We Like Ike
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,” President Eisenhower said, casting a forlorn glance out the window at the snowy lawn where the snow lay on the lawn. “Woe is me,” he added, turning, then sighing, then running a finger along the top shelf of the bookcase, then looking at his finger and saying, “Send in the cleaning boy.”
Meanwhile, we were in the trenches in Mongolia or somewhere. Hunnicut, Pierce, Burns, Hoolihan and myself. Deep in the trenches. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” we said. We’d routed the enemy in the morning and made a good advance. We were a hundred thousand strong on our side. They say the enemy had twice our number that day. The enemy made a strong advance themselves around noon. Then the weather broke and rain was coming down in buckets and the fog rolled in and the dogs ran home and the cavalry sank in mud to the saddle and the cannon to the axle and every man jack of us trudged, winced, fell, rose, over and over again for what seemed an eternity. And even the agony of Ezra Pound stooped in a cold cell (gnashing his Nazi teeth, an impotent old gray beard loon) could not compare to the horrors of that day, so Pierce said to Hoolihan as the two of them ran bare-assed naked in the opposite direction. Cowards! Then someone pulled the plug on the phonograph player, those giant white bullhorn speakers mounted on poles higher than the treetops falling silent. No more Bill Monroe or Stanley Brothers. No more soundtrack for our epic. The enemy nearly flanked us on the left, our center buckled, but overall our line held strong. By nightfall we had our trenches, and our Bill Monroe (the good stuff, when Jimmy Martin was a Bluegrass Boy) and our line was straight. The kite went up and lightning hit the key and the Old Man put in a call on the squawk box: “Who should play me in the movies?” he wanted to know. “Humphrey Bogart” was the answer he was fishing for, but there was no one there to give it, for we had all headed off to the cathouse in search of gonorrhea, a good dose of it, good enough to send us back to Rome for a little R and R.
President Eisenhower was in the museum looking over the recent acquisitions on paper. “There’s a lot of leap-frogging going on here and I can’t tell if it’s going upstream or down the crapper. Someone around here has his head up his ass, and it sure as hell ain’t me,” he said. “This is something you may enjoy, Mr. President,” said Tom the curator. “It’s called How I Lost My Vegetarianism, and it’s a book well over eight pages long with an etching on each page and it is permanently opened to this particular page because this is the page that I want everyone to see and the whole darned thing is under glass so feel free to place your V8 on the glass while looking the whole darned thing over. That’s a picture – excuse me, an etching — of a roasted turkey, and the text says: ‘I was in Texas and I said I don’t eat meat and they said that’s OK hon ‘cause this is chicken.’ They just didn’t get it.” President Eisenhower said, “That’s art? Man, you have your head so far up your ass you don’t know Friday from a corn dog on a stick.”
And that’s why we love President Eisenhower. Though we spread ourselves rather thin with one foot in the trenches and one in the cathouse, we know that Ike is watching out for us. For all his hayseed head-in-his-ass-isms he knows art and he knows what art needs to flourish. And besides, Ike was in our shoes when he was young like we are now. He was in the trenches when Andy Jackson brought that whore from Egypt back to be his wife and fledgling American culture was sold down the river for a song. And young Ike knelt in the trenches that day and wept, and then he brought his troops into a big room and had them sing a song, and the song that he had them sing was Jimmy Crack Corn. And that really is where American culture starts, being the pinnacle as well as the origin.
We sang that song in the cathouse when the clock struck 12. Then it started to snow. We slept on the floor by a fireplace that night and dreamed sweet dreams, free, though briefly, from the horrors of war.