Cross Plains Confidential
By David Snow and Lane Morlote. They alternate in telling about their trip to Cross Plains. This was featured on my old Conan website around 2002 or 2003 I believe.
As you all know, Snow and I were going to ride our murdercycles down to Cross Plains for REH Day. We were psyched!! Road trip time to Howardtown. The haj. The great western drift. We was gonna ride down there like the long haired, tattooed savages we is – wind in the face and bugs in da teeth. It was gonna be great, even if Snow was gonna be running a small two gallon tank on his chopper, necessitating stopping every 60 miles for petrol, versus my usual 150 miles to a tank.Two days before I was gonna leave Atlanta for Snow’s place in Arkansas I noticed a small circle of oil collecting under my Harley. Uh oh. Bad thing ’cause she never leaks. On top of what turned out to be a transmission seal leak, the alternator/stator took a massive dump the next day. How typical of the Harley Gods to let me down just before such a momentous event. Oh no, thinks I, this blows, now I gotta call Snow up and tell him I can’t take my bike. How embarrassing.In a valiant effort to remedy the impending clusterfuck, I ride down to the local Hardly Dangerous dealership to try and get the problem fixed. I walk in and find out the Harley dealership is now also a Lexus dealer. Bad omens were abounding. Of course the service department didn’t help me,. they wouldn’t fit my brokedown bike into their trendy schedule, even though I told them I gotta leave in two days. So there I am, outside the stealership, and I get a call on my cellphone from who else, but Snow. Cosmic timing at its weirdest. With head hanging low, voice filled with frustration, anger and shame, I begin to tell him my sorry tale. And he says…. TAKE IT WAY, SNOWSTER!
REH DAYI didn’t want to go to Howard Day. The king and the bike are one. My bike’s transmission had taken a dump and enthusiasm seeped out of me like the 90 weight gear oil that pooled over the garage floor. It was over; I was waning, waiting for the flashing descent of that golden sickle. It did help matters a bit that the gibbering, imbecile god of all things Harley had also seen fit to smite Lane’s bike with a similar affliction— a terminal case of the runs. That boy wouldn’t be riding either. We spoke long distance & I backed out the conveniently open exit. However…Lane decided to go anyway. Dammit. He was going to Jeep it; was driving through Little Rock to say hi and if I should change my mind…. Bastard.Shawn put in her two cents: “Don’t be a baby, just go.” In ’96 we’d ridden the hog from NYC to Cross Plains to attend the 60th Howard Day, flushed with high hopes for the pastiche I was writing. The trip was a way to connect with Howard spiritually, a pilgrimage to sanctify a worthy contribution to the heroic cycle he created, a quest for inspiration as later Homeric bards might intoxicate themselves with laurel leaves before the shrine of Homer’s cave. I used a bottle of Lone Star in Brownwood’s Greenleaf Cemetary. Five years later, after my blind eyes were popped open by the grinding machinations of CPI and the fantasy industry, the 65th Howard Day would signify the bitter end of all those silly visions and “all my bursting prayers”. Suddenly, it seemed entirely appropriate and fitting that my own heroic cycles (pastiche & chopper) should crap out at the same time!We were reluctant to coin the awful phrase, but there it was, as Lane courageously pointed out— ulp!— closure.NEXT: Cross Plains and The Traveling Rehupa Harem & Exotica Bump-A-Rama Review Caravan!
As the gentle reader will remember, Snow and I were bummed. Our bikes were toast for this trip. Before telling Snow, about my bike betraying me, Lynda, my fiancée had told me I should go anyway via the Jeep. I, too, bitched and moaned like the king. The four times I had gone to Cross Plains were on my Harley, so the thought of taking my jeep echoed Snow’s. And, besides I didn’t want to drive the 1000 miles to Cross Plains all by my lonesome. But, unrelenting, she talked me into it – “You know you want to go. You’ll feel like a moron if you don’t, and at least you’ll finally get to meet Snow,” she said. And “I’ll bet he’ll wanna go if you show up.” A prescient moment if I ever heard one. What a woman. I left Atlanta for the Hillbilly Haven of Arkansas.After spending the night at a gambling den in Mississippi, drinking my fill at a blackjack table, and losing about 50 bucks, I met up with Snow at his place on Thursday afternoon. There I was set upon by his noble pack of hounds. Nice pups once they got to know me. I was honored to meet and pet Boone, the one who had saved Shawn and Snow from a nasty Rottweiler. Once the pack accepted me as one of their own and I was allowed to come into the house, Snow told me how Shawn, his very gracious and lovely lady, gave him grief about not wanting to go. He was now going to Texas. (Note: Men, always choose your mates wisely, sometimes they know better than you. Either that, or they’re trading notes.) Before we left, Snow took me to see his pride and joy, the cause of his whining, er, I mean waning moment….the chopper! A classic stripped down, rigid framed bike with a small tank, solo seat, and cool scalloped paint job. A beautiful scoot it is. So, the waning one and I climbed into the jeep on Friday morning around 1000 am and headed west. The plan was do the 500 or so miles to Cross Plains in time for the 7 pm banquet at the Community Center.On the way there, we made