Co-written by Susan Sleggs, Veteran Stories columnist here at Carrot Ranch and contributor to the Rochester Veterans Writing Group book, United in Service, United in Sacrifice.
“Kid! Are you up there in thet Poet-Tree? Git down from there!”
“Yer barkin’ up the write tree, Pal, but leave me alone. I’m a settin’ up here workin’ on ma standup material. We gotta have some kinda ennertainment fer the folks this week.”
“Yep, thet’s whut I wanted ta talk ta ya about. Kid, ya ever noticed they’s a lot a vets aroun’ here?”
“Duh, Pal, the Ranch is jist down the road. A course they’s vets aroun’. Like if one a the hosses gits sick. The vets come from the hoss-pital. Oh, gotta write that down.”
“No, Kid, vets.”
“Right, the doctors that come check on the cattle, give ‘em their im-moo-nizations. See what I did there? Oh, I got this this week, it’ll be Kid, the standup comic. Did ya hear ‘bout the veterinary surgeon who was a comic? All her patients was in stitches.”
“Not thet kinda vet! Veterans, we’re gonna have veterans inta the saloon this week.”
“What could be better ‘an vets on a Ranch? But animal doctors ain’t as ennertainin’ as me.”
“Git down outta thet tree an’ shush or yer gonna need a doctor. Now jist lissen. I hired a band ta ennertain the folks in the saloon this week. An’ they’s all veterans.”
“You hired the ennertainment? Independent a me?”
“Yep, I did, Kid. In anticipation a Independence Day.”
“Hmmph. Thought we made decisions ‘bout the saloon t’gether. If’n ya wanna do somethin’ independently, include me next time. We’ll be co-independent.”
“Kid, we ain’t got time ta be squabblin’. We gotta set up, git the stage ready.”
“Have I heard a this band?”
“Reckon you have if ya been readin’ Susan Sleggs’
“Oh, I have. It’s been killer.”
“Bad word choice, Kid, but yeah, Michael and the Band of Brothers is gonna play the Saddle up Saloon this week. I’m ‘spectin’ ‘em any time now.”
“This band ain’t a bunch of hippies is it, cause I see a painted up van comin’ inta the parking lot. Wait. It says Veteran Music Van.”
“That’s them, Kid. Does the van have wheelchair license plates?”
“Hmmm. I’m gonna run inside and watch to see how their leader gets out.”
“I kin see ‘im. He’s put a metal square thing on its side outside the van door, now he’s attachin’ a big skinny wheel. Well, looky there, he’s puttin’ another wheel on the other side. Dang if it ain’t a wheelchair and the driver just lowered hisself into it. He’s only got stumps of legs. What happened?”
“Kid, I was explainin’ about vets. He lost ‘em in Afghanistan. IED.”
“Well you couldn’t tell by his face, he’s got the biggest smile I seen in a while. Good thing we got ramps. That old guy gettin’ out t’other side looks a might serious. Wait. There’s another vehicle comin’ in. Pal?”
“You been funnin’ me? These guys is all different ages and colors, how kin they be brothers?”
“Military Brothers I keep tellin’ ya. Git down and we’ll go talk to ‘em in person.”
Lit Kit looked when she heard boots on the saloon floor. An average-size man sporting a beard, ponytail, and tartan tam on his head walked to the bar, stuck out his calloused hand, and said, “Mac McCarthy, the ol’ man of the Band of Brothers, known to have some sort o’ squeezebox with me everywhere I go. Your place looks great with all the red, white, and blue decorations. I’ve got a few McCarthy tartan scarves for the crew. If we get into the Irish music, you might feel like donnin’ ‘em.”
“Thank you. I’m sure Kid and Pal will appreciate them,” she said as she tied one of the scarves around her waist.
Kid slipped behind the bar while Pal went to meet the band. “You must be Michael. I talked to you on the phone.”
“Yes. Happy to be here. Setting up the electronics is Kurt, Tyrell’s bringing in the drums, and Thad, Mac’s son, plays the banjo and tin whistle.” As each name was said, the person looked their way to give a small friendly salute. They were all wearing tailored military camouflage short sleeve shirts and black jeans, except Michael, he had on shorts.
Kid asked Kit, “You think they look like brothers? That man just said one is t’other one’s son. How kin he be both?”
Michael overheard Kid so wheeled over to the bar and looked at him. “I think I can clear up your confusion if you’ve got a couple minutes to watch a video. The soldiers you’ll see in it are different like we are, and the wars shown are different, but we’ve all been a part of some war so we know what it’s like to be away from home, to fight for what our country tells us to and we’d all do it again if we could. The words describe us pretty well. Here, take a look.” Michael handed him his cell phone and pressed play on the Lyric Video Version of Toby Keith’s American Soldier.
The band continued setting up while Kid watched the video, and then he repeated it so Pal and Kit could watch. Kid said, “Now I git it. These guys unnerstan’ what it was like ta serve. Sacrifice. Most of us don’t.”
