SON of the CLACKMANNAN GIANT
STANLEY R. HOFFLUND
THIS lad with the never-say-die mug comes breezin’ into the Star Sporting Club Arena one afternoon while I was watching Bearcat Jimmy Journegan in a training workout against Sizzler McCarty. He was a rangy young fellow, with big bones and a muscular-looking Adam’s apple.
“Got a place on the program in any of your preliminary bouts this week?” he asks. In his eyes was a glint that says, “I’ll land a job on the fight card of this arena if it kills me.” Now I haven’t been in the fight-promoting business these fifteen years for my health.
“What name did you say?” I asks.
“I didn’t say,” the lad replies; “but it’s Sticker MacPherson.”
That was a new nom de guerre to me. It was one I had overlooked in a business where new material is constantly knocking for baptism under properly pugnacious titles. “Who named you?” says I.
The young fellow grinned, and it was a nice grin.
It s not a ring moniker,” says he. “Sticker is an old family name in our clan.”
“What do you do for a livin’?” says I.
“I’m a laundryman, a fighting laundryman,” says he. “I drive a delivery car for the Excelsior Laundry when I’m not fighting—or rather, I fight when I’m not delivering laundry. I’ve been in a couple of hundred pork-and-bean mills before small clubs around the country, and”—grinning almost boastfully—“I’ve never been knocked out.” “Ever knock any of your opponents out?” I asks, expecting an earful of the sort of boastful bunk most pork-andbeaners give a manager when they are applying for work. I was due for a surprise.
“No,” says he, his voice full of honest pride, “I never knocked out a man in my life. But”—folding his arms in a crown-me-hero manner—“I’m here to tell you there aint a bird of my weight in the business, including the welterweight champion himself, who can make me quit or put me where a referee will count ten over me.”
Some boast, that.
“Are you busy right now?” I asks.
C TICKER MACPHERSON had come to get what he was after, and he had come heeled. He turned loose that nice grin of his again as he reached into a rear pocket and
fished out a pair of fighting trunks that sure deserved the first-prize, pink-enameled, diamond-studded sawbuck for originality. Those trunks were Scotch plaid! Red, yellow, and green, done into a pattern so loud you could have heard them all the way to Loch Lomond.
“I’m Scotch descent,” Sticker explains. “My father was the Clackmannan heavyweight Sandy MacMasters himself couldn’t knock out in Edinburgh, back in seventy-four. Sandy slugged father for eighty-two rounds, then fainted in the eighty-third from having worn himself out delivering the mighty blows that didn’t even dent the Clackmannan Giant, as father was called. The fight was awarded to father, though he hadn’t landed half a dozen solid punches during the entire eighty-three rounds.”
I was so overcome I pointed to the Scotch-plaid trunks and asked:
“Was them your father’s kilties?”
“No,” says Sticker regretfully. “Father couldn’t have got one of his great legs into these. But”—swelling his chest with family pride—“I inherited all father’s heavyweight staying qualities, even if I am only a welterweight. Father used to wear a pair of this same pattern, in fact Mary Smith copied these—”
He stopped suddenly and blushed the color of a healthy apple, as if is tongue had skidded on to private affairs.
“Mary who?” says I.
Sticker could have fixed up an alibi for Mary, or said she was his grandmother. But he seemed to be without guile.
“Smith, Mary Smith,” he confesses, still blushing. “She’s not exactly my wife—that is, she’s not my wife yet, but—”
“But will be as soon as you get to making enough money out of the fighting business so you can take her joyriding in a limousine instead of a laundry wagon,” I finishes for
“Exactly,” says Sticker, much relieved. I never did meet such an innocent, boyish boy for a pork-and-bean pugilist.
“If you knew her,” he goes on, his eyes glowing, “you.
wouldn’t be surprised at my wanting to connect up with a fighting arena where they pay more than they do in the third-rate clubs. Of course, Mary objects to my being a fighter at all; but then. it will only be for a little while, only until I can make a big stake and marry her.”
I liked the young fellow, and I hated to see him regarding matrimony from what I consider the wrong point of view. And then, he seemed unduly optimistic about fighting his way to a big stake.
“Why don’t you take a chance marrying her now, and sticking to the laundry business?” I asked.
“Can’t be done,” says Sticker gravely. “You see there’s my mother with six children younger than me, mostly girls, and my laundry salary—”
“Is stretched pretty tight,” I interrupts, “paying the bills for such a populous ménage. If Mary was added to your responsibilities, I suppose the breaking point would be reached.”
CTICKER grinned. He had a nice, honest, homely, ^ Scotch phiz, and it was a pleasure to watch it perform in a place where most of the mugs are either callous or just plain tough. But I had my doubts, on account of that face of his, over his ability as a fighter.
