Short Stories

As of May 8, 2014:  Future postings will appear under the tab "More Stories."

Note:  The Slade/Sloan story begins with Riverboating.  It continues sequentially as one scrolls down.


I am planning an endeavor that I have engaged in very little on STSTT.  Each Thursday I hope to post a short short story, purely fictional.  If you have been around here a bit, you know that much of the blog is devoted to my own experiences, or those of  family members and others of close acquaintance.  So fiction, while not completely absent, has been used sparingly, even the series "Little Jo" and "Loonville Vignettes," while presented in short short story format are, indeed, true stories. 
I have the advantage of the writer of historical fiction, for she is subject to the strictures of fact, no matter how creative she may be.  And thus it is that she must immerse herself in research, lest she be caught in the commission of an anachronism.  I, on the other hand, write freely from a realm created in my imagination, a realm in which an anachronism may not exist, for that world is timeless!

Disclaimer:  Though there may be names and settings that seem to be recognizable, be assured that these are works of fiction, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely intentional, for if you have not known anyone resembling any of these characters, you have lived neither long nor fully.  Historical figures may occasionally be presented, but remember they are actors in a fictional setting.  Geographical discrepancies from physical reality is the sole responsibility of the writer.  If you dislike the world in which these characters live, you may feel free to create your own.

Name Game

"Uncle," I said, "I was telling Mama some of your family history story, about how your  great- great grandfather had five children, and all their names started with 'J' except for Elspeth.  She told me to ask you how did it happen that Jephthah Loughmiller name all his kids with a first initial 'J,' but then name the second girl 'Elspeth.'"

"Whut?" said Uncle Jeptha. "I tol' your mama how thet come to be.  Did she ferget?'

"No, Uncle.  She remembers, but she thought I would enjoy the story more if you told it to me."  Stroke his ego a bit, you see.

"Waal, then." replied Uncle Jep, as he stroked his whiskers.  When he does that, I am never quite sure whether he is searching his memory for a fact, or working his loom to create the whole cloth of a new tale. "I ask my grandmother about thet one time.  She tell me this Jephthah Loughmiller have a beautiful wife name Juliana.  They have three boys and the girl, Joanna.  Then during her fifth pregnancy, tragedy come to the little fambly and Juliana pass away.  This leave Jephthah with four chilren to rear, includin’ the little girl who is now but three year old.

"But good fortune befall Loughmiller when he marry another young woman who love him dearly, but more, she love the chilren.  She do her best to care for 'em all.  Then she find herself with child.  While they awaitin’ the happy day, Jephthah an’ Elena, his wife name is Elena, discuss the namin’ a the chile.  They have pick 'Jeptha' if it is a boy, but they have a time decidin’ on a girl’s name.  Jeff, he want to call the girl 'Jillian' but Elena know thet is a dimin, diminu, oh, a pet name for 'Juliana,' an’ while she love Jephthah dearly, she draw the line at namin’ the girl after his first wife.  So they finely agree on 'Elspeth' an’ when she come, that were her moniker.

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Dancin' at the Grange

Did I ever tell you 'bout the time Shorty Jenkins whup Nate Skinner?  Shorty, ever'body call him Shorty so long, twel no one rightly know him by ary other name.  Waal, he were short.  Sometime people tag a moniker like "Shorty" on some tall drink a water, or they mought call a man-mountain "Pee Wee," sorta sarcastic in a funny kind a way, ef you know whut I mean.  But Shorty, he were short.  Stand maybe five-two in his work boots.  Prolly weight 97 pound, but he warn't a weaklin', no sir.  He were a powerful man, an' ever'one in these parts know thet.  I one time saw him move a upright pi-ana offa his truck into his house by hisself.  Offered to he'p, an' he on'y grin and say, Stand back, Gramps, 'n I'll l'arn you a thang or two.

So anyhow Shorty's wife, Tressa, even now in her forties, is a moughty fine figger of a woman.  She know hit, but she is modest, don't flaunt herself none, and Shorty know hit, and he accept thet the fellas is gonna wanna spend time talkin' to Tress when they are out to a social or whatever.  'N he don't mind, on account he know she is goin' home with him.  She never give a fella any wrong notions, an' she never give Shorty any cause to worry.  They got four boys, 'n ary one an 'em could pass for "Shorty, Junior," an' they got that girl, Alana, right in the middle a'n 'em, 'n she is purtier than a pitcher, her mama all over again.

So Nate, he come over here f'um Wichita, or maybe Tulsa, I fergit right now, but the thing is he warn't f'um around these parts.  Now Nate was a bit of a looker, an' he fancy hisself to be the cat's pajamas, doncha know.  So he been aroun' here oh, maybe five-six months, not long enough to know much, or to be much known, 'n he decide to go over to the dance on Sattidy night, a good enough thing to do, on account a near ever'one would be there.  Waal, to shorten this up a bit, Tressa dancin' with Jake Waters, 'n at the time, Shorty was sittin' in with the band, Prairie Ramblers, hit were.  Shorty play a right mean fiddle, an' all the bands around know him and ask him to he'p them make some music.  So Tressa capture Nate's eye as he were awatchin' the merriment.

So after th' number, Tressa havin' some lemonade and laughin' it up with some a th' gals, Nate saunter over and inject hisself into the group, so to speak.  After awhile amongst much laughter and banter, a number or two gone by, the band strike up one a them waltzy thangs, 'n Nate say to Tressa, he say, "Mought I have the honor of this dance?"

"Why, certainly, Sir, I would be delighted."

So then they are on the floor dancin', when of a sudden Tress break away f'um Nate and flounce offa th' floor.  Shorty f'um the stage see that purty yella dress, the teeny, tiny waist, all those crinolines underbeneath a th' skirt, the one allus make his heart go pit-a-pat, go a swingin' over to'rd the punch bowl.  Nate just ahind her; but Shorty get to her afore Nate did.

"What's goin' on?" Shorty ask.  Now he know hit ain't usual fer Tressa to leave the floor middle a dance.

"Nothin', really,"  Tress smile at him, but he ha'n't been married to her twenty-five year an' he not know somethin' happen out there.

"Aw, c'mon now," Nate clomp up 'n chime in, "you know I was on'y funnin' with you."

"Okay, Mr. Fun Times, whut did you do yonder?" Shorty.

"Let hit go, Godfrey, hit were no big deal."  I never hear Tress, nor nobody else, fer that matter, call Shorty "Godfrey."  Godfrey.  No wonder ever'one call him Shorty.

"No," Shorty assert, "I will know right now what happen."

"He only suggest we go outside and 'get some air,'" say Tressa, looking Nate square in the eye when she say it.

"Yeah," Nate say, "an' whut bidness is it of your'n anyhow?"

Shorty square his shoulders and rear up to his full five foot two, look up a foot into Nate's eye an' say, "You invite my wife outside, you invite me outside.  Le's go.  Now."

"Wait a minute; wait a minute."  That's Preacher chimin' in.  "No use anyone gettin' hurt.  Apologize to this fine couple, Oklahoma."

"Say whut?  Apologize to this meddlin' fiddle sawyer?  I'll stuff him down the middle hole in yon outhouse!   Ow-w-w-w!"  For by this time Shorty had Nate's right arm twist ahind Nate's back, hand plumb up atween his shoulders, and was amarchin' him to'ard th' door.

As the two combatants plunge thoo th' open door, Shorty use his left boot to pro-pel Nate eight-ten feet ahead, where the lummox land on his face in the dirt.  Shorty atop him in a trice.  "Who is astuffin' who where?" holler Shorty as he pull the left arm up, up, "Ow-w-w-w!"

"Sorry!" holler Oklahoma.  "Hit won't happen again."

"See thet hit don't.  An' be keerful who you messin' with aroun' these parts.  Learn to mind yer manners, if'n you have any, an' you'll get along jes' fine."

Shorty go back into the hall, walk up onto the stage and pick up his fiddle.  As he pull the bow across the strings, he look across the floor to spot thet gorgeous thang in the lovely yella dress, she a sashayin' with Rex Wilson.

I reckon Nate went on home.

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Tennessee Reunion 

I mention a while ago thet my cousin, Harvey Loughmiller stop by to visit.  Did I tell you about the fambly reunion he thow fer ever'body back in '28?  Waal, Harvey, he decide that all the fambly should get together, rebind the fambly ties, ya see.  So he start invitin' one 'n all to his farm over by Caney Creek.  Harvey have him a amazin' spread over there.  Hundreds of acres, he has accumulated, hills and hollers, timber and bottoms, and he has prospered, that would be the word for hit.

Well, gettin' the word out, fambly scattered 'round as they were, got to be a problem fer him and his wife, May Dean.  So he decide to take out ads in the newspapers, had hit printed up in Rogersville, in Kingsport, in Stone Gap and Newport.  Run it in Bristol, too, an' for the Lockmillers what go to Texas, and the Millers now out here, he send invitations to all he could locate.

His ad say, "Big Family Reunion! to be held at the home of Harvey and May Dean Loughmiller, September 1,2,3, Caney Creek Farm, Rogersville, Tennessee.  Bring your musical instruments, your tents and blankets, and bring your big, open and loving hearts.  Loughmillers, Lockmillers, Millers, Whitacres, and Whitakers, all descendents of Jephthah Loughmiller should be here!

"Shucks, if you are a friend of any of the Jephthah Loughmiller clan, come along too.  Plenty of space for everyone's tent, and plenty of food for everyone!"

Well, sir, near as we could figure they were three hundred seventeen people there!

Harvey had put his har'd hands to work gettin' the place ready.  They had fix parkin' space for a hunnert cars, they had dug latrines and set up extry outhouses.  Set up a dormitory in the barn loft for them as din't have tents.  Th' old ones would stay in guest rooms in the main house.   They prepare pits for hog roastin' 'n I believe they go through five, maybe six hogs.  May Dean an' all the cousins who live in Hawkins County pitch in an' prepare baked goods twel you would not believe.  Bread, pies, an' cookies by the hunnerts.

Reconnectin', that's what hit's all about!  Why, catchin' up with kin! Little kids from near-newborns to great-grandpas.  The oldest ones there was the Elspeth Whitacre granddaughters, 94 year ol' twins, they was.

Entertainment?  Oh, my.  Hill people allus been able to make they own.  Mandolins, fiddles, dulcimers, ever' sort a string instrument, many build by the musician whut play 'em.  Singers!  Lord 'a mercy, thet clan were blessed with voices to thrill th' angels.  The Lockmillers from Texas had a quartet, sing in closest harmony you ever hear!  An' my uncle, Rumford Miller, baritone voice transport you to heaven. Anyway, the music go on day 'n night. Townfolk drive out ta hear the music!

Excitement?  Waal, you might imagine the thrill of seein' uncles an' cousins you ha'n't see in ages.  An' sport?  Baseball fer ever'one 'n games fer the kids.  See thet horseshoe nailed above the barn door there?  Thet there is my trophy fer winnin' the horseshoe pitchin' contest.  Hah!  Fool them ol' buzzards, I did.  I allus been purty good at shoes, an' I kep' my hand in over the years.  You know that, boy; I whup up on you right frequent, don't I?

The best show, though, were put on by Cousin Abe Miller f'um over to Rye Cove an' Cousin Marvin Lockmiller from Dothan, Alabama.  The singin' were goin' on, prolly a hunnert people gathered 'round listenin'.  The group whut tuk the stage jes lay a finishin' touch on "Wildwood Flower."  I tell ya, those folk over on the Holston got nothin' on this fambly, come to singin'.  Waal, sir, Abe 'n Marvin were standin' to'rd the back the crowd.  Standin' nose to nose, they were, an' they voices startin' to gettin' louder 'n louder, twel when the music stop, they coulda been heard to Rogersville.  Marvin screamin' "Anyone vote for Hoover is a mo-ron!"  An' Abe come back with, "Who you callin' a moron?"

Hunnert or more eye witnesses by now, an' yet not one could ever say who thow the first fist.  But go at it?  I guess not!  They was punchin' an' kickin', grabbin', and dreckly they was rollin' on the groun', clench in a death struggle, bitin' 'n clawin', an', no lie, still hollerin'.  Now it was "Say Uncle!"  'n "Hah! You say Uncle!" So four, five a th' ol' uncles finely separate 'em.  They stagger to the well an' bathe they wounds 'n by the time they was breathin' steady again, they was best pals.  Hang out with one another along of they wives the whole rest of the party.

