“The Preacher, The Doctor, and Riley, The Rasslin’ Rangatang”
I was at Wednesday night journal club when a call came in from Darrell. Seems his guitar man was under the weather, and they needed me to fill in for a show at the King County Fair that weekend.
Now, Darrell was the best mandolin player in these parts by a long shot, but when I filled in he would switch off to guitar and I’d cover the mandolin. If I was unsure of a part, he’d teach me on the way to the show. It was one of my favorite gigs.
Darrell carried a top shelf band. He was an expert singer and instrumentalist, and Summer, the girl singer, was downright inspirational. The dobro man was a spot-on player and told all kinda funny country tales, and the Ed “Lightning” Littlerod, the bass player, shook the rafters with the high tenor in some fine brother duets with Darrell. It was great family entertainment, and I was honored to be a part of it.
This particular day, Darrell had a new banjo man I hadn’t played with. I never did get his full name, but they called him Preacher Vincent. When I heard him warm up, I was perplexed as to why Darrell had chosen him for the slot. Now, he was a good enough player, mind you, but Darrell could have his pick of anyone in the South, and to my ear the man was about an average professional musician. I suppose Darrell had his reasons.
We stopped at the Cracker Barrel on the way, and Preacher Vincent rendered a mighty fine prayer. Now I began to understand. The road could be long and hard, and I could see how a man like that on board could inspire you to go on another day. I guess it was akin to having a doc on tour- you never knew when it might come in handy.
Darrell is a professional musician, and tends to every detail, so we got there in time to set up, go over the tunes, and have an hour to kill. Someone suggested we take in the midway, so we lit out to sample the vinegar fries and elephant ears. In a few minutes, we came up on Riley, the Rasslin’ Rangatang. It was quite a spectacle- all these good old boys who were gonna whup that Orangutan and impress their girlfriends. Of course, they were unsuccessful without fail. If you could stay in the ring for five minutes, you’d win a giant Panda bear for your girl. The only man I’d ever heard of who had done that was Stroker, the guitar man in our band, and he had just retired from Army Special Services when he did it. It sure wasn’t a gig I’d sign up for.
We watched for a few minutes and one of those well lubricated boys began raggin’ Preacher Vincent. Preacher was quite a clean cut sort, and a kind and well mannered man. After all the years as a doc, I had developed a reasonable intuition as to folk’s intentions, and my sense was this red-faced good ole boy had decided to target the preacher. This could be trouble.
”What kinda work you do, man?”
”Oh, the Lord’s work, sir.”
”The Lord’s work! God almighty, boys, ya’ll hear that! You a preacher?”
”Yes, sir, as a matter of fact, I am.”
”You believe in miracles?”
”Oh, most certainly.”
”Miracles, huh? Well I’ll tell you what’s the truth. It’d be a miracle if you could hang with that rangatang three minutes.” The old boy was gettin’ lathered up trying to impress the crowd. ”Hell, I’ll bet you a hundred bones you can’t stay in there fer two.”
”Well, sir, I appreciate that, but I just am not a bettin’ man. In my line of work it just ain’t allowed, you know, but thanks anyway.”
”Ain’t allowed ’cause you’s scared. Scared, he is!” the man shouted to the onlookers. ”Don’t you think your Jesus would save you?”
”Well, of course He would. Jesus will save us from all our sins.”
”The hell with sin, you need to worry ’bout him saving you from that rangatang.” By now the crowd had grown quite large. They roared with laughter.
”If you insist, sir.” Preacher tugged on his sleeves, and pulled off his coat and shirt.
I moved to intervene, but Darrell motioned for me to hold my peace. ”Dang it Darrell, Preacher is a good man, but that rangatang’s gonna tear him to pieces. The dobro man is a right stout boy- I think me and him and Lightning can take that there redneck- we can’t let Preacher do this.” Darrell was unperturbed, and motioned for me to be quiet.
The preacher stripped down to his boxers; we had a show in a half hour and he didn’t want to ruin his clothes. He said a quick prayer, and prepared to enter the ring.
Preacher stopped at the gate, and addressed his tormentor. ”Sir, as I said, I am not a betting man, but I would like to make one last proposal.”
”Sure, buddy- last request, huh?”
”I don’t care for your money, but if I hang tough with this rangatang for two minutes, I want you to promise me you’ll turn your life over to Jesus.”
The man turned a mite nervous. ”Make it three.”
”Three it is then.” Preacher breathed one more prayer, and moved to step inside the cage.
