Spontoon Island
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Update 7 January 2007

The 1,001 Mornings of Reggie Buckhorn
Character by EO Costello in collaboration with Simon Barber

"Let's Go Native"
by EO Costello

(Early September 1936)

"Let's Go Native"
by E. O. Costello

(Early September 1936)

     My valet, Lodge, has toiled for me for a number of years by now, so he's a pretty hardened character when it comes to seeing the state his employer is in, come the dawn.   I'll bet he has seen enough to convince him that it would be a Very Bad Idea Indeed to have Whitetailprinzip (as they'd say in Berlin) as a world-governing ideology.  Still, my entrance this morning into my suite at Shepherd's Hotel was enough to give even Lodge a turn.

     Lodge is more used to seeing me in seersucker suits, or white tie and tails.  He certainly isn't used to seeing me in native, floral-print garb about my lower section, with my upper section decorated only by a strand of highly polished cowrie shells, and a brightly coloured flower behind one ear.  He may have been seized by the fleeting notion that this was The Wardrobe of Tomorrow.  Lodge stared into the abyss of the Future, and it stared back at him, cross-eyed.

     Actually, what he was staring at was my chest.  Some sets of tennis during the week, as well as a vegetarian diet, do keep it in fighting trim, though I must admit I don't tend to get a lot of sun of a day.  Lodge brought this critique of my physique to my attention.

     "I do not recommend, sir, the adoption of that dress on a permanent basis.  If you were any more pale, there'd be whispers about the supernatural."

     "Point well taken, Lodge.  A bronzed god I am not, to be sure. You seem pensive about my choice of attire."

     "When the messenger came to the hotel with your wallet, keys and all of your clothes, and departed with only your banjo, I naturally expected the worst."

     "From me, or to me?"

     Lodge kept a tactful silence with respect to this question, a silence that was only interrupted by the sound of a cheerful lounge in a handy chair on my part.   I removed the flower from behind my ear and, as I had not breakfasted yet, I ate it.

     "Hibiscus, Lodge.  The Breakfast of Champions."

     "Please tell me, sir, that your activities of yesterday are not going to be written up in a police report."

     "I can say that with a high degree of confidence, Lodge.  Said activities shall not darken the ledgers of the Spontoon Islands Constabulary.  No, they were in the nature of an academic study, conducted by a highly respected anthropologist, relating to the practices of Spontoon Island natives in making whoopee."

     Lodge looked scandalized at this revelation, so I forestalled him with a raised paw.

     "You need not fear, Lodge, for my reputation, such as it is. Everything on my part was conducted with open and honest diplomacy. Pull up a chair, and I shall relate all..."


     The origins of l'Affaire Dobermann had their root in an afternoon circuit of convenient oases on Casino Island.  The circuit was necessary because of a wedding party the previous night at Shepherd's; the guests rather selfishly depleted the stockpiles of necessities. There was also the issue of some necessary repairs.  I overhead one staff-member commenting to another that the quality of the destruction was not up to Mr. Buckhorn's standards.

     In any event, my ricksha driver, Po'na, was busily ferrying me about.  Po'na is a thoroughly decent chap, a rather muscular, good-looking fox.  Aside from being an excellent ricksha driver, he also managed to extricate me from the bouillon quite deftly, when Lady Pamela Fenwick tried to make a holy show of me in a speedboat race. Po'na earned a portion of the proceeds from the race, and I have a feeling they went toward the subsidization of the welfare of his largish and extended family.  He is, as I say, an altogether decent chap, so it was with upraised eyebrow that I saw a look of concern on his face as I made the rounds.  Fortifying myself with some brain tonic, I bade Po'na to pull into a small park, to conduct business.  I opened the proceedings by stating my observation regarding look (concerned) on his face, and settled back crossways into my seat, to await further developments.

     Po'na was crouched down between the handles of the ricksha, drumming his fingers on the handles, his ears flattened down in thought.  After a few minutes of silence, interrupted only by the clink of ice in my glass and the drumming of his fingers, he turned to me.

     "Gentledeer knowledge lady Margaret Dobermann?"

     I searched the brain.  The name rang a faint bell, but I couldn't quite place it.  I begged further particulars.

     "Dobermann older she-dog lady is.  Self-same additionally...um...Po'na difficulty having speaking word.  Word similar sounding Po'na like 'antropolis' ."