“Do you think you’ve got class enough to fight in a show like mine?” I asks.
He comes back at me with all the cocksureness of an Airedale pup.
“There aint a welterweight in the business can knock me
“We’ll see about that directly,” says I, not being a man who lets a bluff wither from lack of a call. “Go put on your kilties and I will introduce you to a scrapper who hates the sight of Scotch plaid like a bull hates a red parasol.”
While Sticker was in the dressing-room getting into his fighting togs, I instructed Sizzler McCarty to take him on and finish him off in about two seconds. Sizzler is a tough mug, and I had no doubt about his ability to carry out my instructions. When they got going, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the son of the Clackmannan Giant. But it was plainly my duty to find out just how much of a fighter he was, and if he was building up his plans for happiness on false hopes or not.
From the start it was plain that Sticker was too awkward to ever be a great fighter. He used his arms as though they were waterproof and Sizzler a rainstorm. Sticker didn’t return a solid punch during three full rounds of milling.
DUT at the end of it he was fresh as though he had just •*-* gone through three rounds of cribbage instead of standing up under punishment from a hard-hitting, experienced pug. It was Sizzler who showed signs of wear and tear, not Sticker. Sizzler had damaged both his hands and exhausted all his strength slugging a lad whose powers of resistance were so amazing they had more than offset his lack of boxing ability. Sticker wasn’t fast and clever enough to do any damage himself, but as far as being damaged was concerned, he might have been a cement sack on legs, with a jaw of chilled-steel. Even his nose and ears were tough as walrus
“You aint got class enough to down the son of the Clackmannan Giant,” Sticker says with a grin when Sizzler sank panting against the ropes.
I ordered Sizzler to the dressing room, then instructed Bearcat Jimmy Journegan to tackle Sticker. Bearcat might just as well have tried to knock out a telephone pole.
“Trot out a scrapper with a punch,” Sticker invites after Bearcat had gone back to the dressing-room to borrow the arnica from Sizzler McCarty, to apply upon his badlysprained hands. “None of these second-raters can down me; I’m a sticker.”
I accommodated the boy by matching him against the best second-rate welter in the city in a preliminary bout the following Wednesday night. Sticker took six rounds of mauling with a grin, and landed a few awkward ones himself. It kind of took the fancy of the audience to see a lad, whose only real fighting qualification was a boiler-plate hide, take everything a real fighter could give and grin for more. Sticker’s Scotch-plaid trunks were also something new to the fans, and they got a lot of mob joy ragging him about them.
But it wasn’t freak fighting pants and constitutional indestructibility that won Sticker a regular berth on the Star Sporting Club’s regular Wednesday night boxing shows. It was something far more interesting to the fans than Sticker hirpself. The helper who followed him in through the ropes to be his second in the ring was the real attraction. She was something entirely new in the professional pugilistic business.
When Mary Smith, dressed in a natty tailored suit, entered the ring with a towel over one arm and carrying a bucket of water, the crowd fairly stood up in the seats to get a good view. Pretty? Say, that girl’s face would have brought a smile to the lips of a crabbed old millionaire who has just paid his income tax. Her beauty was of that fairhaired, blue-eyed type that sends a man’s thoughts to country lanes and blooming daisies and everything fresh and wholesome and far removed from the atmosphere of a prize-fighting arena. The girl’s appearance in that ring was as unexpected as wquld be that of some fairy from a fanciful play for children into a sordid scene of cheap melodrama.
I DIDN’T know what to
make of the situation at first, Sticker having sprung his lady second as a surprise on me as well as the fans. He had said he would bring a friend to go into the ring with him, but had not mentioned that the friend would be Miss Mary Smith. From the way the fans took to the girl, however, I could see possibilities in the novelty.
During the fight Sticker took some mean blows from Knockout Lanny, his opponent. When the first one landed on his chilled-steel jaw, the girl put her hand up to her own pretty, uninjured little chin, and sympathetically exclaimed “Ouch!” Her pretty face had shown unmistakable evidence of nervous dread from the moment the fighters squared off., But she had kept it well under control until Sticker received that awful wallop on the chin.
At her exclamation the fans started to laugh, but even the hardest veteran of them put a lot of sympathy into his ladghter. Her “Ouch!” had come so spontaneously, as though she, instead of Sticker, had been hit. Sticker grinned across the ring at her reassur-
ingly, and as the fight progressed and she saw him take dozens of wallops with no apparent physical suffering, she regained her composure and was soon smiling confidently.
