John Wayne with friends

I always loved the bit player in the movies.  The second banana or the little part which sticks in your memory.

John Wayne had a few players that if you look closely you will see in many of his films.

Ward Bond was one of them.  Gruff, burly American character actor. Born in 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska (confirmed by Social Security records; sources stating 1905 or Denver, Colorado are in error.) Bond grew up in Denver, the son of a lumberyard worker. He attended the University of Southern California, where he got work as an extra through a football teammate who would become both his best friend and one of cinema’s biggest stars: John Wayne. Director John Ford promoted Bond from extra to supporting player in the film Salute (1929), and became another fast friend. An arrogant man of little tact, yet fun-loving in the extreme, Bond was either loved or hated by all who knew him. His face and personality fit perfectly into almost any type of film, and he appeared in hundreds of pictures in his more than 30-year career, in both bit parts and major supporting roles. In the films of Wayne and Ford, particularly, he was nearly always present. Among his most memorable roles are John L. Sullivan in Gentleman Jim (1942), Det. Tom Polhaus in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and the Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnson Clayton The Searchers (1956). An ardent but anti-intellectual patriot, he was perhaps the most vehement proponent, among the Hollywood community, of blacklisting in the witch hunts of the 1950s, and he served as a most unforgiving president of the ultra-right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. In the mid-’50s he gained his greatest fame as the star of TV’s Wagon Train (1957). During its production, Bond traveled to Dallas, Texas, to attend a football game and died there in his hotel room of a massive heart attack.

But most people do recognize him and then there is Hank Worden as guy who is in the background.  Yet to me he is as memorable as Bond.

Raised on a cattle ranch in Montana. Educated at Stanford and the University of Nevada as an engineer. Washed out as an Army pilot. Toured the country in rodeos as a saddle bronc rider. Broke his neck in a horsefall in his 20s, but didn’t know it until his 40s. Chosen along with Tex Ritter from a rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York to appear in the Broadway play “Green Grow the Lilacs”, the play from which the musical “Oklahoma” was later derived. Drove a cab in New York, then worked on dude ranches as a wrangler and as a guide on the Bright Angel trail of the Grand Canyon. Recommended by Billie Burke to several movie producers. Became friends with John Wayne, Howard Hawks, and later John Ford, all of whom provided him with much work. Survived by adopted daughter Dawn Henry.

Both guys are in the Searchers.  Bond a bigger part but Hank a bit part with punch.

If you look closely you see these secondary roles in most films and yet some stand out.

Bond was the head of the Texas Rangers and Worden plays the crazy guy who in the end tells Wayne where to find the kidnapped girl.

A short story of revenge.

 

Jumper

By Barry Wax

 

It was a typical day in the windy city. Patrolman Ted O’Brien was on his beat, daydreaming even as he walked the streets. All he could think about was his retirement which would start in six days. His paperwork was in, the house was sold, the condo in Florida bought and the tickets to fly down to the Sunshine State had been secured on-line. Life was good. That is on the surface but go deeper and the scabs of discontent were there.

For a second he thought of his granddaughter, Cindy.   He winced because her actions had caused him grief. His wife and he had raised her when her mother died when she was five. He thought they had done a good job but kids and even grandchildren sometimes test the waters. She was sixteen when she met Jerome and within six months became pregnant. O’Brien was a conservative but his Jewish wife was a liberal. He overlooked her liberal tendencies but Cindy took after her Grandmother. Every time he thought of Jerome he became inflamed. O’Brien was on the verge of prejudice before Jerome but after the “Black boy” started to date Cindy he became a real bigot. Being a cop he had seen too much and it registered anti-black. Thank god the community he was moving to did not have any of them. But Jerome was now out of the picture. A drive by shooting took care of that problem. Now Cindy would have to stay with them. It would take a long while to overcome the baby problem. A mixed child. O’Brien was hoping after the birth she would put it up for adoption but that would take time and a lot of treading on bread crumbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

O’Brien did not see it at first. He noticed a few people on the street looking up and pointing. There on the ledge twenty or so stories up was a man on a ledge. Immediately he called it in and entered the lobby of the apartment building where someone was threatening suicide. He had in tow the manager thinking he would need the key. They ran to apartment fifteen. It was vacant and someone had broken the lock and had entered the apartment. O’Brien ran to the open window and looked outside. Fifteen feet from the window on a ledge seven inches out from the building was a young Black. The first reaction was “Jump” but the patrolman quickly shook the idea out of his head. It was not that he was not prejudice, hell it was the paperwork nightmare that would happen if this occurred on his watch. It would cause him to have to postpone Florida and that just cannot happen. He leaned out of the window.

