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Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

The Roger Miller
Las Vegas Pawn Shop Shooting

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Roger Miller never slept. No one could keep up with him. Arrogant songsters and musicians alike tried. None succeeded. Closest anyone ever came, as far as I know, was Thumbs Carllile, Roger's brilliant sideman. One night, after the midnight show (when the artist is supposed to go back to his suite and rest/sleep/whatever) Roger was changing from tux to jeans preparing to search out 24-Hour pawnshops looking for anything interesting. Kris Kristofferson asked Thumbs "When does Roger sleep?" and Thumbie said, "Don't know. I've only been with him for three years."

I was with Roger one night in a pawnshop about 3 or 4 am. He saw an old Derringer. "That loaded?" he asked the pawnbroker. "Nope," said the man. Roger placed the tip of the barrel against the palm of one hand and pulled the trigger with the other. BOOM!! Shot himself in the palm. Surprised at the noise, the smell of black powder, and the blood spurting out of his hand, Roger said, "This imitation bullet sure do hurt a lot." I hysterically ripped through my purse for a Kleenex throwing the other contents all over the floor in a panic. Roger stared at the hand, then said to the man, "Got something I kin put over this here wound? Better make it a shot glass."

For the next week or so onstage, he held up his bandaged hand, told the audience what happened, removed the bandage so they could see the still-black hole in his hand, replaced the bandage, and played and sang as usual.



© Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus" January 20, 2004 column

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