     This took a bit of thought.  I had a brief image of someone with a rather enormous magnifying glass, studying a very tiny metallic version of a female insect.  I decided that this mix of Expressionism and biology was probably not, in fact, what Po'na was looking for, but it came to me eventually.


     Po'na nodded pleasantly.  "Ah!  Gentledeer correct is. Gentledeer word complicated correctly spoken has."

     "Hang on.  I've heard of this one.  Doesn't she write all those studies about various Pacific cultures?"  To this, Po'na nodded.  I haven't read any of them, myself.  I usually confine my daily reading to the comics and cricket scores in the Mirror.  But this Dobermann has popped up more than once, giving all sorts of lectures, informing "civilization" what the pagans are up to.  Bit of a nosy bossy-boots, I think.

     "Dobermann Spontoon Islands visit arrange.  Self-same arrived has, further native rituals studying wishes."

     "Good Lord!  You mean she wants to write a tell-all about you chaps?"  Po'na nodded.  This, naturally, explained his look of concern.   This sounded a bit like an academic version of a visit from a particularly boring and imperious aunt.   "Well, what rituals does she want to study?"

     "Dobermann study wishes rituals marriage, additionally mating, additionally fertility, additionally relations off-Islanders, Spontoonies."

     I nearly spat out my drank.  Nearly, mind you.  This was a definite specimen of impertinence if I ever saw one.  I had an aunt like that, who got me cornered in the restaurant at Strawbridge & Clothier's and began asking searching questions about my experiences with does, demanding specifics.  I managed to leg it out of there after the longest lunch I had had since I had to explain to my father why exactly I had been dismissed from Eton.  The umbrage this stirred up took precedence over even my natural tendency to take the mickey out of academics.

     "Problem additional Po'na relate gentledeer.  Dobermann seeing request rituals existence negative.  Ritual-masters Spontoonie difficulty having make ritual."

    "You mean you improvise this stuff just to flummox some chatterbox Euro asking inane questions?"

    "Gentledeer correct is."

    "Po'na, these are glad tidings indeed.  It's been too long since I've thought up a corker of a rag.  Unless you practice the fine art of practical joking, Po'na, you lose your snap and ginger.  This ritual-master you speak of, would he appreciate help from a gifted amateur?"

    Po'na thought for a bit, and then nodded.  He disappeared for about half-an-hour, and then returned with a rather small vole, who I took to be our mode of transportation (along with his boat, naturally) off Casino Island and to the South Island, where the Euros like myself aren't supposed to go, as a rule.  The vole was to make sure our trip was made on the Q.T. as much as possible, and, indeed, no one disturbed as as we made the jaunt.  Po'na himself guided me to a longish, straw-thatched building, and the two of us entered.

     There seemed to be a slight clash of cultures going on.  The occupant, a tabby of diverse ancestry, had hair-fur worn long and dark in the native fashion, and the simple garb of an islander, complete with coral necklace and flowers.  On the other paw, he was smoking a cigarette, rubbing a glass with an inviting-looking amber liquid inside, and staring in an accusing manner at an Underwood typewriter, which was flashing a blank page at him, mockingly.  Writer's block seemed to have set in, with a vengeance.

     Po'na went over and had a whispered conversation in Spontoonie with the cat.  Immediately, the cat's face grew animated, and he indicated a nearby seat.

     "Pull up a chair!  Want a belt?"

     The tabby was nice enough, once he saw the confusion on my face, to put me in the picture.  It developed that the tabby was a Dartmouth man, and was once editor of the humour rag "Jack O'Lantern" on campus. Upon graduation, he took his writing skills to Broadway, which was singularly underwhelmed.  Genius, he opined after pouring me a generous ration of bourbon, is often frustrated by philistines. Apparently, my host had developed a rather large bill for rent, clothing, and food.  He had also developed an even larger bill with his bootlegger for the necessities of life.  It was necessary to relocate some distance from the latter's collection agents, for the sake of his health.

     "It's not a bad gig, this job.  Every so often, I gotta come up with some yarn to pawn off on a bunch of gullible tourists.  Not too difficult, since most are too drunk to notice the difference.  But this Dobermann bird, she's a tough nut.  You read any of her stuff?"

