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Paul Edmonds lives in Massachusetts. He enjoys writing, music, and the occasional urban myth. Please visit him at

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Creeping Bonanza Music Tour

You’ve heard the story.

Or maybe you haven’t. The one about Rod Stewart?

Well, back in the late seventies, Hot Legs let his good time run a bit off course one night. He found himself stretched across a long metal table in some emergency room. Doctors worked frantically to pump nine pints of semen from his stomach before the whole frothy mess leaked into the rest of his body and brought the intricate workings of his organs to a grinding halt. He paid everyone involved to keep hush hush. Someone must have breached that contract, though, because here I am bringing it up.

Crazy, I know, but that’s the story I was told.

And surely you’ve heard about listening to Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral while staring at your reflection in a mirror.

No? Well, don’t do it!

Basically, there was this girl in Massachusetts—must have been sometime during the mid-nineties—who decided to crank the album while studying her face in the mirror of her parents’ candlelit bathroom. She concentrated hard, letting the features of her face blur into muted angles while tiny flames dragged distorted shadows over the walls. Sometime around “Closer”, a snake emerged from her right ear. It flicked its tongue against the sticky air and coiled around her neck like a noose. Maggots fell from her nose and collected in the deep ceramic sink. The girl reached for her throat, clawing at the pregnant veins throbbing underneath her skin.

What she’d heard was true. She was seeing herself as she would look in Hell.

The album played on. Trent’s voice snarled over the grinding, sawing music. The girl’s mind snapped like a fishing line. A fist went through the mirror. She seized a long shard, staggered up the hall, and spilled her sister’s guts all over a tasteful flowered bedspread.

The police found her outside behind some bushes. Her wrists were slashed to the bone, her blood black and syrupy under the soft glow of a magnificent new moon.

Or so they say.

And then there’s the story of Creeping Bonanza.

Just after midnight on February 3, 1959, right outside of a town in Iowa called Clear Lake, a small aircraft fell from the sky at an alarming speed. The plane smashed into the frozen earth of an abandoned field and skidded across the ice-slicked ground until it lost momentum and settled a few feet short of an old wire fence.

The pilot died instantly; his limp body hung askew against the cold, tight embrace of his seatbelt.

The other three passengers, torn and tattered and shattered into different stages of disassembly, crawled from the wreckage and moved toward the snarled, rusty fence.

Once there, Ritchie Valens rolled onto his back and brought a shaking hand to his face. Blood seeped through his fingers in soft pulses.

The Big Bopper arrived and managed to get to his knees, his left arm moving around lifelessly like a piece of pulled taffy.

Buddy Holly was the last to get there. He inched along the crunching ice, dragging his guitar behind him, until he met the others at the fence. A piece of his skull had been carved away upon impact, and his glistening brain began to frost over from the caress of a frigid Midwestern breeze.

They looked at each other with the collective knowledge that it would be their final performance. Valens pulled a harmonica from his coat pocket. The Bopper cleared the blood from his throat and began gurgling scales. They drew upon the dwindling energy pulsing through them, between them.

And they played. Holly’s guitar sounded sickly. He strummed the strings with his busted hand, each note an off-tune requiem. Valens blew into his harmonica through chipped teeth and frozen lips. The Bopper’s voice was alien, frightening.

They finished their song and surrendered to fate. Their still-warm bodies melted the ice and snow. The water, along with blood and splinters of bone and bacterial fizzes and flecks of skin, pooled together where the ground sank into a shallow dip between them.

They were discovered later that morning. Their bodies were removed, the wreckage cleared away.

The first crop was chanced upon three years later by two brothers in the exact spot where the musicians’ runoff had settled. They knelt in front of the plant and studied its outlandish appearance. The flowers were yellow and pointed. Small blue buds clung to thin stems like rock candy on strings. The whole sprawling mess was a strange and menacing blight on the otherwise vanilla farmland that stretched out in every direction.

One of the boys cut a piece of the plant with his pocket knife. They brought it back to the barn, packed a few of the blue buds into a corncob pipe lifted from their father’s top dresser drawer, and took turns pulling long drags of thick, rank smoke.

Bright flashes needled their eyes. An odd rushing sound filled their heads; it resembled the din of a thousand people hemorrhaging excitement and applause. The boys felt good, great, and began fidgeting with the buttons and zippers on their clothing.

Their mother returned home some time later to be greeted by the scratchy sounds of a Ricky Nelson record playing at an unacceptable volume. She burst into the house and found her sons in the living room.

The older boy was naked from the waist down. He was playing guitar on one of her brooms. Lipstick and rouge were smeared across his face in colorful, uneven ribbons.

The younger boy was stretched-out on the sofa. He used two wooden spoons to play drums on a throw pillow. He saw his mother, put a hand out, and shouted over the music, “No autographs!”

