Big Bob wasn't the type of person who was willing to spend the time and effort that it would take to get a town named after him, so he just found an existing town which already had his name and claimed it. Bradshaw, Texas had a population of around fifty people, so there wasn't all that much opposition to him calling it his town. He did buy a small ranch, mostly covered by mesquite trees, next to the town and asked the city fathers to take it into the city limits. The best thing on the whole place was a rambling old Spanish style ranch house which Big Bob immediately turned into a place where he could come to party. With all the improvements on the land, Big Bob became not only the biggest, but one of the few people who actually paid taxes to the town.
Since Bradshaw was a bonified Texas town, they were eligible for all sorts of state money, especially from the Texas Aeronautics Commission's Airport Fund for improving their municipal airport. Bradshaw not only didn't have an airport, they didn't even have anyone there who could fly. This posed no problem to Big Bob, because he simply dozed the mesquite off a strip on his ranch and registered it as the Bradshaw Municipal Airport. With several million dollars now available for improvement, the runway was paved, landing lights put in and even an instrument landing system installed. Naturally, all the improvements on the airport were made by the Bradshaw Construction Company so by cooking the books, he got back about three times what he had spent on the deal.
It would have been about a four hour drive from Fort Worth to Bradshaw but in only twenty minutes flying time, the Learjet screeched its tires on the 7000 foot asphalt runway of the Bradshaw Municipal Airport. To the local resident's knowledge, the only airplanes ever to use the airport, other than Big Bob's Learjet, was a couple crazy crop dusters who stopped by each spring to spray weeds just before wheat harvest.
"Good thing that Big Bob's last name wasn't Dallas," remarked Uncle Charlie, "Or he couldn't have afforded his own town.
Bradshaw had that ranch mostly as a place to party and impress his guests. It wasn't all that big by Texas standards, something less than three thousand acres. However, with the aid of some wire cutters, Big Bob and his friends were able to roam just about anywhere that deer and turkey could be found in the rolling brush and mesquite covered hills. Big Bob's real home was situated in the middle of a whole city block in the most expensive part of Fort Worth. He also owned most of the land between Fort Worth and Jacksboro.
Big Bob, driving a fire-engine red Cadillac convertible with steer horns across the hood, chrome-plated pistols for door handles and a saddle mounted on each front fender; came roaring up and slid to a stop before the pilot had time to shut down the engines on the Learjet. "You can go on back to Fort Worth," he shouted to the pilot. "I'll call you when I want you to come back."
"Hop in, good buddies," he shouted to Joe Bob and Uncle Charlie over the whine of the jet engines and motioned them toward the steer hide seats in the Caddy. "The bourbon is getting warm and the steaks are getting cold."
When they arrived at the ranch house, several men were standing around sipping at glasses of bourbon and branch water, while they watched a Mexican who was turning a hind quarter of a steer on a spit over glowing mesquite coals.
"Big Bob, you said something about hunting deer and turkey," said Uncle Charlie. "That season ain't open right now in Texas. Ain't we liable to get arrested or something?"
"You don't have to worry none about that, Charlie," said Big Bob. "I want you to meet some of the fellers who will be hunting with us. This here is Clint Osmer, Texas Ranger. This is Cletus Hall, sheriff of Runnels County, and standing beside him is Oscar Taylor, the District Attorney. This slicked up feller here is my cousin, Hurshul Clayburn, head of the Texas Aeronautics Commission. Finally, this here young man is my nephew, Homer Bradshaw and with him is Jim Thomas, our local game warden."
"You certainly know how to cover all the bases, Big Bob," said Uncle Charlie.
"You don't get as rich as I am by leaving no loose ends," replied Big Bob. "And speaking of loose ends, let's go inside and take care of a few of them while the steer is cooking."
