My friend John Payne was raised in West Texas, and I have, with his permission, used his antics as a teenager to inspire my favorite character, Ferris Ferrier. This story was inspired by John.
Ferris Ferrier lives in Happy Texas. It’s 1958, and he is as happy as a resident can be. Ferris reads an article in the Amarillo newspaper about a movie filming in Fort Worth, and the company is auditioning for cowboys that can sing and play guitar while riding a horse.
Ferris plays guitar, a bit, and has some fancy cowboy duds, and his father has Ole Rip the cutting horse, so he’s convinced he could give this a shot. His parents give him their blessing, and its arranged that his cousins Jimmy Jam and Mary Meredith will take him and Ole Rip to the casting call.
Ferris isn’t nervous about the singing and playing, but more about Ole Rip getting spooked and bucking him off. Ole Rip is a working horse and used to cattle and his pen, and he is pretty unpredictable, but he’s the only horse on the farm, so Ole Rip it is.
Jimmy Jam suggest that Ferris and Ole Rip give a practice performance in the upcoming Christmas Parade next week. “Give the folks in Happy a preview of their soon to be movie star.” says Jimmy. Ferris agrees, and plans made.
The day of the parade, Mimi Jo Musson, the coordinator, moves Ferris and Ole Rip to the front of the show, right behind the baton twirlers. “Might as well give our new movie star a plug, right?” she said. Ferris is nervous as hell. Why right in front of the high school band? Ole Rip is bound to have a meltdown once that loud music starts. He explains to Mimi Jo the scenario that will likely happen, but she says “it will be fine, horses love music.”
At noon, the parade is lined up in the alley between the Prairie Bank and the Big Biscuit Café. Baton twirlers, Ferris and Rip, the drum major and high school band along with six floats followed by a stagecoach driven by Gabby Pat Parnell where Santa Claus rides and will throw candy to the children.
Ferris is freaking out. His throat is dry as sand, he has to pee, and Ole Rip is cutting one fart after the other, a sure sign he is not happy. As the parade turned the corner out of the alley onto the main street, Ferris starts to play and sing, and Ole Rip is doing fine. Then, the drums start, and the band kicks into Jingle Bells, and Ole Rip loses it. It is the first time Ferris has seen him rear up on h is back legs like Trigger, and is for a moment, impressed…until the horse makes a hard right turn and runs into Miss Molly’s Beauty Parlor.
As Ferris and Rip enter the business, Ferris hits his forehead on the door jamb and is spewing blood like a fountain. Ole Rip manages to demolish half the parlor before turning around and heading out the front door. They travel a few stores down, running parade watchers off the sidewalk.
The next stop, Western Auto and Rip is doing a similar demo job on the best store in town. Ferris is bleeding, his guitar is smashed, and the saddle is beginning to slide sideways. As they exit Western Auto, there are three vacant lots before you reach Bramwell’s Feed Store. Ole Rip picks up speed and heads for the feed store lot.
As the duo enters the lot, Rip is smelling oats and makes a beeline for the warehouse, where he abruptly stops in front of an open bin and proceeds to chow down.
The saddle slips off, and Ferris is on the ground.
He is a sorry sight, bloody face, torn clothes, his precious Harmony guitar smashed to sawdust, and then Margie Lou, his secret crush shows up. She is so excited she can barely speak.
” Good God Ferris, I have never seen a demonstration of horsemanship like that in my whole life, and I’m a rodeo queen. That was fabulous, and sensational” she screams. Ferris picks himself up and thanks, Margie Lou.
She adds, ” and next week you are going to audition for that movie, you should be so excited.”
Ferris says “you know Margie Lou, I think I’ll do my guitar playing on the ground from now on. Who knows, in a few years I might start me a band. By the way, that’s a good idea for a name, The Fabulous Sensations, and I’ll keep that in mind.”