When I saw him on
Wednesday night he was on the midway with a group of the local bravos. The
wrestling show talker picked one of the other huskies in the group and directed
his pitch at him. Charley Brannock added encouragement but then the other
locals began to urge Brannock to grab an easy $25 by staying three minutes,
peeled off his shirt and stepped into the ring to the acclaim of his
limping painfully, apparently from a bad knee, Brannoek started in with a
tackle take-down and then cut loose with such a display of trips, switches,
grapevines and half nelsons that he had the old gladiator panting for breath.
My watch showed a quarter of a minute to go. Then Charley's foot slipped—he was
wearing ordinary Oxfords—O'Toole dived on him and clumsily pinned his shoulders
to the mat. The referee declared it a fall. Boos and catcalls.
Egged on by his
friends, Brannock demanded another chance at the Gorilla, but the gladiator
seemed to have different ideas. As the show's proprietor hesitated, O'Toole
protested in a loud whisper, "Gee, boss, have a heart. Dis knee o' mine is
killin' me. Gimme a break, boss...."
The crowd became
belligerent, backing its champion. Finally the showman yielded to pressure and
in violent whispers unbraided O'Toole for cowardice. Charley Brannoek was
scheduled for a return match the following night.
First on the card
the next night was a battle royal. Then came the big match. I estimated that
there were a hundred men in the "top" with a sprinkling of girls.
O'Toole made his way to the ring, he passed close by me, and his breath carried
a rich aroma of booze. The crowd didn't miss it. One snickering youth said to
his buddy, "The old bum's loaded. I guess he had to have a few to get his
nerve up. Charley'll clobber him."
If Brannock had
demonstrated the technique of the expert amateur before, it was nothing to what
he turned loose on the shambling Gorilla this time. Now and then O'Toole's knee
buckled under him and he groaned. At last Brannock maneuvered him into a fancy
double wristlock and arm scissors, O'Toole moaning and begging for mercy,
prostrate on the mat. His left shoulder was down, and the amateur was slowly
levering down the right shoulder when, bong! the bell sounded.