We wind it all up Labor Day afternoon, all gather together, hold hands in a big ol' double ring and sing "Will the Circle be Unbroken."

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Jed Miller 

Uncle Jep and I  climbed down from the roof of the new shed.  Our shingling job was blessedly finished!  There is never a good time to shingle, in my opinion.  But it is a satisfaction when it is done.  We dropped our hatchets and nail aprons on the grass and sat down on the well-curb to enjoy some of that cool refreshment from the depths.

"Did I tell you that Cousin Harvey Loughmiller drop by for a visit last week?"

"No.  You are a Miller and you have a cousin named "Loughmiller?

"Oh, indeed.  A lot an 'em.  Ha'n't I ever tell' you 'bout my kinfolk?  Well, sir, I grow up in Hawkins County and Scott County, too, a bit later on.  Now, see, the Millers, our Millers, I mean, descend f'um the Loughmillers.  So how come I'm not a Loughmiller?  Long story, but the roof is done, we have time.

"George Loughmiller come over from Holland back afore the Yew-ess-ay were a nation, 'bout 1760, folks reckon.  He land in Pennsylvania and settle there.  He have a son, Jephthah, 'n Jephthah decide  after the Revolution is over to move Westward. That is how he happen to be in Hawkins County.  He settle there, raise a family.   He have three sons, Jedidiah, Jonathan, and Jerome-- some folk say his whole name were Jereboam, I dunno, anyway, he alway call hisself Jerome.  Plus Jephthah had two daughters, Joanna 'n Elspeth.

"So Jedediah grow up and have a fambly his own, start to prosper real good.  He decide he need to learn to sign his name, as he like to buy up property now an' again, an' he din't wan make a "X" for his mark.  But he soon l'arn that writin' 'Jedediah Loughmiller' were a real chore. Not on'y that, but many people see his name call him 'Low miller,' or  'Loff miller,' 'n he get tired correcting them.  So he decide to call hisself  'Jed Miller.'  An he done hit, make hit legal, too.  Oh, he talk hit over with his brothers, 'n they's no hard feelin's, in fack Jonathan decide to call hisself  'Jonathan L-o-c-k-miller' in order to he'p people call his name aright.  Then on'y Jerome, he stay a 'L-o-u-g-h-miller.'

"Joanna and Elspeth both marry into th' Whitacre clan there in Hawkins County.  Now, Jed Miller were my great-great-grandpa, an' I have lots a Miller cousins.  But they's a whole raft a shirt-tail cousins, Loughmillers, Lockmillers, 'n Whitacres.  Had us a big ol' fambly reunion onc't, right there in Rogersville, '28, I think hit was.  Yep, '28, on account that were the year Hoover were runnin' agin Al Smith fer President.  Oh, yes.  Smith take on'y eight states, an' Tennessee go fer Hoover, but not ever'one in that fambly gatherin' were republican.  Good times, thet get-together!

"Oh, here come your Aunt Grace.  We best be gettin' ready to put the feed bag on!"

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Ida Great Time

Did I ever tell you about my Aunt Ida's tarpon fishin' fo-ray down to Texas?  Waal, Aunt Ida got hooked on fishin' after her husband die, an' she spend lots a money an' even more time on the sport.  She would travel most anywhere for a good time on the lake, the ocean, or the river.  She dearly love to fish.

When Ida learn about the tarpon fishin' off Mustang Island in Texas, she would not rest easy 'til she had done thet.  So she load her best gear in her Hupmobile an' drive on over to Texas.  Now, the lady never in a hurry, an' it tuk her the better part a three week to get to Port Aransas.  She say she have some "adventures" in Atlanta, 'n more'n em in N'Orleans.  Well, she tuk the ferry over to the island and check herself into The Tarpon Inn.  Then she make her arrangements for her fishin' excursion.

Now mought nigh ever'body goin' out is usin' a Farley boat, boat built right there in thet town, design exac'ly for the sort of fishin' thet was done in them waters.  So what do you think happen the mornin' she arrive at the dock to hit the water?  They was a crowd around this one boat, and a whole crew of men come walkin' down the dock pushin' a man in a wheelchair right down to the boat next to where Ida was standin'.  You won't believe me, but as sure as my name is Jeptha Miller, hit were the President a th' Yew-nited States!  Hit was!  Ida were so excited she let out a screech, an' the man hear her, turn his head her way.  He tol' his fellas to "go fetch the little lady."  An' they did.  Tuk her right over and innerduce her ta Mr. Roosevelt!

Well, sir, Ida were so atwitter that she like to not be able ta walk back over to her boat, an' it tuk her most the mornin' to settle down enough to be able to properly take care of what she go down there for.

But that is not all th' story.  Ida catch two nice tarpon, an' when the boat come in, behol' Mr. Roosevelt's boat was comin' in, too.  As he were taken from the boat, he holler over, "Ida, how was the fishin'?"

"Caught two, Mr. President.  How'd you do?"

"Why," he says, "I caught several!"

They all go up for the weigh-in.  Ida's bigger one go seventy-nine pound.  The President's biggest were seventy-seven pound.  "The Little Lady," he says, flashin' thet big ol' grin, "is the Champeen a th' Day!"   Well, sir, Ida has always felt like the Champeen a th' World ever since thet day.

Aunt Ida sign a scale from her fish and pin it to the wall at the Tarpon Inn, alongside hundreds of others.  If'n you go there today you might find her scale should you look hard enough.  She write, "Ida great time in P.A. Texas."

©2014 David W. Lacy

Dancing and Fishing
Wherein Ida and Laura let the good times roll.

Did I tell you what Aunt Ida and her pal, Laura, did the day after they get to Cedar P'int?
Well, sir, Laura 'n Ida were up an' at 'em the next mornin'.  Now the ladies they was talkin' with on the verandy tells 'em more than they onc't know about this here park.  Sure, you can have a world a fun on those rides, but you seen nothin' 'til you see that dance hall, and hit full of people of an evenin'!

So they spend the day ridin' thet Cyclone, and alternatin' atwixt it and High Frolics.  What a view from seventy-five feet in the air!  But that don't last long afore the car come flyin' down th' other side.  "These monstrous coasters are the cat's pajamas!" enthused Laura.

And of course, they were in that swirlin' mob on the dance floor in the Coliseum that evenin'.

"It occurs to me," remark Ida when they return to their room later, "that while the pin was in the middle of the lake, we've done nothing but skirt along its shore."

"All right, then," respond Laura, "we need to find out what one does in the middle of the lake."

An' thet were their next day's project.  Fishin'.  Fishin' fer walleye, that's what one did in the middle a the lake.  So they go to Port Clinton and get a charter to take 'em fishin'.  "Ugh."  Laura's opinion.

"A wonderful lark," says Ida.  "And it is certainly something I've never done before."

Waal, they catch so many fish, and had such a good time, that Ida is hooked on fishin', so to speak, and say it is her new passion.  And there is a whole world of places out there where one can catch fish!  An' doncha know it was on'y a matter of a year afore Ida is off Cape Hatteras fishin' fer marlin.  Catch one, too.  Big one.  Land it herself.  Little bitty woman, five-foot two.  Tuk her nigh four hours to bring hit in.  Hit weigh 511 pounds, I recollect rightly.

Laura, though, did not share Ida's enthusiasm for anglin', so they two friends sorta drift apart.

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Aunt Ida

Wherein two merry widows set off to see the world.

Did I ever tell you about the time Aunt Ida set off on vacation?  

Ida were my mama’s sister, but she were but on’y a year older ‘n me.  So she were one  a th' gang when I were a kid.  Lotsa fun.  Always up fer an adventure, but when she turn seventeen, she finish school, she said, Enough a this place.  I’ma go to the city.  Girl’s gotta grow, and nothin’ grows here but trees ‘n weeds, ‘n scuppernongs.

Well, sir,  she tuk her purse an’ her hatbox and set off fer town.  Twenty mile, hit were, and she walk the whole way.

Ida get to Kingsport, look around a bit and think, "It's not New York, but it is a sight better 'n the Mountain.  She find a job right quick-like, an' a room in a boardin' house.  Waal, Ida were sharp, an' most afore you could say "Jack-in-the-Box," she had married.  She married good, too, on account a though the man were a bit older 'n Ida, he were right well to do.  Widower, he were, lived at the top of the city.  He din't have kids, but he had money.  Lots a money.

Well, sir, tragedy strike whoever it want, and here tragedy struck.  First off, Ida and Paul try to have chil'ren, and it look like it will happen, but the girl miscarry.  An' yet again it happen.  Then Paul drivin' in to work one mornin', same road he always take, beautiful mornin', but a truck comin' through from the left T-bone Paul's car.  Kill him outright.

Anyway, after while Ida an' her friend, Laura Biggs, Laura were a flatlander, come up from Columbia, I think it were, they decide to take a extended vacation.  Ida go downtown and buy a spankin' new Hupmobile.  The girls pin  a big roadmap the Yew-ess-ay on the wall.  Laura blindfold Ida, spin her around three times, and aim her at th' map.  Jus' like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Ida stagger to the map and stick a straight pin in it.  Pin stick smack dab in th' middle a Lake Erie.

Waal, the girls pack up they car and head on out. They drive on up to Cleveland, leisurely, doncha know.  They warn't in a hurry.  Taken in the sights along the way.  So they get to the shores a Lake Erie an' behol' it to be a ocean, so far's they can see!

It din't take the girls long to find that fun were awaitin' at Cedar P'int, so they head westward along the lake.  Arrivin' at the park, they decide to do a run-through to see what's hit all about.  Well, sir, one afternoon 'n they get hooked on them roller coasters.  Never had so much fun in they lives.

Ida says, "We got to find us a place to stay tonight so's we can do this again tomorrow."

And they did.

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Aunt Grace's Sunday School Lesson

Aunt Grace was ready for church.  She had only two blocks to walk, but, truth be told, it rankled her spirit a bit that she had to walk it by herself.  And that wasn't good for the development of worshipful attitude.  "C'mon, now Jeptha.  Throw on that shirt and go along with me."

"Now, Grace, you know I gotta replace the leathers in that pump.  An' besides, the Bible say, "The Lord help those who help themselves."

"Jeptha Miller, the Bible says no such thing.  It actually teaches that without God, we are helpless.  Besides, that pump will still be a-sittin' there after services are over."

Well, Aunt Grace started quoting scriptures, had the references, too.  "Isaiah 25:4 says, Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in distress.   In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Romans 5:6 tells us For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

"Does that sound like we are taught to help ourselves?  Seems to me it says we are pretty helpless, but for the grace and strength of God."

Uncle Jep had shrugged his shirt on, and said nothing as he was buttoning the last of the buttons.


Wherein the lady's purchases makes work for her man.  Electrifying!

The second day at the sawmill left me to pull off and stack by myself, because Red Hurd had a prior commitment.  But Grandpa was there, brighter than a penny and chirkier than Pollyanna.  "Waal," he enthused, "Old Sol'll be up in a minute.  God has started His day; we best be gettin' ours started."

"Grandpa, your enthusiasm is less contagious than it is irritating at this hour."

"Lad, you are in for a miserable and probably difficult life, you don't re-adjust your attitude."

"Aw," I replied, "you know I'm only funning with you."

"Yeah, I know.  But I'm tellin' the truth.  Come on, let's fire up that mill."

It was a smooth morning of good work, even if we were short-handed.  We finished the last log just before eleven o'clock.  We all sat down by the pump, had us each a long draught of cool water.  Uncle Jep said, "Sam, you din't finish tellin' whut Mary and Margaret bought over to Lamar thet day."  Grandpa and I both near fainted, we were so taken aback.  Could this be, that Jep Miller was asking someone else to spin a yarn?  Seems it was, for he said, "Go on, now, Sam.  We been waitin' since yestiddy to get the wherefores of your tale."

"Waal, I told you the womenfolk got in the truck, and Mary tells me to drive on over to the loading dock at the Mercantile.  So I did it.  There was a stack of boxes yea high waitin' for us.  Mark Todd was standing there with the lading recipe for me to sign.  The first box warn't too heavy, maybe twenty, twenty-five pound.  The next two were real light.  Now what could that be?  Those women haven't been hornswoggled into buying two boxes of air, have they?  The next five boxes were middlin' to heavy, like machinery, I'd say.

