As a kid I was an altar boy in our church which was my introduction to show business. I used to love putting on the black or red robes and stand at the front of our little church and watch the reaction of the parishioners as my favorite priest we called “Hatchet Louie” scream, rant and scold the good people of our little town for a variety of reasons. If they came to church late and quietly slipped into one of the back pews he’d scream bloody murder, if a baby was crying the mother would get a quick warning then all hell would break loose if the poor thing made another peep. Needless to say, he was a little high strung but I got along with him just fine since I was usually one of two altar boys to volunteer to go along with him to this little church on the reservation about 15 miles out of town where he had to say mass.
Now the best part of hangin’ out with the ol’ Hatchet man was riding with him in his car. My father is a conservative man who drives the speed limit but I couldn’t wait to get into the old priest’s big Chrysler, stand up in the back (I was a small kid) and watch the fence post’s blur as he sped, swerved and hit every gopher on those gravel roads. Seat belts?? Who needed seat belts back then!! He always had a rosary in one hand, the steering wheel in the other and a White Owl in his mouth. I remember they were White Owls because I was usually wading ankle deep in crushed White Owl packs on the floor in the back.
Father Louis left our world one Sunday afternoon as his Chrysler came roaring over a little hill and careened into a loitering herd of Black Angus cattle that somehow broke through the barb-wire fence in their pasture and then gathered on the road to decide which way to go, cows really aren’t a snap decision sort of creature. I miss that guy and sometimes I light a cigar when I’m behind the wheel and see how fast my car can go but its just not the same.
With all of his rough edges I still think Father Louie made it to heaven, chances are he still has that pack of White Owls in his shirt pocket but I hope he gets to smoke the odd Cohiba now and then.