Whales petite enough to remain alive in confinement are always the hit of marine shows, and Namu, the five-ton killer whale who was captured and held in a Seattle aquarium four years ago, became a nationwide celebrity before he passed on. Mrs. Haroy, a 70-ton finback who had been hollowed out and reinforced with steel and concrete, made a small fortune for her Danish owner with European appearances in the 1950s. Despite being soaked with 8,000 quarts of formaldehyde, Mrs. Haroy became somewhat odiferous on her maiden visit to the U.S. and was at last dispatched to a grave on Staten Island. Presumably, there are enough other exotic beasts in the heart of Africa to diminish whale curiosity, but only two years ago a dead whale named Jonas, 66 feet in length, tumbled off a flat truck taking him to display at the annual Zambia trade fair and blocked traffic on the main road from Rhodesia for some time.
It was not uncommon in the United States well into this century for entrepreneurs to haul dead whales about on railroad flatcars. The fly-by-night promoters would run a spur line right down into the ocean, hoist a harpooned whale on the car and tote the monster around until the stench overcame even the most determined curiosity. Too often, when a whale reached this state of decay, the quick-buck operator would simply have him pried off the flat-car, leaving a dandy problem for the surprised local firemen and constabulary to argue about. There were a sufficient number of whale carcasses dropped throughout the country so that ordinances were hastily drafted in several states prohibiting the immigration of deceased whales.
Occasionally, a modern trooper conversant with such an obscure law has detained Little Irvy as he crossed a state line, but so far Little Irvy has eventually been accepted in all the states and nations that he has desired to enter. Malone, the signal authority on the subject, says that Little Irvy only smells "20% as bad" as he originally did and, besides, however gamy he might be, he is prevented from assaulting the noses of customers and law enforcement officials by two thicknesses of glass. A regular Thermo King truck refrigeration unit that costs only 25� an hour to operate keeps Little Irvy's quarters at approximately 5� below zero Fahrenheit, and the carcass itself measures down to better than 300� below. It took 40 tons of liquid nitrogen, pumped in and around Little Irvy, to freeze him. "I could keep Little Irvy frozen and run my show if it were 120� in the middle of the Sahara Desert," Jerry says.
"I knew if I was going to make it, I had to be self-sufficient. That, and the whole thing had to be framed beautifully. I knew I had a good thing—nobody would ever call Little Irvy a ' California show,' which is what they call them if they're all flash outside and nothing inside—but even if you really got something inside, you've still got to be beautiful outside. And you can't beat Old Blue for that. The only thing I changed was at first Charlotte and me were in all these special blue-and-white outfits. Why, I had $43 Bostonian shoes, $37 slacks, the works. But people figured we had to be making too much money to be dressed like that, so we just started dressing regular."
Now, he shifted gears down again, because they were heading up past Mullan, Idaho into the mountains on the way to Missoula, Mont., which looked like a good place to spend the night. They never really stay anywhere; they just pull off the road and sleep wherever it is convenient and there is room for the rolling stock. This night, it was on a lot full of John Deere tractors and Case-Beloit industrial machinery right on the main drag in Missoula next to the 4Bs Caf�. "We never slept in a tractor lot before," Jerry observed to Charlotte.
There was an old man with his pickup truck there to greet them in the morning. He was walking around Old Blue, communing with it, wanting to touch it but not daring to. Jerry came out of the camper and told him all about Little Irvy inside, 20-ton, 38-foot, etc., but the old man didn't care. "You can keep the whale," he said, "just let me have this here truck. This truck is too pretty for any man to drive on the road." Jerry gave him a picture postcard of the truck. At most caf�s and diesel stations where he stops, the people want to have a picture of Old Blue and, in fact, Jerry estimates that fully one-third of Little Irvy's paying audience is really more interested in getting a closer look at the truck. Little Irvy himself has been named an honorary Teamster.
Jerry Malone began life as an Okie, born in 1930. Destitute, his family came west from Apache, Okla. in 1936—with 13 in the car—and the whole way Jerry took turns with his cousin Odell sitting on the cookie jar that held a good bit of the family's sustenance for the trip. The Malones settled in California's San Joaquin Valley, in Corcoran, and the first morning there Jerry's father started walking, knocking on every door, asking for work. Three miles down the road he got a job cleaning out chicken coops. From the age of 7, Jerry spent his summers getting up before dawn and, with the other members of his family, picking prunes for 2� a 50-pound box until twilight and exhaustion. Eleven years after they had arrived in Corcoran, Mr. Malone—who had progressed to digging cesspools, carpentry and contracting—was able to buy the same prune patch his family had worked for so long.
Jerry started slowly; he quit school to work when still in the 10th grade; he was married at 19, a child was soon on the way and then he went into the Navy. Before he was discharged, though, he talked a loan company into setting him up in a trailer rental business in San Diego. It failed when a larger rental firm moved across the street, just as there were to follow a succession of car enterprises that were all signal in their auspicious debuts and dismal conclusions.
"Some guys called me a loser," Jerry says, "but the same guys who did always wanted me to come to work selling for them whenever I went under. Sure, I went broke a lot but I knew how to go broke just right. I never went bankrupt, and I could have, it's the easy way. And I learned things from going broke. You learn or you quit, you die. I think a lot of people have become the biggest successes because they did go broke once.
"The trouble was, I could never get an edge. I was always operating on borrowed money, so I could never get far enough ahead before something would happen. But I'll tell you one thing: I don't ever think it's a crying shame to go broke in America. It's a crying shame only if you stay broke in America."