Durango Hostile and the Plungerman

semi-fiction, semi-fact by Wade Nelson.

Names & weapons have been changed to protect the guilty. Copyright 1994,1998 2150 Words


Like a character out of a Saturday Night Live skit, the Plungerman arrived in Durango late one afternoon. Seeing the Plungerman padding his way down the staircase to the Durango Hostel and Ski Dorm, Dave, the Hostel's proprietor ran inside to get his forty-five. "Thirty eight might not be enough for this one," he thought, selecting the larger of his two firearms. 

After all it's not every day you see a three hundred pound man wearing a tie die shirt, red white and blue suspenders, and 'I Dream of Jeannie' pants coming at you with a toilet plunger stuck to his forehead."

Don't make me use it!

The Durango Hostel sits a hundred yards from the train depot. The Durango & Silverton is a narrow gauge steam train that attracts thousands of tourists to Durango each summer. The hostel is one of the few remaining houses in a block jammed with t-shirt shops, restaurants, and places where you can pick up a genuine rubber tomahawk. Next door to the hostel is Family Craft Memorials, a monument (tombstone) company whose typos and spelling errors form the steps of a shared staircase. For whatever reason all sorts of people "Just passing through" meander their way down the staircase of bereavement to the outdoor table that serves as a gathering place for the international students, visitors, and travelers staying at the Hostel. The path seems to magnetically attract those people finding themselves on the road. Such was the case of PlungerMan.

"Maybe he'll just keep going," Dave thought, silently hoping he would. "Are you here with HIM?" Dave asked two young women coming down the stairs. "NO!" they answered in unison. "Come inside, I'll get you a room" Dave said, scurrying them away from whatever mayhem was about to occur. Of course, the PlungerMan didn't keep going. He stopped, examined a chair as if assessing its ability to support his weight, then sat down.

The little table out behind the hostel is where Durango's best night court is held. Foreign students marvel at Americans ignorance of geography, world leaders other than their own, and international affairs. The next day's trip to Mesa Verde is a frequent topic. Discussions of German beer's superiority to American brew are frequent. John the resident sage and part-time Hostel handyman regularly espouses his theories on government conspiracies, politics, Jackson Hole, and issues he sees facing the College of Santa Fe, where he resides for much of the year.

John took an immediate interest in PlungerMan, spending the remains of the day talking with him; also consuming a few cold ones. By twilight Dave was out at the table too, along with Steve and a half dozen hostelers. Night fell, and Coors Court was called to order. Dave sat there, quietly wondering to himself how exactly PlungerMan got the plunger to adhere to his forehead. Apparently he wasn't the only one.

Steve, by now feeling the effects of a considerable beer buzz, suddenly stood up, reached across the table, and grabbed hold of the PlungerMan's plunger. PlungerMan, a.k.a. Wayne Hoskins, was pulled forward in his chair until the plunger let go of his bald head with a pleasant farting sound, then fell backwards into his chair, nearly falling over backwards. As everyone looked on in horror he caught himself, swung forward again, overcorrecting, at which point John plastered the plunger right back where it had come from. The PlungerMan again swung backwards, forwards and backwards in his chair as Steve continued to plunge him five or six times before PlungerMan kind of fell sideways and said "Whoa! That's enough".

No one knew what mayhem PlungerMan was capable of doing if someone messed with his rubber and wooden cranial appendage. Dave's hand went for his .45 in case copper jacketed death traveling at three quarters the speed of sound became necessary; either to put down a rampaging PlungerMan or to put Steve out of his misery. Everyone sat there watching, with jaws open and eyes frozen. An eternity of silence, panic, and wondering passed before everyone began laughing, that is, once the PlungerMan himself began to laugh. Suddenly, PlungerMan wasn't threatening. He was just a guy with a plunger.

The story goes on with PlungerMan getting in trouble for waving a chrome revolver in the air at a local liquor store and getting sent to the local mental health center for a few weeks of treatment and a fresh round of anti-psychotic meds. He came back, acting quite normal as long as he took his little white pills, and even did a weeks' construction work with Dave. Dave somehow learned he used bag-balm to keep his plunger attached, a substance farmers use on the udders of cows to keep them soft and healthy.