“Jist like I been sayin’.”
“Would you post our play list?”
“Sure thing. Um, Michael? Do you mind if I do ma standup comedy between sets?”
“But Kid. I was going to do standup.”
“But you do it.”
“Yeah, I don’t have a leg to stand on.”
“Yeah, Kid, you’ve got a leg up on me in standup comedy.”
“It’s okay, Kid. I lost my legs, not my humor.”
“Yer quite a guy, Michael. I’m real glad you and the Band of Brothers are playin’ at the Saddle Up. I got yer playlist. Do you take requests? I wonder what songs folks would want ta request.”
Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue – Toby Keith
Where the Stars and Stripes and The Eagles Fly – Aaron Tippen
God Bless the USA – Lee Greenwood
Friends in Low Places – Gath Brooks
Chicken Fried – Zac Brown Band
“Folks, ya’ll feel free ta leave yer requests in the comments. I’ll start it— John Lennon’s Imagine.
Michael and the rest of this band of brothers are recurring characters penned by Susan Sleggs. They are usually playing at Mac’s bar, the No Thanks Needed. Read Susan’s columns and flash fiction at Carrot Ranch and at Susansleggs.com.
Pal & Kid are free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This July Fourth will be like no other. This is a great way to commence the celebrations. Best wishes to all. Imagine …
That’s for sure. My flag is at half mast and upside down. I sure am glad I can find refuge at the Ranch.
What song are you requesting to hear at the Saloon?
I thought I’d leave to the Americans for the fourth this time, but if I can choose ‘What a Wonderful World’ just came to mind. https://youtu.be/21LGv8Cf0us
Reblogged this on Susan Sleggs and commented:
I have a by-line at the Carrot Ranch Saloon. Thank you to Jim Deascher for the wheelchair demonstration.
I have really seen you grow these characters this year, Susan. How nice of them to come by the Saloon and share their talents and insights. I’m thinking there won’t be any parades so it’s especially good to have the band here at the Saddle Up.
Dang. I am really going to miss my annual trip over the hill with my parents to Cabot where we go to the library book sale, the rummage sale at the high school gym, then watch the parade where participants hand out starter plants, cheddar cheese, and just have fun showing off their floats. The parade is always led by local vets in dress uniform, and funnily enough a lot of them have the same last name.
This year we’re retreating to the woods where we’ll just watch moose go by. I’ve just crossed borders; even though I’ll be with family, we are not of the same bubbles so I’ll sleep in my tent, not in the cabin, visit outdoors.
Saw a lot of dead businesses on my way up, general stores and restaurants that succumbed to the shut downs. Norah said, it, and she from Down Under- a Fourth like no other.
Thanks for pinch hitting for me. I’ve had a week.
I’m so glad I could pinch hit for you, and a huge thank you for giving me a by-line. I sure didn’t expect that. I shared the link with my Vets group to demonstrate how word of mouth is a great advertiser.
My other local writing group, Lilac City Rochester Writers, will reap the rewards of The Band of Brothers. Our web guy is always coaxing us to add new content, not on another site, so the Brothers will get their own flash fiction stories that I won’t share elsewhere. I will introduce them tomorrow during a live- read aloud Zoom session.
You seeing the closed businesses distresses me, but sure is the sign of the times. We have a lift bridge in our suburb that has been having work done on it for a year now. The store-fronts on the north side are all closed down. So sad. A sign of construction and pandemic.
I hope the book store,co-op, and restaurant we went to survive the situation. Please tell Sean how much I enjoyed his book, “Findng Abbey,” especially after traveling though the areas he wrote about.
Have a great summer. Stay healthy.
I can hear the sounds outside your tent….
A big Thanks to all at the Ranch, the Saloon and to all those who band together to make things right for the world.
We’ll be missing some holidays this year, but our hearts will swell with joy and pride as we know we will be able to live in the ‘net’ bubble with our friends.
I’m not good with remembering music names and titles. So just play some uplifting tunes that encourage solidarity with humanity.
Cheers and thanks again, ~Jules
I’m cranking Miriam Makeba’s Eyes On Tomorrow album.
Happy fourth of July, comrades! I see Trump is all set for a virus-rousing rally. Restaurants and bars are opening in the UK but I think I’ll stick with Kid and Pal and the poet-tree.
As for the music, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah seems to be becoming the go-to anthem. But I’m gearing up for learning Quanta Qualia in a couple of weeks’ time.
It’s a big tree, that Poet-tree with strong branches.
What an excellent music request. I love that Leonard Cohen song. This that you left is new to me, but is going nicely with the usual chorus that I am being treated to this morning. Thank you!
It’s new to me also, but quite similar to a piece I’ve sung which was composed by one of Charli’s former schoolmates (that isn’t why I sang it – I don’t get to choose the music) looking forward to learning it.