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Farm Town Chronicles 5-8
Submitted by commentator on Fri, 04/10/2009 - 15:30
Greased Frightening and Pink Slips
There's no playgrounds or malls for the local kids to play at so we are forced to create our own entertainment. The boys were wont to playing practical jokes like the one Mary Susan's older brothers played on her. The one that got them a rather unique punishment too.
Mary Susan was dressed in her prettiest party dress as the family was going to see Granny Wolfe on her 90th birthday. It was a lovely little pink dress with a puffy slip that pushed out the skirt and pink bloomers that just peekd out when she bent over.
The boys were dressed in their Sunday finest too but that didn't stop them from swingin' on a rope over the creek by the garden which at this time of the summer was reduced to mud and a little trickle.
Now the boys were always bugged by Mary Susan following them around and wanting to play with them so they decided this time they'd let her. They grabbed the rope and swung over the creek and came down on the other side and encouraged Mary Susan to do the same.
Mary Susan was surprised the boys would let her play with them and was afraid she'd get her dress dirty but they showed her it was really simple - just step up on the rock, grab the rope and swing over the creek and let go. So she grabbed the rope and swung.
Disaster! Unknown to her the boys had greased the lower part of the rope with pig's fat. When they swung they grabbed the rope above the grease but poor Mary Susan grabbed right where they'd greased the rope and in the middle of the creek her hands slid of the rope and down she came!
She was more frightened than hurt but her pretty dress was splattered full of mud and she began wailin' and carryin' on so that her mom came out to see what was the matter. The boys tried to look innocent and say it was her fault for not hanging on but Mary Susan wailed, "My hands was slippery and I cain't hang on and fell!" Mom checked her hands and felt the fat and then checked the rope. Sure enough the rope was coated with fat.
Now normally their pappy would have taken them out behind the woodshed for a swift beatin' with a birch branch but mom had another idea. She whispered to paw and he guffawed and told the boys that they'd better do as their mom said or they'd wish they were never born.
I don't know where she came up with them, probably left over from when their big sister Michele had gotten married and moved away but a couple hours later Mary Susan was in a clean new dress and holding her hands were her two red-faced brothers. Each of them was wearing his own pretty dress and slip. They had ribbons in their hair and gulped deeply when mom said, 'C'mon girls let's go visit Granny."
Granny, who many thought was a bit senile, fawned over her new grandaughters and insisted mom take pictures of them together. You never saw such faces. The boys were mortified and just thankful that Granny didn't recognize them. They were wrong but Granny didn't want to make things worse for them than they already were.
They nearly had a heart attack when mom said maybe next Sunday she'd take her girls to church instead of those miscreants she had for sons. The boys were on their knees promising mom to be on their best behavior if only she would let them back in their own clothes.
Now all Mary Susan's mom has to say is, 'do you want to visit Petticoat Junction" and those boys straighten up like a shot!!
'Swan Lick' or 'The Year Culture Came to Town'
Her name was Madame Marcia. Newt York (Alvin's nearsighted cousin) had met and married her while fighting in the war to end all wars. She was exotic, different; she spoke with an accent and oh, the clothes she wore. The ladies in Chickenlick including my maw were impressed and sought her opinions on what passed for
fashion. She was the nearest thing to high society the town had ever seen.
It was no surprise then when she opened a small dancing school and maw was one of the first ladies to send her daughter. Trussed up in some wispy thing she called a tutu and with something resembling bedroom slippers on our feet she taught us to do strange things. We pointed our toes in all different directions and
then we had to grab this railing and do knee-bends, plee-ays she called them, though every time she said that I wanted to say 'thank you!'
The hardest thing though was this thing called en pointe - where we stood on
our tippytoes and tried to walk around. Back on the farm en pointe is what Bo the
bird dog did when he spotted a bird. Tweren't nothing like this! But then we might
need Bo if we was to play some big birds called swans.