The girl was strong and capable as she was dainty and alluring. The way she took care of Sticker between rounds, bathing his face with her tender hands—though the most conspicuous mark on it was his grin—added an unfamiliar touch of sentiment to the prizefight scene, that went well with the fans. She and Sticker whispered together confidentially between rounds, and it was easy to see that Sticker was encouraging his second instead of the usual ring procedure of second encouraging fighter.
Mary came into the office with Sticker after the fights were over that night. I was glad to get better acquainted with the girl. She admitted she had been frightfully nervous, but excused herself by saying, with a soft little smile at Sticker, that it was no wonder she felt that way the very first time she ever watched anybody strike him. She admitted, with a blush, that she was in a big hurry to see Sticker make a lot of money, and that she was ready to do anything she could to help him at it. She seemed to be as optimistic as Sticker over his ability to get rich in the fighting business, and I didn’t have the heart to put a wet blanket over their youthful optimism by airing my own private opinion on the subject.
“It seems to be the only way,” she sighed as she took Sticker’s arm before leaving. “Of course it’s dreadful. But I guess poor people like us have to do unpleasant things to get ahead of this wicked old world.”
T NEVER met a young couple I thought more of than
those two kids. There was something mighty fine about the way they had started out to face a big problem together. I couldn’t help thinking how different things might have been in my own life if I had met a girl like Mary when I was a young man, a girl who would wait and play the game with
I decided to give Sticker every chance I could. It wasn’t bad business on my part, at that, for “The Human Punching-Bag and His Lady Second,” as I billed them, became a great drawing-card. And box-office receipts are something I have never learned to overlook.
I imported good welters from other cities to come down and try to put a k. o. on Sticker, publishing in the sporting pages his boast that no welterweight in the business could down the son of the Clackmannan Giant. But all the satisfaction Sticker’s opponents got was the decision on points at the end of the fight, a lot of booing from the crowd, and badly-sprained wrists and hands. Sticker himself didn’t come off without damage, for he took some awful punishment from hard-hitting lads who had placed big bets on their ability to floor him. Often I saw him grin at Mary after a blow that must have created a lot of suffering inside his plucky system.
“I’m going to stay with it until we make the stake we need, sweetheart,” he would say when Mary started to
raise objections, on account of bruises that would show up and an ear that threatened to become an incurable physical blemish. “Just a few more fights and I will be able to take a little rest.”
It was Mary who told me Sticker had just paid two thousand dollars to have an operation performed on his little sister, who would have grown up to womanhood with a deformity had her fine brother not come to her rescue with the money he endured so much to earn.
I did my best to teach Sticker how to hit, so he would have a show to return some of the maulings he was receiving every week. But the boy, while strong and rugged as a young bullock, couldn’t seem to develop enough speed in his muscles for quick action.
“Us MacPhersons have always been just plain stickers,” he would say apologetically when I tried to urge him to more speed.
“But you can’t go on being a human punching-bag forever,” I argued once.
Sticker grinned his never-say-die grin.
“A fellow can stand a lot for the sake of a girl and a family like mine,” he retorted.
ONE evening the welterweight champion of the world himself came down to watch a big main event I had billed, and Sticker was on the card in a preliminary bout. The champion grinned sarcastically when he saw an ambitious young welter fail to stow Sticker away. But the grin the champ had for Mary Smith had no sarcasm in it. He was smitten with her charms the moment she entered the ring, and with all the money he had it wasn’t hard for him to offer her attractive inducements for striking up an intimate acquaintance.
That a girl like Mary Smith fell for the champ’s sporty automobile and extravagant entertainments was as big a worry to me as it must have been to Sticker. It was inconceivable that such a sweet little specimen of decent young womanhood should become the victim of the wiles of a cheap, flashy fellow whose motives any thoughtful person must mistrust—but then, the poor girl had endured a lot of poverty and self-denial in her life. The contrast between an expensive, high-powered car and a dinky, rattling, jolting laundry wagon is something any girl would be likely to appreciate, should the choice be put up to her. The week during which Mary saw a lot too much of the champ, and much too little of Sticker, was too painful a period for me to dwell upon.
“I’d like to get a crack at that,lowbrow,” Sticker said to me one day. He grinned as he said it—but then, I had seen Sticker grin after a blow over the heart that would have killed the average man. I happened to know that Mary was somewhere off on a joyride that afternoon with the champ, in his big machine.
“I’d like to accommodate you, Sticker,” says I; “but it takes more money than I can put up to get a champion into a ring. Those birds, you know, are spoiled by conceit and the easy money they have picked up.”
“Yes,” says Sticker, grinning stubbornly, “I know.” I was all for the lad, and couldn’t control myself as he did.
