What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break?

This question came to me from a nice young person by the name of Danny Prompt.  They sure do seem to ask folks a pile of questions.  Always seem to show up when I press the W in the corner.  Can’t rightly say what Moon Landings have to do with the Big One, but I know a thing or two about big steps and broken legs.

I remember a time, musta been ’round about ’28, maybe ’29, me ‘n a fella by the name of Oscar Duplessie–but everyone just called him T.J. on account of him bein’ a big fan of tambourines.  Tambourine Jam Duplessie, they called him. So me ‘n T.J. were listenin’ to the news on the wireless.  Turns out two towns over they were going to be hostin’ the annual Eagle Brand Flour Ragtime Jamboree.

Well, when T.J. heard that Blind Turkey Coolidge was gonna be the judge he just about hopped out of his britches.

“Grampa,” he said, “I hope you’ve got your coaster soles on, because we’re puttin’ on a show.”  See, at the time most folk called dancin’ shoes coaster soles, on account of dancing being frowned upon in most of the New England states, even if it was somethin’ like twenty years after the big Round Ring Calamity of ‘aught nine.

Well, by the time my big size 12 coaster soles had been freshly shined and waxed by Two Bit Chester O’Toole–we called him Two Bit because two bits would buy you a shine a day for the whole month–our rag-tag, ragtime band were off in old Benjamin Bootswaddle’s junker of an automocart.  Back then, we called automobiles automocarts because none of us much cared for Alabama Pete, and sayin’ automobile always seemed to make him poke his nose in our business.  But that’s another story.

See, Alabama Pete had many vices, but puttin’ down money on the rabbit shows were the worst of them.  Back then we didn’t have Dog or Pony races, on account of the local mayor, Tall Wally Woodsworth, institutin’ Municipal Act 42, bannin’ all forms of popular sports in the area.  Of course, it didn’t take long for Bill Jenkins–Municipal Bill we called him, ’cause he always managed to find a way around ol’ Tall Wally’s nonsense–to find himself a loophole.  Municipal Bill was the best ragtime guitar player in the tri-county area, and Alabama Pete owed him a lot of money.  Now, I’m not exactly sure what transpired between them, but it’s enough to know four bits, some buffalo skins, and a potato peeler were involved.  I’ll spare you the gritty details.

So there we were in our automocart headed two towns over for the big Eagle Brand Flour Ragtime Jamboree.  When we got there, Municipal Bill was the first to notice that all the other musicians in the area seemed to be a little on the feminine side.  Makes sense, of course, because like all things Eagle Brand put together back in the day, this particular Ragtime Jamboree was for the ladies.

Now Ol’ T.J. was so excited at the thought of meetin’ Blind Turkey Coolidge he never once thought twice about the whole thing.  He got a look in his eye, the kind of look you see in the movin’ pictures on a fool that’s about to act a fool.  Before he could even open his mouth with a fool’s idea, I socked him one right on the nose.

Now while I was in the middle of tellin’ T.J. I couldn’t abide that kind of activity, a pretty little young thing by the name of Esther saw ol’ T.J. hit the ground.  She came over and gave me a slap on the chin, and helped ol’ T.J. to his feet.  Of course, Esther turns out to be none other than Esther Coolidge, Blind Turkey’s sister.  She offered to introduce them.  That night they danced the Classic Rag while the ladies of the Second North East Ladies Auxiliary played on the stage.

Few months later and T.J. asked Miss Coolidge for her hand.  Few months after that, Ol’ T.J. fell on the church steps.  Tried jumpin’ from the top step, got hit in the face with some confetti, and crashed into Gus VanHoutte’s ’22 Studebaker.  Broke his leg in three places.  They had their honeymoon on an old military cot set up at the Legion, on account of the hospital was being fumigated for bedbugs.

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