Waal, there's nothin' for it but that I tell you what those gals had done.  The first box was dry goods and notions, enough material, threads and ribbons to keep their sewing projects going for who knows how long.  The two "airy" boxes, no, not air, but foolishments, nevertheless, but don't ye ever tell Mary or Margaret I said that.  Hats.  They each bought a new hat.  Why, what is the world comin' to, woman spend a man's hard-earned cash on such frivolous things."

"Where you been, Sam?" asked Uncle Jep.  "Women been purely attracted to folderol since Rachel put Laban's idols in her kip.  But get on with it.  Whut was in the heavy boxes?"

"That is the part you won't believe.  Now Mary went and bought a new Zenith Farm Radio, Tombstone model.  Said she couldn' afford to pass it up, as they was offerin' a Wincharger* for only fifteen dollars with purchase of the radio."

"So how much did it cost you for the radio and all?"  I in my impertinence interjected.

"I'm comin' to that," Grandpa growls.  "I swan, this younger generation have no patience at all."  Anyway, the radio was thirty dollars.  I mean, do you know how long it takes a man to accumulate thirty dollars?  Then there was the fifteen for the charger.  And then, then you have to have warr, and staples, and insulators and all thet electrical mumbo jumbo.  And it were all in there, too, because that salesman really knew what he was doin'.  "How far," he said, "is it from the house to the toolshed?"

"Oh," Mary replied, "see that lamppost on the other side the street, down there in front of Mode o' Day?  About that far."

"Good, then.  You'll need about 130 feet of wire.  I'll give you 150, anything longer than five feet you don't need, we'll refund.  Six insulators, box of staples.  You are all set to go then.  Sam will get a kick out of this."

"Well, of course I growled some," continued Grandpa, "like what in the name of Sam Hill do we need with a radio?"  Well, she told me, and I've said no more about it.  Set to work and installed the little tower on top the tool shed, ran the wire.  Neat job I did, too.  Charger not only take care of the battery for the radio, I hung a old headlight from that Essex we dumped by the creek.  Put 'er up right there in the kitchen.  Why, it is just like daylight there in the kitchen of an evenin'.  Radio reception?  You would not believe the places we can listen to after the sun goes down, and Mary so enjoys the foolishments that are on that thing of an afternoon.  Well, a man shouldn't deprive his lady person of a few little pleasures in life.  Lord knows she works her fingers to the bone around the place."

*Many companies made wind chargers for battery operated electrical equipment on the farm in the day prior to rural electrification.  Wincharger Corporation of Sioux City, Iowa was one of the premier manufacturers of wind powered chargers.  In 1934, executives of the Zenith Radio Corporation made a visit to the factory, placed an order for 50,000 units and took 51% interest in the company. 

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Making Boards

Wherein Grandpa assumes the role of storyteller.  The Old Uncle is less than thrilled.

Grandpa and Red pulled up in Red's red International as I was toting the last two pails of milk from the barn to the separator in the cellar.  Aunt Grace was turning out the last of the previous load as I poured the next bucket in.

Uncle Jep had let the cows out the stanchions and opened the gate to the east pasture.  He and I strolled over to the saw where Grandpa was checking the belts and levers.  "'Bout time you got around.  Been sleepin' in?"

I glanced to the east and saw that the sun was an exact semi-circle on the edge of the earth, knew it was just a smidge before five-thirty.  How many cows you milked this morning?" I asked.

"You may never live long enough to milk as many cows as I have.  You are a bit impertinent, talking to your grandfather like that.  I done been over to Red's this morning, and we already reconnected his windmill shaft where the bolt broke last night.  Enough sass.  Let's get to work."

I won't bore you with the details.  Grandpa is a cracker-jack sawyer.  We all buck the logs onto the carriage, Grandpa and Uncle turn and set them, then Grandpa grabs his levers and BUZZ-ZZZ.  Red and I carry off and stack the boards.

Eleven o'clock Aunt Grace bustles down to the sawmill.  "All y'all on up to the kitchen, now.  Vittles on the table."  I hit the kill switch on the engine, and we all trudged up to the house  where we washed up at the tub by the back door.  The five of us settled in at the table and relished Aunt Grace's scrumptious meatloaf with mashed taters and gravy, green beans she had picked from the garden just yesterday.  Pie, of course.  Cherry this time.

"Did I ever tell you about the time Mary's mother, Margaret came out here and stayed and stayed?" Grandpa asked as we scooted back to relax a few minutes before we went back to work.

"You mean the time you messed with her shoes, 'n then she went home on account a Marvin broke his foot?"  Uncle Jep, of course.  "Man, that woman is a stayer, fer sure.  I recollect. . ."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Jeptha Miller.  You jump in and steal someone else's story.  And no, I'ma not talkin' about shoes.  Mary says to me one evening, "Mama and I are going into Lamar tomorrow.  I reckon that Double A truck will haul the three of us."

So I says, says I, "Then you and your mama are expecting me to drive you into town."

"Yes, " and she blew out the lamp.  Well, I lyin' there thinkin' all the things I had planned for tomorrow gonna have to move to another day, 'cause there is no arguin' with those two when they have made up their minds.

Bright clear morning, not going to be too hot, probably won't get much over ninety.  We drove on over to Lamar, and I am going right down Main Street.  When we get to Olive, Mary says, "You just pull over here and let us out.  Pick us up right here in two hours.  That's not two hours and ten minutes.  Hear?  And go on and do what old men do while hanging around town.  And don't go over to the pool hall, either."

"Well, she knew full well I'd go over to the pool hall.  Now I hadn't shot any pool in a coon's age, but I hadn't lost the touch, either."

Uncle Jep's mill been plugged long as he can stand, so he pipes up and says, "Didja whup up on ol' Harley Dice?  Man, he needin' his ears pinned back."

"Matter of fact," says Grandpa, "I did give him a couple games of eight ball.  Cleaned his clock, too."

"Take any of his money?" asked Red.

"Six, eight dollars," replied Grandpa.  "It was just for fun, doncha know.  Well, I am back at Main and Olive right on the dot.  Those two ladies just rounding the corner from the Mercantile.

They get in the truck and Mary says, "Just drive on around back to the loading dock at the Mercantile."

"There's words to strike fear into a man's heart, believe me.  And oh, my, in this case it were justified fear.  But story time is over for now.  We gotta get back on the saw.  Still have logs begging to be sliced."

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Moving Trees and Shopping Sprees

Wherein we learn of an unfettered shopping binge.

Well, Uncle Jep had Burl Moffitt bring his old flatbed truck over, and we invited Jake Palmer to bring his McCormick with the lift.  A couple good neighbors is worth more than a city full of lawyers and stockbrokers.  The four of us had wrestled all those logs we had stacked over by the river onto the truck and had hauled them to the sawmill on our place.  Took two trips.  Old saw will be plenty busy.

"Good day's work," chuckled Uncle Jep as we were taking off our jackets and boots in the mud room.  "Tomorrow looks to be a perfect day fer sawin'."

We went into the kitchen where Aunt Grace had supper ready to set on the table.  Pork chops and fried taters!  "Hit du'n't get any better than this!" Uncle enthused as he patted Aunt Grace on the behind.  "Stop now, you Old Coot, and set yourself down."  Auntie joined us at the table long enough to say a blessing over the food, yes, and over mighty near everyone she knew, or had ever heard of.  I swan, I thought the pork chops would be cold before she got "our President and our nation" blessed and said "Amen."  Uncle and I muttered our "amen" and Aunt Grace was up and bustling about as she served us our meal.  Corn dodger and turnip greens to go with!  Man, it is no wonder I love this place.

We all tucked in, and as we were slowing down and mopping the last morsels from our plates, Uncle Jep said, "Your grandpa is coming over right early in the mornin'.  Bringin' Red Hurd with him.  The four of us can make a lot of lumber afore the sun sets.  Did I ever tell you about the time Red Hurd got that bull from over to the Huerfano?  Oh, yeah.  I recollect I tole you that.  Anyway, after Red got that bull, Maybelle says to him, 'You can spend a fortune on a ugly ol' beast like thet, I kin take some time and money to go to Denver to see my sister.'  Waal, ya can't argue with a woman's logic, an' she went.  Red carried her over to Lamar to catch the train, on account a the Chief nor none of the faster trains stop anywhere in our neighborhood.

"So Maybelle's sister, Irene, you may recollect Irene, married Stubs McAnally from clear over to Dalhart, but they settle in Denver soon after they marry, Irene meet Maybelle at Union Station.   Stubs' real name were Grover, but ever'one call him "Stubs" after he get the fingers on his left hand am-pu-tated in the mill accident over to Swink.  Waal, he di'n't mind the moniker on account a he never did much cotton to "Grover" anyways.  So afore he come up thisaway, Grover grow up around Dalhart, an ever'one says he had a sweetheart there who done broke his heart, so to speak.  Beauty, she was.  You heard a her, Veronica Land she call herself now.  Been in pitchers out to Hollywood several years.  Well, Stubs got mighty lucky, you ask me.  Not a better woman on earth than Irene, salt a the earth.  Well, Maybelle is, too.  The Wrights knew how to bring up younguns, those girls and both they brothers would give you they last dime, you needed it.  And Veronica, my land sakes, she been married four, five times now, or so they say, not that I would pay any attention."  I sneaked a look at Aunt Grace out the corner of my eye.  And she was rolling her eyes, I tell you.

"So," continued the old Uncle, "those two girls painted thet town, I tell ya.  They got this here Daniels and Fisher de-partment store over to Denver 'n Maybelle not been shoppin' in a coon's age, and a long-tooth coon, at thet.  Believe me when I tell you she 'n Irene like to clean the place out.  I mean, she hadda pack and ship her buys by Railway Express, and even the shippin' costs was somethin' to make yer eyes pop.  'Course Red know better than to say a word about any of it.  Well, I reckon I might should 'scuse myself now."

"Oh, now,"  Aunt Grace speaking.  "Here," she says as she sets the plates in front of us, "please to try some of this apricot pie I made this afternoon."  Both of us made many an "Ooh," and "Ah!" and "This is wonderfuls" as we enjoyed the flakiest crust and sweetest fruit ever set before a man.  And Aunt Grace ate it up; the compliments, I mean.  Well, the pie, too.

 At last, Jep scooted his chair back from the table.  “Thank you, Sweet Thang,” he says to Aunt Grace, and he gave her a peck on the forehead.  “I’ma toddle off to bed now; gotta be up when the rooster crows.  You, too, Sonny.  Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Text © 2014 David W. Lacy

Sawmills, Dogs, and Calves

"Hand me that one-and-a-quarter box wrench, Boy."  Uncle Jep held his left hand toward me without raising his head from beneath the frame.  Grandpa and Uncle Jep have this old sawmill they cobbled together years ago.  We are getting it ready to saw some logs we've had stacked for a couple years down by the river.  Those two old coots have got it into their heads that they can erect a new chicken coop and storage barn with the native timber they have collected.  I am not exactly work-brickle, but I hate that sawmill.  You would too, could you see that 48-inch blade in action!

So anyway, I am told that years ago Uncle Jep and Grandpa argued the merits of building their own sawmill as opposed to carting the logs miles away and hauling the lumber home, and paying someone else to do what they could do themselves.  Well, as they travelled about the countryside doing their work here and there, junk started coming home with them, a few pieces at a time.  Rails for a carriage, scrap iron for frames and beds, the old rusty Buick.  And now here stands the testimony to their ingenuity and perseverance.  And here we are, Uncle Jep working on that old Buick straight eight that powers this monstrosity.

"I ha'n't tole you I went over t'see Eldon last night.  Been two months now since we carried him home from that field yonder.  Eldon's doin' right well, now.  Doc Barrett tells him that fer a man what suffered a stroke like he did, he is right lucky.  Well, you've seen him a time or two and know that his right leg is a bit game.  Speech still some slurred, too.  But he is right alert, and determined, too.  Since you saw him, his gait has improved a good 'eal.  We walked together to his hen house last evenin'.  He made it fine.  His talkin' is easier to follow now.  Du'n't seem to have any memory loss or mental lapses.  Fact is, he tole me what he was up to in that field the day he was struck.  Gonna put 'er in broomcorn, can he get all that yucca and tumbleweeds cleaned out.