Their mother dropped her armload of groceries. Her face twisted. The older boy walked up to her and said something, but she didn’t hear him. The rope that kept her tethered to reality had snapped when her youngest son, the apple of her eye, rose from the sofa to reveal a long, curved zucchini sticking out of his ass.

The poor woman would never be the same again.

Rumors of the plant and its origins surged through the town. A group of teenagers combed the field, but by then all traces of the plant had been removed. For years people visited the field each spring, hoping to find some blooms. They never did.

The story became embedded in folklore. Occasionally, a townsperson would visit or relocate to another part of the country, bringing with them the tale of a plant named after the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza B35 that ushered three irreplaceable talents to their untimely demise.

Creeping Bonanza.

So the story goes.

Lonnie drummed on the steering wheel as the first thunderous notes of Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” raged through the Ford’s crackling speakers.

Will watched him from the passenger seat and swallowed the last swig of his Pepsi. He shook his head and smiled. A small CD wallet sat on his lap, and he began to flip through it.

“The Loaf, baby!” Lonnie cried. “Ever see that fucker perform live? He’s up there for like five minutes and he’s already dripping sweat. No shit.” He reached between his legs and retrieved a Sierra Mist. “They used to have some guy follow him around onstage with a mop.”

Will turned to him, fingering the pages of the wallet. “I’m pretty sure that’s not true.”

Lonnie finished his soda and tossed the bottle out the window.

“Man, I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Will said. “This is hick country. They pull us over for tossing bottles out onto the road and next thing you know we’re in some musty police station back room getting ass-raped by Sheriff Bubba and his friends.”

Lonnie laughed hard and threw his head back. “Where do you come up with this shit?”

“Hey, joke of you want,” Will said. “But you’d be surprised what goes on out here when no one’s around.”

IA-27 stretched out before them, a long grey coil that looked wavy from the heat. They were eleven-hundred miles into their trip, a long way from Massachusetts, heading toward some town in Iowa in search of a crazy mythic plant.

Will ejected Bat Out Of Hell and replaced it with The Best of Ritchie Valens. “La Bamba” came on, and a discomfort stole over them, killing their excitement.

Lonnie glanced over. His face was pallid. “Maybe we outta take that out. I don’t know, it’s too morbid or something.”

Will agreed. He ejected the disc and placed it back into the wallet.

Lonnie and Will had been introduced to the story of Creeping Bonanza at a party. They were sitting together on one end of a sectional sofa when a scruffy boy sat across from them with a beer in each hand and a cigarette smoldering between his lips.

The boy looked out of place; his haircut was fifteen years out of style, and his muscled arms threatened to rip through his faded flannel shirt. He explained that he was in town visiting relatives while his parents sorted through a divorce back in Iowa.

He moved closer and began rattling-on about a tractor he was rebuilding. Lonnie and Will dismissed him as a simple, backward farm boy. They were about to excuse themselves from his company when David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs came on the stereo. The boy lit another cigarette, sat back, and launched into an enlightening and entertaining commentary on what he felt were the album’s more complex pieces. He explained how Bowie had successfully married glam rock with George Orwell.

Lonnie and Will were transfixed. The dexterity with which the boy dissected each song engaged their love of music and rescued them from an otherwise humdrum evening.

They spent the next three hours with the boy as he critiqued everything that came on the stereo. The three of them lamented the deficiencies of the current music scene, the extinction of real rock stars, and how the Internet had killed so many delicious untruths that once provided fodder for wonderful, stoned discussions.

“Dude, I remember all those urban myths,” Will said. “Remember the one about Mama Cass choking to death on a ham sandwich?”

Lonnie and the boy laughed and nodded between swigs of beer.

“I went on believing that shit forever,” Will continued. He lit a cigarette and shook his head. “It was stupid. But it was cool, you know? It got people talking about music at least.”

“Hear that,” the boy agreed.

“But then the Internet came around and completely discredited everything,” Lonnie said. “Mama Cass, the one about Marilyn Manson being that kid from The Wonder Years—Paul Piper, or whatever it was. All of it, gone.” He stubbed his cigarette directly on the coffee table, adding to the collection of butts and burns. “Fucking Wikipedia.”

The boy sat up, reached into his back pocket, and retrieved a joint. He held it out for Lonnie and Will to see. It was large, expertly rolled, and looked like the black sheep cousin of the cigarettes they’d been smoking. “Any interest?” he asked.

Lonnie’s eyes widened. “Does a bear shit in the woods?”

The boy flicked his lighter and produced a shimmering blue flame. He touched it to the end of the joint and puffed until a glowing red cherry appeared. Smoke obscured the features of his hardened country face as he held in his hit and passed the spliff to Lonnie.

