Mike Rogers – Mack Wo Mack Magician

Columnist:
Mike Rogers

Mack WoMack – Magician

By Mike Rogers

The setting is the El Norte Bar and Grill in Hudson, Wyoming, population 413. The El Norte is famous for two reasons: Having the finest steak dinners found in the Rocky Mountains, and having the rowdiest Saturday night brawls of any bar in Wyoming. Itís been that way for Mack WoMackís entire forty-five year life. Mack WoMack has been spinning yarns and doing tricks with cards just about every Saturday night at the El Norte Bar and Grill since he was in his early twenties. Heís one of the Saturday night regular customers. This particular night is much the same. The dinning room is rather busy with peaceful tame folks who will be long gone by the time the bar fills with the regular rough and tumble cowboy crowd. They are like ships passing in the night. The tame diners ignore the arriving rowdies, and the arriving rowdies ignore the departing diners. Itís been that way for years.

Even though the hour is early Mack WoMack is holding court to a sizable gathering in one corner of the bar. Few if any know much about Mack. Heís seldom seen during the week, and if he has a job no one can accurately describe his profession. However, the El Norte Saturday night crowd knows him for his ratty dog-eared deck of playing cards and the stories he tells. As the group intently watches Mack is asking Mel Goodwrench, the retired theatre owner, what card games he enjoyed as a youngster. Mel replies, “Old Maid, Spoons, Bone Pile, Go Fish, and Poker taught to me by my uncle Hank Backworth the uranium prospector.” Hank is not in attendance this evening. The need for Wyoming uranium dried up years ago, yet Hank plugs on never giving up hope. Heís been camping out in the Gas Hills staking still another claim.

“Interesting, Iíve always loved all those games, and my favorite was Go Fish,” Mack says. Then turning to Marilyn Lynn, the school nurse who just happened to step into the bar from the dining room to catch Mack in action, “Marilyn, what is your favorite card, assuming you have a favorite card?” Miss Lynn replies, “I know you expect me to say the Queen of Hearts, but my real favorite card is the Seven of Hearts.”

Indeed the Queen of Hearts would be a logical choice, but then again, if you play the game of Hearts then the Queen of Spades might be your choice,” replies Mack as he downs his last swig of beer. “JC, Iíll have another Colorado Kool Aid please,” he yells to JC Alan, the long time El Norte bartender who can break up the Saturday night fights as fast as he can mix a tray of martinis. Mack goes on to explain to Marilyn Lynn, “People who play the game of Casino might favor the Ten of Diamonds, or the Two of Spades, others may say Aces, so thereís really no way to know just what a favorite card might be.”

Wayne Law, a mean lean rodeo bull rider joins the crowd. Everyone, including Mack WoMack speaks nicely to Wayne Law. His name doesnít reflect his behavior. His history of late night action at the El Norte might suggest he change it from Law to Lawless. Turning away from Marilyn for the moment Mack offers to buy Wayne a Coors while showing him the interesting back design on the well-worn deck of cards. Mack always uses such cards, ones having pictures of bulldogs on the back. He explains to Wayne and the others just why the deck is the way it is. The story is rather interesting and one Mack has told at the El Norte on several occasions. Wayne Law has little interest, but he hangs around as heís getting a free bottle of suds. Before the evening is over heíll expect, and probably receive, many free refills.

Speaking directly to Gerald Black, Wyomingís most boisterous and obnoxious gambler, famous for his losses, not his winnings, Mack asks, “Gerry, what would you do with these two cards in the game of Black Jack?” With that question WoMack tosses two aces face up on the bar. “Hell, any fool knows you always split Aces and Eights in the game. Why bother me with such a dumb question?” Then yelling to the bartender, “Hey JC, this would be a great place to open a bar.” Gerald always uses that worn out trite rude manner when ordering another. He thinks it is funny.

“Awe, but Gerry, itís not a dumb question. Do you know that in many European casinos a pair of Aces is an automatic winner in Black Jack?” Mack smiles and finishes off his remaining Coors before getting JCís attention for another. Gerald Black quickly responds with, “Iíd never be caught dead in a European casino with all those goodie-two-shoe pansies. No way Jose.” The truth is, Gerald would have a difficult time even finding Europe on a map. Though he is a pompous jerk, and a failure at the gaming tables, he is quite successful with his trucking business, run from a beat up house trailer located on five acres of river front property between Hudson and the town of Lander. Keep in mind, most of the El Norte customers have never owned a necktie. Yet many are quite successful in business. Gerald is no exception.

Mack WoMack has a coarse, but charming manner, that probably wouldnít fly in any venue in the world except the El Norte Bar and Grill in Hudson, Wyoming, population 413. His followers eat it up as he continues to spin his yarn about whatís what relating to playing cards. He goes on to explain about the various back designs on cards, the difference in the sizes of Poker cards and Bridge cards, the meaning of Dead Manís Hand in Poker, and the various methods used to shuffle cards throughout the world. At this point heís no longer paying for his own beer. The late night denim-clad-baseball-cap-big-belt-buckle-cowboy-hat crowd is starting to build, and there are now a few more WoMack fans following along.

Marilyn Lynn, the school nurse, excuses herself to return to her friends who are still enjoying coffee following their dinner in the dining room. Before allowing her to break away Mack asks, “Miss Lynn, before you go what was your favorite playing card again, or did I forget to ask?”

Yes you did ask Mack, the Seven of Hearts, but itís really not my favorite, I really donít have a favorite card.” Marilyn is feeling a bit out of place and bids the crowd farewell, but Mack stops here again. “But Miss Lynn, the Seven of Hearts does indeed have a special spot in your life, look.” Without doing any monkey business with the cards Mack simply ribbon spreads the deck face down across the bar. The Seven of Hearts is the only face up card in the entire face down deck!

Wayne pushes his cowboy hat to the back of his head and yells a common four-letter expletive. Gerald removes his baseball hat, which he wears backwards, and slams it on the bar in disbelief. (Gerald doesnít realize that when the baseball hat goes on backwards the I.Q. drops twenty points.) Mel and the other viewers gasp, while Marilyn Lynn simply stares at the Seven of Hearts in stunned astonishment.

Downing another gulp of Coors Mack turns to JC Alan, the bartender who breaks up Saturday night fights, asking, “How did the Yankees do today JC?”

“The Yankees won,” JC Alan explains while serving up a round.

Mack WoMack, the magician, also won today!