"Now crank that thing while I crawl outta here."  I jerked the crank once.  She fired immediately.  Uncle adjusted the idle, revved it a bit and she was purring like a kitten.  Then we set to getting the belts down, installing them and dressing them.  While we were attending to the task, Uncle Jep said, "Did I ever finish tellin' you about the time my dog, Budge, brought in that red calf durin' the snowstorm? Yep, jes' comin' on dark and the snow was fallin' perty good, not a blizzard, but definitely gonna pile us up some snow.  I was jes' comin' up from the hen house with a bucket a eggs when here come Budge a pantin' and a whinin'.  I set my bucket down an' start rubbin' his ears.  But he turn back to the barn lot and start barkin'.  'Okay, Boy,' I says, 'let's go see what you want.'

"Well, doncha know he got me back a the barn lot an' layin' there in a snowbank is this little red calf.  Could see she jus' been born a little while ago.  I could see from the tracks that Budge had got her to walk to here, but then she musta drop an' could'n go on.  Well, sir, I pick up the calf and take her to the house an' set Grace to workin' on her.  I start to set down by the farr, but Budge won't have it.  He grab my jacket cuff and he tug me toward the door.  Long story short, he take me out in that snow storm and lead me plumb down to that elder stand by the crick.  An' what do you think?  Layin' there up agin her Mama's body is another calf!  Ol' Maudie had done had twins, but hit were too much for her.  The cow were dead, but the calf were still alive.

"Anyway, those two are Jennie and Jodie, and you well know they are our best milkers.  Good ol' Budge.  He were some dog!

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Broken Ditches and Big Yucca

A few days after our "reconciliation," Uncle Jep and I were cleaning the ditch along the back forty.  Work was going well and the sun was approaching its zenith. We simultaneously jammed our shovels into the bank, straightened our backs, and as Uncle was wiping the sweat from his face with the red paisley bandana he always carried, I said, "The cottonwood tree or the elderberries?"  But before he could answer we were both distracted by the clop of a rapidly approaching horse.  And there she was,  Eldon Moffitt's chestnut mare, running directly toward us.

The horse pulled up directly in front of me, blew and snorted.  "Grab her bridle," Uncle said.  Now Uncle knows that I don't like horses, and I was more than a little tempted to tell him to grab her himself.  But something told me that what was happening here was more than a bit unusual.  I grabbed.  The animal submitted at once.  Then without undue pulling, but with some urgency, the beast began to head around toward the direction she came from.  She pulled.  "Mount her, boy," Uncle Jep said.  "Find out what she wants."  I got on board.  Now usually when a horse senses that the rider is uneasy, she will give that rider a hard time.  And I know that she had to be aware that I scarcely knew what I was doing.  Nevertheless, she started gently back along the fence row, walking quickly, but never breaking into a run.

We went perhaps 200 rods along the fencerow, then the horse turned into a fallow field.  Ten rods, fifteen rods, and she suddenly stopped.  There directly in front of the horse, lying face down under the edge of a  huge tumbleweed was Mr. Moffitt.  By the time I had dismounted, Uncle Jep rode up on the old Avery we had taken out with us that morning.  We quickly turned Eldon face up and determined that he was alive.  He was not able to tell us what had happened, but clearly he was suffering intense physical discomfort.  He had not fallen from the horse, for the adze he had been using was still clasped in his right hand, and the evidence of his efforts were right there .  A few more whacks and the roots of the yucca would have been completely severed.  "Never saw a horse do such a thing," remarked Uncle Jep.  "Now, I had a dog once, Budge, his name was. Did I ever tell you about the time Budge.  .  ."

"Please, Uncle, I want to hear your tale, but we gotta get this man home first.  Plenty of time for talking later."

Uncle Jep fixed a steely eye on me.  One second, two seconds, three. Then he said, "Absodoubtly without a loot; yer right.  Stories later.  Now we'll heist him up onto this here steed, then I'll ride behind him and hold onto him.  Good horse, she can easy carry double.  You drive that tractor on over to Moffitts and tell the Missus we're on the way over.  Then go on over to Restons and call for Doc Barrett."

And that is what we did.


Did I ever tell you about the time Jason Sloan. . ."

"Wait a minute, Uncle Jep.  You are just about to wander off from yarn spinning into tale bearing.  There has been entirely too much said about things people know too little about."

"Dagnabit, Boy.  You are getting to be one hard case to talk to about just about anything," Uncle Jep asserted in a voice just below the level of a holler.  He threw down his hoe and headed toward the barn.

I knew that Uncle would sulk for a while.  What I didn't know was that it would be near three weeks before he spoke to me again.  For example, at the supper table, Uncle Jep says to Aunt Grace who is opposite him, me sitting next to him on his left, "Ma, please ask the Boy to pass me those taters."

This put a real crimp in my education, for much of what I learn I pick up from working with Uncle Jep.  But he made it a point to leave instructions for me with Aunt Grace.  Then he would disappear for the day.  But there are some benefits, too.  I actually believe that the both of us got more work done during that three weeks than we had ever done when working together.  But, as Uncle Jep later said, "Hit warn't much fun."  I accepted that as an accommodation, if not an apology, nor was I about to apologize, but I did say, "I surely have missed hearing your yarns," which he accepted by saying, "Then be still and listen when Ima talkin'."

But I did note that his tales were less scandalous thereafter.

© 2014 David W. Lacy


For four years Geoffrey John Slade had plied the Lower Mississippi riverboat game.  Early in the game he had moved from boat to boat, practicing his con games and his prowess at the card tables.  Slade traveled unarmed.  In the 1850s this was virtually unheard of.  No revolver, no derringer, and he never so much as carried a knife.  His theory was that charm defused any situation, and his practice of this theory proved to be effective.

In June of 1853, though, Slade’s fortunes increased immeasurably when he settled on Grand Turk as his more-or-less permanent home.  This riverboat had a capacity of 4400 bales of cotton.  She carried forty stateroom passengers, and hoi polloi in numbers up to 300 passengers, depending upon direction of travel and time of year.  The boat plied the Great River from New Orleans to Memphis, and up the Ohio to Louisville.  Slade was good at what he did.  It was clear, though, that things were about to change in this country.  Differences of opinion, philosophy, and differences in theories of economic practice and human relations between the North and the South were stretching things to the breaking point.  Old Geoff did a bit of reflection and personal analysis.  He is 31 years of age, has no roots and nothing to look forward to but ceaseless trips up and down the river.  He made a plan, a bold and daring plan, but one that if successful would see him into a new and different lifestyle.

Just before nine o’clock in the evening of January 17, 1854, Grand Turk pulled in to the landing at Napoleon, Arkansas where she picked up seven passengers for Vicksburg and New Orleans.  When she steamed from the wharf an hour later, Geoffrey John Slade was no longer on board.  But this fact was not to be discovered until the great steamer was far, far down the river.  Meanwhile, Geoff with all his own worldly goods, that is, the clothes on his back and the hat and boots he wore, and one large carpet bag which contained the cash gains of the man’s gaming exploits in which he had recently done well, indeed.  In addition, the bag contained most of the cash that had lately been nestled inside the steamboat’s vault.  By the time it was discovered that the boat no longer carried its cash, Mr. Slade was many miles up the Arkansas on a small but fast packet that ran from the Mississippi to the interior of Arkansas.  The man’s good fortune, or guile, or good looks, or whatever combination of these it might have been held fast as he settled in Little Rock. 

On February 6 that same year while at wharf in New Orleans, the Grand Turk, along with a dozen other craft, burned.  On that same day,  G. Jason Sloan opened a land office in downtown Little Rock.

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Sloan: The Second Generation

By 1871, Jason Sloan, considered to be one of Little Rock’s finest citizens, had amassed a small fortune in his business of real estate development, along with several shrewd investments in various enterprises in the state.  He performed his business duties with the same acumen which had made him a successful operator on the River.  His charm continued to be one of his greatest assets.  He had also by this time a beautiful wife, daughter of a state senator, who had stood beside him for these past ten years and had given him three excellent children, two boys and a girl.

There were those who would have avidly supported Sloan had he chosen to run for governor, and there were those who encouraged him to do just that.  But as we have seen, Jason was a shrewd individual.  He knew that power is exercised not in the offices where the titled people operate, but in the backrooms by people such as himself, bright, charming, moneyed, and incidentally, ruthless.  He exercised his power in this fashion, and by 1880 nothing moved in the State of Arkansas without Sloan’s imprimatur.  His elder son, John, was in his third year at Princeton, his daughter, Melissa,  who was just this season presented to society seemed poised to be the next “Belle of the South.”  His younger son, Lewis, at a mere sixteen years of age, decided that enough was too much and he departed for parts unknown.  Sloan himself would say, “Two out of three is not bad.”  But underneath this apparent cavalier attitude was the breaking heart of a loving father.  And, of course, with his resources, and unbeknownst to Lewis, Jason was aware of every move the boy made, knew exactly where he was and with whom he was associating.

Following only so far in his father’s footsteps, Lewis boarded a riverboat bound upstream to Fort Smith.  Lewis, though, did not undertake any form of gambling or graft, for what he lacked in guile, he made up for in ambition and raw physical work.  He traveled as a hand on the boat, chucking wood, firing boilers and generally taking sharp orders of the sort he would have resented had they come from his father.  He made two runs from Little Rock to Fort Smith, then decided that life on the river was not a career option.  He worked on the docks in Fort Smith, he worked in the livery, and wherever or for whomever he worked it was remarked that he was a go-getter.

Lewis Sloan had arrived in Fort Smith at a propitious time for an ambitious young man.  It was a mere five years earlier that Isaac Parker, later renowned far and wide, was named to the bench at the Federal District Court.  He, along with the federal marshals and other law enforcement officers, was “cleaning up” a heretofore lawless region, including not only Northwestern Arkansas, but also the Indian Territory across the River.  The decade of the 80s was a boom time for Fort Smith.  The population more than tripled to about 12,000 souls.  In June of 1886, a packet arrived with a shipment of goods, including industrial machinery, but the man to whom it was addressed was no where to be found.  The captain of the boat ordered the stuff unloaded on the dock.  Lewis was in the right place at the right time.  With his connections at the livery, he was able to obtain horses and drays with which to move the equipment, and with his small savings he rented a building, not much more than a shed, but with a roof overhead.  There he placed his find, and his road to riches, while not yet paved, certainly was under construction.  His business grew with the town.

Steamboat 'City of Muskogee' on Arkansas River

Lewis married, of course, as young men, given the opportunity, will do.  Sally Ford had arrived in Fort Smith by train, the railroad having arrived there a decade earlier.  Her father was a furniture manufacturer from Philadelphia, and he was in town to establish a western branch of his company.   It was only natural that a manufacturer in need of equipment was going to deal with Lewis Sloan, and one thing led to another.

Marshall Sloan was born in 1888.  His parents had just seen their twenty-fourth birthdays, yet he was the only child born to the union.  A family reunion, one in which Jason Sloan was privileged to meet this new grandchild, took place in 1891, when the elder Sloan came to Fort Smith to study the possibility of establishing a glass factory.  The recent discovery of gas made that a possibility, and  it was done, but more importantly, the splintered family was reconciled.

Text© 2014 David W. Lacy

Sloan: Higher Up the River

During the last decade of the nineteenth century, Jason Sloan spent much time in Western Arkansas.  He was enthralled with his grandson, Marshall, and the boy adored his Grandpa.  Sloan’s wife had died only five years after her youngest child, Lewis, left home.  John Sloan graduated with honors from  Princeton, took his JD from Harvard Law.  He married extremely well, remained in the East and became one of New Jersey’s leading lawyers.  He was later elected to the United States Congress.  He had no children.

Jason’s daughter, as we might have predicted, married old money from the Deep South.  She lived in New Orleans the rest of her life.  She had one child, a son.  This story is not about him.

Marshall Sloan had taken an early interest in mineralogy, and from the time he was seven years of age, he and his grandfather took extended camping trips to the Pencil Bluff area, searching for and studying the minerals to be found in that area.  It was good that these fellows had this time together, for in June 1901, at the age of 78, Jason Sloan, once known on the Great River as Geoffrey John Slade, played his last hand. Marshall, thirteen years old at the time, took this loss very hard; but his interest in all things mineral continued.

 In 1906 Marshall matriculated at Colorado School of Mines where he pursued formal studies in his beloved field.  For the rest of his life, he was given to telling one and all that “the years I spent in Golden were the key to my happiness.”  Indeed, it was at Mines that Marshall met Jacqueline Boyce who was to become his wife.  Miss Boyce matriculated as a civil engineering student when Marshall was in his junior year.  Though she finished only two years due to her decision to marry Mr. Sloan, she was a brilliant woman and a strong help-meet to her husband.  Mr. Sloan’s in-depth studies of metallurgy and chemistry positioned him well for the career that he envisioned.  Marshall graduated in the Spring of 1910 .  He was immediately hired by Colorado Fuel and Iron.  He moved to Pueblo and went to work at once.  He was instrumental in overseeing the construction of the first coke furnaces in the Pueblo works.  These went into service in 1916.  The successes Mr. Sloan had in his endeavors could only insure his future, and a stellar career he had.

