I know I have done some things in my life that haven’t been totally, um, legit. The arrests for various minor offenses, like that time in Houston where I hit a bouncer; the biker I punched in West Dundee; the Arkansas job I lost trying to defend myself against a thrower gone berserk.
That was not me. It was Butch.
Brian has a resume. Butch has a police record. Brian wanted to be polished, urbane and witty. Butch wanted fun, women, wine, women, beer, song, women and decent reefer.
Butch was the other. Butch was a good guy to have at your back, though. Butch is like having a pet gargoyle. Brian was like having a really big, friendly maitre’d. “May I recommend the foi gras tonight?” That’s Brian.
“May I recommend the Pabst Blue Ribbon with bourbon on the side and a Dallas Cheerleader chaser tonight?” That’s Butch.
I was Butch before I was ever Brian. The nurses gave me that name because they thought I resembled a wrestler who called himself The Butcher. My dad was 300 pounds, my mother weighed 240 pregnant, so I was not going to be petit. After they saw what I was going to look like, my parents named me Brian, which means courageous, courteous and strong. Two out of three isn’t bad, although I can be polite when I want to be.
And Butch has always been there somewhere, sometimes deep inside, sometimes right there near the surface, lurking, just waiting to come out and play and mess around.
They were going to shoot me in St. Petersburg, which at the time was called Leningrad. It was at the Hermitage Museum. There was a carriage there with what looked like diamonds. It was roped off so I leaned over to touch a diamond, just to impress my friends, when I heard the metallic clang of an automatic weapon hitting home. It was hard to mistake the sound reverberating in the hall.
A guard was pointing his weapon at me. I quickly put my hands up and said, “Sorry, I was only kidding.” He lowered his rifle. I put my hands down, nodded and slowly walked away. I had a talk with Butch about it later. “Don’t ever do anything like that again,” I told him. He didn’t say anything.
Butch would come out when you least expected it. Once at a community summer festival, a cop in uniform came up and gave me grief about talking in the beer tent with an underage guy I knew. The kid was trying to score some beer.
The cop was a big guy, but not real bright so Butch looked at the cop’s name tag and said, “Is that Polish?” The cop grabbed Butch and Butch flipped him on his ass. Then things got out of hand. Some of the cop’s friends came at Butch yelling, and Butch punched a couple of them.
Then more cops came and Butch calmed down. They started walking him to a squad car, and Butch thought, “I’m going to jail.” They had him by the arms and he threw them off and knocked a couple of them down. He took a couple of steps and turned and laughed. That’s when Butch saw them pull out guns. Butch said, “Oops” and took off, running a zig-zag course across the street. He jumped over some bushes and tried to hide. But they found him with guns drawn and Butch knew the jig was up. He let me, Brian, return to be the friendly diplomat and bon vivant.
They let me out on a personal recognizance bond and I, Brian, went to court a couple weeks later. I think they charged me with inciting a riot. They dropped the charges and I walked out. But nobody got hurt and it was the 60’s, a time when everyone expected that kind of stuff. And it was only a riot of one.
The kid who came to the beer tent? He bought me beers for the next 30 or 40 years.
Sometimes I replay the Butch tapes in my head. I say to myself, “Did I really do that?”
Butch had a nose for trouble. A lot of times he got picked on. One time after a track meet in Knoxville, I was having beers with some friends when a hillbilly came running up in an unfriendly manner. Butch came out and punched him the chest. The guy staggered back and fell onto a table. He came running back at Butch again. Butch punched him in the chest again. He fell back, landed on the table and came running again. Butch punched him in the face. He went down.
I have no idea why the guy was on the attack except Butch must have said something to him. Obviously he was suicidal.
I’m a Gemini, so Butch is my evil twin. But everybody has a Butch lurking somewhere under the surface and we need him, because Butch was the guy who kept coming back and coming back and coming back after Brian was ejected, rejected and dejected. Butch was the guy who made Brian into the never-say-die competitor, the rebel, the revolutionary. But he has to be managed. He’s not the smooth talking, slow walking type. Secretly, he’s Brian’s best friend and says stuff like this quote after the Olympics, “I had so much energy after the event, I wish there had been a fist fight.”
I’m telling you about Butch because if you don’t have a Butch, you have to find him, or her, down in that dark, wild reservoir that we all have deep inside and let Butch out occasionally. It’ll help your throwing.
Even the mean dog has to be taken for a walk now and then and sometimes let off the leash.
By Brian Oldfield with George Houde