When plungers are outlawed, only PlungerMen will ...

One night in El Rancho, a Durango bar with a reputation for brawling going all the way back to Jack Dempsey's days, the PlungerMan swilled an entire, 10 oz (the large size) bottle of McIlhenny's Tabasco sauce. The crazy part was that this wasn't on a dare, a $20 bet or anything. He just did it, in true NIKE fashion. One guy's girlfriend, seeing the PlungerMan bellying up next to them and chugging the Tabasco said "Let's get out of here...NOW!". Her boyfriend held her back and insisted "No, I want to see what happens next!"

The bartender, an acquaintance of mine, said he came down the bar, took one look at PlungerMan, and lost it. Brandon turned away as fast as he could, gagging back a howling laugh that caused him to nearly choke on his own snot. He said he was praying the PlungerMan wouldn't get offended and come across the bar. At 300-plus pounds, he knew there was no way he and the rest of El Rancho's bouncers could bounce the PlungerMan without at least one person requiring an ambulance. He said he regained his composure an eternity of a minute or two later. Biting his tongue so hard he could taste blood, Brandon faced the PlungerMan, looked him straight in the plunger, and said: "What'll you have?" An insane desire followed, he says, to follow up that question with: "Let me guess - shot of Sani-Flush and a Beer?"

PlungerMan quit taking his medications and got in trouble with the law again. Something about outstanding bench warrants, etc. Dispatch radioed a single sheriff to go pick up Wayne Hoskins at 543 East Second, the Durango Hostel, for arraignment on a relatively minor failure to appear charge. What the deputies apparently heard over the radio was that Wayne Hoskins had been "Sighted at 543 East Second and that he was "Deranged and Hostile." None of the deputies knew the chrome revolver Wayne had been waving around the liquor store was a cap pistol. Every available cruiser responded, as law enforcement officials are prone to do when one of their own is endangered. Deranged, yes. Dangerous? Wayne had never shown any signs of being hostile although the cap pistol HAD been loaded. They came, six cruisers worth, lights and sirens, pistols drawn, sawed off shotguns cocked and pumped.

-keep reading -

543 E 2nd Ave

But there was no Wayne, just a number of quite surprised hostelers, including Dave, who sat quietly during the cordon and search operation hoping like hell none of the peace officers asked what the big unregistered bulge in his pocket was.

The PlungerMan was located several hours later sitting on a park bench in Gateway Park. He was arrested by a pair of those cleanly groomed twenty-three year old policemen who look like young boys to the rest of us. One of these natural born killers, err, public safety officers kept a .38 pointed at PlungerMan at all times, perhaps in case he decided to stampede.

PlungerMan was read his Miranda rights, acknowledged that he understood them, and was handcuffed. He went peacefully, although climbing into the back of the police cruiser without the use of his hands was a formidable task. But PlungerMan was up to it. He was a formidable kind of guy. Anyone who could wear a toilet plunger on his head in public day after day had to be tough.

After a fifteen minute hearing in LaPlata County Municipal Courtroom #2A, before the Honorable Greg Wymann, still wearing his plunger, Wayne was released on his own recognizance. All he had to do was promise the judge (who happened to be a former Deadhead) to show up for his next hearing, and "Do his best" to keep taking his medications. The sad truth was nobody in LaPlata County wanted PlungerMan in their jail or their halfway house. A 300 pound man with a toilet plunger affixed to his forehead was a liability. A big, unknown liability.

Red-faced, the Durango police department refuses to discuss the hostel raid. They refused to re-enact the botched arrest for a special bloopers episode of "COPS." The PlungerMan's crimes didn't quite merit an appearance on America's Most Wanted. No Wanted poster for Wayne was ever produced: Warning! Suspect has been known to pack a .32 caliber toilet plunger with an 11" pine barrel! If you have seen suspect do not attempt to remove the plunger yourself, but contact plumbing code enforcement officers. It would have been an instant collectors item. People would have been breaking into Post Offices to steal copies of the PlungerMan Poster.