“Hey, boy. You got to come back in,” he yelled to the guy leaning against the building. On reflection that was just the wrong thing to say on so many levels. To his surprise the young man, about nineteen talked back.

“I have got to do this. She left me. I have nothing to live for.”

“We need to talk. No woman is worth this. I know it seems like the end but believe me you can get over this. All you need to do is inch back to me and then we can sit down and work this out.”

 

At that moment other people entered the room. One was his squad chief with a couple of officers and thank god, the psychologist for the station. O’Brien thought, “Good, I can pawn this situation to these guys and get out of the loop.”

 

 

 

 

Dr. Frank Joyce was the typical egghead. He was small in stature. Only about five foot four and if soaking wet would weigh in at one hundred pounds. He was thin and had the friar hair of an old man even though he was just fifty years old.

 

“Brief me,” he asked O’Brien.

“I got nothing much. I think you can talk me out of this. Something about a girlfriend dumping him. But he will talk. My gut is he has not made up his mind.” O’Brien talked in staccato phrases for every second counted.

The shrink went to the window and started his spiel. O’Brien briefed the squad chief. Two fire rescue men entered the room. They carried material including some rope. As the shrink was leaning out of the window one of them tied him securely so he did not fall out to the pavement which was twenty two stories below.   He spent about five minutes conversing with the jumper. That was a good sign for the longer the delay the better chance that this could have a positive result. The shrink turned back to the room.

 

“I think I have him under control. He told me his girlfriend is down there and has her cell phone and videoing what he is doing. The idea was to film his swan dive and put it on y-tube. He figures it would go viral and the money from his death would take care of her and the upcoming baby.” Dr. Frank took a breath.

 

“What now?” asked the squad chief of the doctor?

 

“I have convinced that he should come in and we would talk it out. The problem is when I said an emergency fireman would come on the ledge to help him back in, he balked. Officer O’Brien must have made a great impression on him because he is insisting that he bring him the rope and secure him.”

 

Before he realized it O’Brien was back in the loop. The chief just gave him the look and that was that. But even while the fireman was hooking him up with the rope to secure him as he would be secured while bringing the jumper a second rope he had this nagging feeling. In the back of his mind he remembered the kid had said the reason he was going to jump was he broke up with his girlfriend and now she was supposedly filming this event. But before he could capitalize on this contradiction he was being helped through the window. A harness was tied around his waist and he helped the second harness as he gingerly moved to the jumper. He appeared frozen at the same spot that he was when O’Brien first spoke to him.

 

Slowly the firemen let out the harness rope attached to O’Brien. He inched out towards the jumper.

 

“What is your name, Sonny?” he asked.

 

“Johnny” the kid responded watching as the officer came closer and closer. Finally he was close and started to wrap the harness around the lad. The kid held onto him. He had his right hand on the back part of the rescue harness wrapped around the cop.

 

 

 

 

“I thought you said you broke up with a girl” O’Brien asked and quickly realized he should not have said anything. He had secured the jumper and should have instead brought him in.

 

“I lied. You see I wanted you here. You killed my cousin Jerome. I know that you set up the drive by as an alibi and now you are going to pay.” As he said this he used the pair of shears that was hidden in his right hand and cut through one of the attached ropes to the cops harness.   He then grabbed O’Brien and jumped. His harness attachment held but O’Brien’s link with the rescue party at the window broke as his weight hit.

 

The men holding the ropes expected a giant tug. They braced themselves as the captain yelled, “They fell.”

 

One team did strain. They held the harness rope that secured the jumper. The other team felt a momentary tug and then nothing. Officer O’Brien link   held him only for a moment. The jump caused the men to swing on a pendulum as the one harness held and the other did not.   O’Brien landed ten feet to the left of the inflated safety net set up on the ground by the fire rescuers. The team pulled in the jumper who gave no resistance to being saved.