”Now dad-burn it Darrell, you gotta stop him. He ain’t that bad a banjo man.” I moved towards the preacher.
Darrell restrained me by the elbow, and offered a brief but confident reassurance. ”NTW, (bluegrass for not to worry) Doc.”
Well, that preacher got in that ring, and I ain’t never see’d nothing like it. Lord have mercy, it musta’ been divine intervention, ’cause he was holding his own with the King County Rasslin’ Rangatang. Even the redneck was amazed. I tell ya’ though, the rangatang was extra tough, and after four or five minutes, I could tell he was wearing the preacher down. As the self-appointed ringside doctor, my concern escalated, and I began to hope they would call the fight based on my medical opinion. I grabbed the chain link fence with both hands, yelling, “Come on Preacher, you’ve already won, get outta there!” Brother, that preacher didn’t have any give up in him.
At the seven minute mark, the match took a most remarkable turn. Preacher made some kinda World Wide Wrestling choke hold type move, and got that rangatang flat on his back. I started a ten count as fast as I could go. I figured I only made a “B” in Orthopedics, and wasn’t sure I could fix him up. Besides, we had a show to do in less than an hour.
Right at the count of nine that rangatang flipped the preacher over and commenced to throttling him. I cast an eye Darrell’s way, and this time he was concerned. Oh my Lord, what were we going to do? I put my hand over my heart, said a prayer and noticed something in my pocket. Dang, it was my emergency kit- I musta’ forgotten to take it out when I left the office.
Now, my portable ‘mergency kit only had two drugs. One was an EpiPen for anaphylaxis- definitely the wrong choice for that rangatang ’cause it tended to energize you, and it seemed he was revved up enough and doing pretty well without it. Hm, might help the preacher though, but I worried it could give him a cardiac arrest.
The other drug was Valium. I contemplated what the orangutan dose might be, but it didn’t seem to be a good time to quibble over details- better give the whole vial and hope for the best.
Darrell tried to stop me, but I dashed by him, jumped in the ring, and plunked that syringe right in that rangatang’s gluteus maximus, and targeted the upper outer quadrant to avoid the sciatic nerve. I had a brief mental image of me and that nice lady at the insurance company justifying expenses for an orangutan life care plan to the company president, and it warn’t no pretty sight. I said a prayer for good aim.
Well, when I popped that rangatang right in the rear end, that beast stood up, turned around, raised his arm to swat at me, and looked me right in the eye before his eyes rolled back in his head, and then he fell straight to the ground. I checked his pulse. Thank God I hadn’t kilt him.
”Now, Doc, what’d you go and do that for? I had him on the ropes!” Preacher was as calm as he could be.
Well, when he climbed out of that cage and passed by that redneck, the boy was speechless. Preacher looked right at him and said, “Now son, I expect to see you at my church Sunday. If you ain’t there, I’ll see to it we find you. You don’t back down on your word to the Lord, and we had a bet you know.”
The boy managed a meek, “Yes, Sir.”
Well, we had a dandy show, and I reckon I got figured out why Darrell had hired that preacher man as his banjo player. Not only could the man say some fine grace over a plate of chicken, but Darrell had been street smart since he was a teenager. A man like that could come in right handy on the road.
Late that night the bus was humming along the highway home, and I went to the back to visit. ”Preacher, I must say that’s an extra fine Panda bear. I believe the missus’s will like it, don’t you?”
”Sure do, Doc. If you don’t mind, I don’t believe I’d tell her how I came about it.”
”Oh, sure thing. I agree one hundred percent. You know something, Preacher. I never leave the office with that emergency kit in my front pocket. I don’t know why I did that.”
The preacher smiled. ”Oh, I do, Doc. When I heard you were coming on the trip, I prayed that the Lord would send any medicine we might need. As Christian brothers, we all bring something to the table. The Lord knows what it is, we just have to seek His will. I reckon my prayers were answered, huh?”
”I reckon, so, Preacher. If I wasn’t a believer, I sure would be now.”
”One more thing, Doc.”
”Sure Preacher, anything.”
”Don’t tell anyone I was scared there at the end. Might ruin my image.”
”Yes sir, Preacher Vincent, I promise.” From then on, me and that preacher were fast friends. Maybe he was a little scared at the end, but I as long as Preacher and the Good Lord were on my side, I reckon I warn’t gonna be scared of much of nothing, ‘cept maybe them rangatangs.
Dr. BExplore posts in the same categories: memorable gigs, short stories