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THE MUCKER - Ace First Edition

RETURN OF THE MUCKER - Ace First Edition

ALL-STORY WEEKLY - Return of the Mucker

THE MUCKER & RETURN OF THE MUCKER - Ballantine First Edition

OAKDALE AFFAIR - Ace First Edition

Bridge, Beppo and a Ballad

By John "Bridge" Martin


Nowadays it is known to a lot of fans as "The Mucker Trilogy" but back in the "teen years" of the 20th Century it was three magazine stories, each published two years apart, and the same characters did not appear in all three novelettes.

The first one, "The Mucker," (Read the Novel) published in 1914, was the initial story of Billy Bryne, Chicago street thug turned hero. The second story, "The Return of the Mucker," (Read the Novel) which appeared in 1916, told more of Billy's story and introduced the character of poem-quoting hobo Bridge. The third story, "The Oakdale Affair," (Read the Novel) saw print in 1918, and was the story of Bridge, without Billy.

RELATED: Read the ERB Summary Project entries for THE MUCKER (both parts) and OAKDALE AFFAIR.

The cover of the March, 1918, Blue Book magazine which carried "The Oakdale Affair" had a blurb mentioning the story as being written by the author of "Tarzan" (our own Edgar Rice Burroughs), but didn't herald it as a follow up to a story begun in "The Return of the Mucker." One reason for that might have been that the first two "Mucker" stories originally appeared in magazines published in a rival publication, The All-Story Weekly.

The first two parts of "the trilogy" were put together under the title of "The Mucker" and published in book form by A.C. McClurg & Co. in 1921. "Part three" did not see print as a book until 16 years later, when "The Oakdale Affair" was combined with an unrelated story in a volume published by Burroughs's own company under the title of "The Oakdale Affair and The Rider." That was 1937.

* * * * *

In 2010, The Chicago Muckers, a chapter of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, hosted a Dum Dum and gave away, as a premium for registration-paying attendees, a new edition of the first two stories. Their book bore the title "The Mucker and The Return of the Mucker." It was a larger size than the usual Burroughs book and featured a new dust jacket image, painted by fantasy artist Thomas (Tom) Floyd. In addition, more black and white art, by Floyd and 16 other illustrators, some of whom contributed more than one piece of art, were spread throughout the interior of the book.

In 2019, The Muckers once again hosted a gathering for fans. This time is was the ECOF (Edgar Rice Burroughs Chain of Friendship). Once again, the group decided to publish an ERB book for attendees and the third part of the trilogy was the logical choice. For this volume, Joe Jusko did a painting of Beppo the Bear and six illustrators contributed interior scenes.

In addition, fantasy author and now ERB Inc. staff member Christopher Paul Carey was chosen to write the forward and I was rather surprised to get the call to write an afterword. I've never written an "afterword" before and didn't at first have a clue what to write about. But Kenneth Manson, the Mucker who was doing a lot of organizing for the ECOF, suggested I make it a poem. I loved the idea, because Bridge, the main character, loved poetry and so do I. My love of citing and writing poems has resulted in my nickname of "Bridge."

So I set to work on a poem which would briefly refer to the first two books, tell the story of "The Oakdale Affair" from the perspective of Beppo the bear, a key figure in that story, and speculate a bit on the future life of the book's romantic pair.

* * * * *

When The Chicago Muckers published this book, it didn't bear the title of "The Oakdale Affair." They chose to call it "Bridge and the Oskaloosa Kid," the working title ERB had used when he first conceived of and wrote the story.

Copies of the book may still available, on ebay.

I was asked not to publish the poem elsewhere until the book had been distributed at the 2019 ECOF. Now, several months after that, I am comfortable sharing it here.

And, as a slight "bonus," I have added an additional stanza to the poem, so this one is four lines longer than the one in "Bridge and the Oskaloosa kid."

* * * * *

Bridge and the Ballad of Beppo the Bear

By John "Bridge" Martin

 

Ed Burroughs wrote a tale about "The Mucker," Billy Byrne,

Who met a hobo name of Bridge while living his "Return,"

When Billy finally found true love the two took separate roads,

As Bridge continued wanderin' with poetry and odes.

 

Yes Bridge was fond of rhymin' lines to occupy his mind,

And they were often focused on the love he hoped he'd find.

He didn't know her name back then but in his mind he'd see

The one whom he, poetically, called sweet Penelope.