several observations, the main one being how every motorcyclist we passed sucked, because their bikes were running and ours weren’t. We marveled at the beauty of Texas. How the weather would have been great for taking our bikes. Ugh. During the great trek, we shot the doodoo about all sorts of relevant topics – the history of him working for the bike rag, REH, the superiority of Texas BBQ, guns, a book I turned Snow onto a couple of years ago (buy The Deepest Sea by Charles Barnitz!), Indo-European sagas and the Kennewick Man, how violence can solve almost anything. AND, how we ought to buy beer before getting to Callahan County, Texas. Beer was an important factor here, because Cross Plains is in a dry county. After stopping at least two times in Comanche County, and one forgotten, and tiring of being looked at like escaped convicts, or lunatics with day passes from the local boobyhatch, when we asked about beer, we gave up and decided to get some in Brownwood later on.Landing in Cross Plains with plenty of time to spare, we were instinctually drawn like steel to a magnet straight to the Howard house. We had arrived. There it stood, the place where Bob Howard had put to paper all the blood, guts, and adventures that had effected our growth into men. We noted with awe the new steel framed pavilion Project Pride had erected on the lot next to the REH homestead. It even had bathrooms. The people of Cross Plains make REH Days better and better each year. God bless ’em. We knew that sleeping outside on Howard’s porch was gonna work out, even if it rained we’d have cover.We made to the banquet on time; even wearing nice, kitschy shirts, too. This year there were all sorts folks present. I recognized and greeted a few old faces. But more importantly, there were even chicks there. Nice ones, too. Particularly a redhead and a brunette, whom we affectionately named the Blacktop due to her tasteful choice of upper bodywear. And they weren’t with their boyfriends. Even better, they showed up ’cause they dug ol’ Bob.Before dinner was served, a local elderly gentleman, gave a few announcements and then made like a Cross Plains version of a standup comic. I will spare you the details. After eating a so-so meal catered by Dairy Queen, a friend of mine, Charles Gramlich from REHUPA, who’s head of the psychology department of a university, gave a way cool talk on Howard’s sanity. He disproved by the book, notions of de Camp’s and others that Bob was bipolar, clinically depressed, a manic depressive, crazy, etc. (He said he might post the text of this on the REHUPA site.) I loved it, Snow loved it, the chicks loved it. It was a long sought and needed vindication of Howard in this area. After Charles’s talk Rusty Burke got up to say a few words, then it was announced that, as usual, everybody after the banquet would be gathering outside the Howard house to drink. Before we dispersed, another announcement was made concerning the Lara Croft look alike contest to be held the next afternoon. Hotdiggity! Snow and I were so glad we showed up.A quick detour to a little stop and rob between Cross Plains and Brownwood filled the cooler with ice, Lone Stars and Coronas. Then it was off to the Howard place to drink, make merry and wonder all about this Lara Croft thingie.At the Howard house, the usual suspects showed up. REHUPANs and others fellow REH weirdos were all a blather with talk of Bob and beer. And they all offered us more beer. Good people one and all. A few of the folks I knew, but neither of us had ever met Rusty Burke, so we hoped to get a couple words in with the preeminent, next only to Glen Lord, scholar of all things Howard. The Redhead and Blacktop were there, looking radiant, already dropping sly hints about their costume choices for the Lara Croft contest. Amidst the hubbub, bombast and good lookin’ chicks, a tall, bearded, distinguished, college professor type approached Snow and I, and addressed me by name. It was Rusty. He shook my hand and proceeded to embarrass the piss outta yours truly by saying he had heard of a lot about me and was glad we finally got to meet. SHEEEEIT. I was the one who was honored to meet him! I repressed the urge to call him sire.Snow and I were groovin’ on it all. The subject came up about Snow’s pastiche, and his frustrating dealings with the monster that is CPI. This was the trigger. The avalanche began. I swear, people made the sign of the cross with their fingers at the mention of de Camp and his minions, and others not to be named here. Several actually referred to him as “the Evil One,” like some sort of mindblasting, Lovecraftian horror.As alcohol loosened lips, and in between swatting mosquitos, we listened raptly to the latest news and gossip concerning the rights to Howard’s estate. How this is just coming up I do not know, but apparently the fellow Howard borrowed the shootin’ iron from to blow his brains out with was an old and dear friend, named Lindsey Tyson. And, after Howard shot himself, the nurse attending Mrs. Howard found Bob’s handwritten will leaving everything to Lindsey!!! Doc Howard was pissed and told the nurse she must NEVER mention this. Doc Howard actually had to fight this out in court for about six months after Bob’s death in order to inherit the rights. This flashed me back to a few years ago, where Lynda and I sat next to a very old woman when they showed TWWW at the community center. This elderly lady had told Lynda she had been the nurse attending Mrs. Howard. Had I known what I know now, oh the