In addition to achievement of success in his own right, which seems to have followed this line of the Sloan family down through the generations, we should note that the original Slade/Sloan progenitor disposed of his enormous financial holdings in a most interesting way.  His wife predeceased him, his children were all financially well-fixed.  So, naming each of his children, Jason bequeathed to each one dollar.  The balance of his estate, then, was to be divided equally three ways.  One third to Marshall, one-third to the Louisiana grandson, and the remaining third to establish and support “in perpetuity” a river transportation museum to be devoted to the conservation of the history of the role of the riverboat in America’s development.

For the purposes of our story,  it is sufficient to note that Marshall Sloan was an extremely wealthy man.  Jacqueline and Marshall had but one child, Jason, whom they named after Marshall’s beloved grandfather. We met Jason earlier as Uncle Jep spun one of this yarns in which we learned that Nancy Woodson was the object of one of  Uncle Mack’s daydreams, but she married Jason Sloan.  Uncle said, “You recollect the Sloans.”  Indeed, everyone on the Upper Arkansas knows the Sloans.  Today, there is scarce a charitable endeavor in the Valley which does not have the names and some of the money of Marshall and Jacqueline Sloan.

Text© 2014 David W. Lacy

And Then There Were None

It was Mark Twain who observed that the promise of a tale to be told is too frequently lost in the telling.
"As the lecturer remarked, this whole region is blanketed with Indian tales and traditions.  But I reminded him that people usually merely mentioned this fact--doing it in a way to make a body's mouth water--and judiciously stopped there.  Why?  Because the impression left was that these tales were full of incident and imagination--a pleasant impression which would be promptly dissipated if the tales were told."*
At this stage of the telling of the history of the Sloan family on the Arkansas, one discovers that indeed the promise has been fulfilled to the extent that it may be done.  For to continue would require the telling of the fortunes of this Jason Sloan, great grandson of Jason Sloan, the progenitor of the line.

Truly, there are tales best left untold.

*Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, chapter 59. 

© 2014 David W. Lacy

Hi, I'm Al of the Daily News

Did I tell you about the time your Uncle Alfred become a newspaper man?  Well, you know Uncle Al is your Mama's youngest brother 'n he was still to home after all the others done moved on to they own homes.  He was a bright one, though, an' he loved to read and write.  Now that, he taken after his mama, I reckon.  So when he's about twelve,  thirteen, he gets this idee to become a news reporter.  He start nosin' around the community, keepin' open his eyes and ears.  Whenever he hear somethin' or see somethin' he think is newsworthy, he goes and writes it up.

In the dinin' room is this big ol' oak table and smack in the middle of it, your grandma keep this big ol' marble slab, oh, 'bout a foot wide and twicet as long.  Musta weight twenty-five, thirty pound.  So anyways, Al would skootch the slab to the edge the table and use it as a desk for his writin'.  Grampa tole him, "You break that slab, we use it as a headstone for your new dug grave."  Well, it was a heirloom, doncha know.  Fambly tale was that it was one hunnert percent Eye-talian marble and that it come over from Europe with the first of the Harris settlers to this new land.  Hit had been in the fambly for at least seven generations, if nobody had lost count.

Well, Al keep his pencil sharp with his little pen knife, and after while he decide to contact the newspaper about workin' for them.  Now he din't just write off to the editor, neither.  No, sir.  He write the editor personal by name.  It were Everett Grimes over at the Lamar Daily News back then.  Al say he can keep the paper updated on important goin's on around Holly, and he sent along a sample a his work.

Well, ol' Grimes were some pleased with what he read, and he was impressed by the boy's gumption, so he writes back and tells the lad that if he submit a story each week, hit will be considered "on its merits" an' if it is published he will be paid a dollar.

Whut a deal!  Anyways, there was no holdin' the boy back now.  Soon ever'body in that corner the county knowed that Al was a reporter for the News.  An' bout ever' other week, his stuff got run in the paper.  Hit did.  An' that's how your uncle become a newspaper man.

'Course all good things come to an end, so they say.  Al's news career come to an end when he mail in a story to ol' Grimes about a good time had by local residents over to Coolidge.  The story mention a local school marm and  Banker Wills, whose wife, according to the story, was in Denver at the time of the alleged party.  Needless to say, the story did not make the cut at the newspaper, but it did boil Grimes's blood some.  Not only was Banker Wills the president of the bank in Holly, he was a state representative up to Denver, and he held some paper on a property Grimes had over to Springfield.  But that warn't what got Grimes a goin'.  The afore mentioned school marm was sister to Mrs. Grimes.

Well, Everett Grimes were a gentleman, an 'stead of jus' firin' Al outright, he get in his Essex and drive on over to Holly and look the boy up.  He explain to the lad in quite some detail whut newspaperin' is all about, what a reporter's responsibilities are.  How to tell news from, well, you get the idea.  Suggest maybe someday when he graduate school Al might come on over to Lamar and talk to him.

Then Grimes drive on over to the bank.

© 2014 David W. Lacy

The 21st Amendment

Did I ever tell you about the 21st Amendment?  Well, I shoun't have to tell you, on accounta you shoulda learned hit in school.  But, howsumever, I mought tell you about whut hit done for the Valley.  Well you do know that this fambly has been strong agin alcohol forever and ever, amen.  But what you haven't prolly thought about is that opposin' alcohol and supportin' prohibition ain't 'zactly the same thing.

Now I reckon I'm talkin' my own opinion here, so if'n your Granma, or your Aunt Grace express a differin' opinion, why jus' go along with 'em.  They not gonna change they minds.  Whut I believe is that when this nation outlawed alcohol, they done made outlaws out'n a big part a the population.  Bigger prollem than the law kin handle.  The on'y way to fix it is to repeal prohibition.  Which we done.  Done 'er in December of '33, and so New Year's Eve that year were a boozin' legal good time a drinkin' and whoopin' it up.  "Happy days are here again!"  Indeedy.  Now I don't hold with drinkin'.  Even the Bible say, "Wine is a mocker, an' strong drink is ragin'."  But I think people have to be responsible for theyselves.  And they for sure gonna drink if they want to, legal or not.

So Fred Beachum, ever'body call him "Freddy" you know, had a speakeasy over to Lamar.  Illegal as sin itself, but ever'body know hit were there, and ever'body whut want to drink know how to get there.  Well, Freddy see the handwritin' on the wall, so to speak, and when the states start ratifying that 21st, he start makin' plans not to go out of bidness, but how to continue bidness as usual, but in a legal way.  He know there'd be more competition, but he weren't worried none, on account he would be in on the ground floor, so to speak.  Well, Freddy bought hisself a farm out by Kornman.  Had a big ol' barn on the place, 'n he convert it into a nightclub, rolled and packed a big ol' field for parkin' and announce his grand openin' for New Year's Eve, 1933.

Party?  Why I guess so!  New York nor none a them big places have anythin' over on this county when it come to partyin'.   Ol' Sheriff Coleman and Lamar's own Mayor Grubbs did the ribbon cuttin' ceremony.  Sheriff hisself wielded the scissors!  Well, no, I warn't there, but ever'body still talkin' about hit clear unto the next New Year!

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Work Brickle:  A Christmas Story

Did I ever tell you about your Uncle Mil's Christmas?  Well, Milford, he had a reputation around Lamar.  Ever' one said he was work brickle.  Wal' he warn't work brickle, he were more "boss brickle."  See, when he was still a teenager his older brother get him a job on the railroad.  Whut he done was he sat up with the switch engine in the yards, kept it stoked and the steam up durin' the night when it maybe warn't being used.  Wal' it were a fine job, pay was good and the hours were reg'lar if'n you didn't mind sittin' in the cab a the donkey all night.

So anyways, one Monday night as he come to work his boss, Nick Cartee, you know Nick, married Sue Ann Sumter from over to Hasty, Nick come up and say, "Hey, Mil.  This is your last week here.  Hate to lose you, but the company is sendin' you to Dodge.  You start over there next Monday.  'Course you hafta move over there, but ya get a bit more dough, and it's a move up.  No tellin' how far you go with the company, Kid."

"Nuts to that," says Mel.  "I quit right now.  I ain't a leavin' Lamar."

"Now, wait, now.  You got that firebox to keep up tonight.  And besides, jobs don't grow on trees."

"Fire it yourself."

So then Mil find work at the mill.  Mil at the mill.  Har!  Doin' pretty well, too, until his boss come around and give him a new assignment, and you might guess how that turn out.  Boss brickle, like I say.

Anyways, Mil take a few days to red up around his own place, get a load a stuff to haul off to the dump.  He get to the dump and he see these trailers backin' in and thowin' off perfeckly good junk.  And a light go off in his head, like in the funny papers.  First thing you know, Mil is pickin' the place, stackin' stuff aside and haulin' hit home.  Now he sorts stuff, repairs stuff, peddles stuff hither and yon and dreckly he is makin' a pile of money.  Then, behol' one day he sees a scruffy bum poachin' on his territory, so to speak.  Now Mil ain't one for confront-ation, so he goes off to town to see the mayor.  Mayor Grubbs come up here from Oklahoma years ago, but that's another story.  Next thing you know, Mil have a contract givin' him rights to whatsoever people thow off over to the dump.  Now he is in business for sure, and no matter what folk say about him, he is workin' harder now than most anyone else in town, and the po-lice keepin' poachers out his territory!

Now kids around town make fun of Mil, you know, because he is always pickin' and not always in a bidness suit, you might say.  You know how it goes, "Dirty Mil, dirty Mil, live on top a garbage hill." But Mil is shrewd, and he know which folk thow stuff out, and which ones never show up at his workplace.

Then a really cold and blustery Christmas Eve come along and ever'body stayin' cozy in they houses.  But lo! On Christmas mornin' folk at twenty-five, thirty houses find the most wonderful collection a toys on they front steps.  Santa done come, and no one saw hit happen.  Well, there was some talk around town.  But when the same thing happen again the next Christmas Eve, people really start to wonder who is blessin' them thisa way.  It is fine for the kids to believe it is Santa, but we know better.

So on the next 24th a December, three, four a the guys make it up amongst theyselves to find out once and for all who the Secret Santa is.  By postin' theyselves around town, keepin' a low profile, so to speak, Frank Chambers, you know Frank, has the weldin' shop back a the school?  Frank finely 'bout 'leven o'clock spot Santa at work down on South 4th Street.  Busted!  Hit were Milford.  Now whilst Mil was makin' his own livin' sortin' and sellin' rags and metal and all sort a junk, he was collectin' toys and takin' 'em home where he spend his evenin's repairin' and paintin' and makin' those toys just like new!  And on Christmas Eve he was brightenin' the lives of a whole passel a kids who he know warn't likely to get much fer Christmas.

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Trouble in Paradise

Did I tell you about the time Mack joined the Marines? Mack was plum sick and tired of that passel of kids runnin' around the house, and his Ma just never seemed to have enough of 'em, good Lord. There warn't nothin' to do around here fer him to earn his way, and he warn't gonna be no farmer. Enough generations of farmin' in the fambly past. Not for him, nosiree. So Mack went all the way up to Pueblo to enroll in the military. Got in, too, and they sent him off to somewheres back east for basic. Parris Island, I think it was. And then, you know what the Marines always say, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” Well, shore 'nuf 'bout this time there's trouble a brewin' in Nickerocka, or sommers like that. So off they ship Mack, to fight his country's battles, on the land or on the sea.

Well, they all get down there, Mack's unit, I mean. They sittin' around down there on they hindsides three, four months, daydreamin' and wooshin' they was some action. So anyways, or at least so he tol' it, one Sattidy Mack sittin' around thinkin' about Nancy Woodson, you recollect Nancy; she was from over to Walsh, she was. Her Dad was Ned Woodson, big man, own most of Baca County and serve in the legislature up to Denver several years. So Mack mought dream, if he like, but Nancy later married Jason Sloan. You recollect the Sloans, but that's fodder fer a different mill.

So ol' Mack got so itchy he get a pass and go into Manakwa, or whatever that big town down in that godforsaken place is called. Found a cute little trick, too, so to speak. Seems she give him a good time and a whole lot more than he bargained for, 'cause when he got home a bit later, he bring company with him.

