Today we feature a nice portrait of Junior the Monkey. Junior belonged to my grandfather, Elmo Jackson Elder, AKA Poachin' Jack. My grandfather was known as Poachin' Jack because he had a particular affinity for venison, and he did not let little things like the laws of the Great State of Texas preclude him from enjoying this delightful meat year round.
In the 1930's he worked in the oilfields, and then he left that work and started his own gas station. He and his buddies in the oil fields were always pulling pranks on each other. I am not talking about simple little harmless pranks, but I am talking about big, hairy, complex, ugly pranks. This was something my grandfather was particularly adept at, and he just about always came out on top. Then one day his buddies got together and decided that they would fix his wagon once and for all. They wanted to pull the worst prank on him possible, and one that he would never be able to top. They thought, and planned, and connived. They stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, and held mini-conferences at the local coffee shop studying the possibilities. Then finally, after careful consideration, they determined that they had devised the ultimate prank. They would all pitch in together and they would order a monkey, and make the order out like it was from my grandfather. Well they set their plan in motion. Then one day some time later my grandfather steps out on his front porch and finds a large crate. Inside the crate was a monkey. Now he did not know what to do. Taking care of a monkey is a hard job, and it is even harder to try and get rid of a monkey. He was sort of stuck with it, and realized he had been had. The one thing he was determined of though, was that he would not let his buddies get the best of him. He started thinking of how he could get back at them. He thought of one thing, and then another, but had trouble figuring out how to outdo them. He finally came up with a plan. He would turn the tables around by making the whole monkey deal a good thing. He decided to put the monkey to work at his gas station. He had my grandmother make the monkey a little set of coveralls, and put the Philips 66 logo on it. The little uniform was just like my grandfather's, only smaller. He named the monkey Junior, monogrammed the name on the little uniform, and took Junior to work. He taught Junior how to wash a windshield. He also taught him how to take the bill to the customer, take the customer's money, and run it in to the cash register attendant. The attendant would make change and give it to Junior. Junior would then run it back out to the customer, climb in the car window, sit in the customer's lap, and then hand them their change. Now Junior was a smart monkey. He learned quick, and he was a hard worker. Well, the first few customers were absolutely amazed when they drove up and saw Junior at work. This was like something they had never seen before. Junior could clean a windshield like nobody's business. People were absolutely fascinated that a monkey could actually have a job at a gas station, and word spread like wildfire. Before long, cars were lined up two blocks long waiting to buy gas so that they could see this monkey. Junior loved his job, and enjoyed all the attention he got. He got along well with his coworkers, and he never complained about anything. He received excellent marks in all his reviews, and he was named employee of the month on several different occasions. He was never late for work, and always was the first to jump up when a customer drove in. He really was one of the boys down at the station.
Well, my grandfather never admitted to his buddies that he knew that they were the ones who ordered the monkey in his name. Just every time he saw them he would tell them how well he was doing, since there was always a line two blocks long of people wanting to buy gas from him. He let them know that the best day of his life was the day that monkey showed up on his doorstep. Well, this pretty much put an end to the practical jokes. My grandfather's buddies realized that they would never be able to get the better of him.
Junior always did well at the station. He enjoyed all the activity. He did not always do so well at home. Monkeys are highly developed, social creatures. He was very jealous, and my grandparents could not have any other type of pet around. Also, sometimes when they had company, Junior would exhibit some unfortunate behaviours that would be embarrassing for my grandparents, and their guests. He could never be left alone in the house. He would figure out a way to get out of his cage, and would go in and wreck the kitchen. I don't know if he did it because he was bored, or because he was angry that he had been left behind. So as long as he was busy things went pretty well, but when things slowed down, problems emerged (It is true, monkeys really should not be kept as pets). Anyway, there came a time that my mom met my dad, and they got married. When they were expecting their first child, my older brother, old Poachin' Jack realized that he would have no choice but to get rid of the monkey. It would just be too dangerous to ever let the monkey near the baby that was on its way. Despite how much my grandfather loved Junior, he made arrangements with the zoo in San Antonio, and shipped Junior off to the zoo. Poor Junior never even saw it coming.
Well I tell this story today because last week I was in town shopping for a car. The salesman was an elderly gentleman. The salesman told me that when he was younger, his parents had bought the old filling station from my grandfather. As they were refurbishing the station, there was a long cabinet and counter along the back wall that they had to tear out. Back behind that counter they found the most amazing things. They found thousands of ink pens. They also found a wide assortment of other things . . . packs of cigarettes, combs, eyeglasses, and pocket calendars. While there was wide assortment of things hidden behind the counter, the things all had one thing in common. They were all things that a man would carry in his shirt pocket. You see, unknown to my grandfather, or anyone else, when Junior jumped up in the customer's lap to hand them their change, he was at the same time picking their shirt pocket. He would then hide the goods behind the counter. Our family was devastated to learn that Junior, while appearing to be a model employee, was actually robbing people blind. All I can say is that I am thankful that my grandfather did not live long enough to learn the terrible truth that his favorite primate was actually a common thief.
UPDATE: I recently found a letter my grandfather had written about his monkey in an old trunk. You can click here to read about his Pet Monkey in his own words.