The PlungerMan went back to the Hostel after his court appearance and said some things that made it sound like he was taking off.. John told Dave he was worried about Wayne, something just didn't sound right.

The PlungerMan story comes to an end at Wastewater Park. Durango's Gateway Park is known by locals as "Wastewater Park" because of the adjacent sewage treatment plant. The city fathers covered the cylindrical shit processors with faux bronze windows to give the place the appearance of a hi-tech office building. The camouflage is exceedingly effective. Thousands of unsuspecting tourists visit the park each summer and stroll past the processing plant without ever realizing what it is. (Except when the wind blows the wrong direction) PlungerMan was last seen on a bench at Wastewater Park sipping a quart of Old Milwaukee from a brown paper bag.

The treatment plant makes its unpleasant discharge into the Animas River a few hundred feet downstream from where a bend in the river demanded by the presence of Smelter Mountain offers kayakers the most exciting rapids, obstacles, swirling vortexes, and "holes" along its entire length. The aquatic thrills include the nationally famous (at least among kayakers) Santa Margarita Hole, sometimes called "The Flusher" because of the number of kayakers it turns upside down. Ignoring the threat of coliform bacteria and the occasional "Brown Trout," kayakers love the place.

The Santa Rita Hole - no shit!

Dave's girlfriend Sarah was taking an evening stroll along the riverwalk with a friend the day after the PlungerMan disappeared. Suddenly her friend's golden retriever unleashed himself, bolted twenty feet ahead of them and leapt into the swirling whitewater. The dog was immediately sucked under by the deadly hydraulic forces of the Santa Rita hole. Sarah's friend began screaming "Scoop" at the top of her lungs. An eternity, well, actually only about a minute or two later Scoop popped his shaggy head out of the water about ten feet downstream from "the Flusher" and swam ashore with something in his mouth: A wooden plunger handle.

Wayne's demise is, of course, only conjectured. No body, no foul. The police refuse to officially declare Wayne Hoskins missing. "He may have just returned to California" Detective Randy Wankowski is quoted as having said.

Dead or alive, no other guest in the history of the Durango Hostel has ever created the excitement of the PlungerMan. He was loved because everyone could look down or laugh at him, even himself. Several Germans and Aussies who were guests at the hostel at that time still send Dave postcards asking the fate of the PlungerMan. His status and whereabouts is unknown.

Should you happen to see PlungerMan, alive and plunging, please tell him the folks at the Durango Hostel and the Police Department say all is forgiven. A PlungerMan Sensitivity & Awareness Float, co-sponsored by the Durango Hostel and Southwest Colorado Mental Health has been proposed for Durango's annual Snow-Down parade, a satirical affair akin to Pasadena's Doo-Dah parade. Prospective PlungerMen can audition at the Hostel.

p.s. I was told by a friend that PlungerMan was picked up by TV cameras panning the crowd at a rifle competition at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. NBC reporter Dick Enberg commented on his appearance and "unusual" appendage. A letter from this writer to NBC/Enberg went unanswered.

p.s.s. A second "public" sighting of PlungerMan was also reported to me. A massive public demonstration followed a 1997 incident in which some NYPD officers violated the civil rights of a suspect with, among other things, a toilet plunger. Amongst the crowd of angry protestors was, according to wire service reports, an "Unusually large bald man wearing a toilet plunger affixed to his forehead."

p.s.s.s. Was PlungerMan an alien? According to Warner Brother's Brad Turrel, Executive Vice-President of Network Communications "Viewers who tracked the show (Roswell) via the Internet organized a mass mailing of Tabasco, the aliens' sauce of choice,..." Does this explain PlungerMan's strange thrist?

Copyright 1994/2000 Wade H. Nelson

domaininq (at] wadenelson. com

 2002 Update on the Plungerman


Alas, nothing definitive has been heard from, or of, the PlungerMan since 1997. We can only hope all is well with such a brave, and prepared-for-anything individual, one whose headpiece served as a reminder to all of us of the rubber-like flexibility, combined with oak-strong resolve required when life's problems threaten to overflow our lives, and our bathrooms.


Thick or thin, long may he plunge.

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