The soggy socks and sandbags month

The soggy socks and sandbags month

Judging from the pervading sense of dampness experienced during the past week we are entering the annual soggy socks season so beloved by the populace. The meteorological office has been getting into the spirit of things with forecasts of heavy rains brought by what began as Typhoon Noru.

Thankfully Noru settled upon just becoming a depression by the time it reached Thailand. But it was enough to cause major flooding in the Northeast while Bangkok nervously awaits its turn.

October is traditionally the time when the City of Angels transforms into the City of Soggy Socks. There is always a sense of foreboding when sandbags start appearing on the streets, suggesting something most unpleasant is about to happen. Indeed many housing estates, especially those adjacent to the Chao Phraya River will be praying they will not be transformed in "Moo Ban Sandbag" in the coming month.

To look on the bright side there is nothing Thai citizens enjoy more than to see VIPs sloshing around in murky floodwaters even if they know it's purely a photo opportunity. There is something deeply satisfying about seeing bigwigs abandoning their precious limos and joining the hoi polloi in their misery. After all there is always the entertaining possibility that a VIP might plunge into a pothole.

We must not forget the words of wisdom from a former Bangkok Governor when the city suddenly submerged a few years ago: "It's not floods. It's water waiting to drain away."

Photo op

City floods have a nasty habit of making senior officials look a little foolish, as a deputy prime minister discovered some years ago while in search of a good photo op. He bravely went out to inspect the floods to show he was a true man of the people.

It didn't quite work out how he had intended.

The next day on the front pages of all the Bangkok newspapers was a photograph of a rather sheepish-looking deputy PM being carried like a baby in the arms of one of his aides across a lightly flooded road so he would not get his precious toes wet. No soggy socks for him.

In the background lots of flood victims with water well above their knees looked on in bemused fashion. This wasn't quite the Man on the White Horse they had been hoping for.

Four-legged friend

Last week's reference to the late Queen Elizabeth's love for her pony Emma sparked memories of one of the first songs I heard as a child, "A Four Legged Friend" by TV cowboy Roy Rogers. It was a major hit in the 1950s and its simple lyrics resonate to this day, telling us a horse will "never let you down" and will remain "honest and faithful right up to the end".

No doubt Rogers had his horse Trigger in mind when he recorded the song. The palomino was originally called Golden Cloud but Rogers renamed it Trigger because of the horse's alertness. Trigger built up a huge fan club and many tears were shed when the horse died in 1965 at the age of 33.

Sequined cowboy

Among those fans were Elton John and Bernie Taupin who paid tribute to the TV cowboy with a lovely whimsical song entitled Roy Rogers which appeared on the 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Taupin's lyrics refer to Rogers as "the great sequined cowboy who sings of the plains, of roundups, rustlers and home on the range".

Taupin was a huge fan of TV westerns and his family nicknamed him "the brown dirt cowboy". No wonder he ended up owning a ranch in California.

The song concludes with a simple message "Turn on the TV, shut out the lights, Roy Rogers is riding tonight".

Those were such uncomplicated times.

Silver lining

A common thread amongst the many 1950s TV cowboy heroes was they all had talented horses which were invariably white. Aside from Trigger, probably the most famous was the Lone Ranger's trusty steed, Silver.

Any self-respecting child knew from that wonderful opening "voice-over" that Silver was "a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-yo Silver". If you weren't convinced, the stirring sounds of "The William Tell Overture" were enough to tell you this horse was something special.

Hopalong Cassidy felt a bit more sedate although he was popular and had a lovely horse called Topper, a white stallion. Played by William Boyd, Hopalong got his name after being shot in the leg by a bad guy, leaving him with a slight limp.

I recall there was a song about Hopalong which began with the somewhat quaint lyrics "Hopalong Cassidy, clippety, clippety clop".

Smokey's sugar lumps

Another horse from the silver screen which won acclaim in a very different way was Smokey, Lee Marvin's mount in the 1965 comedy Cat Ballou. A grizzled Marvin played what the trailer billed "The Drunkest Gun in the West".

It spawned one of the most iconic movie posters with a plastered Marvin slumped on the cross-legged horse which appears to be in as bad a state as its rider. Marvin won an Oscar as best actor and acknowledged Smokey's contribution in his acceptance speech.

Smokey was not overlooked however, and won the Craven Award for best acting by an animal, resulting in sugar lumps all around.

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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