Bingo Joe Luther, an oldtime friend from the sheriff's force, and Ken Hand and Red Webster and Jim Chambers would spill similar Proctor stories, and he would laugh along with the rest when the tales were relayed but would never admit to any belief that he was not history’s greatest legman.
Proctor would tell of his everloving wife, first of many, who was one of the prettiest and no worse than a show bet in the mean department. Shot him five times in the head with a .32 revolver, he said. "Never missed me a time," Proctor would say proudly. Then he would doff his snapbrim hat, part his brown hair, and show you the scars. Or show you some scars.
Bingo Joe Luther told about the time Proctor went on a midnight dice game raid in the black sector, with the vice squad. He was standing on the front porch, dark as pitch, when the cops flushed the game. A woman brushed by Proctor, and he felt a slight sting across the stomach.
"What he really hated," said Bingo Joe, "is he had on this brand-new suit some gambler had laid on him. This gal and her razor made him look like Emmett Kelley."
Proctor said he chased the black whorelady, caught her when she crawled under a culvert, kicked her in the puss a couple times, and then went to City Emergency hospital for a patch job. Holding a towel to his stomach while the doc threaded the needle, he called his everloving.
"Honey, I’m at the ..." he began.
"Listen, you bastard, do you know what time it is?"
"Well, I know, but I’ve been cut and I’m at the hospital..."
"I don’t care where you are or what you’ve done! It probably was some broad anyway! How many times have I told you don’t never wake me up at this hour of the morning!"
Proctor was married, near as he could count, seven times. But he said it actually only amounted to five because he married a couple of them twice.
He married a nice widow lady in Cleburne — refined, religious, rather well-to-do. Jack was the most entertaining person ever in her sheltered Life. Heck, Proctor went respectable. They built a $65,000 home on the outskirts of Cleburne, with a trickling creek running through the backyard; he filled huge closets with fancy sports shirts and jackets, bought a cockatoo named Norton and a Weimaraner pup which, of course, he called a wisenhammer.
The dog, Impervious, was a prodigy. Proctor complained that he often had to stay up late, reading Homer and Socrates to his pet. "If I try to read him The Fort Worth Press, he bites me," said Saintly Julien. "Especially the sports section."
The neighbors complained. "Impervious goes down to the creek and catches all the perch, brings them back, cleans and puts them in the freezer. The neighbor kids don’t like it."
To contain Impervious, Proctor had a 6-foot chain fence built around the backyard.
"First day, he cleared it in a single jump," Jack reported. "Went to the creek and brought back a batch of shrimp."
"Fresh water shrimp," he said. "Delicacy of Johnson County."
Proctor said he raised the fence to 7 feet.
"He jumped it the first try. I got to go to eight."
The next day. "Well, he jumped that one, too. The Mexican yard guys say they can’t go any higher. Something about Civil Aeronautic regulations. But I’ll think of something."
Month later. "What did you ever do about Impervious?"
"I cut off one of his legs."
"That do it?"
"Naw. Damn thing grew back."
This particular Mrs. Proctor owned an auto supply house and a Nash distributorship. Moonlighting from his Cleburne newspaper job, Jack sold cars. Sold a bunch.
"Safest car ever built," he would say, slamming his hand on the fender. "I can show you government reports. During the last calendar year, only two people were killed in a Nash automobile. And they were both bankrobbers, shot at a roadblock."
Bill Rives, then the sports editor of the Dallas News, bought a Nash. So did a couple other newspapermen. Hell, I bought two, one a little Metropolitan made in England. I wondered about gasoline mileage.
"Gas!" Proctor roared. "Whoever told you this car uses gas? It makes gas. Once a week, you gotta drain out a gallon or two or it’ll flood on you."
Once my wife, who also had bought a Nash from Proctor, used a fancy Ambassador demonstrator on a loan arrangement and apologized when she returned the car because it was almost out of gas.
"Oh, thank goodness you didn’t put any gasoline in this machine," said Proctor, wiping his forehead in relief. "I forgot to tell you. This car runs on frankincense and myrrh."
Once he was late for a dinner party at our house.
"I keep forgetting how powerful this Ambassador is," he told the guests. "I had to stop and have two Cadillac-Buicks removed from my tailpipe."
That marriage dissolved also, then Jack wed what he called a "runner." Occasionally when he’d come home from work, she would have run off. Next was Betty, a ravishingly beautiful brunette whom Jack met through his work with the AAs.
About that time Proctor disappeared from the Southwest press-boxes for a couple months. We would call, and he was vague with his reasons. We thought probably he was recovering from a busted nose or something similar because people were always putting the slug on Proctor. Once, a wealthy rancher named Sexton died, and there was a big hullabaloo over his will, and Proctor covered the court proceedings like he was Heywood Broun at the Scopes trial. The Times-Review readership wasn’t accustomed to this Front Page Farrell type of reporting, so Sexton’s ranch foreman occasionally looked up Jack and gave him a black eye.
Once Proctor covered a high school game in which the referee, as he was giving the signal about which team won the toss, was seized with a cramp in his leg and fell to the ground writhing in pain. The umpire bent over to administer at the instant the referee desperately kicked his foot in an effort to rid himself of this spasm. He kicked the umpire squarely in the mouth, knocking out a couple teeth. The umpire reeled blindly and fell over the Cisco team captain, who had knelt to tie his shoe. The team captain suffered a broken collarbone.
