I have a friend in southeast Kansas, ol’ Hugh G. Gardiner, who grew up in eastern Kentucky on a hard-scrabble farm with a lot of kids, a small tobacco allotment, some fine coonhounds, access to a moonshine still, and not much else.
He moved to Kansas years ago to raise kids, cattle and lots of fruit and veggies. But, ol’ Hugh can still tell Appalachia hillbilly stories with the best of ‘em. Here’s one he told me recently about his childhood years. He swears it’s the truth.
Hugh said about the only thing of quality that his family owned was a small pack of championship quality coonhounds. These were hounds the family relied on to provide a bit of winter income from selling coon hides.
Well, one day ol’ Hugh was playing outside during the daytime when in the distance from up on the nearby mountain he heard the distinct “tree baying” of the hound pack.
That sparked his interest enough, since it was daytime, that Hugh made the trek into the mountain wilderness to see what the coonhounds has treed. After a good long, leg-tiring walk up the mountain, he found the hounds baying up a tree.
And, then he spied what kind of critter they had treed — a small monkey. Yep, a real monkey.
Astounded at what he’d seen, Hugh left the hounds, raced down the mountain to find his dad and brothers and give them the news. At first, they discounted Hugh’s story as a flight of imagination from an elementary school boy. But, Hugh persisted with his story and he finally convinced them to follow him up the mountain and see for themselves.
So, they did. And, lo and behold, it WAS a small monkey the hounds had treed. They decided to catch the monkey. So, they tied up the hounds. And then through a combination of nimble tree climbing — and a good deal of luck — by Hugh’s brothers, the group got the monkey captured and safely back to Earth. Neither the monkey or any of Hugh’s family wuz injured either.
So, back home, they put the monkey — which seemed acclimatized to humans — into a corn crib and started feeding it. The “monkey news” spread like wildfire up and down the mountain hollows and groups of mountain folk from far and wide came to gawk at the monkey.
After, a few days, one of the visitors to see the monkey said he’d heard that a monkey had escaped a circus a few weeks before at a town nearly 50 miles away. Plus, the visitor had heard there wuz a reward for anyone who would return the trained monkey to the circus.
Hugh said eventually his family found a way to contact the circus and the story wuz true. Soon thereafter, someone from the circus came and paid Hugh’s family the unheard-of reward of $50 for finding the wayward monkey.
He said that amount of money in those days wuz like winning the lottery to his family. No one every found out how the monkey had made it’s way so far from the circus to end up treed on Hugh’s nearby mountain, but it almost certainly had to travel that distance on its own.
The moral of the story is: Sometimes monkey business pays!
The last few weeks, I’ve been passing along little clever songs that my grandmother Ann taught her grandkids, including me. The following little ditty proves, I guess, that bullying among children was as common in those bygone days as it is today. As an adult, the little song is kind of a sad social commentary. But, back when I learned it, the song wuz just plain funny. Here’s the nameless song:
When I was born, my Ma and Pa
Looked at me and said, “Oh, pshaw!”
When the doctor said, “It’s a boy! I think?”
Paw pulled his flask and took and drink.
Pa said that I favored Ma.
And, Maw said I looked a twin to Paw.
The nurse said I was wrinkled like a quince.
And, I’ve been an abandoned child ever since.
Oh, they always, always pick on me.
They never ever let me be.
Gee, I’m awful lonesome. Gee, I’m awful sad.
It’s a long time since I’ve been glad.
But, I know what I’ll do pretty quick.
I’ll eat some worms and I’ll get sick.
Then, when I’m sick, they all will be
Mighty sorry that they picked on me.
Next week, I’ve got another of Grandma’s little songs that’s
much more an “upper” than a “downer” like the one above.
Until then, enjoy watching spring unfold. The robins, bluebirds, blackbirds, killdeers and four purple martin scouts have arrived at Damphewmore Acres. My Pratt, Kan., fishing buddy, ol’ Claude Hopper, wuz here for our first day of good spring fishing. And, we had 1.5-inches of rain — the first since November. Not enuf for much-needed run-off, but enuf to help the wheat, the native grasses and peoples’ attitudes. The dampness will also harken in the annual Flint Hills “Big Burn.” I expect to see and smell smoke soon and I’ve got grass and a brush pile to burn here at Damphewmore Acres, too.
I’ll close with this simple message: “Never before has a generation so diligently recorded itself accomplishing so little.” Have a good ‘un.