“Why don’t you take a crack at him in some alley?” I whispered. “You don’t have to wait to get him into a roped arena.”
“I’ve thought about that,” says Sticker; “but I’m afraid Mary wouldn’t like it.”
Can you beat that? And Mary was throwing him over for a cheap sport whose only attractive quality was money.
STICKER started to leave my office, but was stopped by Mary Smith herself, who rushed in and threw her arms around his neck. The boy found it easy to grin then, and the way he hugged her did my heart good. But when Mary started to cry, Sticker’s face grew black with anger.
“Who has been bothering my little sweetheart?” he asks, his voice choking. I thought it mighty fine of him to call her that after the way she had been carrying on for a week with the champ.
Mary whispered something in his ear, and Sticker turned
“The champ and I are going to mix,” says he.
“You said it, bo,” says a
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voice at my office door, and in steps the champ. His face had a cruel, vicious set to it, and he eyed Sticker, whose arms were Brill around Mary, with the murderous hatred of a jealous man.
Sticker started for him, but Mary and I stepped between.
“Let him start something,” the champ snorts. “Let the poor hick loose. I’ll show him how much of a sticker he is.”
He scowled at Mary.
“You little fool,” he mutters; “do you mean to say you prefer that rube to a man of_my class?” He didn’t know, poor conceited ass, how clearly those words of his betrayed his true class.
Mary’s face went white with anger. That little girl was nobody’s coward. Her eyes flashed and her bosom heaved as she stepped toward the champ, who was a little taken aback for all his conceit.
“You are too ignorant and underbred for me to argue with,” says Mary, a different Mary entirely from the one I had always known. She pointed a dainty, trembling finger at the champ’s ugly face.
“I dare you to meet Sticker in the ring,” she defies; “with him to take the entire purse if you don’t knock him out in ten rounds, and you to win it all if you do.”
THE champ’s blood was up. He accepted the challenge and had signed up an agreement to fight before he had time to cool down enough to realize that even a big percentage of the receipts my arena could produce was no kind of a purse for the champion welterweight of the world.
“I’ll kill you, you awkward pork-andbeaner!” he threatens wildly against Sticker as he leaves my office. I never saw more dangerously jealous eyes than his as he took a farewell shot at Mary.
“And when I’m through with him,” says he, "I’ll come around and show you how hard it is to get in again with a real live guy after you have once thrown him over.” Then he stalked out.
Mary just threw back her pretty head and laughed until the tears ran down her cheeks. But she grew suddenly as sober as she had been merry. She turned to Sticker.
“Will he be too much for you, sweetheart?” she asks nervously.
“I’ll make him think he’s struck a rock wall,” says Sticker with the old confidence beaming radiantly from his face.
Mary turned to me with a happy little amile.
“Then I’m a pretty good schemer,” she confesses without a blush.
' I 'HE champ did a lot of bragging about A what he would do to humble Sticker. He was a wonderful fighter, so far ahead of any contenders for his crown that I felt almost sick with apprehension as the night of the fight approached. Mary too was in a pitiable state of worry, and I knew she regretted having engineered the match, rich as the purse would be could Sticker but survive the ten rounds of terrible punishment he was sure to receive. That i.t was a grudge fight quickly spread, and on the big night the house was packed.
Sticker sat in his corner with Mary, for whom he always insisted upon an extra chair. The girl’s face was pale, but she was gamely controlling herself. Sticker grinned confidently as he counted customers and tried to roughly estimate for Mary what their percentage of the gate receipts would be. When the champ came in he sprang like a tiger over the ropes, his handlers crawling through after him. He looted physically fit to fight the battle of his life, and in his eyes was a glint that spelled danger. He laughed sarcastically as he made a remark to one of his seconds about Sticker’s Scotch-plaid trunks, and sent over a message, when the second went across to examine Sticker’s bandages, that when the fight was over, the only remnant of Sticker in the ring would be a Scotchplaid rag.
Mary trembled at that, and Sticker was too busy reassuring her to pay further at-
tention to insults. Right there in the public gaze of that packed arena, the son of the Clackmannan Giant kissed the girl to quiet her. He did it as naturally as though he had been alone with her; and the house rang with the cheers of the fans who knew the situation and appreciated its full import. If there was a man in that audience who did not earnestly hope to see Sticker survive the fight and win the purse, the dissenting one wisely kept his mouth shut tight.
/'''ONCEIT stuck out all over the champ ^ when the fighters stood up for the preliminary handshake. What he said I do not know, but the grin left Sticker’s face for a moment, not to return until he received a terrific uppercut on the jaw. Then again Mary exclaimed “Ouch!” as spontaneously as though the blow had struck her instead of Sticker.