Of course none of the boys came to Madame's classes, ceptin' Mary Susan's two
brothers whose maw whispered something in their ears when they were about to
bolt. I coulda sworn I heard the word petticoat but I could be wrong. But they were
gawky and awkward and Madame decided she need a better dancer to play the
prince guy so she picked Mandy who leaped at the chance - I mean she really
For some reason Madame chose me to be the lady swan which meant I had to do
all this dramatic stuff and dance too. Well we practiced for months, every Saturday
morning during the fall for it was Madame's intention for us to put on this bal-lay
thing for Thanksgiving. It was going to be a big thing.
Finally the day came for us to do the show. They'd built a little stage out in the
town square and lined up a passel of benches in front of it. Madame had this gramaphone that she played the music on and her nephew Marcel stood by to keep the crank going.
The communal Thanksgiving dinner was over and everyone had stuffed themselves until the straps on their best overalls was near to burstin'. I'd managed to get an extra piece of Maw's awesome apple pie and ice cream plumb forgettin' I had to dance later.
All us kids went over to the general store where we changed into our costumes and got ready to dance. Madame told us she was trees proud - guess that meant tall or something - and to dance our hearts out!
Marcel cranked up the gramaphone and we began. Things were going pretty good, I'd only tripped once or twice and Mandy caught me once. The menfolk in the audience had glazed eyes and I suspect some of them were sound asleep just like Sunday-go-to-meetin'. They'd gotten practiced at sleepin' with their eyes open so
the wives didn't give em more hell than the preacher.
Well the big ending came and Mandy was holding me in her arms while I looked dramatic when that little rapscallion up and goosed me. Not a wise thing when I'd been dancing and twirling about on a very full tummy. I really couldn't help it and it was just my luck that the mayor's wife was sittin' dead center when everything I
ate came back the way it had gone.
As you can imagine the big ending wasn't quite what Madame had intended.
But it was the end of live performances for her students. And Mandy? Well she
couldn't sit down for nigh a week after her paw got done switchin' her. Madame had
seen what happened 'cause I was no snitch.
And so that's how culture came and went in Chickenlick. All because what's good
for the goose ain't good for the dinner!
Surrey with the dinge, no stop
Chickenlick is what them Yankees would call 'a one-horse town' but they'd be wrong cause there were plenty of horses in town. And some might nice buggy's too!
One of the nicest belonged to Amans Castle and he kept that thing shined until you could see yourself in the wood.
That summer Amans grandaughter Michelle came to stay cause she'd been caught foolin' around with the neighbor boy and her paw didn't take kindly to that kinda sparkin'. Michelle, though, was the apple of Gramps eye and he doted on her something fierce.
It came that Michelle could wheedle just about anything out of Gramps with a smile and a 'please'. So it was no surprise when we saw her driving his prize surrey into town pretty as you please. She hitched up in front of Carter's General Store and went inside to buy herself some licorice with the penny Gramps had given her.
Michelle was a stranger to these parts and didn't know it wasn't wise to park in the main road on Saturday afternoon cause the local boys were like to have buggy races through town and heaven help anyone on the street when they came whippin' through. And this Saturday afternoon was no exception.
Michelle was just coming out of the store with her licorice stick when she heard an awful crash. She rushed out the door to find Gramps' surrey lilting dangerously to one side 'cause one wheel was broken nigh in two, that being the only thing that kept the horses from boltin' and dragging the thing clear to the next county.
Off in the distance she could see a cloud of dust as the hit-and-gallop driver was disappearing over the horizon. Michelle's parents owned a livery up north so Michelle calmed one of the horses, unhitched him from the wrecked surrey and bunching up her skirts jumped astride, grabbing the buggy whip from the surrey as she rode in pursuit of the boys.
That girl could flat out ride and it wasn't but a mile down the road that she caught up with the culprits and began to lay about her with the buggy whip until they cried uncle.It was those hellions, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, who couldn't seem to control their urge to to go hell-bent for leather whenever they got the chance. Michelle made them march on foot in front of her all the way to Gramps house.
