David Todd McCarty

A Whistling Gopher

Whistling Gopher: A mark who departs with a whistle of disbelief after he hears the price of your ride or show or product.

I was a showman on the Midway. People said I had sawdust in my blood. An honest to God ass man, yessiree. That’s an A&S Man in the trades. Stands for ‘Age and Scale.’

I could guess the month you were born within two months, or your age within two years. I never cared for guessing people’s weight. Especially with the ladies. No way to win that game, especially if you win.

Started as a backyard boy. This and that. Run errands. Cart boxes. Basically doing whatever they told me to do. Entry level shit. 

They never would let me be a talker and I never really had the goods to be a strong agent on the skill games. I kept to the simple games like screw pool, poster joints and wheel of fortune type games.

First real job was in a bendover store, one of those games where you had to bend over a couple of hundred times a night to fetch the balls. Not much skill to that being an agent at a bendover store. But the game pretty much takes care of itself. The guy wins a stuffed animal. No problem. He paid more than it cost for the toy, just to play. But most guys don’t win. Or if they do, they paid for that toy so many times over you don’t care.

Sometimes, you’d have to smooth a guy who’d lost too much money and you’d have to cool him out with a spoofer, one of the big plush toys. Some of those guys could get really angry and you’d have to chill them or risk losing your other customers.

I never did really develop a strong call, not like some of the guys. I always relied on my boyish good looks and charm. You wouldn’t think it to look at me now I guess, but I was quite popular with the ladies, especially the townies. The girls that were maybe interesting in spending some time with a guy from the other side of the tracks if you know what I mean.

At one point I got good enough with the cards, that they made me a broad tosser, I could deal that three-card monte all night. “Inky dinky finklestein, three times nine is twenty-nine … You must be the luckiest man alive, pal, move your feet I want to see if you’re standing on a lucky spot.” Like I said, my call was never that strong. But my hands were quick and I knew how long I could take a guy before he got sore. Like I said, I was a charmer.

People got wise to the fix on three-card monte and it got too rough, plus the cops would hassle you so most operators shut it down. You don’t see it much anymore. Sometimes on the street in the cities. They’ll set up on a cardboard box. I’ll usually stop and watch, just to see their technique. When they ask me to play, I just tell them, “I’m widdit” and they know I know.

A good agent and his partner can take down a corner fast. Like I said, most folks got pretty well used the idea that it was fixed, which is funny to me, because it’s all fixed.

Don’t they know that?

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and designer living in Cape May, New Jersey.