Lonnie inhaled long and hard. A quarter of the joint transformed into a cylinder of ash. His face took on the hue of a ripe tomato.

The three of them made quick work of the joint. The boy took one last hit, snuffed the cherry with two wet fingers, and placed the roach inside his cigarette pack.

“Primo,” Lonnie said. He lit a cigarette. “You boys from Nebraska know how to party.”

“Iowa,” the boy said, scanning the beer bottles on the table. He picked one up, shook it, and took a swig. “That stuff’s nothing compared to what else they say is growing up in my neck of the woods.”

“What do you mean?” Will asked, sinking into the plush upholstery of the sectional.

The boy shared the story of Creeping Bonanza with Lonnie and Will. He spoke of its origins and the bugged-out effect it had on the human brain. The two brothers were cousins in his version of the story, and the younger one had a corn cob up his ass instead of a zucchini. Also different was that the mother had committed suicide in front of them. Minor details had changed over the years, had been sliced and diced and glued back together en route to the present. A decades-long game of telephone. Even the location of the field was unclear; supposedly, records had been altered at some point. Only the description of the plant remained the same, the yellow leaves and blue rock candy buds left untouched by the hands of time.

The boy finished his story and got up. He gave Lonnie and Will a lazy salute, turned, and walked away.

Lonnie and Will sat in their nest of microfiber and watched the boy poke another cigarette between his lips and disappear up the staircase. They turned and looked at each other through their collective stoned funk.

They never did catch his name.

Later on, they went back to Will’s place and scoured the Web for information on the boy’s mysterious, intoxicating plant. Their searches yielded nothing. Not so much as a message board post. It was as if the boy had concocted the story on the spot.

“Look at us,” Will said. “Fooled by Tractor Jack. Jesus, we must be high.” He fell onto the bed and drew the covers over his head.

He was about to submit to the sandman’s call when Lonnie’s voice breached the confines of his blanket cocoon.

“Hey, man, look at this!”

Will zombied over to the computer. Lonnie had landed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum website. On the screen were photographs of a new exhibit honoring deceased music legends. Portraits of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Joey Ramone hung from the gallery walls. Lonnie scrolled down the page to reveal photos of a smashed Jimi Hendrix guitar that had been pieced back together and glued to a large plate of glass.

At the bottom of the page, right below the Hendrix guitar, was a photo of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. The caption below the photo read: THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED. BACKSTAGE AT THE SURF BALLROOM, FEBRUARY 3, 1959.

Lonnie and Will studied the details of the picture.

Buddy Holly sported his signature horn-rimmed glasses and what appeared to be a faux leather jacket. It was a bright canary yellow and fell loosely against his crisp white t-shirt.

Ritchie Valens’ thick black hair was combed into a perfect wave of curls. He wore blue jeans and a white collared shirt. Small blue pompoms tumbled down the length of the tie looped around his neck.

And The Big Bopper stood in the middle. His face beamed. A sly smile complemented wide, youthful eyes. He cradled a bouquet of wild flowers. The colorful blooms spilled over his large arms and fell against his legs. The bouquet was untamed, defiant. Long leaves of baby’s breath crept up Holly’s jacket and coiled around a zipper.

Lonnie shut off the computer monitor. Will sat on the bed and rubbed his face as if pushing through the first few moments after waking from a long, deep sleep.

They said nothing for a while. The sputtering ceiling fan and Lonnie’s creaky revolutions in the office chair served as a sparse soundtrack to their foggy, confused thoughts.

The whole thing was ridiculous, irrational, but that picture had ignited a small ember of belief within them. If it was out there, they could find it. It would be the score of a lifetime. The possibilities…

“Dude, I know what you’re thinking, and I’m right there with you,” Will said. He kept his eyes closed and ran a sweaty hand through his hair. “But let’s be reasonable. It was just some bullshit story he told to impress us. I mean, c’mon.”

Lonnie kept quiet. He used his finger to push around a pen cap on the desk.

“You’re not really buying it, are you?” Will asked.

A long pause, and then Lonnie said, “No way, man. Just spacing out, you know.” He walked over to the radio and turned on the oldies station. The Lovin’ Spoonful were singing about being in a daydream.

“Crazy hick,” Will said as he kicked off his shoes.

“Hear that,” Lonnie said. His words were dressed in a spot-on Midwestern accent. He started laughing, and Will joined in. He turned up the volume on the radio.

Crazy talk, that’s all.

Dead rock stars, fucked-up plants, suicides, vegetable penetrations.

Just insane.

Five days later Lonnie and Will stuffed their backpacks full of clothes and headed out on I-190 toward the Massachusetts Turnpike and, eventually, Clear Lake, Iowa.

(continued on page 2)



Creeping Bonanza Music Tour by Paul Edmonds - 1 2
originally published April 19, 2010

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