 Mack's older brother, Wayne, you know Wayne, he was purty wise to the ways a the world. Married now and settled down, had a good job, two kids already an' 'nother on the way. Wayne married Marcella Sims from over to Wichita, and Wayne had met her over there one time when the company send him down there to fix a problem the locals couldn't seem to handle. Anyways, there's another tale for another time. Wayne, all confidential-like, and the lovin' brother that he was, tole Mack about the ol' match-'n-icepick cure for what ailed him. Mack was not amused, ya mought say. So anyhow, he went on over to Doc Barrett, all red-faced and stammerin.' Doc give him some stinky salve and some harsh directions. Upbraided him too, and foreswore him to walk the straight and narrow henceforth and forevermore. Hit took care of him right good.

So then after a good while, Mack married Nadine Winters, though she never held no truck with Mack's people. Couldn't abide thet fambly, and how she ever fell in with Mack, I got no idee. So I guess she wheedled and cajoled Mack to get out of the Plains until they up and moved plum out to San Francisco. Fambly later heard Mack had a good job in the shipyards, but they never heard it from Mack or Nadie.

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Ford V-8

Did I ever tell you about the time Clyde Barrow tuk Gene's car?  (Yes, Uncle Jep, I thought, you have told me at least a dozen times.  But I said nothing.)  Well, Gene, he was workin' over to Syracuse at the bakery, you know, in '32, I think it was, and him and Raejean had just had their first kid.  Girl, she was.  Can't recollect right now whut they called her, but I'll think of it dreckly.  So anyways, Gene was doin' well for hard times, and he had just traded his A Model Ford for a nearly-new V-8.  Charles Simmons from over to Granada had bought it, spankin' new and the first year Ford sell a eight cylinder.  Well, crunch time come for ol' Simmons sooner'n he expected when his wife fall ill, and he need doctors and medicines and such more'n he need a new car.

So Gene has this ol' Model A and some cash whut he and Raejean have jarred away in a hidey-hole an' he takes and swap the A for the V-8, give Simmons some boot.  Long, hard time for Simmons and the Missus, but as it turns out, after a long while, she gets well, and they move off to Cally-forney along of the Palmers.  Well, hit was a hot July mornin', fifth or sixth, I think, 'cause we had just done with the Fourth.  Gene was in his new Ford toolin' along to the bakery in Syracuse when he sees the headlights of a car comin' up ahind him.  Hit purty rare he see another car on the road at this unearthly hour, seein's how he had to be to work by 3:30 in the mornin'.  Well, thet car come right up ahind, but hit never offer to pass.

Gene get to Syracuse and pull the car up in front the bakery, and th'other car come right up and stop in backa him.  People start spillin' out that car, an ever' one an 'em had a gun and two an 'em had, you know, like duffel bags.  They come right up as Gene was a gettin' out his car and this first guy says, "We need your car."  Well, easy to see Gene ain't arguin' with no one.  "How's it fixed for gas?" the guy asks.  "Filled it in Holly yestiddy," says Gene.  So two a the women get in front and two guys and another woman get in the back.  Then Clyde says, Gene know by now it was Clyde Barrow, "You get in there, too."  So Gene clumb in, his heart tearin' out for Toledo, he was that skeered.  Well, four in back were a crowd, but Clyde slam the door and get in the driver's seat, put 'er in gear, and tear out on down the road.

They gone maybe six, eight mile when Gene get gumption enough to say, "Say, you don't need me.  Cain't ya just let me out?"  Clyde says, "Shut up.  She ain't shot no one yet today," indicatin' the woman aside him.  Gene know now that it is Bonnie, I mean ever' newspaper in the land has been runnin' they pitchers fer months.  Gene think she don't look too well, though, but he ain't taken no chances, so he shut up.

These people talkin' amongst theyselves just lak Gene ain't even there; and that worry Gene some, 'cause they were talkin' about they plans, how they driven all the way from Pueblo and will need to stop somewhere to replenish they supplies, so to speak, afore they get to Denison.  Gene figure now they can't well leave him a witness and he like to have never been more afeered for his life.  Nor never since, neither.  Anyway, Gene tryin' to calm his mind figgers out that the one they call Buck is with Blanche, they are a couple.  Then the girl called Billie who seems the most nervous of the bunch is with W.D.  And a course, Bonnie and Clyde are the infamous Bonnie and Clyde.

Well, they get to Lakin, pass on through, and drive on.  After maybe ten miles or so, somewhere atween Lakin and Garden, Clyde pulls over and stops the car.  He steps out, opens the rear door, tells Gene to get out.  At this point, right here, right now, Gene thinks, I am dead.  So he gets out.
Clyde says, "You got any money?"  Gene stammers, "Jes', jes' only a dollar and a quarter."  So then Clyde reach in his pocket, pulls out a wad and peels off a five-dollar bill.  "Here," he growls, "mought could he'p you get back home; and don't you be talkin' to no coppers about us, hear?"  He gets back in the car, peels rubber as he accelerates.  "Man, what a car!"  Gene thinks, "And she ain't mine no more."

Gene were wrong, though.  That car was later found abandoned in Buffalo, Oklahoma and Gene finely got 'er back.  Ava, hit was.  Gene and Raejean named they daughter Ava.

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Thanksgiving in the Bowl

Did I tell you about the time we had but one bird and thirty-five people for Thanksgiving?  Well, your Aunt Grace decide we gonna be thankful whether we had anythin' or not.  She didn't miss hardly a fambly member, sayin' to 'em all, "We gonna have Thanksgiving over to our place this year.  Jep and me has been blessed, and we'd be disappointed you didn't join us."  Now in the manner of the times, I guess we had been blessed.  We was still alive, and we managed to scrape somethin' together each day to keep our souls connected to the bodies.

It was Dust Bowl days, doncha know, and nobody had much a nothin'.  We was much better off 'n many around us, 'cause we had saved a little coin which I had failed to put in the bank back in '29.  Always was a bit leery them suited guys with they green visors.  So anyway, we weren't total broke, and I gone up to Canon where I was able to get a few things, couple hunnert weight a cracked corn, hunnert pound a cornmeal, pinto beans, enough for the whole town.  So it looked like beans and cornbread for some time to come.  I'ma thinkin' you was maybe three, four years old at the time, 'cause your Mama and Daddy come on down for Thanksgivin'.

Anyways, when I left Canon to come on home, I stopped by Arly's over to Florence and wha'd'ye reckon?  Ol' Arly had hisself half-dozen turkeys he'd been nursin' along.  Scrawny they was, too, eatin' what they could scratch up.  Arly give me one a them birds, insisted I have it, so I tuk hit.  Well, I bring that bird home, and glory be! I have all that cracked corn and two months 'til Thanksgiving.  Well, son, I kept that bird pretty close, pen him up in the ol' tool shed.  Yessir.  Fed him good and give him more water than I tuk myself.  Well, talk about surprises!  When people start gatherin' in our house on that Thursday mornin', the aroma like to knock 'em down, hit smell so great.  Some a the fambly had had little enough, and then some, when it come to meat in Lord only knows when.

Well, your Aunt Grace had kept the winders sheeted over purty good, and the sugar and flour were kept wrapped tightly and inside half-gallon Mason jars.  Couldn't set out a sugar bowl, nor even keep it in a cabinet, 'cause even with a lid on hit, the dust would just natural get inside.  Gritty sugar ain't fit'n to use.  So Grace had been bustlin' around two days gettin' fixed for dinner on Thanksgivin'.  Now she only invited people to come, she never ask them to bring anything, but they all come with they hands full, and those ladies were bringin' the best they had.  Why Marcella Dean, you know Marcella, her'n Larry brought they six kids along, but Marcella make the best "apple" pie you can imagine from nothin' more'n pie crust, sody crackers, and vinegar and sugar.  I don't rightly know how she done it.

Anyway, the feast was on, and Grace would have it no other way but that she would make a little speech afore we et.  And she lay it on.  She said as how times had been bad for a long time, and some folk was gettin' discouraged.  Why the whole Palmer tribe, she says, done lit out for Cally-forny, and if we was all givin' up, wouldn't be nothin' here no more but tumble-down shacks and rattlesnakes.  And wouldn't you know, like right on cue in a stage play or somethin', Fred Baker speaks up and says, "Let the snakes have 'er.  She ain't no good no more no how."

And Grace let him have it.  "That," she says, "is just what I'ma talkin' 'bout.  This is Thanksgivin', and y'all need to be thankful.  Be thankful that we are still a makin' it.  Be thankful that we have loved ones who care about us and would give the shirt off'n they back to he'p ary one of us.  Y'all buckle in, keep the faith, he'p one another and pray, I mean pray like you believe the promises of God, and pray some more, day and night.  We will be okay.  Now Darryl, please to offer thanks to the Good Lord over these vittles, and we'll tuck into 'em!"

So right then and there the prayer meetin' start, but hit warn't so drawed out thet the food get cold!  No sir, we done justice to that spread, let me tell you.  And that bird with the fixin's fed them thirty-five people plum easy.  And the prayin' continue, and behole, the very next Fall the drought breaks and the rains come.  And then, well we are still here, hain't we?

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Courtship in the Valley

Did I tell you about the time Milo Cain come over from Rocky Ford to court your Cousin Jean? Well, it were melon harvest 'n Milo come on down with a load a them melons in his ol' Dodge truck.  Now, he was hopin' to peddle them thangs along the way, an' he got all the way to Lamar, an' there he struck out-- couldn't get shed a more'n half 'n 'em.  So he drove on over here with a gob lot a them left in the truck. Milo tried to get Tom Rankin to take 'em off his hands.  Tom tuk but a dozen, so then Milo hit up Slocum over to the hardware, and Fred says, "Sure.  Stack 'em up right there in front a the store and put a 'Free' sign on 'em."

Well, if'n he were gonna have the truck free to gallivant around in, I mean he was hopin' to take Jean to Syracuse for a show, and well, you know.  So he stacked 'em and give 'em away.  And Rankin were some mad.  I mean he had a whole four bits in the dozen he got, and now they's worthless.  Now Tom weren't one to let someone beat him outa hard cash and get away with it.  He'd think a somethin'.

Anyways, the Fates or whatsoever is in charge a Tom Rankin's fortunes was smilin', snickerin' prolly, 'cause who should blow into town while ol' Milo was a washin' and cleanin' of his truck but Theodore Larkin from back home.  Now, it was knowed far and wide that Theodore was a "catch" but so far no one had catch him.  And where should he park that Lincoln V-12 but smack afront a Tom's store.  Well, Teddy Boy strolled in the front door, give the bell hangin' atop it a extry jingle, and with that big ol' grin he most allus wore says, "Oh, Tommy Boy, guess who's gracin' this burg and this lowly den of commerce with his stellar presence?  Why, indeedy, it is I, Theodore James Larkin, just in from the glorious Cumberlands, and here to dazzle this village for, oh, who knows how long?"

Tom mought not a been thrilled with Ted's advertisin' a hisself, but he instantly see a opportunity.  He sidles over to that handsome lad, slips a arm 'round his shoulder and says, "You are a sight for sore eyes!  Hey, Teddy, old pal, do you recollect that Jean Larson, come up from the Clinch?  Why, she's a beauty if'n I ever see one, an' she is to home right this instant.  Lonely?  I reckon yearnin' is whut she is."

So Milo's truck was all shiny and clean with no place to go.  'Ceptin' home.

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Preacher Mama

Did I tell you about the time your Mama hold a revival meetin' over to Haswell?  Oh, yes, she tol' you about it, but I hain't.  This was afore your Mama met your Daddy.  So anyways, your Mama and her sister Min go over to Haswell to sing and play the music for Preacher Cubbins whilst he's preachin' the salvation message to them heatherns over there.  So Min borry they brother's ol' Essex and drives 'em on over to Haswell.

Now Lars Banks has a farm, sorry place it were, too, just th'other side a town.  Scarce a jackrabbit could make a livin' there, but people done it.  Miz Banks, that's Eula Banks, was no doubt the kindest Christian lady whut ever walk God's green earth, Miz Banks had that whole gospel crew over to her house, bedded 'em down, fed 'em three squares a day, she did.  Eula grow up in Missoura, you know, lived over to Laquey.  Her ma and pa come on over here with her when she was prolly twelve, thirteen.  Ol' Lars, he 'lowed as how he had need to be off to the mountains, up above Cotopaxi, or somewheres like that, on account it was the openin' a deer season.  He'd a had a good reason to be scarce around Haswell during these doin's no matter the time a year.  Leastways, I think so.

