At the crossroads of Margaritaville and Howdy Doody’s last ride

Dalton Delan
4 min readSep 15, 2023

“10–29 on a white Crown Vic heading Eastbound on 275, tag ‘Boy & Dog,’ repeat: ‘Boy & Dog.’

“No outstanding warrants. What’s the beef?

“That’s just it. You’re not going to believe this, but riding shotgun is, well, some sort of steer with the biggest durn horns you ever saw in your life.

“Officer, you’ve been warned about drinking on the job.”

When I put Charlie Kuralt back on the road to visit with the oddball Americans who make this country great, he always came back with a head-scratcher. The biggest ball of twine in Minnesota sort of thing, as “Weird Al” Yankovic would have it. The same week that Jimmy Buffett slid on up to that Margaritaville in the sky, one such story achieved virality, and you can’t make this stuff up.

“His name is Howdy Doody. He weighs in at over a ton. A Watusi-longhorn mix, a man could stretch out between the tips of his horns like a bow string. Riding with his owner, Lee Meyer, in a Ford Crown Victoria with reinforced suspension and the passenger windshield busted out, the only mistake he made was cruising down the highway in Norfolk, Neb., where they like their cows on a bun. Rhonda, Lee’s long-suffering spouse, says Howdy is ‘the most spoiled steer in all of northeastern Nebraska.’ You betcha. After having a cow, the officer let Lee off with a warning.”

William Wordsworth wrote at the dawn of the 19th century: “The world is too much with us.” Here we are struggling through the 21st, and his words ring true. We seem to be chasing ChatGPT’s tail, who is outthinking us like IBM’s Deep Blue on steroids. Checkmate. Wherever you turn, they have your face, they know what you like, they don’t accept cash. We’re living in the future with a mobile phone and a subscription to the cloud as our spirit guides.

“And then there’s Howdy Doody, wingman to an American original. Lee’s granddaughter made the mistake of telling the retired machinist ‘it was a bad idea and that it’d never work.’ I know the feeling. Double-dare me and I’ll triple you on that and no backsies. Run out for some ice cream with Howdy along for the ride — why in blazes not? Alfalfa pellets and cattle cubes can get a little old, dude — or Doody. Get out of the way, son, a whole ton of hunger coming through.”

It ain’t that funny at all. We need more of it. Back in 1957, when I was in my terrible twos that I never crawled out of, Steve Allen said that “tragedy plus time equals comedy.” We’ve got enough tragedy to go around, thank you very much. My college roommate died last month of heat stroke in his apartment in Fort Worth when the building AC went down and Mother Nature was making her presence felt. A dear colleague lost a fast battle with pancreatic cancer. Another had brain surgery. My favorite mother-in-law, Susan, adopted an old gummer of a sweet rescue and tripped over the dog’s ramp up to the bed, shattering her femur like a Christmas tree ornament hitting the floor. No good deed goes unpunished.

“‘Take the animal home and take it out of the city.’ Norfolk’s police chief knew whereof he spoke. With 24,000 residents, Norfolk was no place to sling the bull. Cozy Neligh, Neb., with its 1,500 inhabitants, some biped and others bovine, is a safer place for a steer humming along to ‘The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.’ Moo-ve over, Big Daddy’s coming through.”

It doesn’t take a lost shaker of salt for Margaritaville residents to recognize a kindred spirit when they see one — whether single or double-vision. You know who you are. So Buffett made a half-billion dollars selling the dream to retirees who still want to celebrate happy hour. The war, it seems to me, is Manichaean, twixt good and evil, light and dark, joy and despair. “Woke up, read the obits, didn’t see myself.” Dad had the formula down. Beats the alternative.

“Insurance agent David Gutshall was driving behind Howdy Doody. As Gutshall pulled by in the passing lane, Howdy shot him the look. ‘He’s just totally calm, cool and just being a rock star, and like he knows it.’ Like you wouldn’t too, the wind whipping past your Triple-X horns.”

Aw heck, I admit I can sing the blues, don’t I know it. When your body parts start shaking like chestnuts off the tree, it can tug you from your upper echelon limb and bring you down to earth right quick. But every day we’re on the right side of the dirt, it’s great to see Howdy Doody chasing that “Ice Cream Emergency” truck down the road. If you haven’t checked out the YouTube video capturing this traffic stop, do so now.

“It’s Howdy Doody time.”



Dalton Delan

Winner of three Emmy Awards, Dalton Delan pens biweekly The Unspin Room, which began August 7, 2016 in The Berkshire Eagle; it has appeared in 50+ newspapers.