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A Honky-Tonk Cannonball Chugs Up From the Delta
"I called my mother and said, 'I'm having a ball with all the musicians on this train,' " McCollum says. "And she said, 'You're not supposed to have a ball, you're supposed to come home to me.' "
McCollum dances in the aisles as the musicians jam. She estimates Super Chikan's age at 42, which inspires him to kiss her hand and offer to marry her. She reveals how she got her two black eyes: She was playing with her pooch, a big old sheepdog, and it ran between her legs and knocked her over.
"A man's more of a dog than a dog," Super Chikan tells her. "But I'm more of a rooster than a dog."
"Well, cock-a-doodle-doo to you," she says.
By now, it's nearly midnight. A couple of guitarists get a groove going and Super Chikan starts beating on a drum box and improvising verse after verse of a blues song, the themes of which are roosters, chickens, monkeys, his mojo, a caveman with a bone in his hand, and the general desirability of getting funky.
One guy joins in on flute. Another joins in on trombone, another on sax. Super Chikan keeps singing. McCollum keeps dancing. And a splendid time is had by all -- except for Gary Ray Fernandez, one of the Tulane dancers, who happens to be a medical student. He eschews the party and heads for a quiet car where he can study for an exam by reading his anatomy notes and watching a DVD of a human dissection.
In the morning, Super Chikan sits in the dining car eating breakfast. "I've got a too-much-fun headache," he says.
But it doesn't last long. An hour later, he's back in the performers' car, singing a song about his "mojo hand" and its allegedly amazing ability to make women "scream and shout."
The train rolls into Washington's Union Station at 11:20 a.m., which is only an hour and a half late.
Ross lines the performers up behind the Wild Magnolias, who are arrayed in full costume. Then they march through the station, while Feufollet's fiddlers play a cheery tune.
The people waiting for trains stare, looking dumbfounded in their power suits, clutching their newspapers and their power briefcases.
Super Chikan bursts out laughing. "This is fun !" he says. "These people lookin' like, 'What in the world is going on?' "
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