Category: How the West was Done

Retro Fans of Rootie Kazootie…

I wanted to post a small excerpt from HOW THE WEST WAS DONE. First, because I love the book, I love the editor and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book so fast in my life. I couldn’t put it down. And second, because the story I wrote for the book came to me so fast. This doesn’t usually happen. Here’s an excerpt from the story I wrote, titled: RUDY’S NEW KAZOO. One of the characters is a huge fan of the old TV show, “Rootie Kazootie,” and one learns how to play his kazoo.

The small, wooden cabin they shared had one room, which didn’t give either of them any privacy. There was a kitchen area with a gas stove, a worn table with four rickety chairs, and bunks beds next to a stone fireplace that was filled with cigarette butts. When Cody took him inside the first time, he had to lift his hand to wave cobwebs away from his face. And with each step he took, clouds of dust rose from the old wooden planks beneath his feet. On a wall beside the bunk beds, there were black and white photographs pinned haplessly to the unfinished wooden walls. He recognized one photo as the cast of the “I Love Lucy Show,” but he wasn’t sure about the rest. “What are all these pictures?” he asked.

“Ah well,” Cody said, “they belonged to the ranch hand I had up here a few years back and I never bothered to take them down. He collected pictures from old TV shows from the l950’s. This one was his favorite.” Cody leaned forward and pointed to a black and white photo of what looked like a puppet, with an over-sized head, wearing a large baseball cap with the brim pushed all the way back. “It was some kind of kids show. It was called ‘Rootie Kazootie.’ This guy even had a kazoo like the puppet, and he used to play it all the time. He was pretty good, too. Used to play that song, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ a lot.” He rubbed his stubble and laughed. Then he asked, “You play the kazoo?”

Rudy ran his hand down his jeans to brush a cobweb off his fingertips and frowned. The place was filthy: Cody’s dirty socks hung from the backs of chairs; his smelly boxer shorts were piled in a corner beside the lower bunk bed. And the stove had stacks of grimy pots and pans all over the surface. “Ah no,” he said, “I don’t play the kazoo.” He wanted to say, I don’t sing and I don’t dance either, but he didn’t want to sound curt.

“Too bad,” Cody said, “It gets kind of dull around here sometimes.” Then he dropped a cigarette on the floor, crushed it with the heel of his cowboy boot and kicked it into the fireplace.