     When I indicated that I hadn't, he handed me a smallish book, entitled "The Intimate Lives of Samoans."  The title alone told me that this was stuff one ordinarily only saw in small, green-backed paperbacks sold from under the counter in French railway stations. Flipping through some of the sections, which my interlocutor had annotated, gave me quite a turn.  Don't get me wrong; your narrator is not a prude.  Quite the contrary, I am a keen student of the doe form divine.  I just take exception to an overly clinical analysis of the art of making whoopee.  This Dobermann woman seemed to be the only one I knew who could tell the joke about the traveling salesmink going through Wisconsin with annotated charts and diagrammed sentences. Even the photographs in the book were of a type that would bore an Italian postcard vendor.  And that takes work, mark you.

     The tabby, while I was reading, had been thinking.  "Say, you know Gordie Wisent?"  Indeed I did.  "Tons of Fun" Wisent had been the editor of "Punch Bowl," Penn's humour rag, and thus this chap's counterpart, and many is the speakeasy we've shut down of a night.  If you've never seen a bison try to dance the Charleston on top of the hood of a Model T, you've lived a deprived life.  It developed that Gordie had related to him the story about the 60-piece mariachi orchestra I had hired to serenade the university president bright and early one October morning, and that this was introduction enough for him to hire me on as an unofficial assistant.  I related to him the story of the recent interscholastic-Ivy League punchup that Leslie duCleds and I had instigated.

    "Damn.  That's the hell of being on one of the 'native' islands. You miss all the fun stuff.  I'd have liked to have taken a swing at a Harvard man, just on general principle.  Anyway, got any bright ideas for this Dobermann woman?"

     I didn't immediately, but a glass or two of bourbon later, the creative juices began to flow.  We decided that a "Madame Butterfly" routine would be far too depressing, and that what was needed was something up-tempo, along the lines of a wedding breakfast, the happy couple having their first meal together as mate, and such.  Feasting, song, the whole works.  My co-conspirator agreed, noting that he could probably cadge a free lunch in the bargain, and that it probably wouldn't be too difficult to find some young couple to act as highly convincing stand-ins.  A few more bourbons, and we had the makings of a good outline for a script.  Pleased, the tabby invited me to a wrap party after the festivities, and promised to fix it up with the relevant busybodies so that I could attend, and I duly cleared my calendar for noon-ish the next day.

     I got to the island without any issues, and arrived near the appointed place bang on the dot of noon.  The place seemed oddlydeserted for a location that had recently been the site of a wedding breakfast.  At the ones I've attended, there are always at least a few folks around, fulfilling the arduous duty of finishing off the champagne.

     I parted some bushes, and came out into a clearing.  There was the food, indeed, but it was mostly fruit, and it was heaped up near a crude stone altar.  I was initially disturbed by the lack of variety in the refreshments.  What disturbed me more was the figure lying atop the altar.

      It wasn't the fact, so much, that it was a whitetail doe that disturbed me, though I have to say I was surprised to see another one here.  It was more her wardrobe that was disturbing.  Or, rather, the lack of one, as she was making a fashion statement up top with merely a garland of flowers, and not much of a statement below, either.  With regard to fashion statements, she seemed to have adopted the principle that silence is the best policy.  As I've said, I'm not a prudish chap by any stretch, but it's this sort of situation where people ask all sorts of very awkward questions.  I had just padded up a little further, to see if she was sleeping something off, when someone off to my left asked me a very awkward question.


     I turned to discover that the question had been posed by a whitetail buck that was obviously something of a barbell boy, armed with a particularly ugly looking spear.  He was backed up by a Greek Chorus composed of assorted species, each with a spear and shield.  It became readily apparent that someone had, as they say in Gnu York, "flipped the script" on me.  I resolved that if I got out of this with horns and hooves intact, the Dartmouth Alumni Office was going to be short one graduate.

     In the meantime, the buck, gnashing his teeth, and waving his spear somewhat dangerously, bellowed:


     Frankly, I was hoping he was going to keep the fun clean, but there was a very ugly implication in that question that would have been actionable had it been done in civilization.


     Given the fact that he then proceeded to advance with his spear right up to my person, I gathered that he felt some of what was coursing through my veins would make for something a little stronger than a tin of Bon Ami from the A&P, for his purposes.  He backed me up, gnashing his teeth and whistle-snorting at me, when I felt my tail bump up against a stone platform that held some of the offerings that, evidently, weren't as A-1 as Buckhorn essence for the purposes of ritual purification.

