What do you want for your birthday, Eddie?
What do I want? What does every red-blooded Texas boy want? A matching pair of shiny six-shooter cap guns on a real leather gun belt with a big silver buckle.
And I want to stump Zeebo the Clown.
How about going on Uncle Elihu instead, Mom asked.
Uncle Elihu was okay, but I’d already been on his show and gotten my possum grin from P.J. Possum.
But Zeebo was an artist, like me. I loved watching him on TV.
Kids would come down from the Peanut Gallery and draw a picture.
Zeebo would study it for a few seconds, and then he would start drawing and turn it into something completely different.
A house would become an airplane, a frog would turn into a fish, a cat into a flower. He was a magician with the crayon.
He would give the finished Zeebogram to the kid.
But as an artist myself I had a goal–to draw something so brilliantly complex, so fiendishly convoluted, that Zeebo would be unable to turn it into anything.
I would be the one to defeat the great Zeebo.
The day of my birthday, Mom drove me down to the television studio in Eddy, Texas, just south of Waco, where I joined the other kids in the Peanut Gallery. I watched as one after another, they made their feeble attempts, which Zeebo easily transformed.
Then it was my turn! I took the crayon and strode confidently to the easel.
Ha! Let’s see you do something with that!
Zeebo never spoke. Instead he had a little cigar noisemaker that sounded like a duck quacking. He studied what I had drawn for a long time, letting out a series of weak, desperate quacks. I HAD him! I had done it! I had stumped the mighty Zeebo!
Then he started drawing.
Noooo! I was bested by the Great Zeebo. Worse, he gave me the Zeebogram, so that I’d be reminded of his triumph every time I saw it.
My disappointment didn’t last long, though. Zeebo chose me and a girl as today’s winners, and gave us the choice of prizes that were laid out on a little table. There was a doll and–I could hardly believe it–a six-shooter cap pistol in a real leather holster! My birthday wish had come true.
Zeebo let the girl pick first.
She chose the gun.
I was stunned. Speechless. I went back to my seat in a daze, clutching a girl’s doll. This was humiliation beyond anything I had ever experienced. I had told all my friends to watch. Not only had I been shamed artistically by Zeebo, but I had won a stupid girly doll for my efforts. I would never be able to show my face at school again.
When I got home I gave the doll to my sister.
And tore the Zeebogram into a million tiny pieces.