Thursday, December 3, 2009
I Challenge YOU !
Here in lies the meat of this post. I have a CALLENGE for you nice folks out there. Everyone of you. It is easy and within the grasp of each individual. I will explain the challenge at the END of this post.
I have stressed on many occasions, “I am the most fortunate person I know.” One of those fortunes is that I am lucky to still be acquainted with quite a few of lifelong friends. I am talking about from second grade, in school, forward. Kids have been born. A number have been added along the way and these “new comers” are most often subjected to the reenacted episodes that we “old timers” have experienced along the way.
Every March, for the past ten years or so, a small group of us go to a cabin on a river in the piney woods of Texas for a weekend. Several years ago, out of the blue, one of the cast of characters presented a “Letter” that was given to him by a patient of his. It had to do with the location of our campsite. There is an old railroad trestle that crosses the river about a hundred yards downriver from our camp site. All of us had know him since childhood. One of my running buddies has two boy and they have been coming along every year. They were spooked as youngster and still are wary today. We were all amazed at the “letter’. I will post at a later date.
This past year, it was my turn. I remember a tale that my Daddy had told at this very spot many years earlier concerning a Dumb Bull. The early Dumb Bulls were made with an old wooden nail keg or a hollow log. A rawhide was stretched over one end and a string or piece of leather was threaded through it. Pinching the string in your finger and pulling it through the fist will make an awful amplified sound. It has been said that Ben Jameson’s cows broke out the lot when his brother in law set one off down the in the river bottom. I built a modern day dumb bull with a metal bucket. The banjo picker buddy furnished me with the banjo hide for the head of the dumb bull.
The scene needed to be properly set. I went to Barnes and Noble, my favorite store, and bought a leather bound writing journal. I conjured up a story based loosely on a legend of “The Black Panther” that roams the woods throughout the river bottom. I hand wrote into the journal or I would repost, but I have the one that I wrote in my Grandson’s book. I will try to post it later also. After a supper feast of fried catfish, fried taters, red beans and rice, sausage and light bread, followed with a few swallers of partaking liquid., we all settled around the campfire.
I started in telling about the traveling peddler that made his yearly rounds through Bug Skuffle, a crossroads community, then on through “Dog Neck”, an agrarian community before coming into the railroad town of Sacul, which was named after Mr. Lucas. (That’s Lucas spelled backwards ). The peddler sold a chamber pot to Old Man Jamerson. Well when he got it home his wife discovered that it was defective. She made the old man take off to get his money back from the peddler. I hate Reader’s Digest versions, but there ain’t no way around it. Old man Jameson found the peddler’s wagon in the river but all he found of the peddler was his skull with staring eyeballs lodged in the forks of a sweetgum tree where “The Black Panther” had been interrupted from his supper. He could not see the panther but he could hear the squalling screeches. The End - of the fireside chat.
It took me a pretty good while to read the whole thing. I embellished it much more than the version that you just got. The banjo picker played a background dirge all the while. I haven’t mentioned it but that banjo picker is the most liberal person I have ever run across. More than ,,,well anyhow,, but, I have written a law that we can’t talk politics or religion down on the river. We will never agree on politics, and we all probably gonna get that camp out together in that hot spot anyway ,,,, sooo the point is, it was then and there I decided that I would start a blog and here we are. If I have any readers left, that is.
One of the side effects of riverside partaking of the firewater is that you have to “check on the dogs” sometimes during the night.
Everyone finally settled in for the night. The banjo pickers two boys, 20 and 22, along with his son-in-law took the tent. The picker and I took the cabin. The night was absolutely picture book perfect. The air was cool and the fog was lifting up from the warm water of the river. The moon was about three quarters full and after your eyes adjusted, you could see throughout the river bottom with ease. A full chorus of life was singing, echoing off the water and trees. I thought that I could actually hear a water snake swimming its zig zag path toward the far river bank.
The moon had winched its way toward far side of the river and was peeking through the tiny first buds of spring from the elm trees. It was three AM and the dogs needed to be checked on. The crisp night air cut sharply through my cotton jogging pants. Socked feet made little sound stepping onto the wooden porch, but the creaking of pulling gravity emitted tiny squeeking grunts from the aging boards as I was careful to step lightly, not to make excessive noise. I had used my fiddle rosin to double coat the leather string that was the vocal cord of my new Dumb Bull. Never, do I believe, that I had witness such peacefulness.
“Ahhhhhh, ain’t this great?” I then took holt of the leather string and pinched.
EEEEEEEAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOAAGGGGGGGGGG!!!!! The high frequencies mellowed and finished into a deep roaring bass as my grip reached the tip of the leather cord.
EEEEEEAAAOOOAAAGGGGG!!! A faster zip changed the vocal tone to a more frenzied yelp.
Frogs, crickets and all river creatures went nuts. The echoes bouncing off the trees finally reached the old trestle and disappeared around the river bend just as the second volley escaped from the throat of the monster.
“Son of a Bitch!” The tent came to life. “What the…?” “What’s that racket?”
Search lights erupted sending illuminated circles dancing a jig across the fabric of the bright orange tent.
“Bert, what the hell is that?” The picker grinning in the moonlight
“Danged if I know!” pinching the cord and giving a pull.
EEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAWWWWOOOOOOOOOWWWWW,, ENENENNNNNAAAAOOOWWWWW,, - two pulls in a row
“Shoot that thang”, me looking at the picker with a grin and a nod
“It don’t matter, just shoot out there everywhere.”
Blam, Bang, Blam-Blam
The tent had turned into a vegamatic on steriods. Good thing I had already checked on the dogs. Tent flap zippers were a zinging, flash lights a’flashing. It looked like searchlights at a Kung Fu world premier opening. Easing back inside the cabin, I slid my new friend under my cot and covered it with a spare blanket.
“What the hell was that?” was asked more times than I could count.
The picker and I did our durnest to keep our sober and concerned face so as to mask our hysteria.
“The Panther”, one of the boys finally said softly. A nervous chucked as he spoke didn’t totally convince himself or the others that he was just kidding.
Me nor the picker ever divulged the true secret and they may have figured it out. I am sure they have decided on some logical answer, but I would bet the farm that if any of you, as strangers, asked them, they would definitely remember it vividly and each differently.
MY CHALLEMGE to you: Take time to make a special effort to “talk” to someone. Tell a story. Write it down. I challenged everyone at the camp to add a story to the journal. Everyone was giddy with excitement at the thought and opportunity. The picker has it now. I am going to call his liberal ass and push him to get it done. I read a lot and I read a lot before I knew about blogging and I can tell you this,,I have read better stuff from you folks than what I have paid money for. Any questions?