Tales from the O-NO Ranch: Another Tony story
April 14, 2006
by “Mad” Jack Hanks
Over the years, gentle readers, I have written several stories about a mechanic that once worked for me down in Texas named Tony.
I hired Tony one spring day in 1976. He popped into my office begging for a job as a mechanic. He had never lived in the country and at present was driving a potato chip truck and living in Dallas.
It was obvious that this feller was an odd ball, but he presented a compelling argument as to why I should hire him, if I indeed needed a ranch mechanic. I have always been one that had a deep desire to help my fellow man if I had the opportunity. I had the opportunity, needed a mechanic, and so I did the next natural thing. I hired ole Tony with the condition that since he had never been around a ranch, livestock or ranch equipment, that if it didn’t work out in a few months I would have to let him go.
Tony was almost comic relief to the cowboys and myself, partly because of the way he dressed, partly because he had a sense of humor (not exactly like ours) and partly because of his constant bunglings and terrible temper tantrums. Tony was about 5 feet 5 inches tall and his body was shaped much like Casper the ghost. He kept his head shaved, wore overalls that only went down to above his ankles and he had big feet. Tony had a love affair with guns and he owned a large inventory of weapons, mostly pistols. That turned out to be one of the main reasons that he wanted the job ” so he would have someplace to shoot. Tony felt it necessary that he always have a pistol of some type on him.
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I began to get a little concerned about that when I discovered he had such a terrible temper. Plus the fact that he had accidentally(?) shot two holes in his company truck, one through his jacket pocket and one through his left thigh! Not all in the same day, of course.
Tony never lost his temper with any of us; it was those silly connections he was workin’ on or those tools that had it in for him. He would be workin’ on something and get frustrated when he couldn’t manage to get it repaired properly and then the cursing, screaming and throwing things began. I had asked Tony to leave his pistols at home and not hide them on his person when he was on the job. He promised that he could live with those rules, however, Tony was very insecure and didn’t follow through with his promise. It happened this a way: Tony was working on a pickup right outside of my office one morning. It was starting to get hot and I had the front door open and I could hear ole Tony start to mutter and stammer obscenities at the pickup. I thought I would just put a stop to such childish behavior before it reached the high-pitched screaming stage. I stepped to the door and low and behold, here was ole Tony standing on a little stool, bent over the fender with the little handle of a small pistol stickin’ out of his back pocket. I quietly eased up behind him and when the opportunity presented itself, I slipped the pistol out of his pocket without him knowing. Standing directly behind him, I cocked the pistol, stuck it right behind his ear and pointed the barrel away from him and pulled the trigger! BOOM! Tony was so taken off guard, he jumped, threw his head up, cracked it on the hood of the truck and fell off his stool. He wheeled around and gave me a wild-eyed crazy man’s stare.
“Tony, I thought you weren’t gonna be packin’ a gun any more on the job,” I quietly stated.
“I musta forgot I had it in my pocket. I did a little shootin’ with it last night. I’m sorry boss, I just forgot I had it in there.”
I didn’t believe him, but let him off with one more warning about packin’ guns on his person. I really liked ole Tony and he was a fair mechanic and provided us with a fair amount of amusement, so I gave him another chance. That pistol shot so close to his head did make a believer outta him, and I never saw another gun on him for the remaining nine years I was there.
Tony was terrified of getting cancer. He talked about it a lot and I learned some five years after we left the ranch that he did, indeed, die from a rare form of cancer. Go figure, I figured it would be the gun that finally got him or a heart attack from one of his temper tantrums.