 

The aftermath to this incident left many questions but with time they dissolved. There was a girlfriend making a video of the ledge tragedy. It did go viral and money was made. The kid on the ledge Johnny spent time Baker acted for the month but because he had no priors and had seemed very remorseful about what happened he was back on the streets with little consequences.

There was the small problem of the harness rope. But since this would lead to an investigation that would delay the settling of the life insurance to O’Brien heirs and tarnish his status of being a hero this was buried. The shears were never found. They still remain on the ledge exactly where they were dropped.

 

Poor O’Brien. He never would have been able to convince Johnny that he had not done the drive by that killed Jerome. Not that he was not happy about it. That was until he took a pendulum swing off the building called The Jerome Apartments.

Being Bullied

Nothing is worse than entering a new school. Especially if it is middle school. My parents had gotten divorced and split my brother up. I would live with one parent while my brother lived with the other. We would switch every six months. That meant that every six months I went to a new school .Added to that mix my divorced parents moved a lot so I never went to the same school twice.

 

 

It was the end of my seventh grade and just after Christmas when I moved in with my father in Dover, New Jersey. The new school was named Roxbury Junior School. My first day in the classes was what I expected it to be. The teacher who got me was non plus. She assigned me to the back of the room for there were no other seats available. Anyway with my last name starting with W. I was use to sitting in the back. This room had two chairs per table. I was assigned to the left seat. To my right was this huge boy. He must have been over six feet tall. Not overweight but thick like he should be playing football. He was not happy to share his table and glared at me. Then I noticed he was staring at my brown bag. It contained my lunch.

 

I lived with my dad at this time. All his interest and work went into his business. I was an inconvenience. At home he avoided me and I stayed mainly in my room avoiding contact with him. The refrigerator had a space for my lunches which I prepared before going to school. There was Bologna and American yellow cheese. The bread was always the same, two slices of Wonder. I was allowed to take two slices of cheese and two slices of Bologna and make my lunch. Pluck this into a brown bag and look forward to 12:00 for lunch.

 

My table partner spoke to me in a voice that sent shivers down my spine. “What did you bring me for lunch?” It was not a threat, oh yes it was. The implication was I would give him my brown bag or else. “It is not much. I hope you enjoy it.” I replied thinking maybe I should report this and then realized that this galoot would win by his sheer size. Better to give in and think this over.

 

Fortunately this kid, Big John was not in any of my other classes. But by the end of the week it was obvious that he took my lunch and the chocolate milk from a bunch of other wimps. Added to this mix was at least six cookies and he was fed. I on the other hand went hungry for the day. By the next week I needed to come up with a plan.

 

The refrigerator at my house had a small space for me and the rest for my father. Most of the time we ate out for supper. Every night was the same. My father ordered a hamburger, French fries and a coke for me.   For himself he had a steak, French fries and a soda. It was so like clockwork that the waitress had the order in before we had even sat down. The food in the refrigerator was for lunch. In my area was bologna and cheese (Munster) and wonder bread. The bread was in the refrigerator because we had a roach problem in the apartment. On my father’s side was all sorts of goodies. I was prohibited from taking his food. Mostly I did not like it anyway. He tended to like hot stuff. He had hot peppers in a bowl because he liked to flavor his lunch with them.

 

I decided to purloin some hot peppers and put them hidden under the cheese on my sandwich. I had booby-trapped the sandwich. Hopefully Big John would not like the heat. Monday morning I hopped the school bus with my lunch bag with the hot sandwich in it. As I suspected Big John took the bag as soon as I plopped it on my desk. I did not say a word.

Big John’s lunch time was at eleven thirty in the morning. I was in Science class. At eleven thirty- two we heard a major uproar from the cafeteria. From what I heard later Big John did not take the hot

Peppers well. He ran with his mouth on fire to the water fountain. Unfortunately a football player of immense proportions was taking gulping down water and had his mouth on the fountain. With pain searing through his mouth Big John tried to toss the football player to the side. In doing so he chipped the kids tooth on the side of the spigot. The football player was now in pain and angry. He responded by punching Big John in the head with his mouth on the spigot. Big John came up his mouth bleeding and a beautiful fight ensued. The result were both boys suspended. Big John was judged the aggressor and was moved to another school. I was free. I could now enjoy my bologna and cheese sandwiches with no reprisals.