Across Continents

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Goat hairs and white elephants

Almost tasteful. Artistic perhaps. Even if in colour rather than the more acceptable black and white. Framed photograph of a group of scantily clad female cyclists astride their steeds. The leg warmers suggested late Seventies, maybe early Eighties. The picture one of the gifts being vied for in the White Elephant lottery, ably compared by Patty, my host for the night. I’d explained I was more familiar with the term being used to describe a stall of unwanted bric-a-brac, of the sorts you’d find in a village fete.

I’d joined up with a local cycling club for their Christmas bash in a small El Paso restaurant. Owned and run by Zino. He explained he was originally from Greece and had been an Executive Chef at the Four Seasons hotel in Las Vegas. This got lots of nodding approvals everyone. I’d heard of the Bellgaio, but only because I’d seen Oceans Eleven. Presumed they must be similar. And thought there was also an MGM Grand. Gambling cities didn’t really appeal. Especially those in the middle of yet more desert.

The lottery had rules. Which Patty enforced with great charm. Only those who’d provided gifts could participate, which meant that they all won with something. When your number was called you could either chose an unwrapped present, or pinch someone else’s. Provided this hadn’t been done more than three times. Alcoholic beverages were popular. And I suspected there was more interest in the busty cycling photograph than the male participants cared to show.

I explained that a few years ago I’d run the book stall at the village fete. Seemed innocuous enough. Until yet more boxes of books started to appear, dropped off by unseen individuals amidst the crowds. For, often tucked amongst innocent children’s novels, some rather more anatomically correct coffee table publications. Struggling to find them before others did, for the fete was strictly a family affair. Soon amassing a sizeable collection of adult material. Artistic for the most part. Seemed pen and ink was popular in the 70s. No cycling photos mind.

Next morning Patty headed out early to rejoin the cycle club for their Sunday ride. Dedication. Especially as it appeared flats – punctures – were a frequent feature of this part of Texas, explained husband Roy. Small seed pods with tiny twin thorns – known as goat hairs – invariably the culprit. Explained I’d heard of them, something Lewis back in Anchorage, Alaska, had mentioned to me. To be wary of in the southern States, especially if you rode off-road. Added I’d not succumbed. Yet…

[Much to his regret, the author never did work out who in the village had provided some of the more racy publications for the book stall, despite carefully checking for clues in the boxes. And those he impounded? After a brief spell as after dinner curiosities, now back doing the rounds amongst his neighbours… Probably]

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