Sticker grinned at her and went into a clinch. He should have known better; the champ was the meanest infighter in the business, and he got in a volley of short jabs, before the referee broke them, that brought tears to Mary’s eyes. But Sticker grinned again and called to her across the ring.
“They don’t even tickle, sweetheart.”
Those first blows, delivered with the added steam of jealous hatred, hurt the champ’s hands so badly he was forced to stall during the next two rounds. Could it be possible, I wondered, that Sticker would survive the fight? It seemed incredible that any human being could withstand such a mauling. And yet, there was the easy grin on Sticker’s face, and he seemed almost as fresh as when the fight had started. But if the champ should make another attack like that first one—I felt sure I would have to help poor Mary out of the arena. Sticker, I felt confident, would go out on his own legs, even if they should fail to support him during a brief count of ten. I could not picture that game, rugged lad laid out at all permanently, even by such a hard hitter as the champ.
Round after round the fight progressed and Sticker stuck. Round after round the champ bored in and slugged as hard as he dared with his sore hands. Round after round Mary suffered unutterable anguish while Sticker grinned through the blood that was smearing his face. Between rounds Mary worked with heroic tenderness to refresh her boy. While she sponged him and mothered him—it was for all the world like mothering—Sticker grinned and spoke encouraging, endearing words to her.
' I 'OWARDS the last rounds of the fight, A before the disastrous finish, Sticker uncorked a few wild swings that started the fans laughing over their sheer awkwardness. They missed the nimble champ a good two feet, and he made a big show of laughing scornfully at them. That got the fans sore, for after all the champ had not yet made good his boasts and won the money. They booed him unmercifully when the gong sounded for the tenth and last round.
That public idol went crazy from damaged conceit. Hisses and jeers were something new to his conceited ears. He forgot his injured hands, and tore in to finish Sticker with a knockout. The blows he rained in through Sticker’s awkward guard would have wrecked a breakwater.
It happened about the middle of the last round. Maybe the champ had been stalling before, unwilling to risk too much damage to his injured fists. Or maybe he was as fagged out from slugging through the freak fight as he had seemed to be. Or maybe something loosened up inside Sticker, for the lad had been on the receiving end of enough terrific blows to have loosened the structure of a battleship. Anyway it happened, and happened so quickly it took the crowd some time to figure out the entire wonderful strategy which had accomplish-
Sticker had been forced, covering up,
against the ropes. The champ clinched out of what seemed to be sheer weariness from the rush and rain of blows he had just delivered, though he may have been merely stalling to put Sticker off his guard.
Sticker gave an awkward push that sent the champ into the middle of the ring. The champ started back like a springing tiger, his muscles rippling under the effort of the tremendous leap he gave to add force to his final blows.
He leapt right into the only hard punch Sticker had delivered during that fight, or any other I had ever seen him in. Nobody had dreamed Sticker could hit a piledriver blow like that. The son of the Clackmannan Giant must have been nursing that mighty punch ever since he and Mary Smith had gotten their two young business heads together and figured Sticker could never make, over the ordinary route of aggressiveness and boxing ability, the big money that comes only to a champion in the prize-fighting business. They had figured it all out, Mary and her awkward, gritty, fine-hearted boy, that strategy was justified if it could gain for them the money so badly needed in a cause far nobler than that to which pugilistic championship money is ordinarily devoted.
THE champ took Sticker’s mulish drive on the point of his jaw. He leapt into it with his surprised eyes wide open. The disastrous finish of the fightv.as hisown dis-
aster, not the one he had threatened, in his vast conceit, against Sticker MaePherson, to be followed by further insult to Mary Smith. His defeat was doubly humiliating because it was the girl herself who had trapped him into it.
As he hit the canvas with a resounding thud, a girlish voice, filled with boundless relief and gladness, broke the deathly stillness of the stupefied arena.
“Oh, thank goodness!” exclaimed pretty Mary Smith.
When the referee finished counting ten over the fallen one, he wasn’t the welterweight champion any more. Sticker MacPherson was. And in the eyes of the new champ was a canny twinkle that seemed to harmonize with the Scotch plaid of his fighting trunks.
That twinkle had become a soft glow when Sticker led Mary out of my office after the show, to enter a taxicab he had ordered.
“We don’t need to be so confoundedly economical now,” Sticker said as he shook my hand. “There’ll be lots of movingpicture money coming in, to say nothing of the vaudeville engagements I’ll make at my own price before I step inside a ring
He winked at me, and Mary Smith laughed delightedly.
“Mary and I have already figured out the total cash returns in sight,” says he, “and they’re enough.”