Jeff Shanks Reflects on “Gouged Eyes and Chawed Ears”

Jeff Shanks, former Cimmerian blogger and current member of REHupa, will make his first appearance in the pages of the upcoming fifteenth issue of TGR with his “Gouged Eyes and Chawed Ears: The Rough-and-Tumble World of Breckinridge Elkins” essay.

Rough-and-tumble is a style of fighting that was popular among folks in the 1800s and early 1900s who believed hand to hand combat should be simple and brutal – so brutal it left the contestants permanently blinded or maimed. Howard incorporated this violent fighting style in his humorous western stories.

In this excerpt from Jeff’s essay, he presents a quotation from Howard’s “The Haunted Mountain” in which Elkins gets into a rough-and-tumble scrape in a cave with what he believes is a hairy wild man. Turns out it is actually a bear:

It seemed to get darker the further I went, and purty soon I bumped into something big and hairy and it went “Wump!” and grabbed me. Thinks I, it’s the wildman, and he’s on the war-path. We waded into each other and tumbled around on the rocky floor in the dark, biting and mauling and tearing. I’m the biggest and the fightingest man on Bear Creek, which is famed far and wide for its ring-tailed scrappers, but this wildman shore give me my hands full. He was the biggest hairiest critter I ever laid hands on, and he had more teeth and talons than I thought a human could possibly have. He chawed me with vigor and enthusiasm, and he waltzed up and down my frame free and hearty, and swept the floor with me till I was groggy.

For a while I thought I was going to give up the ghost, and I thought with despair of how humiliated my relatives on Bear Creek would be to hear their champion battler had been clawed to death by a wildman in a cave.

That made me plumb ashamed for weakening, and the socks I give him ought to of laid out any man, wild or tame, to say nothing of the pile-driver kicks in his belly, and butting him with my head so he gasped. I got what felt like a ear in my mouth and commenced chawing on it, and presently, what with this and other mayhem I committed on him, he give a most inhuman squall and bust away and went lickety-split for the outside world.

Jeff is earning his Howard scholar chops by presenting today at the PCA in San Antonio – his topic is “Creating an Age Undreamed Of: Robert E. Howard and the Works of Lewis Spence and W. Scott Elliot.”

Check out the Coming Soon page for additional details on issue #15, which will debut in Cross Plains in just six short weeks during this year’s Howard Days. A full list of contents, along with pre-ordering information will be posted soon.