Tuesday, October 2, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 29


Seeking solutions in a troubled Cougarville

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff

The autumn wind whistles down the dark and empty streets of Cougarville.

The clink of an occasional chip landing in the kitty carries into Main Street above the melancholy tune, "Moon River," being played by the piano man.

A silent form emerges from the shadows and passes through the swinging doors of the saloon.

"'Bout time you got here, Pedro," booms Cat Cougar, great-grandson of the town's founder, Cullen Cougar. "What took you so long?"

"Ah, señor Cat, bad spirits roam the streets and alleys of Cougarville since Marshal Gladchuk left," Pedro says.

Pedro makes the sign of the cross and orders a whiskey.

Cougar snorts and spits tobacco on the sawdust floor.

"Can that bruja mother-in-law of yours end the curse?" Cougar asks.

Pedro shrugs down his drink and holds his palms up in front of him.

"It cost you money, Cat," Pedro says.

"It ain't a curse, Cougar. It's just bad luck," says Gopher Broke, the town crier. "I tell you, the new sheriff has everything under control."

Cougar casts a squinty-eyed glance at Broke's reflection in the mirror.

"Well now, Gopher. Just what do you call getting bushwhacked by those Owl-hoots right here in our own town? That's in control? It was disgraceful getting
caught with our britches down like that," Cougar bawls as he ambles over to the poker game where the city fathers sit in silence looking at their cards.

"What do you think, Mayor?" Cougar asks a nattily dressed man sitting at the table.

"I'm beginning to wonder myself, Cat. Getting dry-gulched right here in Cougarville was bad enough, that's for sure," Mayor Artie Smith says. "But when
those Longhorns stampeded through town and tore up everything, well, I'm beginning to wonder what's happening to our town."

Cougar waves at the barkeeper to bring over another whiskey.

"And we'd fixed everything up so pretty, too," says Kitty LaChatte from her seat on top of the piano. "Everything was fine, except those stands Artie said he'd
take care of so the country folks could watch the fair."

The mayor sticks his hands in his front pockets and whistles a soft tune, rocking on his heels as he gazes at the ceiling.

"That's right, Kitty," Cougar drawls. "And you know we're in deep trouble when the Christians come to town and shut us down on a Saturday. I thought
Sunday was their big day."

"We got big trouble in Cougarville and I think it's all part of the 'Kid' Helton curse," LaChatte says.

"Well, what are we going to do?" Broke asks. "How we going to break the curse? Artie said he'd take care of it, but he hasn't made a move yet."

The range of Artie's whistling suddenly rises two octaves as he edges toward the swinging doors, nodding his head at the people as he winds his way
through the crowd.

"Well, Pedro, will your mother-in-law remove the 'Kid' Helton curse?"

"It will cost you plenty of dinero," Pedro says.

Al M. Nye speaks up from his seat at the poker table.

"Gladchuk brought in a new sheriff to keep the peace, but the Cowboy hasn't delivered," Nye says as he tosses a chip into the pot. "The town folk are
getting restless. We've been robbed in our own town, stampeded and now shut down by the Christians. Just what the hell is happening to our little town?"

The crowd turns as Al K. Hollik bursts through the swinging doors in a cloud of dust and makes his way to the bar.

"Quick, gimme a shot of red-eye," Hollik says.

"Let's see the color of your money first," the barkeep says.

"Give me a drink and I'll tell you how to cure your woes," says Hollik. "You won't need no witch, either."

The barkeep glances at Cougar, who nods and saunters over to the bar beside Hollik.

"And just how we going to end this curse, Al?" Cougar asks.

"That little tinker that hangs out on the edge of town said the Army's coming. They'll save us," Hollik says.

"The Army? Well, all right boys! Strike up the flag. Let's go meet them," Kitty says. "We're saved!"

The crowd empties into the street and makes its way to its horses. In the Wildcat Bar, the last notes of "Moon River" follow the men out of town.

"You old faker, you heart breaker "

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