They apologized to Gramps while Michelle sat the horse behind them flicking the whip with little noises whenever they hesitated. Gramps was upset with Michelle for gettin' his prize surrey damaged but seein's how she'd caught the culprits he couldn't stay mad.
As for Tony and Jimmy, Gramps dragged em to see their pappys who agreed to have his surrey fixed up like it was brand new. Their pappys weren't too happy with the boys and set them to cleaning out the one-holers cause noone on a farm ever wasted good fertilizer. And for good measure they threatened to have Michelle come by and supervise with the buggy whip.
From then on the boys always remembered, ride a clean race or you'll end up in the pits.
Ain't no moonshine when she's gone
We laid him to rest on Sunday past. Twas a small service as old man Ramskugler didn't have any kin around Chickenlick. So it was plumb easy to spot the newcomers, a young couple, whom word had it had inherited the farm from their uncle.
What the local folk wanted to know was where they were goin' to get their corn likker as the old man had been the local maker of moonshine near 40 years. His bottom land grew fine corn and he put it to much better use than just corn meal. In fact, the libations at his wake were mostly from his squeezin's and the townfolk saluted him liberally. So was no wonder folks were worried what they were gonna do for something to ease the aches of a long day farmin' with Ramskugler gone.
It wasn't long before we found out. Josiah McCoy came running
down the Carter's general store bearing horrible news. Josiah had been helpin' the old man with his home-brew for many years and when he asked the new owners about makin' more they promptly told him to destroy the still and fired him on the spot. Seems Jan, the young mistress, was a staunch member of the WCTU and believed that the only spirit that should inhabit a person's body was the Holy Spirit. If folks had known that earlier there would have been a lot more folks mournin' the old man's passing.
Now Janet's husband had been studyin' to be an undertaker and his wife thought that Chickenlick would be a good place to open a funeral parlor. And given the mournful spirits after the passing of the still it looked like there'd be no shortage of customers. Yet it seemed mighty strange the new construction going on. The front parlor had been converted to a viewing room while the couple lived in the back. The barn was converted to a mortuary though there seemed to be an awful lot of vats and other strange materials shipped in from up north. A lot of new folk showed up in town and the Ramskuglers announced that they were also getting into the casket-making business.
They were still planting corn and some new crops too like barley. But they didn't seem to be selling any of the crops that we could tell though they had several silo's built on the property.
While curiousity ran rampant, Janet got together with Rev. Fast and the local ladies to pressure the menfolk into declaring Chickenlick a 'dry' town. And those women were hell on wheels when it came to 'convincing' their menfolk. No clean clothes or hot food after a spell and the local town council unanimously voted the town 'dry'. Prohibition hit the whole country soon afterward, they musta taken a page from the Chickenlick Ladies Temperance Union!
Things were pretty glum around Chickenluck for quite a spell but the Ramskugler casket business seemed to be flourishing as people up North were dyin' to use their products. And turns out there was a good reason. Imagine our surprise when a whole crew of revenooers descended on the the Ramskugler Casket Co. like honeybee's on a rose garden.
It seems Janet and her husband were running a bootleg operation and shipping out the makin's in the caskets. No wonder the folks hereabouts that her husband buried were so well preserved. They were pumped full of grain alcohol. Janet figured if she convinced the government that the town was dry they'd not come sniffing around. And for a good time they succeeded until one day when a cart hauling caskets up in Boston overturned and spilled the evidence. Seems there was beer in the biers.
They never did catch Janet and her husband. They'd got wind of the raid and to this day noone's sure what happened though most tend to think they took the money and moved to some island where they're taking in the sun on the beach sipping some of their homebrew.
After a while the women got tired of their grumpy husbands and small stills started popping up all over Chickenlick. But while they sipped their homebrew the men bemoaned the fact that only their dead relatives had gotten a taste of the Ramskugler's brew. They all seemed to go to their maker with big smiles on their faces so that musta been some brew!