He complained that he often had to stay up late reading Homer and Socrates to his dog, Impervious.
Proctor, in his game prose, referred to the officials as the Marx Brothers. The referee happened upon the editor on a Cleburne street the next week and whopped him on the eye. Proctor had always told his audience that he had both boxed and rassled professionally, but apparently the referee didn’t know that, for he bopped Proctor several times on the eye. Suddenly, as fate ironically decreed, the referee was stricken with the same muscle spasm that had beset him in the game, and he fell to the sidewalk. Proctor then tried to kick the fallen man, but his vision was so blurred by his swollen eyes that he missed, and booted a nearby fireplug instead, breaking a toe.
Anyways, the reason Proctor was missing from the scene, we soon discovered, was that he had all his teeth pulled. When he did show, it was with a sparkling set of storeboughts.
"Fit?" he said. "You ask if they fit? Listen, this job is the marvel of the dental world. They’re writing clinic papers on it. These teeth fit so well, they’re actually growing into my gums. See this one?" he tapped an incisor, "I had to have the damn thing filled last week!"
For a half-dozen years, Proctor and his Cleburne cohorts sponsored what they called a Mid-Winter Olympics for the Press sports staff. It was an overnight affair, climaxing with a 100-yard dash at dawn which nobody, to my recollection, ever finished. Proctor made his plans in great secrecy, bidding us meet on a Cleburne hotel parking lot at midnight, then guiding the procession through the night to somebody’s borrowed lakehouse or ranch house or, on one occasion, an abandoned motel.
Proctor, as Saintly Julien, always dressed in some outlandish costume, insisted that everybody prepare some sort of act to liven the proceedings. As the affair was stag, some of the acts would get a little raunchy. But some were quite artistic. Jenkins and Todd once wrote a complete musical, sang and danced with straw hats and canes. Shrake, Sherrod, and Cartwright once rehearsed a trapeze act called The Flying Huzars in which they appeared in long underwear and capes. Proctor wrote a play, a three-act drama entitled Is This Then All?, cast with his Cleburne chums, including Yere-Yee, and it was so bad it made your eyes water. Proctor turned his cap around backward, wore puttees, sat in a canvas chair, and directed the thing through a megaphone. And then there was the indelible memory of Andy Anderson, old aviator’s leather helmet on, goggles and all, lights out and only a flashlight shining up into his somber face as he sang a cappella, Lucky Lindbergh, Hero Of The U.S.A. Great Gawd Almighty, where have all the blossoms gone?
One day, word trickled. Summertime, 1962. Proctor had a sore spot on his gum that wouldn’t heal. Biopsy. The Big C. Some of us visited him at Harris Hospital in Fort Worth the night before the operation. He was sitting up in bed, telling of the Dispatch story he once wrote about a guy — now quite prominent in Las Vegas — who hit another on the head with a piece of his car. "Benny Bin-ion, the Bumper Beater, I called him," said Jack. "Binion bought extra copies. Thought it was the greatest thing he ever read."
The operation lasted 10 hours, and they took away part of his jaw and face. Hours later, in the intensive care unit, he was sprawled with tubes and pipes sticking out of his gray skin, and gauze and tape covered his head and face except for one eye, peeping from the whole mess, flicking here and there wildly, like a trapped fawn. The eye swept across me, unrecognizing I thought, until he made a feeble scratching motion with his right hand. A bedside nurse hurriedly put a pad under his hand and a pencil between his chalky fingers. She cranked his bed slightly, and he slowly, laboriously scratched on the pad until finished. He fell back in his bandages, his one eye flickering past me to other restless points. I picked up the pad. In quivering, pitiful hieroglyphics were three words: Need poon tang.
Some of the newspaper wretches around the state pitched in their mites to help pay some of Jack’s hospital expenses. His Cleburne job, almost unbelievably, was not waiting for him when he got out of the hospital. Some other calls were made, and Loring McMullen put Jack to work on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram copy rim. Then he moved to a better post — editor of the Richardson Daily News. His visits and calls over the next couple years came a little less frequently, and his newspaper pals, those of us who were not too busy going our own ways, thought it was because of his scarred face. Maybe he was awaiting some scheduled plastic surgery before he would again join the crowd. Because it was his crowd.
Who knows? Maybe The Big C wasn’t whipped. One December day in 1965, the Times Herald police reporter called me.
"You ever know a guy named Jack Proctor?"
"Shot himself this morning."
That afternoon, Shrake and Cartwright and some of us were at Nick’s A.C. on the waterfront. By then, we knew the police blotter. He had gone to a hock shop on Deep Elm the night before, written a $21 check for a little .22 handgun (painstakingly filling in his checkbook stub correctly!), sat on his apartment couch the next morning, and when wife Betty went to the kitchen for more coffee, she said, he outs with the thing and pop. He was 58.
We drank a couple beers in silence, each reviewing his own mental file on Saintly Julien.
Finally Shrake coughed.
"Son of a bitch could have called somebody."
There were nods around the table and, as I remember, that was all that was ever said.