Jim squinted like he could glimpse the man in question on the far horizon.
“…I haven’t thought about him in ages…haven’t wanted to…feels unhealthy”
I was impressed with the solemnity of the moment until I reminded myself that the “far horizon” was the Green Room wall beneath the Guignol Theatre at the University of Kentucky about eight feet in front of Jim, and just how many “ages” can a 20-year-old have actually seen?
My friend and fellow student, Bob Perkins had suggested to me that I might want to ask Jim Varney about Lloyd Rowe if I had sufficient time for a good story. This seemed like just the moment to pose the question.
It was September, 1970, and like clockwork, here was Jim, not a UK student – hell, he hadn’t even graduated from high school according to local legend, lurking in the Green Room at UK. This was a September tradition…like mums at the Saturday football games. Jim would drop in and loiter in this theatre department lair in hopes of broadening his life experience by meeting and “mentoring” the hopeful freshman actresses newly arrived on campus…or, as Jim referred to them; “sweet young thangs.”
This “mentoring”, to outward appearances, seemed to last a couple or three weeks until the young lady would reappear, a generally gladder but wiser girl devoted to catching up on classes missed.
It was a freer time.
We spoke freely. We dressed freely. We undressed freely.
AYDS was still just a dietary supplement candy advertised on Paul Harvey’s radio show.
On this particular afternoon in the Green Room, the requisite young lady was present filling out some requisite semester-starting forms, I was present killing time until some rehearsal started – any rehearsal, and Jim loped in. He sized up the prospect (singular), and turned to me with a normal greeting; “Well, Goddy-dam, it’s Leasor. Howya doin’ Podge?”
I could have just let things follow their inevitable course…but no-o-o-o-o-o-o. I thought if I got Jim started on a saga it might disrupt the day in an entertaining way.
“Tell me about Lloyd Rowe.” I ventured.
That’s all it took. We’ll let Jim tell it from here.
“…I haven’t thought about him in ages…haven’t wanted to.
Lloyd Rowe was mean.
He was a mean, mean man.
He was the meanest man in the world…and he knew it…he was proud of it. He got up every morning expecting to receive an award for mean-ness.
He didn’t bother to spit nails, he just digested ‘em. The only salad he would eat was poison ivy.
He took little petite little small-ass Donnie’s cake away from him and ate it. (Whatever that means.)
The laws of physics and medicine bowed to his hateful will. One day he was shot by a bullet in the chest. He whistled sharp and growled “Git back here.” That bullet backed up, healed instantly out of pure spite, and gave Lloyd a written apology.
He was driving to Louisville one day and ‘long about Waddy/Peytona he had four simultaneous flat tires and he ran out of gas. He said; “This’ll not do.” He removed the gas cap, pissed in the tank, and crooned; “Go-o-o-o.” That car reached the White Castle in Downtown Louisville in two minutes flat and was a molten heap when it arrived. Lucky it was still under warranty.
He once lived on spite and nothing else for five months just to hurt himself.
He started campfires with small animals as kindling.
He decided one day to visit the mountains in Eastern Kentucky. His aims were two;
- He wanted to broaden his life experiences by paying court to the Low-Life Sisters. There were three Low-life Sisters; Bunny Jeanette, Juanita Dean, and the little baby Nylon. Miz Low-Life had given birth to Nylon in a drugstore and named her after the first product she saw. Other naming possibilities spr-r-r-r-ing-g-g-g to mind. It would make an intriguing parlor game.
- And two. He wanted to spend a serious moment with Greenbury Deathridge.
Greenbury Deathridge was the meanest man on Earth…and he knew it.
You perceive the problem, n’est-pas?
Lloyd wanted to settle the issue and establish harmony on the planet.
Well, he wanted to settle the issue.
He climbed mountains for thirty days through heat, humidity, snow, cyclones, tsunamis, baseball strikes, plagues, earthquakes, and “Gunsmoke” reruns. When he got to Greenbury’s cabin, he learned that the man he was seeking had died seven days before. Lloyd took that personally. He knelt at Greenbury’s grave…for three days…in abject disappointment and holy resentment. Finally, he dug up the corpse and carved it into a bar of soap. That seemed to bring closure.
He sought solace in the arms of Bunny Jeanette Low-Life, but at a crucial moment in their relationship, she cried “Oh, sweet Jesus!” Lloyd froze, appalled. He extricated himself, dressed freely, and marched back to Lexington on foot (his car being a molten heap at the time).
At this point in Jim’s narrative I cried; “Enough!”
Jim was jarred out of his fake memory rapture.
The requisite young lady? Oh, she was in love.
Oh, sweet Jesus.