So one mornin' at the breakfast table, Min an' your Ma, Esther and Max Cubbins 'round the table and Miz Banks bustlin' 'round, pilin' on the hotcakes and keepin' the eggs and bacon comin', and Max, he's the preacher, ya know, up and says, "Esther 'n me got to get on down the road now.  We been here long's we kin stay. The Lord has released me from this charge."

 "Well, whut about the meetin'?" Miz Banks says.

 "I guess it would be over," says the preacher, "less'n these fine young ladies here would stay and keer on."

"Well," says Min, "As for me, I've had quite enough of this desolate place, and we have striv mightily to bring God to these people, and I think the Lord will excuse me to go on back home now."

And your Mama speak up and say, "The Lord has laid this place heavy on my heart, and I think there is yet someone here who needs to get saved.  I will stay so long as the Lord places a message on my tongue."

And that is how your Mama come to be a preacher.

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Hallelujah Time on the Arkansas

Did I tell you about the time Preacher Partlow pitch a tent in Las Animas? Well, Preacher, he work across Kansas from Wichita to Syracuse a holdin' meetin's all along the way. Tuk him most a summer, too, on account he drawed such crowds even in that godforsaken territory, well, any entertainment was better 'n nuthin', so as he offen stayed in one place three-four weeks. Well, he closed out in Syracuse on a Sunday night and a Monday he headed on over to Las Animas. His old double A truck loaded to the gills, what with the tent, the accordion his wife played, and of course, his trombone and his trumpet. Now his was a small-time operation, doncha know, just him and his wife. His wife was Noreen Gibbs, you know, and afore she married Preacher she was purty well-knowed around Tulsa, on account a she had a voice people pay money to hear. They say she could paralyze the devil, and put the angels to shame. Anyway, people come to Preacher's meetin's to hear him play them horns and hear him preach. Orate was what he done. But it didn't hurt the draw none to have Noreen on the platform with him. And when she close out the evenin' with “Just as I Am,” those folk didn't hit that sawdust trail-- not much they didn't. Line that rail along the sawdust, why I guess they did.

So one Sattidy night about two weeks into the revival in Las Animas, Grady Smith and Hank Morton from over th'other side the river, over to'rd Fort Lyon, made it up atween 'em to go over to Animas an' bust up Preacher's meetin'. Now, ever'body know Grady could whup anyone in Bent County, and Hank was his toady, would do whatever Grady tole him to do. So they get onto they cow ponies and ride on over to the tent. Now Preacher had a wonderful meetin' that night, the music had plum warmed the people into a most receptive frame a mind, and Preacher knowed this harvest was ripe to reap. He was givin’ 'em low-pocka-hirem, gettin' ready to thrust in the sickle, so to speak, when Hank and Grady bust into the side a the tent on they hosses, Grady from Preacher's right and Hank from his left, and rid them hosses right up onto the platform. They did. Grady leap out the saddle and drop the reins. “This here meetin',” he shouted, “is over! And Ima whup you, Mr. Preacher Man.”

Partlow raised both hands, palms out toward the crowd and cried, “Folks, just hold your seats and put on a Lord's measure of patience. I am going to step out back of this tent with this youngster for just a few seconds, and I'll be right back.” Grady roared with laughter, and Hank, still aboard his pony, said, “Like hell.”

Now Grady was a hoss his own self, six-three and prolly went two thirty. Preacher mought a weight one fifty-five, but he'd have to be plum dressed and plum wet to make 'er. Preacher step offa the platform and out back the tent with Grady right on his heels. Miz Partlow step to the platform and in her angelic voice start singin’ “When We All Get to Heaven.” Preacher turn to face Grady, Grady tuk a roundhouse swing with his left, which Preacher duck quicker'n I can tell it and come up with a right widow-maker smack! into the bottom side Grady's chin, whilst he bury his left in his gut. Grady hit the ground, out like a campfire in a hail storm, just as Noreen was hittin’ the strains of “what a day of rejoicing that will be!”

Preacher step through the tent-flap onto the platform, raise both hands again, said, “Thanks be to God!  Now, all you sinners come to Jesus now!” And they done it.  And Hank Morton on his knees with ‘em. There was a stringer there thet night, and the La Junta Tribune-Democrat reported they was forty-seven people confessed Christ as they savior!

Text © 2013 David W. Lacy

Happy Halloween, Mr. Principal

Did I tell  you about the time your Daddy and your uncles pranked the principal on Halloween? Well, them boys was sump'n, let me tell you.  Now I don' 'spose your Daddy's ever tole you of the onry-ness a them kids?  Anyways, there was a whole passel 'n'm kids, mostly boys and your pa right in the middle the bunch.  Now one a them boys was just a year older'n your pa, and another'n a year younger.  Whut a trio they made.  No, they warn't no singin', but mischief! Lawd, ha' mercy.

So anyhow there was this October when they was prolly 13, 14, and 15 year ol'.  Halloween a comin.'  Now the principal a the school over there was Ward Livengood.  Well, he was "livin' good," what with his nice income from the second-best job in the county.  Har! har! Livin' good.  I sometime crack myself up.  Anyway, ol' Ward, he come out here from Indiana, had him a dee-ploma from Oakland Normal School, doncha know.  What was the best job in the county?  Why sheriffin', I reckon.  You got no idee the ways them fellas can line they own pocket.  But that's a tale for another time.  So ol' Livengood marry a sweet thang from over to Terre Haute, and headed West.  Lureen Tuttle, she was, and the only way I would know that is she never cease from tellin' ever' one she meet about "the Tuttles from Terre Haute."

So Principal Livengood got the school over there, an' that school were the centerpiece a McClave. They had just built hit a couple years afore, and it were a two-story brick, three ya count the basement.  Now Livengood drive him a little ol' Model T Ford car, runabout, they call hit.  So anyway, morning of November 1 he walk on over to school-- didn't even notice his car wasn't aside his house, on account he only drove hit to work but rarely.  But he get to school, unlock the building and clumb on up the stairs.  Imagine his surprise when he get to the second floor, and there a settin' in the hallway smack again' his office door is his very own personal Model T!

And do you think that trio and they cohorts had anythin' to do with that?  Not much, they didn't; no more'n hit was them left Fred Sparks's outhouse in the middle George Watt's broom corn field.

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Principal Has the Magic

Someone asked how did Principal Livengood get his Ford out the school and back home again.  Well, I put that to Uncle Jep, and he told me I would have to ask my dad about that.  So I did.  Well, quite forthcoming, he was.  "That old Uncle been blabbin' again, hasn't he?  Well, it is to be expected.  Man's jaw started flappin' before he could crawl and it's not stopped flappin' for two straight minutes in three-quarters a century."

"So what did happen with the car?" I asked.  And this is what I was told.

11:30 A.M. Mr. Livengood called all the boys up to the hallway outside his office.  "Fine automobile," he says.  "But not a magical machine.  It did not get here by itself.  I would like the persons responsible to step over here next to me, now."   Nobody moved.

"Duncan, were you a participant in this tomfoolery?"
"Nosir, sir."  said Duncan.  Duncan spoke truth.  He wouldn't have spit on the ground if he had a mouthful, well, you know.
"Frank Erb, did you participate?"
"No, sir.  I did not."  I could witness in his behalf.
"Fred Erb, were you in on it?"
"Sir, could you get back to me after you've gone around?"
"Very well.  Darryl, did you do this?"
"Not by myself, sir."
"Aha!  Just as I thought.  And your brothers?"
"I'd rather they speak for themselves."

"Tell you what, boys," said Mr. Livengood.  "I am going to walk down these stairs, out the front door, and up the street to my abode.  There I shall have lunch with the charming Mrs. Livengood.  I will have finished lunch in, say, forty-five minutes.  When I come out of my house, the car will be sitting right where it was last night before its trip to the schoolhouse, clean, shiny, and ready to roll.  When I return to the building each one of you will be in your respective fifth-period classroom, ready for an afternoon of serious business with your studies."  Clear?"
Chorus:  "Yes, sir, Mr. Livengood, sir."

And so it was.

"Aw, c'mon, Pa.  How did you do it?"
"There are things you really don't need to know."

This is a bonus story, an adjunct to the series of tales as told by Uncle Jep.  It appears here thanks to reader, Vee, who wanted to know how the car got out of the school. 

The Courtship of Otto Kranz

Did I tell you about the time Otto Kranz drive over to Albuquerque to court your Aunt Maude?  Maude was your Grandma's sister, you know, and she come over to New Mexico after your Grandma's brother, Ed, marry Susan Wright.  The Wrights live over in Reid Holler, well, not in the holler, but you know, up a good piece on the slope, but not on top a the ridge.  The Wrights bury all they dead on Hill Cemetery Number Six.  Actually,  Uncle Martin's first wife is buried there, though she warn't a Wright.  She was a Willowby fum over on the Holston.  In later years the younger Willowbys moved over to Bristol.  Had a mercantile there, you know.  When I was acourtin' your Aunt Grace I went over to Willowbys to find a ring.  Got one, too.  Nice one.  Ance Willowby had tuk it in fum Widow Miles after her husband die.  She was fixin' to marry Ned Fox anyhow and Ance give her a milk cow and two shoats fer it.

So anyway, Maude was at loose ends when Ed move on to Marital Bliss, so to speak, and their Ma and Pa was done cold in the grave.  So like I said, Maude come on out to New Mexico.  Maude done good for herself in Albuquerque.  Start in Mason's store, you know.  Mason inherited, and he hadn't much interest in business.  But Maude was shrewd and he put her in charge, and first thing you know, Mason was rich and Maude was well-fixed.  Now I'm not saying Otto Kranz took a shine to Maude because of the money, but I am saying that didn't hurt none.  So anyway, Otto had an old auto (get it?) '37 Olds, I believe.  Yeah, it was that '37 he got offa Ned Bayliff over to Aztec.  Had a pile of miles on her afore Otto got it, but it run good.  So he left early of a Saturday morning, drive plum down to the City and got there afore the store closed up for the day.  Stroll into the store, coolest customer you ever see, all duded up in that navy blue suit with the gray pinstripe he got off Delmar Boyd's widow after Delmar pass.  Hit fit him right good, too, though Delmar had hit custom cut by a tailor over to Denver-- I disremember his name right now-- he's the one cut the suits for the Gov'nor, and the Senator, too.  Do you recollect his name?  I mean the tailor.  His sister marry Joe Whalen, you know.  Had the big ranch over to Ordway.  Anyway, Otto had on his purple four-in-hand, Lord only knows where he get that-- and a yeller rose in his lapel with a sprig of Stephen Otis that was left over from Molly and Mark's wedding the week afore.  You know, Molly was granddaughter to your Mama's Aunt Jean-- guess you'd be related, wouldn't you?  She married Mark Steadman.  Steadman's old man did a hitch in the pen over to Canon-- embezzling, I think it was.  Yeah, that was it.  He got away with couple hundred thousand of Third Ninth funds.  Hit was never recovered, neither; and Steadman seemed to live pretty high on the hog after he got out, if you get my drift.  No reflection on his kid, though.  Mark is as solid as they come.  Funny how that works sometimes.

Those yellow shoes is what done Otto in, though.  Maude said, "Why, Otto.  What are you doing all the way over here?"  Otto turn all beet red, which did nothin' to complement his purple tie,  you mought say.  As he was stammerin', "He-he hello, M-m-maude," she was surveyin' him fum head to foot, link by link, you might say.  But when her eyes land on his shoes, her mouth fall open, she thow her head back and roar, yep, roar is the right word, roar with laughter.

With nary a word, Otto turn, slink to the door and disappear fum Maude's sight.  Otto's Oldsmobile was park in front a his house afore daybreak, and ever'one say he ain't spoke to a woman since that day.

© 2013 David W. Lacy

Pipe Wrench and Bad Words

Did I tell ye about the time your grandpa an' me was takin' out the old windmill?  We was livin' there on the high plains, and generly we'd a just left it, but times was hard and anything ya could salvage was a nickel in your pocket.  Arly Page, he was your grandma's cousin, he even saved the asphalt shingles offa his shack in Holly.  Carted 'em all the way to Canon when he moved up there.  His wife, Irene, come from over thataway, you know, and she'd have it no other way but she was goin' back where her mama was, Arly or no Arly.  Well, you know Arly, and besides they had them twins, dickens of a pair, they was; but Arly couldn't bear to be apart from 'em, so they moved over to Florence and Arly built 'em another shack.  Them twins even straightened  nails from the old one to put up the new one.  Sally, she was the purty one a them two, she later married Wes Turpin, had the Ford franchise over to Pueblo. 

