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Country Goes to the Movies, part II: Ode to Billie Joe

By Robert Loy, May 1997

Page 2...

Billie Joe comes up through the woods looking bedraggled. She asks him what he's been eating for the last two days, and he says "mushrooms and onions." Although glad to see him, she wisely keeps her distance.

All of a sudden, Billie Joe is crying, and it's not just from eating onions for two days. "I got drunk the other night. Something happened. Something real bad, Bobby Lee. "

She asks him what the heck he's talking about, and he responds with the following homegrown love poetry, "I'm onto your scent. I'm downwind of you everywhere I go. You're wiggling your old tail feathers and I'm responding. If we were squirrels or cotton-tails out there in the forest we'd be snortin' and ruttin' in a very healthy manner. "

Well, of course no girl can resist that kind of sweet talk. Bobby Lee wants to make out, but Billie Joe is too busy wailing and gnashing his teeth. He won't tell Bobby Lee what the matter is, and he eventually throws Benjamin off the bridge in a fit of pique. Bobby Lee realizes the symbolism of the moment, that her childhood is now at an end, and she can finally start rutting and snorting. She and Billie Joe roll around for a while, but he pulls away and says, "It's no good, Bobby Lee. I can't."

She tells him it's all right, but he says, "It ain't all right. I have been with a man. Which is a sin against nature. A sin against God."

She tries to reassure him that it's no big deal. Dr. Ruth and Dr. Joyce Brothers will be along in a few years to say that a lot of young people experiment with homosexuality, but Billie Joe just slinks back into the woods, his tail between his legs.

The next thing we see they're dragging Billie Joe's body out of the river. They find Benjamin, too, but it's not imaginary playmate season so they have to throw him back. James is sure Bobby Lee is pregnant, and he urges her to abort. "I am not going to be an illegitimate uncle. "

Soon Bobby Lee packs up her clothes and her phony accent, and she runs away from home. On her way to the bus station she meets up with the man that took advantage of Billie Joe on - of all places - the Tallahatchee Bridge.

He wants to confess, but she advises him to keep mum. She wants Billie Joe to become a legend.

"We can't have people thinking Billie Joe jumped off the bridge because of a man. After all, there is my good name and reputation to be considered. " (Well, she has a reputation, no doubt, but a good name...? ) He asks her where she'll go and she says she doesn't know, someplace far away, like maybe Switzerland. Someplace where its cold and her ample bosom will be less likely to overheat.

"I'm only 15," she says. "What do I know of the world?"

Not much if she thinks you can get to Switzerland by bus - or that appearing in a movie like this is going to help her good name and reputation.

(Next: Kris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw are part of a mighty convoy rolling 'cross the USA. 10-4, good buddies. )

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