Drunken capers with Gypsy Jack

Gypsy Jack was a Flint Michigan legend. Shop worker, outlaw biker and an old west historian/collector. Easily in the top 5 characters I've ever known, and I've known allot of characters.

He lived on Flints east side on Davison ave in a museum of an old house all decked out like an outpost in the wild west. His backyard was boxed in by false store fronts just like a movie set with different businesses. In the corner was his dog laying peacefully in the door of his dog house. Of course the dog had died long ago of old age right where he laid and was now but a bleached skeleton who we all greeted with respect with every passing.


The inside of his kitchen was coal black with layers of smoke on the walls and ceiling from his un-vented wood fired cook stove. His main room had a beautiful bar and walls full of western memorabilia. The ceiling and walls had a handful of bullet holes left over from a rather drunken night when two bike gangs got into an animated discussion.

His basement was a replica Mexican cantina/jail house. The jail cells had actual iron bars and the cash register was a work of art from a bygone era. In the center sat a large heavy round table for playing poker and drinking. He had several manikins positioned around in period clothing. A Mexicali bandit in one of the jail cells, a cute seniority behind the bar and the best one was the sombrero wearing hombre sitting at the main table. I can't remember his name anymore but he was part of the gang every night.

When sitting around the table there was always the obligatory one , two or five joints being passed around the circle. It was always a laugh when whoever was sitting next the the manikin would eventually try and give the damn thing the joint holding it out patiently waiting for the thing to grab it. It was funny cause we all had done it before too.

It always amazed me how such a crazy ass as Gypsy was viewed as a harmless oddity by the community. Grade schools regularly held field trips there to show the kids his collection. He would dress up in full authentic western wear and put on a show I'm sure none of those kids over the years have ever forgotten. He gained national fame after being featured on the TV show “Real People”.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Of all the Gypsy Jack capers I could pull out I chose this one.

In his side yard Gypsy had an authentic stagecoach. Just like in the movies. One day we were sitting there minding our business drinking beer when the city came out and tore out the sidewalk to replace it. At the end of the day they roped off the fresh ditch all leveled out with sand ready to pour the cement the next day.

We staggered out to check it out. That's when Gypsy had the brain storm. He always wanted to put sand under his stagecoach so it would look like it was in the desert. So we pulled a few shovels out of the back shed saying hi to the dog on the way by and spent an hour shoveling all that sand out of the trench and transforming his yard into the Mojave Desert. A lot of giggling, beer and sweat later we had a good start on the project but were out of sand.

The next morning we were not as drunk and sat there like school kids in detention as the cement truck and city trucks full of workers showed up, followed by their boss. They stood there looking into the empty ditch and the obvious trail of sand and beer bottles leading straight to the ragged pile of sand scattered drunkenly under the covered wagon.

We watch as one city official after another pulled up followed be a couple of cop cars. All lined up looking down into the ditch then up at the yard then back down into the ditch again. It all seemed like such a good idea the night before but now we were surrounded. We waited in agony for the inevitable knock on the door. We watched as the cement truck was sent away then one by one the city cars left and a dump truck of sand pulled up.

The decision was made to just redo the sidewalks base and let it go. We were celebrating our incredible luck and partied all day. The construction crew wrapped it up late and left the sidewalk base all ready to pour in the morning.

Yup, you guessed it. Come night fall someone had the brilliant idea of finishing our desert reconstruction project. So with a tip of the hat to the dog we were back out there shoveling sand.

The next morning the same circus arrived cement truck and all. The same beer bottle and sand trail. Now we felt really stupid sitting there hung over right back where we started. Once again after an hour of arm waving they rolled in another dump truck of sand and left us be. We were amazed to be given a 2nd and now 3rd chance.

But celebrating around the big round table soon went off the rails and by midnight us and that damn dog were out there for a third bite at the apple. When we were done the new landscaping looked great. The old stagecoach never looked better.

Sobered up sorta the next day we knew we were in trouble. The regular posse formed and we watched with a heavy heart as a cop walked up and knocked on the door. We were asked to come out of the house. There one of the city managers marched over pissed off and stared us in the eyes.

“Look” he said, “If you assholes need anymore sand just tell me, I'll have a truck bring you all the God damn sand you want for free. Just stop fucking up the walkway cause the overtime is killing me”. We sheepishly apologized, gratefully declined his more than generous offer and did our best to get the hell outta there before anyone changed their mind.

The next morning the yard looked great, the city crew laid a beautiful stretch of cement and we kept them supplied with beer. And everyone live happily there after.