 

He found the name "Out There Somewhere" amidst a hobo poem,

And caught a vision of a lass who'd make her heart his home,

Somehow he thought he'd find her in the sweet and sunny south

With buds of roses in her hair and kisses on her mouth.

 

But when he finally came across the one who was so fair,

She wore a soft checked cap instead of flowers in her hair,

Her form was hid by clothing that a chauffeur might have worn,

And yet her essence sparkled as a sunny summer morn.

 

He quickly saw that essence though she'd tried to keep it hid

By dressing in the fashion of The Oskaloosa Kid.

And once she teamed with Bridge they worked in unison to thwart

The dangers posed by lewdish "fellows of the baser sort."

 

And after going through a time of peril, stress and fear,

He won the right to look into her eyes and call her dear,

But that's another story, and it's one most folks have read,

As Bridge and Abigail hung onto life, though good as dead,

 

So after great adventures that were often hit and miss,

The story finally ended with a love-fulfilling kiss.

Though Burroughs didn't tell us all the whens and wheres and hows,

We're pretty sure that Bridge and Abigail recited vows.

 

And then, a merry saraband and blissful honeymoon,

Perhaps where breakers gently kiss a sandy Blue Lagoon.

And afterward more wedded bliss in, oh, let's call it Oakdale,

Where they'd sometime reflected on the past and all its travail.

 

And Bridge would happ'ly entertain his sweet and loving wife

With his own rhymes about the roads they'd traveled in their life.

And now we see them sitting in the garden's wicker chairs,

As Bridge reads her a poem he's written 'bout a friend of theirs:

 

He didn't understand us; he didn't seem to care,

But we, said Bridge, survived because of Beppo — yes, that bear.

We'll prob'ly never really know just how there came to be

This dancing bear who entertained the townsfolk for a fee.

 

Its trainer was a wanderin' man who fought and killed and stole,

A fitting definition of "A Man without a Soul,"

But he was good to Giova, the daughter by his side,

And he was good to Beppo (any less was suicide).

 

But in this strange relationship the bear was forced to be

A simple entertainer for a paying crowd to see;

Bring on the bear, the people'd shout, so we can watch a trick,

They'd laugh and make that clapping noise as Beppo did his schtick.

 

Giova kept the bear content with nightly treks to town

To raid the cans of garbage that were easy to be found

Where it would scavenge sustenance to keep its hunger damped

And then she'd lead it back to where the family was encamped.

 

But dad was not a healthy man and subject to the fits,

Which often would possess him and becloud his very wits;

One stormy night while scavenging a vacant dwelling place,

A deadly seizure knocked him flat — he'd run his final race.

 

The bear had no instructions, but 'twas something made it stay

To guard the silent body in its own primeval way.

We hid out in another room, and heard its grunts and gait,

As Beppo, in the hallways, was the master of our fate.

 

Giova found the both them and brought her dad's remains

Out to the woods as Beppo walked along while dragging chains.

Next day we happened on them, and we learned the truth at last,

That Beppo was a big brown bear on which our fate was cast.

 

Though leery of the beast our group continued on its flight

From those who sought to do us wrong, perhaps that very night.

And weary of our run we found an old abandoned mill

And slept within — but, stealthily they came to make their kill.

 

At once they jumped upon us, wielding blows and kicks and blade,

But 'cross the room the bear broke loose: Charge of the fright brigade.

"That Beppo, he go mad," resounded Giova's sharp cry:

"He kill ever'one, for Beppo, he got evil-eye!"

 

Well, evil eye he may have had, but something made him go

Not after us but only for the ones who sought our woe.

He flattened Dirty Eddie, who was kicking me when down,

And struck Columbus Blackie when he had you on the ground.

 

Just who that bear'd of turned on next is now a mystery,

For cops showed up and quickly brought an end to the melee;

Two shots were fired and Beppo dropped; his end was quick and clean,

What once was terror on four legs was now ursine serene.

 

The roundup of the suspects was achieved efficiently,

The only sounds now heard were voices of authority.

But next to Bridge and Abigail beneath the stars above,

Giova sobbed, "He ver' bad bear...but all I have to love."

 

Bridge read his poem to Abigail then slipped it in his coat

And tried his best to never mind the thickness in his throat.

And life went on and both enjoyed the mem'ries they would share,

Of intrigue, love and danger, thanks to Beppo — yes, that bear.