McCoy and Madam Zorro
McCoy and Madam Zorro

McCoy and Madam Zorro

I pedaled my bike out to the McCoy spread this morning. Big mistake. Morning was a pleasant sojourn, but the return ride in the hot afternoon sun turned out to be a killer. The lessons Susie learned from this experimental outing: take a bottle of water (duh); if you are out of shape, start with shorter trips; grease your bike now and then (another big duh); there is a downside to downhill when on a round-trip; and don’t take long bike rides in the desert in 95 degree weather. Okay, I survived, and I do intend to push on with the bicycle routine. It’s the right thing to do.

 The drive down to the McCoy house is a long, sloping grade, perhaps a mile or more. To the north are rows of modern greenhouses, and industrial buildings sit like ghosts on a southern ridge. The small, unassuming house comes into view as you drop down into a little tree-lined dale. The house is old, about 1900 or so, I would guess, and the yellow paint is peeling. It is just a little farmhouse with chickens in the yard, and an old Harley out by the toolshed. There are some goats and a goat-barn, about to fall over.

 You can sense the trappings of the sixties counter-culture in the McCoy homestead. My own parents are from that era, and as much as they try to deny it, the reek of patchouli lingers for a lifetime. Rumor has it that Harlan McCoy had his start in business back in the seventies, flying pot up from Mexico. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of these stories. A Vietnam vet who flew missions over Laos and Cambodia, and who came home bitter and disillusioned, like thousands of other young men, Harlan had the perfect training for a drug-runner. 

Cynthea McCoy, known as Madame Zorro at The Germaine Truth, is actually younger than I am by a few years. Raised in the city by a drug-addicted mother, she has had a very hard life. Harlan rescued her from a roach-infested Portland hovel in the early nineties, and Cynthea now seems very happy with the life she chose in the Oregon outback. 

These are all things I knew before I pedaled up to Harlan and Cynthea’s porch this morning.

 Harlan sat in a faded redwood lounge chair, smiling, with a drink in his hand. Looking as though he had nothing better to do in the world than to chat with old Howard Applegate’s little girl. Cynthea swayed gently back and forth on a porch swing, knitting.

 “Susie Applegate,” Harlan pronounced as I walked up the steps. “Don’t believe I’ve seen you since you were knee-high to a toadstool.”

 I smiled. “Nice to see you Harlan, Cynthea.”

Of course, I talk to Cynthea about once a month, and I saw Harlan not that long ago, when he dropped a pile of bones on the table as I interviewed Tony Sweet. But Harlan was so red with rage that day, he probably didn’t even notice me. I decided to ignore it.

 “How’s your Mama and Daddy doing?” Harlan queried.

 “Dad’s as ornery as ever,” I laughed. “And Mom’s still trying to over-feed me. They’ve taken off August again this year, doing the National Parks tour.”

 “It’s good that they’re taking some time off, after all these years. Your daddy has been sweating at that newspaper since he was just out of high school. Damned workhorse. A person’s got to live life.”

 “Yes,” I agreed. And I need some vacation from them, also, I thought, but didn’t say.

 We finished up our greetings, and Cynthea offered me some iced tea. I accepted, with two lumps of sugar.

“So, you want to know about the McCoy family, I understand,” said Harlan. “Isn’t there enough about us no-good outlaws in the back issues of your daddy’s paper?”

 “Well, Harlan, you know I am looking for the kinds of things that don’t get covered in The Germaine Truth. You know, the family stories. Your mama’s cooking. The little details.”

 “This isn’t some kind of fishing expedition, is it, Susie? You know, to get some dirt on old Harlan.”

 “I’m interested in your ancestors, Harlan,” I said. 

It wasn’t time yet to add, and the drug trade and the bones of Charly LaFontaine and whatever the hell is going on out in the desert.