Recently, early one morning at my sprawling estate in Swampland, Mississippi (a census non-designated place), I saw a bare-chested man walking across my back lawn beneath my office window. He wore a headband light, which gave him a semi-official appearance, but if he was working in some professional capacity, I reckoned, he’d be wearing a shirt.
So I strolled out to the back deck and paused at the iron rail fence that surrounds it, connecting it to our guest house. Just beyond is an open outdoor shower that we use to clean off dogs and swamp muck. In it, with the water running was the bare-chested man — only now he was bare all over.
I said, “Hey, buddy, what the heck are you doing?”
Caught unawares, he grasped for his pants, nearly out of reach, and tried to cover himself like an embarrassed ingénue. Then he sang me a country song about how his girlfriend had thrown him out, his truck had broken down, and he was hot and wandering by and wanted to know if he could use our phone so he could set everything right and have someone pick him up. Or something like that: I didn’t much care what he said. I was inclined to doubt it, and my only interest was in getting him to vamoose.
One of my sons joined me, along with our dawg (as we spell it down here). This son, boy number four (of five), bears a striking resemblance to Pahoo, the Pawnee Indian sidekick of Yancy Derringer, only with blond hair and blue eyes, but similarly imposing and usually equally well-armed.
I told the trespasser: “No phone — and you better scram.” I then started back towards the house. Pleading words followed me: “Sir! Sir!” I knew exactly what he was thinking. Yancy and Pahoo are fetching their shotguns.
In fact, we weren’t. But our parlay was over — and I knew he wouldn’t stick around. I grabbed a cup of coffee. Son number five announced that a sheriff’s car had driven by. I went out and waited for the sheriff to come back on his loop, while Boy Pahoo made sure the naked man was gone and hadn’t taken anything (he hadn’t).
When the sheriff drove back, I waved him down. “Are you looking for somebody?”
“Yeah, you seen him?”
“I sure have.”
I told him the story and offered myself and my boys as deputies.
“No, you just stay inside. We’ve got other units in the area.”
Sure enough, in just a few minutes, more sheriffs’ cars pulled up. The sheriffs had a little powwow in my backyard and then drove off, leaving two cars as stakeouts in a clearing down the road.
I don’t know if they ever found the itinerant showering man, and on reflection, I figured that his story was probably true. Country music lyrics might be a song and dance up north, but down here they’re pretty much reality. And when you live in an area where everyone is well-armed and everyone has dawgs, and you happen to go showering in someone’s backyard, you’re likely to call them sir, and if they don’t offer you biscuits and gravy and a cup of coffee, and if you’ve got any sense at all, you get your pants on and you start running.
Hence the famous Mississippi quatrain: “I never saw a naked man in my outdoor shower, And I hope to never see one, But if I had the firepower I’d rather see than be one!”
Or as a character in one of Robert Heinlein’s novels famously says, “An armed society is a polite society.” To that I can attest. Arma virumque cano.