Amazing Journey 7.1
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
I mentioned earlier that the storybook world of Koos Inc. was served with a veritable plethora of intriguing characters. Fellows with names like Virgil Tucker, Dead Man, Bone Head, Stretch Babic, Munk Ekern, Tyrone Walker and Larry Gutowski. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To be sure, there were many more, but none like the fabled Arno Schubert – the man, the myth, the legend.
He weighed in at about 230 pounds, stood 6’2” and had a thick reddish-brown mop of hair. He sported a scraggly, unkept moustache and more often than not, an equally ill-groomed beard.
This cantankerous old Kraut was well known in every watering hole from downtown Kenosha all the way to Paddock Lake. The only time he didn’t have a cigarette in his mouth is when he removed it long enough to quaff a beer or spew an obscenity, both of which he did with a great frequency. His beer of choice was Pabst Blue Ribbon and his favorite expletive rhymed with rock-tucker.
Physically, Arno was a wreck. He had more scars on his body than teeth in his mouth. His lack of incisors and molars made his constant barrage of profanity somewhat humorous. And, I might add, it made those standing nearby a bit “damp.”
His most prominent scar was about a half inch wide and started between his shoulder blades, zigzagged down the length of his back, and disappeared somewhere in his pants. When asked how he acquired the massive scar, he uttered a few four-letter words and said he was run over by a tractor while working for a construction company.
Adding to the list of distinguishable features of Arno’s dilapidated body were his pinkie fingers. They both went in a different direction, each at about a 45º angle. His explanation; they were broken by mobsters when he couldn’t pay a gambling debt. Not wanting to go to a doctor, he set the fingers himself using Popsicle sticks.
Obviously most people would have questioned the validity of these stories had anyone else told them. However, if you knew Arno Schubert, they all seemed quite plausible, even to the point of being perfectly reasonable.
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Over the years, Arno’s poor, mangled body continued to take more of a beating. He lost a good chunk out of one of his ears when he was struck in the back of the head by an outboard motor that had been in the rear of his station wagon. This occurred when he hit a concrete barrier while heading home on the overheads on Highway 50 after enjoying a few too many ice-cold PBRs.
Arno injured his head again at Koos in an accident when he fell six feet off of a material hopper onto the concrete floor below. The header had enough force to put a crack in his protective hard hat. To his credit, he worked an hour or two before asking to go home because of a nagging “headache.”
Another notable incident that resulted in Arno gaining a new scar is when he was helping his father cut up fallen trees with a chainsaw. Let’s just say that the chainsaw won.
The infamous Arno vs. chainsaw encounter resulted in the cranky Kraut gaining a new scar to that already mangled body. He was at his parent’s house helping his father clean up trees that had fallen in the yard. The two had been at it for some time when Arno began cutting the trees into smaller chunks with the chainsaw.
The chainsaw, like Arno, was weather-beaten and broken down. It wasn’t long before it became stuck in a thick log. Try as he might, Arno couldn’t extract the chainsaw from the wood. Being a stubborn German, he gave it one last, mighty jerk and it finally came free. Unfortunately, he had no idea that the chainsaw would start running again once it was loose. To make matters worse, the impetus of Arno’s mighty tug had caused him to stumble backwards with the buzzing chainsaw in his hands.
When Arno landed on the ground, the whirring chainsaw blade smacked him the head, digging into the left side of his head and cutting into his eye. Arno’s father rushed him to the emergency room and unbelievably his eye was saved.
I say unbelievably, because given his track record, anybody that knew Arno would have assumed the worst. At the very least it was thought he would be sporting a shiny new glass eyeball. Instead he had to settle for a black eye patch for the next couple of weeks.
Arno told us that the eye patch was necessary because the muscles in his eyelid were damaged and therefore his eye would not close. We thought he was just bullshitting us, because, after all, he was a world-class bullshitter. We figured that he was just making it worse than it actually was. None of us believed that his eye wouldn’t close.
That was until one fateful Sunday morning when he stopped by the apartment that Harry Leipzig and I rented, just down the street from Big Star. Arno had just dropped his wife and daughters off at church and came over to our place in search of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Evidently the case of suds he had poured into his head the night before had lost its effect.
Disgruntled because our supply of beer was exhausted, Arno decided to crash on the mattress in the corner of our living room. When it appeared that he was asleep, Harry and I jumped on the opportunity to check out whether or not his eye would actually stay open. We quietly tiptoed over to the snoring Arno, trying not to giggle. Henry gently peeled the dirty eye patch back. Much to our surprise, there was a crusty, bloodshot eye staring back at us!
Arno hadn’t been lying – his eye would not close. Even when he was sleeping. And trust me, we checked it a half dozen more times before the curmudgeon came to. It was pretty cool, it did indeed stay open. Wait until the rest of the guys at Koos heard about this.
Please don’t think unkindly of Harry or me. Unless you have met Arno Schubert, you would not understand. The man was both a myth and a legend, but for all the wrong reasons. And this time the legend took on a chainsaw and lost.
On a personal note, one of my first personal interactions with Arno was when I had just started at Koos. I was stacking fertilizer bags and sweating like a dog, living up to my nickname of Puddles. Arno walked into the bagger area, stared at me for a moment and announced, “Shit, Puddles, when you’re with a broad you would have to be on the bottom!” Then he added, “Unless you’re hung like a horse.” Of course that brought an outburst of laughter from the rest of the crew.
Arno Schubert – the man, the myth, and, indeed, the legend. A person who would prove to be a pain in my considerable backside for the near future. His comments and personal attacks happened early and often during my time at Koos Inc. and made my amazing journey that much challenging.