So Sam, that's your grandpa-- I swear I gotta call him Sam, you know I mean your grandpa.  But speakin' of swearin', there was no way on this Earth Sam was ever gonna be heard to swear.  Sign of a weak mind, he always said.  So anyways, Sam had aholt of an ell on a two-inch horizontal pipe, hopin' to break it loose.  He give a mighty heave upward on the handle a that pipe wrench and the pipe broke!  That handle come right up, well not meanin' to be indelicate nor anything, but it caught him right where a man least wants to be hit.  Sam turn loose a that wrench and doubled over like a jackknife closin' on its blades.  Shoulda heard him groan.  When he finely can speak, he says, (I think), "Oooh, gonies."  But he never cussed.  Not one cuss word outa his mouth.  I told you Sam didn't abide swearin'.  Ho!  Not like Preacher Redkin over to Swamp Lick.  Man, could that guy cuss!  String out a swear two minutes long, never repeat a word.  He warn't really a preacher, you know, but everybody called him Preacher on account of his ability to misuse the Lord's name in so many unique and creative ways.  So then Sam picks up his wrench, straightens up, and says, "Could ya put your wrench on that hunk a busted pipe so's I kin get this ell offa here?"

So then we drove the new well and hooked 'er up.  Fred Slocum over't the hardware says to Sam one day, "Sam, where'd ya get your parts for that new mill-- ain't seen you buy nothin' in here but horehound drops in a coon's age."  Aside from Sam, the only person I know to forever be suckin' on one a them drops is your Aunt Jean.  But she's not had a tooth in her head in thirty year.  Her son, Jack, you know Jack, married Evie Tidler.  Married her on Christmas Eve, and they got snowed in in their cabin for six days.  "Didn't you dang near starve, Jack?"  Uncle Milt asked him.  "Who cares?" said Jack.  Evie give Jack twins middle the next September.  Twins do seem to run in the fambly.

So Sam said, "Salvaged 'em or made 'em.  Hada pay your prices, I'd be a old man afore I had a well.  Cattle'd die.  Gimmee two penny wortha them horehound drops.  Please."

© 2013 David W. Lacy

A Test of Patience

Did I tell you about the time your granny's mother come over to visit her daughter?  Stayed two years, she did.  Sam plum wore his wits clear to they ends tryin' to figure a way to get her to go home.  Now, Sam liked Margaret, that was your great grandma's name.  Nobody ever called her "Maggie" or "Peggy" neither.  She was Margaret Sarah Alexena Chloe Ann Wilson, you know, of the East Branch Wilsons.  "You may call me Margaret," she says.  Anyhow, Sam did truly like his mother-in-law, but as he put it, "in shorter bits and pieces, no disrespect intended."  Now I for one don't rightly see how you could take her any shorter, 'cause she stood maybe four-foot five in those black high-top shoes she allus wore.  But I'm strayin' all over the pasture.  Say, did you see that new bull Red Hurd got over in his south pasture?  Bee-yoo-tiful black thing he is.  Simmental.  Red got him offa Ayers over on the Huerfano.  That bull ain't no orphan, though, got a pedigree longer'n my left arm.  Red is proud as a Longhorn rooster just done the whole Plymouth Rock hen house.  But he ain't talkin' how much it cost him.  Feard Maybelle will find out, I reckon.  Well, Bob Ayers did take his wife, Lou Ann to Galveston for a week, for what that's worth.  Both 'n'm  come home redder'n a Maine lobster been in the boilin' water.  Anyway, Doc Barrett says they'll live.  I know it is a sin to covet, but I really wish I had that bull. Forgive me, Lord.

Anyway, Sam always was durn handy, and clever, too.  Now Margaret always had those shoes custom-made over to Manfred's in Knoxville.  And she always went in for a fittin'.  Problem was, they seem to never wear out.  The shoes, I mean.  So Sam writes to Arly over to Florence and asks him to send him a small piece-- six or eight square inches would be fine-- a small patch of doeskin.  Sam enclosed an envelope with a stamp, round-trip postage cost him six cents, a whole month's worth of horehound drops.  And he'd owe Arly.  So Arly goes over to Chipita Parsons-- you know her; Indian girl married Larry Parsons from up to Westcliffe.  Well, she cured doeskin the old-fashion Injun way; chewed it 'til it was softer 'n the cheeks south of the equator on a new born babe.  Well, he put a swatch a tad smaller 'n the inside the envelope and mailed it to Sam.

Now Sam had addressed the return envelope to hisself "c/o genl del, Holly."  So when Sam was over to Holly in June with a load of wheat, he stopped by the pee-oh.  Now the postmaster was Sam's cousin, Aaron Bell.  You know, Aaron come west along with Sam and Arly.  He was one of the Cave Cove Bells.  His granddaddy fit in the War of Northern Aggression alongside ol' Stonewall Jackson.  "Oh, oh, Sam.  Your lady friend writin," says Aaron.  "Mary finds out she'll peel your hide right offa ya."

Sam ripped the envelope open and flapped the skin right under Aaron's nose. "Ima make a coin purse for my grand kid," he said, whirled around and pushed through the screen door, but afore he let it go, the lie turned sour in his mouth.  So he looked back and said, "Aaron, I ain't a makin' a coin purse, and you kin mind your own bidness."

Now Sam put his plan into action.  See, Margaret, she left her shoes outside the blanket hangin' over the doorway to her room when she went to bed of a night.  So Sam, good man as he was, would keep her shoes cleaned and shined up, see that the laces were fit. So he carefully built a thin strip a doeskin inside the toe a each shoe-- glued 'em in ever so carefully, even the cobbler wouldn't notice.  The idea was he'd add a strip each Sattidy 'til Ol' Margaret was concerned her feet had growed, and she'd have to go back to Knoxville to get a new pair fit.

But the very first week Margaret was so oncomfortable and annoyed, grumblin' takin' off her shoes, runnin' her hand up inside, that Sam's conscience got the better of him.  He determined not to go ahead with that.  And behold!  On Thursday the in-law mama gets a Western Union from Mandy Hopkins back home.  Mandy was Margaret's closest friend.  Married Maxwell Hopkins when she was fifteen.  Had fifteen kids.  Well, Maxwell done all right, anyway.  Happiest couple in Kingsport, ever one said so.  "MARVIN BROKE FOOT STOP COME HOME SOONEST STOP M. HOPKINS."

Sam ambled out the house, didn't let the screen door slam, and soon's he was outta sight the kitchen, he cut loose with the fanciest footwork you ever see.  Danced a jig right here in this garden, right where we air a standin'.  He was sorta singin', "God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.  Praise be to God!"

© 2013 David W. Lacy

A Pint of Lightning

Did I ever tell you about the time Gene went back home and stayed a month with Aunt Mel?

"Why, yes, as a matter of fact you did, Uncle Jep."  Now I most never interrupt nor comment when Uncle is spinning one a his yarns, mostly on account ya can't get a word in edgeways.  "You told me how she put him to workin' so hard on the farm, he decided he'd be better off to home."

Nah, I don't mean that time.  He was a youngun then, his Paw thought hit'd do him some good to find out what bein' responsible for yourself was like.  Weren't more'n fourteen, I reckon, maybe fifteen.  His Paw made him earn the train fare and pay him back, too, when he got home.

So, anyways, Gene was a growed man by this time.  Workin' in the bakery over to Syracuse.  Puttin' some money away, too, fixin' to make somethin' of hisself.  Had his eye on that Smollett gal.  She was from up to Eads, you know, daddy tore up lotsa countryside puttin' in wheat and rakin' in dough, if you get my drift.  Reckon he made his conterbution to the Dust Bowl.  Ol' Drought and Wind, they passed that bowl around, ever'body chipped in something, I'd say.  Lotsa people hiked it on outta here, but them's stories for another time.  So Gene had that ol' A model Ford coupe, an' he decide afore he married he'd oughta take a run back to Ol' Virginny, keep the fambly ties tied, so to speak.  So he drove that car all the way back there.  Got stopped in Louey Ville, too.  Had his driver's license, but couldn't put his hand on no papers fer that car.  Cop hauled him to the station, too, and ever'body there thought Gene looked mighty suspicious-- shifty, they mought a said.  But Gene was persuasive, though he warn't glib, and he allowed as how he was good friends of the sheriff in Prowers County, and if they'd let him get off a wire to him, Ol' Frank Coleman would vouch for him.  So they done it and Gene lolled around downtown fer three, four hours whilst waitin' a answer.  An' they got it, and let him go.

So, anyway, after about a week a gettin' there, Gene come to Aunt Mel's house in Gate City.  See, by this time, Mel had sold her farm and done chucked it in, so to speak.  She had bought a little house, just edge a town, close enough to ever'thing, she said, that she could walk wheresoever she needed to be, and far enough from ever'body her cow and her goats wouldn't bother no one.  They mought hear the rooster of a mornin', though, but that's life.

Aunt Mel bought that house offa the Larkin estate when ol' man Larkin passed.  Hit were in purty good shape, but needin' gen'ral cleanup and attention.  They say Larkin's daughter, Sybil, inherited, tuk the money, and said, "The dusta this hell-hole won't never besmirch my shoes again."  And no one's seen her nor heard from her since.  So Mel was right glad to see Gene, and fixed him a pallet on the back porch, and give him a "to do" list.  Now Gene was right responsible by now, and he tuk it all in stride and in good spirits, told her, "Aunt Mel, so long's you set that good ol' down-home cookin' in front a me, I'll be at your service."  An' he fell to, scrapin', paintin', cleanin'.  He even built new back steps to the house-- done a right neat job, he did.  And then he was hangin' wallpaper in the sittin' room.  Gene used to help his Mama when she papered for people.  Till one Sattidy noon time, Gene says, "I'ma go on over to Kingsport for the evenin'."

So he gotten his A model and pa-pa-pa on down the road.  He decides to go to Harlan's for his supper-- Jake Harlan has the Oasis edge of town there in Kingsport.  Purty quiet crowd, good food, and not too much rowdy'n around.  Jake married Cleota Jones from over to Rogersville, you know.  Gene dated Cleo some when they was in high school, but there was no hard feelin's atween Gene and Jake-- all worked out for the best.  Anyway, he gets his order in with the cute little waitress-- he thinks she mought be Nick Widman's daughter, but he weren't sure, and he was too much the gentleman to ask.  Nick Widman had run off with Cub Wadkin's wife, you know, Marlene was her name, I think.  Anyways, ever'body said they gone to Albuquerque.  Your Aunt Maude over there says it's so, says they have six kids a they own now, evidental forgettin' all about his three and her two they left back in Tennessee.  Happy as if'n they din't know no better, and breedin' like mice in May.

So anyhow, while Gene was waitin' on his order, of a sudden somethin' slapped him on the back.  It were ol' Anse Willowby, down from Bristol, did a little buyin' for his store, doncha know, and had a evenin' at loose ends.  Now Gene re-cog-nize him at once, though he'd not seen him since they was kids.  Gene went to school with Anse the couple years they lived over on the Holston, fourth and fifth grade they was good buddies, Gene says.

So like they never been apart, they make it up atween 'em to go out and have some fun, so then they et up and got in Anse's Buick, one them ol' long-block eights, bear on gas, but hell on wheels!  '31, I think it was.  So then they drive on up to East Ridge to ol' Peck Willowby's place.  Now ever'body knowed Peck run a still somewheres backa his place, but the revenooers could never find it, 'n they got a pint a lightnin' from Peck.  Now a pint is more'n enough fer two young bucks-- 180 proof, hit was.

Well, best leave the rest of the evenin' blank, 'cause it were blank to Gene somewhere after they left Hiltons, and he don't rightly know how he get back to Aunt Mel's house.  But when the toe a her army boot landed in his ribs, he shot off'n that pallet right pert like, 'n she were in no mood to talk.  Booted him plum off'n the place; and that's when he decided to get back home.  Bread was needin' to be baked, and he was needin' to get back to the straight 'n narrow, hopin' Raejean Smollett would never hear of his adventure "back home."

© 2013 David W. Lacy

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