PAGE 219  - SEPTEMBER 14, 2005

Jimmy's Pal, The Wild Man John Cotter

Jimmy, maybe the telling the gal about John Cotter!

Jimmy Flannery  had a friend of some sorts by the name of John Cotter. As Jimmy would sometimes say, "he was a bit of a strange one."  An old time freight brakeman who, per order of the General Superintendent, was never permitted to work in passenger service because, as the General Superintendent put it, "no paying passenger of the New Haven Railroad should ever be exposed to the likes of this madman!"

John Brown, not unlike John Cotter.

A big strong backwoodsie type mountain man with wild eyes and wild white hair, crazed look at times, reminiscent to some of the way abolitionist John Brown was portrayed in Civil War time. Just another one of these poor railroad woebegone of the hopeless who found himself in constant challenge with life and its constant, seemingly endless parade of conflict and struggle.

Jimmy first worked with John Cotter at First Street Yard in Southie, later Braintree Yard, on the Milton Branch en route to Baker's Chocolate at Lower Mills (kicking cars of cocoa at Cabot Yard) and finally, at John Cotter's final railroad days, at Readville Yard, Hyde Park.

 According to Jimmy, in his early railroad years, John Cotter was apparently a quite normal sort of guy, but over the course of railroad time, railroaders (in true railroader kick'em while they're down fashion) and the railroad itself turned John Cotter into somewhat of an outcast,  loaner and very much at times a friggin' wild haired, crazy eyed  maniac!

Jimmy was always one to pity the railroad hopeless, and eventually, Jimmy earned John Cotter's trust and Jimmy became John Cotter's only friend in the world.

 They worked a switcher together in Readville and one night Jimmy missed the last local back to town, so John Cotter offered to drive Jimmy home to Dorchester, which, as Jimmy said, was quite nice of him......"He was a good fella."

 John Cotter pulled up to the Readville Yard Office in a banged up old Chevy four door boat of some sort and yelled, "Jimmy -  come on, get in!"

 The madman John Cotter reached over and flung the front passenger side door wide open and to Jimmy's shock, a 38 caliber pistol lay in the passenger seat next to John Cotter.

 "What are you going to do with that gun John?" Jimmy asked.

 "Oh don't worry about that Jimmy. I use that if I need to shoot a deer on my way home. Deer's meat makes an excellent meal yah know!" John Cotter said...

 "I'll just throw it under the seat should it make yah nervous Jimmy!"

 Jimmy stepped into the old mess of a car, closed the door and settled in amongst mountains of trash and crap and small quantities of more useless crap stolen from railroad boxcars that had been hacked open by local hoodlums...

 "So Jimmy which way should I go, River Street or Truman Highway?"

 "Oh go whatever way is easiest for you John," Jimmy replied.

 John Cotter sailed his wreck of Chevy down the dirt path by the boxcars, through the little town square of Readville and on to Truman Highway. As they drove along Truman Highway, which really wasn't much of a true highway, John Cotter's eyes opened right up and he yelled OHHHHHH!!

“What’s wrong?" asked Jimmy as John Cotter slammed his car's brakes and skidded violently over to the side of the road.

 "Hold on Jimmy, I'll be right widdyah!"

 John Cotter jumped out of his car and ran back down the road.

 As Jimmy put it, he looked like one of those wild men from the jungle running down the middle of a busy road at 11 o'clock in the evening.

 "What in God's good name is he doing?," Jimmy thought to himself.

The trashed Chevy, the gun, now this!.

He saw John Cotter reach down and pick up what appeared to be some limp dead thing that was lying in the middle of the road and all Jimmy could think was "Mother of God Almighty!'

John Cotter's dream come true.

 Jimmy looked out the back window as John Cotter returned to the car and watched as John Cotter threw the dead thing into the trunk of the big ol' Chevy.

 Well needless to say, Jimmy was a bit relieved John Cotter didn't throw the dead thing into the back seat.........

 As John Cotter stepped back into the car Jimmy asked, "What in God's name was that John?"

 "Oh just a squirrel Jimmy. Just a dead squirrel."  

 "Me and the boy will have it for lunch tommorrah."

 Jimmy just shrugged it off and thought....."He is a bit of a strange one, ain't he?."

 A few years later the railroad wanted no part of the wild man John Cotter and they found a way to fire him, which is a tough thing to accomplish, getting yourself fired from the railroad that is, if you're anything but a thief. ....But fire him they did.

 Being the thoughtful and considerate guy that he was, Jimmy stopped by to see John Cotter one day when Cotter and Son still lived in the dilapidated and scary Victorian style home on a lot of what was once farm type land, now weeds, brush and old cars.

 Jimmy knocked on the door and someone inside screamed "Get the f.... out of here bastard, or we'll kill you!"

 A startled Jimmy stepped back, looked at the narrow glass window pane to the right of the door and saw crazed looking eyes staring at out him.

 "It's me John it's me.......Jim!" Jimmy pleaded.

 The wild man John Cotter opened the door with large axe in hand and now, suddenly realizing it was Jimmy,  was now happy to see his only friend in the world,  dear old Jimmy.

 "Oh Jimmy it's you"........

"Come on in!"

 Jimmy looked at the axe and looked at John Cotter's wild eyes and replied, "You know what John, I was just passin' by and figured I'd say hi to yah."

 And that was that.

 Years later after John Cotter disappeared from railroad yards and retreated to an isolated life in the  old run down wreck of a farmhouse in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, he finally went off the deep end, big time.

One day, Conductor Steve "Bag of Bones" Eldridge and his two invisible friends "Brad" and "Spike" stopped by the local Dunkin' Donuts in Bridgewater to satisfy "their" morning mope headiness with a jolt of caffeine and a honey dipped donut when they ran into an old friend now Bridgewater town police officer who knew Bones and his invisible amigos worked for the railroad and inquired about the madman John Cotter.

 "Steve you work for the railroad I hear?" asked the Cop.......

 "Do you know of a wild man by the name Jonn Cotter?"

 "Why yes I do!" replied the Bones "and he's a bit of an oddball to say the least!"

 Well the cop proceeded to tell Steve about how they finally hauled John Cotter in under protective custody for hanging out on the Bridgewater town green one summer  Sunday morning dressed in nothing but his long johns with knife and fork, with long white hair and an even crazier look in his madman eyes, waiting patiently over a worm hole for, as he put it, "breakfast."

"The Bones" He's been known to be a little off his rocker at times as well, like most of us.

The cop offered John Cotter the luxury of a real breakfast like the kind you'd get at an orange roofed Howard Johnson's. Happy as a clam, John Cotter accepted the Cop's generous offer and did have a nice breakfast that morning.......In the holding cell of the Bridgewater Police Station.

 Railroad word has it that John Cotter ended up in the coo-coo farm, conveniently located as it was, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

 His Son, who was as far off his rocker as was his old man, if not worse, ended up instutionalized as well......Where,  like his old man, never again had his taste buds tempted with delicacies such as John Cotter's road killed squirrel meat stew.



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