     A quick paw-feel disclosed the existence of a rather large, soft melon.  Whoever had donated the melon to the cause would have felt disappointed that it had not been used, so I decided to put it to good use, to wit, the saving of my own hide.  I remembered something I had seen in a gangster picture, and I slammed the melon as hard as I could between the buck's eyes, producing a large "SHPLUT" sound.  This, I emphasize, was from the melon, not the buck's head.

     This afforded me the opportunity to take to my hooves.  This was an opportunity I did not pass up, and I was soon zipping through the brush at high speed.  The buck and his cohorts could evidently see me flagging my tail, as I could hear them charging after me in full voice, ululating loudly.

     If this Dobermann woman was watching, she would have seen a sight not previously reported: namely, that contrary to generally accepted opinion, whitetail deer are, in fact, arboreal.  This was a circumstance necessitated by a sudden lack of trail, and a sudden plentiful supply of angry natives.

     Perched about 30 feet above the ground, I could see the buck standing on a high rock, chanting something in Spontoonie in a call-and-response fashion to his cohorts, who had begun beating their shields with their spears in a sort of rude syncopation.  I pondered that if they made a saxophone and clarinet arrangement, they'd have something that would take Chicago by storm.  I later found out the lyrics translated as follows:

"Cow'ring high in yonder tree!
A coward deer, afraid of me!
Bring him down before the morn!
And separate him, horn from horn!

What shall we do with the unclean deer?
Tell us now, so we may hear!

Use a paw for scratching backs!
Use a hoof for pounding tacks!
Use his tail for a scouring brush!
Find a use for his scrawny tush!


Use his nose for a rubber stamp!
Use his ribs for a holding clamp!
Use his skull for a playground ball!
Use his hide to warm a wall!


The other lyrics (there were about six choruses, all told) were pretty much more of the same, indicating a very thrifty nature I had hitherto unsuspected in Spontoonies.  I can't say the lyrics met with my taste, but then, I imagine, I'm biased.  It would have been a showstopper in some of the rougher parts of Montana, I'll bet.

     I could see from my vantage point the figure of Dr. Dobermann, busily scribbling away at a pad while receiving a simultaneous translation.  She seemed to be enormously pleased.  Eventually, after about half an hour, she had had sufficient, and trotted off, no doubt to tie all of this ritual into the latest thoughts from Vienna as to the Significance of It All.

     After a few minutes, the assorted savage singing and dancing died out, and it appeared the smoking lamp had been lit, as a number of the pagan savages produced lighters and cigarettes, and were soon puffing happily away, chatting with each other.  The doe had changed into a sweater and a skirt, and was swigging a Nootnops as she came down to where we all were.  Spotting me up in the tree, and waving a scotch bottle, she called up cheerily:

     "Hey, buddy!  The fun's over!  C'mon down and we'll fix you up some lunch."

     The round of applause that I received convinced me that the ritual was, in fact, over.  It developed that the buck and doe were, in fact, husband and wife.  They used to be a song-and-dance team, and had relocated to the Spontoons when vaudeville had breathed its last.

     "It ain't so bad, here.  Two shows a day at one of the casinos, plus all this good weather, for the same money we'd get doing five-a-days in Toledo and Akron.   They get us for some of this every so often.  Makes a good break from the cross-talk jokes."

     And with that, the wrap party commenced.  Things had taken a cheerier turn, to the point that I donned native garb, and sent back to the hotel for my banjo, to play songs under a pagan moon, as we danced and celebrated into the night in savage fashion.


     Lodge looked at me, with one eyebrow raised.

     "What?  Come now, Lodge, you know that I am always full, frank and truthful in these retellings."

     "Alarmingly and distressingly so, sir, however, I'm surprised at two things."


     "The Dartmouth gentleman seems not to have suffered for his perfidy, nor Dr. Dobermann for her intrusiveness.  That seems out of character for you."

     I smiled enigmatically, tuning my banjo.  Right on cue, there was a knock on the door of the suite, and my boon companion, Detective Sergeant Brush, strolled in, giving me the eye.  He came right to the point.

     "Awright, Mr. Buckhorn.  I gotta sneaky feelin' ya know why Dr. Margaret Dobermann was dancin' wit' nuttin' more'n th' fur she was born in, 'round seven this mornin', wit' some cat from Southie, in th' park right up 'gainst Police HQ.  The cat's sleepin' somethin' off, so youse wanna tell me what they was doin'?"

     I strummed a few bars of a native song.  "Research, Sergeant. Research."