THE LONG-HAIRED COWBOY
In the early 1960s, my Southern California employer – Douglas Aircraft Company – organized an after-work twilight golf league at a nearby two-course complex called Fox Hills/Baldwin Hills. As a newcomer to the game, I had the highest handicap on my four-man team, and each match was a learning experience for me. Every Thursday evening, I paired up with one of my teammates and we took on the two highest handicappers from another team.
My golf game from those days does not deserve description, except to say that it was terrible. I swung and missed often and, when I managed to hit the ball, the little white dimpled sphere reacted in one of two ways: either it hopped forward like some crazed rabbit, never rising more than six inches off the ground or it soared toward the sky in a left-to-right arc resembling a gigantic banana, often left hiding behind a palm tree or mired inside shrubbery. My nine-hole scores were comparable to those achieved every weekend by golfers on the PGA Tour -- for 18 holes. But, I enjoyed the camaraderie of the game, and I was improving. Mostly, I looked forward to getting together with my teammates and opponents in the club’s bar at the end of each round.
Every Thursday evening around twilight, we sat around a large semicircular bar and relived our adventures on the golf course. While my friends bragged about their 250-yard drives and 30-foot putts, I generally provided comic relief with stories about my slices into never-never land, shanks in the fairways, and futile attempts to escape from sand traps.
One evening about a month into the season, a guy about my age, dressed in golf clothes like the rest of us but otherwise quite unlike us in appearance, sat down in the corner of the bar and ordered a beer. What attracted our stares was the length of his sandy hair. Close-cropped hair, particularly the crew-cut, was fashionable in 1961. The visitor defied the mode of the day with tresses nearly reaching his shoulders. He was alone and, as soon as he emptied his glass and paid the bartender, he departed. He reappeared the following Thursday as well and left just as quickly. When he took his customary seat for the third consecutive Thursday, I walked over to him.
“Hi, my name is Charlie,” I said to him. “Why don’t you come over and join us?”
“Yeah, hi. My name is Clint,” he replied. “I’d like that.”
I introduced the handsome, rugged, soft-spoken guy to my friends, and he sat down on a stool on our side of the bar. He joined in the banter about our golf rounds, although it turned out that he played each Thursday afternoon alone and on the other course from the one we were playing that day. After that evening, Clint joined us at the bar whenever he encountered us there. During those times, the beer-drinking conversation never seemed to veer away from golf, and we knew as little about Clint as he did about us.
One evening, my wife Sue and I were sitting on the living-room floor of our apartment in
, watching one of television’s most
popular shows on our 15-inch black-and-white screen, a weekly western saga
called “Rawhide.” Several cowboys on horseback were driving a herd of cattle
through a mountain pass. The camera panned the stampeding throng of cows and
then, slowly, it zoomed in on the trail foreman. I jumped to my feet and stared
at the image in disbelief. Santa Monica
“Holy crap!” I screamed, startling Sue. “That’s Clint!”
I explained to Sue that the guy playing Rowdy Yates was the same friendly, long-haired golfer who joined us for beers most Thursday evenings at Fox Hills. Judging by her questions, I knew that she had her doubts. The next morning at work, I told my teammates about my discovery. They too were skeptical, and they looked forward to proving me wrong by questioning Clint at our next get-together.
As luck would have it – and as if Clint had had a premonition that his identity had been uncovered – he did not show up the following Thursday, or a week later, or the week after that. We never saw him again. The only good news was that my friends no longer doubted me. They tuned in to “Rawhide,” and they confirmed the fact that our drinking buddy had, in fact, been Clint Eastwood.