Rock On Peggy Jo

“I hate that mirror
It makes me feel so worthless
I’m an original sinner but when I’m with you
I couldn’t care less”


Last Saturday night everyone was tired and went to bed early…except me. I sat in front of the fire and spent a glorious few hours watching documentaries about Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ album, Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert , and Jimi Hendrix. I got a shock while watching the Jimi Hendrix one as it mentioned in passing while playing his version of Dylan’s ‘Along The Watchtower’ that he had always wanted to a Dylan song but that he hadn’t recorded the one he really loved because he felt that it was too personal to Dylan. That song was ‘I Dreamed I Saw St.Augustine’. I snapped to attention. I’ve dreamed of St.Augustine !

It was a few years ago. I’d written a book of stories for the Taste Of Monaghan food festival called Tasty Tall Tales and one of them related to the Batch Loaf restaurant and Monaghan’s very own Robin Hood, Parra Glas. In researching for that story I’d come across the life of Peggy Jo Tallas, the kind hearted Texan bank robber who’d robbed at least 10 banks in an 18 month period starting in 1991 , all within an hours drive of the home she shared with her ill mother whom she cared for. She was only caught when she robbed a second bank in the same morning while the town was already crawling with police and FBI agents investigating her earlier robbery. She never carried a gun, never spoke, just handed a note saying it was a bank robbery, and only wanted the money in the cashier’s till.

She was sentenced to 33 months in jail. She was released early for good behaviour and settled back into a quiet life, looking after her mother and got a job working in a bait &  tackle shop and café at a local marina. The owner of the bait & tackle place knew her past but wanted to give her a second chance. She grew concerned when a number of regular customers would only be served by Peggy Jo. One day an elderly customer handed $40 back to the owner saying that he’d found it in the bait he’d bought from Peggy Jo and that he didn’t want her to get in any trouble. Another customer, an elderly lady who fished to provide food for her family, handed her $50 one day saying that she’d had a bit of  luck and felt she owed the shop as  Peggy Jo never charged her for bait.

The owner assumed that Peggy Jo was taking from the cash register or shorting her stock. She checked back over the daily takings and everything was accounted for. Peggy Jo had been using her own money to help customers she felt needed it. The owner became friends with Peggy Jo, they’d regularly go for a beer and a few smokes after work.

After Peggy Jo’s mother passed away she bought an RV, a large motor home, and asked the owner of the shop to leave everything and come away with her to live on a beach “Before life ran out on us”. The owner refused and Peggy Jo went off on her own. No one really knows where she went. She kept irregular contact with her brother’s family and then one day there was a robbery at the Guaranty bank. This time Peggy Jo was unfortunate in that there was a die pack in the cash which exploded when she left the bank. She made it to RV, but was soon being followed by a cavalcade of police cars. She stopped on a residential street, Irish Mist Drive, had a cigarette and then went to her bedroom and took a toy gun from her locker. It later transpired that she had a loaded gun in there as well, but she chose to make her last stand with the toy gun.

She died in a hail of bullets.

St.Augustine had a different life. He was born into a well to do family, received a brilliant education, became a Manichean, lived a life of drunken debauchery , before dropping all of his friends and life long girlfriend to become engaged to an incredibly wealthy 10 year old heiress. He was not a nice person.
He woke up one day wracked with guilt. He decided that if he felt this guilt it was only fair that everyone else felt it to, and so he came up with the concept of ‘original sin’. He died an old man feted as a ‘Father of The Church’.

In my dream I walk into McKenna’s on Dublin St. , say hello to Seamy Og, order a pint , and then notice ‘Freebird’ was playing on the jukebox. That’s one of the reasons that I love McKenna’s so much, nowhere else has a jukebox anymore. I ask who picked the song and Seamy nods to a booth with a casually dressed lady drinking a bottle of Heineken and an elderly man dressed in gold embroidered robes hunched over a large glass of cabernet.

“Who’s yer man ?” I ask.

“Says he’s St.Augustine , bit of a dose to be honest. She’s cool though. She picked the song.”

I ask if I can join them and she smiles and nods, he grunts something in Latin. They then carry on their conversation. He keeps trying to justify what he’s done, and she tortures him by simply saying “But why ?” every time he finishes.

Eventually he holds out his hands on the table to her, palms up. He is crying. She holds his hands in hers. “I’m sorry.” He says.

“That’s all you ever needed to say.” She replies softly.

He smiles, straightens up, takes a large gulp of his cabernet and slowly fades away.

Peggy jo turns to me, smiles and says :

“Before life runs out on us.”

She then takes a last swig of her Heineken and disappears.

I turn to look back at the bar, Seamy raises his eyes to heaven, “You just never know who’ll turn up here on a Thursday for ‘Open Mic’ night.”

I make my way to the Jukebox and play “Hey Boy Hey Girl” by The Chemical Brothers.

I really hate Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I know who the true saint was.
Rock on Peggy Jo.

P.S.  I Dreamed I Saw St.Augustine

Author: paul

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