John says, "Whaaaaaw! This thang's killin' me."
Still not quite realizing the extremity of the situation, the men down below holler, "Knock 'im out, Johnnnn."
And John hollers, "Hooooooo, shoot this thang!"
And the men holler back, "Can't shoot up in there, Johnnnnn. Liable to hit yooooou."
And John groans, in as fine a representation of agony as is likely ever to be heard from a banquet dais, "Well, just shoot up here amongst us. One of us got to have some relief."
That story—along with somewhat milder, but actually not very much milder, reflections on how to eat sorghum and biscuits right and how Pete Maravich manages to dribble with long hair—brought down the house at a long line of co-op meetings, cattlemen's association confabs, large-scale coon hunts and sports boosters' lunches. Clower became Mississippi Chemical's top salesman and public-relations figure.
Then one night three years ago in Lubbock at a feedlot association function, a radio-station man recorded live an album full of Clower's stories. Copies of it were sold by mail, and pretty soon Decca picked it up. Next thing Clower knew, Jerry Clower from Yazoo City, Mississippi Talkin, with liner notes by an English teacher from Mississippi State, Mrs. Burke C. Murphy, was No. 11 on the national country-album charts. "And when you played football at Mississippi State and you get to be No. 11 in the nation in anything, you done arrived," Clower observes with relish.
Clower has been accorded star treatment on visits to New York, but his head has never been turned. The first time in New York, "Decca sent this lady to meet me at the plane, and I thought, well, I'm happily married, and if they had to send a lady to meet me, I'm glad they sent one with a nice, long conservative dress. I wouldn't want nobody to fling no cravin' on me.
"Well, she went to get in that limousine, and her dress parted. Her naked leg was sticking out in that there Cadillac. I said, 'Lord, woman, what's done happened to yore dress?' She said, 'I got hot pants on under there.' I said, 'I don't want to know about under there.' "
Clower is still on salary with Mississippi Chemical—his colleagues there say they expect his entertainment career will level off someday and he will return, honorably, to fertilizer sales. He still makes appearances for the company. Recently he told the Farmers' Valley Co-Op in Natchitoches, La., "I growed up as a runt. Looked like I just got over a hookworm treatment all the time. Then my brother Sonny went off to the Navy, and before I joined up, too, I gained 50 pound. I found out what he'd been doing. He'd been goin' to the safe with a tablespoon and skimming off the cream from the milk. For 17 years I'd been drinking blue John!