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Day: June 30, 2014

“The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry

The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry

c.2014, Liveright
$24.95 / $27.95 Canada
199 pages



Every good thing must come to an end.

In some cases, that’s a surprising relief: you can only have just so much fun.

In other cases, though, the end comes quietly, slowly, so that few actually realize it until it’s already crept away. That includes friendships and ways of life, and in “The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry, it’s almost closin’ time.

Every cowboy in Texas knew that Charlie Goodnight possessed exceptional hearing and vision: Charlie could see and hear anything on the plains, but that didn’t stop him from going into a partnership with a showy Englishman who had no sense.

It was odd, but it wasn’t all bad. When Lord Ernle had a little accident, Charlie ended up with land, cattle, and a half-done mansion on the ridge near Long Grass – which was “nearly in Kansas, but not quite… nearly in New Mexico, too, but not quite… might be in Texas.”

Finally, Charlie’s wife, Mary, got the house she wanted. And when the exotic beauty everybody thought was Ernle’s concubine moved in, Mary got the woman-friend she wanted, too.

The mansion – and the man who planned it – had been the talk of Long Grass. Doc Holliday hoped he might perform dental surgery on the staff who’d arrived on the Englishman’s behalf, and make a little money. Wyatt Earp didn’t say much about the bagpipers, the Englishman’s butcher, or his chef – but then again, Wyatt was a man of few words anyhow.

Maybe he was thinking about his wife, Jessie. Sometimes, she seemed to hate him. And sometimes, it was the other way around.

With nothing to do in Long Grass but drink, the commotion the Englishman brought was welcome – for a time. So was the job that Doc and Wyatt took in Denver, but that didn’t work out, either. They’d heard that Tombstone, Arizona was looking for lawmen and, since Wyatt’s brothers were looking for jobs, it seemed right to head southwest…

Here’s why I always like novels by author Larry McMurtry: they’re told so casually. The story is easy; it moseys in little slices of humor and relaxed discomfort, and the characters are even-tempered. The horrifying blood-and-torture violence – and there’s always plenty of that – is written lovingly but offhanded, as though McMurtry is reciting a menu and, by the way, would you shut the door, please?

“The Last Kind Words Saloon” follows this storytelling method, but this novel seemed almost like a one-off. It’s short, first of all: at just under 200 pages, it’s almost a novelette. It meanders a little more than most McMurtry books and there are interesting plotlines that die all too soon.

And yet – who could resist a tale of friendship that’s so Lonesome-Dove-like? Who could turn away a novel that seems to quietly close the Old West by bringing its biggest characters together with some of McMurtry’s?

I know I couldn’t, and if you like good storytelling, then you’ll want to read it, too. “The Last Kind Words Saloon” is a book you won’t want to end.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Parks Board ready to start new program


Of the Keizertimes

The funding amount isn’t what was hoped for.

No matter: members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board are ready to start their new matching grant program.

In the midst of trying to get more money for the program – which will in essence allow the Parks Board to partner with community members and double funds – board members finalized the application forms. The hope is for completed forms to start being submitted prior to monthly Parks Board meetings, which take place the second Tuesday of each month. The next meeting is on July 8.

Meetings usually start at 6 p.m. in council chambers at Keizer Civic Center, though the July meeting will take place in the McNary High School cafeteria.

With the new program, groups or organizations will submit applications to Debbie Lockhart at city hall (930 Chemawa Road) for projects and indicate what they are willing to put into the project, both in terms of materials and labor. Parks Board members will go through the applications and choose the top ones, matching funding requests.

As an example, if a group is willing to put in $500 towards cleaning up a park and the application is accepted, Parks Board members could put $500 worth in materials towards the project.

In recent years the Parks Board has had an annual fund of $20,000. This year that amount was cut to $10,000. During the Keizer City Council budget discussion, the amount was bumped up to $14,000.

“I fought really hard for $10,000 (extra) and got $4,000,” councilor Marlene Quinn told Parks Board members at this month’s meeting. “By midyear if we haven’t used the contingency fund, I will fight for the rest. This isn’t over.”

Brandon Smith, chair of the Parks Board, noted the up-and-down financial battle.

“We’ll see how the program works,” Smith said. “I would like to start doing this by the first meeting in July.”

Parks Board members unanimously approved the double-sided application form. The form asks for information such as the name of the individual or organization applying, the project director’s name, the project name, the proposed park site and if the project is identified in the current Parks Master Plan.

There is also a section asking about the estimated project start and completion date, project budget, type of project and if a recognition sign will be required. The biggest space is for a project description.

The back side of the form explains the matching grant program and lays out the rules and criteria of the program.

Lady Celts hosting first camp under new coach

Derick Handley, former girls basketball coach at McKay High School, took the reins of the McNary High School Lady Celt program in April. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Derick Handley, former girls basketball coach at McKay High School, took the reins of the McNary High School Lady Celt program in April. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls basketball program is hosting a camp for hopeful future Celtics July 1-3. It will double as an opportunity for athletes and their families to meet the Lady Celts’ new head coach, Derick Handley.

“We’ll be looking for the next Madi Hingston or Sydney Hunter, and there’s going to be lots of hands-on time with current players and coaches,” Handley said.

The camp is open to all girls in kindergarten through eighth grade and will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Cost of the camp is $45 per camper and includes a shirt. Two can register for $80. Registration forms are available at the McNary office, 595 Chemawa Road N., and can be completed on the first day of camp provided space is available.

Handley replaces Paul Pickerell who led the program for two years before accepting a job coaching golf at Corban University in March. Handley joins the Celtics having led the McKay High School program for four years and providing a much-needed shot in the arm to a fading Royal Scot program.

“My first year, we only had 16 girls try out. Last year we had more than 50,” Handley said.

Handley, who lives in Keizer with wife Allison and 5-month-old son Emerson, will also be teaching English and social studies at McNary, which will give prospective players extra facetime with the coach. He’s hoping that presence will impact the number of girls trying out for the sport.

“Last year, we only had two teams (junior varsity and varsity), and that’s a problem. We should have three, but’s that’s also partly our responsibility to make happen. It means reaching out to the youth leagues and being part of what they’re doing while inviting them to be part of what we’re doing,” Handley said.

He’s already planning a Future Celtic Night when visiting youth players will have their own bleacher section.

In the meantime, he’s gunning full bore with the current crop of Lady Celts. Much of the varsity roster is in a summer ball league where its record is currently 13-2. They won a tournament at Liberty High School last week.

“We started an incoming freshman, a sophomore and three juniors and won the tournament,” Handley said. “What we have right now is balance. Madi and Sydney are both great players, but we’ve got Kaelie Flores and Reina Strand on the floor doing great things. There’s not going to be one name at the top of the scoring lists. I hope to have several players averaging double digits,” Handley said.

If there’s one area where he’d like to see them put in some work, it’s in the girls’ self-confidence.

“They see a team like South Salem (High School) and they know they’re good, but they tell themselves they’re not that good,” he said. “We can be just as good as them, and I think we might have as much potential Division I talent as they do.”

Beyond the court, Handley wants the Celtic athletes to learn teamwork and selflessness among the other lessons sports can impart.

“I was an okay student in high school, but my motivation was baseball and basketball. I was the first person in my family to go to college and, quite honestly, I don’t think I would have had the skills or motivation to do it without the athletic piece. That’s what I hope they learn as part of the program,” Handley said.