A seasoned look at life - November 29, 2012

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JR is dead - again. This time the star of ‘Dallas’ has not been mysteriously shot. Larry Hagman, who played him with grinning guile, has passed on.

Locals in Great Marton will remember our own J.R, a great character from Blackpool’s oldest pub the Saddle Inn.

He was a wily stone mason from now non-existent Westmorland. He had an accent like his angle grinder and, like Larry apparently, was a ladies man and loveable rogue.

After his last roll-up expired and that twinkle left his eye, our J.R.’s exit inspired a coach-load of mourners from Blackpool for his funeral by Ullswater. He was a kinder hearted soul than TV’s J.R. but equally enthralling.

Such characters add colour to life. They’re a good reason, if one was needed, for socialising in public bars. (Larry H. enjoyed a drink himself, we’re told.)

But Southfork’s J.R. bestrode an arid wasteland in Texas. The actor’s passing reminded me of a journey I once made there.

The cities of Dallas and Houston were made up of soul-less concrete and glass skyscrapers. The old, cowboy west stretching in between was bleakly barren and given over to oil exploration.

Only the names of places had charm: the Rio Grande, El Paso and San Antonio.

At San Antonio just a fragment of wall remained of the famous Alamo where frontier heroes like Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett fought to their last against the Mexican Army.

El Paso was a bone-dry wilderness in blistering heat and the Rio Grande a sprawling, murky river. This was the gateway to Mexico. Unlike John Wayne who cantered across on horseback, we took the road bridge to Juarez.

What a grim place that border city was. Back then, in the 80s, it was the world’s murder capital.

Pursued by street traders, we took refuge in a seedy backstreet bar. Its hostesses were equally persistent and as moody as their villainous looking pimps lounging nearby. An open sewer ran beneath the bar rail.

After downing rough tequila we quickly left, fearing a scene like one of the ‘Duke’s’ saloon-fight scenes.

Next stop was a deserted restaurant serving the foulest Mexican food I’ve tasted. Only luckless tourists wandered through its doors – and then only once.

I found a black, rubbery stone like a squash ball in my baked potato. The waiter was so amazed he called over the cook to watch him bounce it on the floor. There were no apologies.

So, I doff my cap to Larry but prefer our own west frontier - and the legend of the Saddle’s own J.R.

n Roy’s books including a Saddle memoir and his latest novel set in Lytham, are available on kindle or in paperback. Visit royedmonds-blackpool.com for details.