from August 15, 2004
My great-grandpa, Orville Slack I, was born in a cave somewhere in the panhandle of what is now Oklahoma. At that time the region was part of Mexico, which accounts for the fact that I have a bit of Hispanic blood—or, to be more accurate, I had Hispanic blood before my martyrdom and subsequent cremation. But I still have a quarter teaspoon of tequila every evening, which has to count for something with the Hispanic voter.
Do I speak Spanish? Sí. And more than un poco.
About the cave. Orville Slack I was a semi-orphan. His father, a dissolute Englishman, skipped the light fantastic out of Panhandle County upon hearing of his mistress’s pregnancy. Abandoned by her lover of three months, Slack I’s mother was forced to fend for herself. This fending consisted of moving to the cave—there was no room for her in the inn—and living on cooked sagebrush, homemade tequila, and the occasional jackrabbit or armadillo she was able to gun down with the amazing accuracy that has been passed along to her child, her grandchild, her great-grandchild, and her great-great grandchild. (The latter would be me.)
Slack II, my grandfather, worked himself up from cave life to what must have appeared to him as a mansion: a sod hut. His work consisted of developing the art form he had learned from his father, the art that has come to be called “begging off”—the set of techniques I later developed to the highest pitch. After contracting with a sod hut builder, he refused to pay. In fact, he threatened a lawsuit on the grounds that there was an admixture of cactus in the sod. The builder folded and was run out of town.
My father, Orville Slack III, continued in this tradition, working himself up to a shack, which he shared with my mother until she ran off with a circuit-riding minister of the Gospel. It was at this point that the Slack family developed a small following. I distinctly remember the neighbors missing church of a Sunday morning and coming over to our paintless shack to ask for Papa’s advice on how to deal with medicine pushers and that type of con men. We’d all sit around the stove and discuss the problem of evil and how to fight it. Papa’s quick mind was always “running like sixty,” as they used to say in the Model T Ford days. His most perceptive advice would invariably cause the advisee to flip a quarter into the ten-gallon hat he always inadvertently left at his feet.
With the money I inherited from Papa, as well as the money I earned after he was shot in the head by a disgruntled creditor, I was able to purchase a small bungalow—ironically, this modest home had belonged to the creditor, who had been hanged by a righteously indignant mob consisting largely of Papa’s disciples. Unfortunately, the papers detailing this transaction have mysteriously disappeared from the county courthouse.
And this, my fellow Americans, is a short but accurate account of my 'umble background, which would be the envy of Abe Lincoln.