Friday, March 25, 2011
Rass and his ass - by Alan Erickson
My good friend Alan Erickson in Utah shared a story with me about a mule he knew as a kid in Minnesota. With his permission already granted I want to share it with you folks out there in Cyber space.
It is a fun and entertaining story. "They" say that truth is stranger than fiction and this story certainly bears that out. I hope you like "Rass and his Ass" in Alans own words.
Tomahawk - scouts out!
Rass and his ass;
You know, funny things happen in a small Minnesota town that is home to 150 people and 2 bars. This is the story of one I remember from childhood and was reminded of after the passing of a friends faithful pack mule. I am not much of a writer, so bear with me please.
In a small town,Kenneth Mn. there is more of a population in the bars than outside of it at times. People like farmers, snowmobilers, retired folk, and of course the bar crawlers live in harmony, drunken harmony, with the locals. There are also allot of interesting old unmarried men, hermits and just strange but harmless people. This is the story of Rass. and his world famous ass.
Rass was really named Rasmussen but went by Rass. He was an old unwashed hermit who worked at local farms as a hand or for seasonal work. Pleasant fellow, always quick with a joke or right there when somebody was buying a round of drinks. He wore dirty bib overalls, several shirts and smoked the nastiest cheap cigars made. He was not going to let himself ever be tied down to no "womanfolk" but had never really been anywhere that I knew of. Rumors were he was in the "Big One" and came back just a bit off center. Rass used to always talk to the kids when they were in the bar and we found him fascinating. He would also give us a nickel to play the old jukebox but insisted we play Patsy Cline, "Crazy". He would then sit and close his eyes and sing along. Life in the bar just went on around him as everyone but I and a few others knew the real heartache behind the song and it's connection to Rass. I digress.
Rass Did have one love in the world. His old mule. Yep, a beat up mule that was known all over as Rasses Ass. He would ride her into town because Rass didn't drive and it was to damn far to walk. Rasses ass would come right into the bar with him, the bartender would give him some bread to eat and a Hamms beer and shot to Rass just as if Norm from Cheers had walked into the door. Nobody batted an eye when they walked in. I got to sit on the mule as a child and it was one of the highlights of childhood to be inside this strange culture. Today of course, this all would be frowned upon and most likely illegal, but the rules were different back in the late 60's.
One day Rass walked into the bar all out of breath, red as could be, with tears streaming down his face, doubled over and panted out, he needed help, he thought his Betty had died. I never knew Betty even had a name so I though it was his wife or somebody else.Right away the bar patrons jumped to life and rushed to his side. A plan was drawn up where a few of the old farmers would help to see first if she was dead, and if she was, how to help old Rass do the right thing and bury her.
Sure nuff, after poking her a few times and other scientific things, They came to the conclusion, she had passed on to the big ass heaven in the sky. This brought more tears and hugs from the other drunken mourners and an idea of how they could pay a final tribute to this fine a noble beast. Drunks, free time and mourning are wonderful things when combined.
So one of the farmers said, I will go get the tractor and loader and help pick her up and bring her to where we can bury her. Another said, "We need to get a wagon cause it just wouldn't be right to carry this fine beast chained to the tractor loader" and off he went. Slowly the crowd moved on to various tasks to make sure Rass's Ass got the final call she deserved.
A couple hour passes as well as a few jugs of whiskey, and it is all put together. Betty was placed on a flatbed wagon on top of a few bales of straw spread out for her. Some women went into the old cemetery and collected all the flowers from the graves because as they said it, "They are needed more here and the dead like to share" The wagon was being pulled by the old Case tractor that the city owned to plow the one street and the Mayor/bar owner was driving. He was about the only sober person there and besides, the tractor had some glitches that made it hard for anyone else to get it in gear. So the march began with about 75 people, adults and kids all walking to town and the bar to have a little prayer before they laid poor Betty to rest at the edge of town. People would join the little parade as they passed by. You see, respect was given based not on wealth or grand things, but as one true friend to another.
By the time everyone got to the bar, there were lots of cars from all over. seems word got out to the other little bars in the area and patrons headed over to see what was up. The bar community is a very tight one in rural Minnesota and bar hopping is a past time that is close to an art form. Rass and his ass were a legend as well, many had had a conversation with both Rass and Betty at one time or another. Food was brought, drinks flowed and every other song was "Crazy" blaring from the old Jukebox. Rass sat in a booth as friends brought him another shot and gave him a hug or a manly punch in the arm. The bar was packed and while the wagon and Betty were outside, people would go out and sit by her and talk about times they remembered involving both Rass and Betty. It was not sadness but respect and acceptance for life, differences, and more.
Soon some local High School kids came into the bar to ether meet their parents, look for odd jobs or even have a beer. (yes they were served, remember, different times) They said it was getting cold outside and it wasn't right to leave poor old Betty out in the rain by herself considering how she had been allowed in the bar while alive. These kids had also once been thrilled as young'ins to be able to sit on her back as they drank a Coke from a little bottle and eat their Slim Jim and pickled eggs. They laid out a couple rugs over the pool table and sure enough, brought the mule into the bar and laid her out proper like for all to shed a tear over.
I will let your mind wander now and picture this wonderful event. I am not making any of it up and was there to see it with my own eyes. In the end, Betty was laid to rest, the local Lutheran minister, snockered on Beam and Hamms beer, said a few words, and she was buried. Everyone silently filed back to the bar, slowly gathered up their dishes, coats, and kids and headed home to do the chores before bed. The bar was cleaned by people who were part of the whole event without many words said. Things went back to normal.
You know, when I die, I hope my funeral is just like the one I went to as a child. The one given for Rass's ass. Filled with unconditional love and real people.