They walked into the huge living room of the native stone ranch house. On the wall above the fireplace was the mounted head of a longhorn bull whose horns spread at least seven feet. "That there is old Sam Houston, most famous longhorn bull that ever lived. During his lifetime, he sired more than three thousand calves; 'course he had the help of artificial insemination for the ugly cows that he didn't care to screw. He died at thirty-eight years of age--died of a heart attack while screwing a heifer," said Big Bob, pointing to the head. "Thirty-eight years for a longhorn is equal to a hunnert and fourteen years of age for a man. That's how I want to go, heart attack while screwing some young thing on my hunnert and fourteenth birthday."
They sat down around a poker table and Big Bob continued, "I'll come right to the point. The coach down at TCU called me up and said that he was having a little difficulty in getting Joe Bob to sign a letter of intent to go there; asked me to see if I could talk some sense into you."
"Well," said Uncle Charlie, "I'll have to admit that TCU is a mighty fine college, but A&M seems to have a lot more to offer a young man like Joe Bob. He could get a mighty fine education there."
"Don't give me that good school horseshit," said Big Bob. "We all know that it's the side deals that get the best futbawl players. This here is a poker table that we are sitting around, so I'll just lay my cards on it. First off, Joe Bob, there is a brand new pickumup truck with your name on the title sitting out back. Second, here are the keys to an apartment that I keep for special purposes. You can take your pussies there to screw, rent it out and keep the money or do whatever you want with it, just as long as you keep wearing a TCU uniform. Finally, here's a map to my biggest gas field with the location of all of the drips marked."
"I don't understand the benefit of that map," said Uncle Charlie. "Those are your gas wells, and the gas is probably already contracted, so how could that help us?"
"Charlie, I thought you were a lot smarter than that," replied Big Bob. "Each one of those drips will produce about a barrel of untaxed drip gasoline every three of four days. That is not enough to afford to send out a truck to get, so the lease foreman usually just blows the drip and flames it off."
"Run out there at night in your pickup, draw off six or eight barrels and sell it to some independent filling station at a discount. It gets mixed with his other gasoline and goes right out through the pumps without anyone ever knowing the difference. He makes a good profit, you have a hundred bucks for a couple hours work and no one is the wiser."
"Aren't taxes supposed to be paid to the state or something?" asked Joe Bob.
"Hell, the State of Texas already collects billions of dollars in taxes from us independents, so what's wrong with us holding a few dollars back here and there and using them where they will do the most good," replied Big Bob. "After all, what's good for TCU is good for Texas."
"I don't know," said Uncle Charlie. "I really liked the idea of that scouting job and the expense account that A&M offered so I could fly around anywhere I wanted to go see a game."
"Hell, Charlie, this boy will never get nowhere if he keeps thinking like you," said Big Bob. TCU will match anything them Aggies could come up with. "My old daddy once told me something that made me as rich as I am today. 'Course him leaving me a couple hunnert sections of land, a 19 story office building in downtown Fort Worth, along with three hunnert good gas and oil wells and a couple hunnert million when he died didn't hurt none neither. He said if you give a man money, he'll just go out and spend it on bourbon whiskey and pussy. But if you show him how to make money, he will become rich."
"I never thought about it that way," said Joe Bob.
"Course not, that's why you are already eighteen years old and still ain't made your first million yet," said Big Bob as he shoved the letter over to him. "The meat's done, so sign this damn letter and let's get back outside and eat."
The Mexican cook sliced off a pile of rare steaks that weighed at least a couple pounds each and put them on the plates. Then he set a huge iron pot of beans and a tub of cole slaw on the table. Big Bob stood up and yelled for everyone to be quiet so he could ask the blessing. He lowered his head and said, "Praise the Lord and bless this here food. We got lots more to be thankful for tonight 'cause Joe Bob Puckett has done seen the light and signed a letter of intent to play futbawl at TCU, the best damn college in all of Texas or the rest of the world. It gives me great pleasure to hand over the old Number 77 jersey that I wore when I played at TCU, to the best damn defensive tackle to come along since me. Now, let's eat. Amen."