questions I would have asked her!For some bizarre reason, for which Snow and I are still not quite sure about – perhaps because we’re not part of the inner circle, but not being exactly outsiders either – we were given the dirt on other ghastly conspiracies and intrigues concerning past and future claims to Howard’s estate. The plots and counterplots, occurring behind the drawn shades of greed, would’ve made Machiavelli proud. What’s equally amazing, are the other players waiting yet unseen in the wings.The blood oaths we took swearing never to betray these secrets were unnecessary. Due do the alcohol imbibed and how convoluted the plots were, we would’ve be hard pressed even under torture to reveal what we learned just ten minutes before. And besides, we were there to discuss heroic fantasy, Howard’s stuff; not intrigues straight out of Renaissance Italy.About 1 a.m. the motley crowd began to drift away, leaving me and Snow to pull out our sleeping bags, still pondering all the weird stuff we had heard. We wondered how Bob Howard would feel knowing all this horrible back stabbing garbage was going on for the rights to his work. Would he be freaked that all these people get together to discuss and psychologically dissect him? How would the babes look in their Lara Croft outfits? But, who cared right now? We were going to sleep, under the stars, on the back porch of Robert E. Howard’s house.STAY TUNED FOR: ….No alarm clocks needed sleeping outside at Cross Plains…Thrill to the stirring account of Siesta time at Cross Plains High School…Dare to read of titillation and lust at the Lara Croft Contest…Try to fathom the danger and sheer audacity of Snow and I scaling the dangerous heights of West Caddoe Peak with Beer and Bodacious Babes….
WWCD?Either Lane inadvertently forgot to mention the highlight of our first day in Cross Plains, or he’s taking his vow of secrecy to certain Rehupa initiates way too seriously. However, I opt for a third possibility— that this crucial tidbit of Rehupan lore simply sank to the bottom of his beer-soaked brain quicker than Atlantis plunging to the ocean floor when the Cataclysm jerked the carpet out from under its feet…So there we were, stretched on silken divans ‘neath the pavilion next to the Howard House, knocking back frosted Coronas and Lone Stars (served by the willing, voluptuous and always-undulating high priestesses/hostesses of The Traveling Rehupa Harem & Exotica Bump-A-Rama Review Caravan— geez, those guys really know how to travel in style!), making meaningful eye-contact (between buzzing mosquitoes, gently waving palm fronds and ostrich feathers) with members of the League of Concerned Conan Chicks lounging about in various stages of Hyborian undress (who had just secured an “endowment”— not that they needed it, of course— from several donors who, understandably, wish to remain anonymous), discussing the effect that Howard’s writing has had on our lives. Earlier in the day, Charles Gramlich had opined (looking quite the cerebral professorial professional after decapitating a Howard-Wuz-Krazy proponent in the REH Memorial Wolf Pit) that he mainly preferred Howard’s historical adventure yarns to the Conan stories. At the time, I wasn’t about to take issue with the fellow, distracted as I was by the blood & brains embedded in his tweed jacket, but now, with his claymore safely tucked away (all weapons are sensibly peace-wrapped once the taps open), I countered that, as great as Howard’s historical stuff was, it didn’t affect me, and, I ventured, others, as profoundly as reading Conan’s exploits. I hastily retreated behind a hip conveniently swelling from a nearby diaphanous veil, but Prof. Gramlich only took a mighty swig and pondered, his snoozing claymore undisturbed. This prompted several touching (drunken) anecdotes from the assembled, which centered alarmingly on floors varnished with brain matter, skulls of enemies used as drinking vessels, which naturally led to hearing the lamentations of their women, etc. Attorney Paul Herman related how he used the opening of ‘Queen of the Black Coast’ as a model for dealing troublesome judges. At one point, someone, maybe Lane or Gramlich, in a boozy fit of inspiration, cried out, “What Would Conan Do? WWCD!”If you don’t happen to reside in the Bible Belt, the significance of those initials may be lost on you, but WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) is a common bumpersticker phenom in the Southern theocracy, along with fish magnets and public incineration of tracts on evolution. Thus it was decided that that all Rehupans would have WWCD tattooed just above their waistlines in tasteful Olde English Gangsta Script, so that they might more readily recognize each other and dispense with the time-consuming secret handshake and eyebrow-raising ritual greeting. Rusty Burke was the first to receive the WWCD tat and the whole weekend he’d was flapping his shirttail to show it off so much that we thought he’d take flight. He was nearly flattened by a convoy of chicken trucks as he ran down Highway 36 raising his shirt up and down like a Cross Cut oil pump. Of course, no one paid any attention as we were too busy ogling the Lara Croft Lookalikes who were busy raising their shirts to win support, if you will, for their entries in the contest. No small feat, lemme tell ya!Next: Day 2, After A Night On Howard’s Back Porch.Unfortunately nothing more was posted on the website… if someone has the rest of Snow and Lanes story, please let me know.
Snows meeting with CPI