Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Those Crazy Tourists

Chuck Connors

Up in Minnesota where the ‘skeeter is the state bird folks got a powerful interest
in airport restrooms. No, not them ‘happy’ guys ya’ll might be thinkin’ about; but people
on vacation out to see really weird stuff. Yeah. Folks want to see the stall where that
U.S. Senator from Idaho got arrested. “It’s become a tourist attraction.” “People are
taking pictures,” said Karen Evans, an information specialist at the Minneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport. Get outta here!

Americans will travel thousands of miles to gawk at, take pictures of and
generally go nuts over just about anything new, different or strange. Mark Twain
loved to play the tourist traveling the world. Teddy Roosevelt, one of our greatest
presidents, was awful fond of traveling and seeing strange critters too. Shoot, my
Uncle LeeRoy always said “them tourists come up hare ta tha mountains ta see thangs
so let’s show ‘em some ‘Kodiak’ moments."

He practiced that sayin’ for a lot of years too.

First, he had him a pettin’ zoo. Don’t ‘cha know kids just love them pettin’
zoos? Then he had ‘em a reptile farm an’ bear menagerie filled up with snakes an’ bears
an’ such. It even had a six foot ‘gator Uncle LeeRoy won in a poker game down in
Georgia and smuggled ‘cross the border. If that wasn’t enough, Uncle LeeRoy was
always takin’ them Floridians on tours to see strange sights like Judaculla rock over on
Caney Fork or goin’ on huntin’ expeditions up in the Plott Balsams for the Beejum;
Western North Carolina’s answer to Bigfoot. The tourists loved them squiggly marks but
they never found the Beejum.

Every one of them tourists got their money’s worth seeing something a little
different and educational and all too. Every year there’d be whole droves of ‘em just
a beatin’ down Uncle LeeRoy’s doors just to see the new and different stuff right here in
these famed Smoky Mountains of ours!

Ladies and gentlemen, is there anything educational or worth taking a picture
about of a stall in a men’s room in an airport? If there is I just ain’t figured it out yet!
But then I never was one to hum a tune and tap my toes anyways.

Later ya’ll.

Tastee Freeze Nightmare


Chuck Connors

How had they ended up here? The piles of trash, the rats, the screaming kids;
nobody wanted to be here. ‘Here’ was a squatter’s camp in the woods not far from
the Interstate. Joe and Rachel were on the run.

Joe had a history of brushes with the law in the small town where he grew up.
He had started drinking and drugging when he was a kid. Every time Joe got into
trouble with the law he was drunk and high. He had tried a hitch in the Army but respect
for authority was not one of Joe’s strong points. Since leaving the Army he had a
progression of jobs which all ended abruptly because of his ‘attitude.’ Joe believed
none of this shit was his fault and that the “assholes were out to get him.”

The whole fucked up episode started when Joe met Rachel in a mall a few
miles from his hometown. Joe told himself that it would be different this time.

Yea, right.

He could still remember how her ass had looked in the tight pair of
jeans she was wearing when he spotted her sauntering along in front the food court. Joe came up behind her, calling out “hey good lookin’,” and she had turned
around and smiled.

From there it was a lot of tall boys in a beer joint that Joe occasionally shot pool
in and continued with a weekend of rutting like two dogs in heat back at his dingy little
basement apartment in a shitty part of town.

Rachel, it turned out, was just separated from her husband. Her momma had
convinced her that the ex was Rachel’s ticket out of the trailer park she’d grown up in.

Yea, right.

Rachel had come home one morning from her store clerk job at the Quick Sack to
find her hubby busy in bed with her slutty store manager. Rachel screamed “you two-
timin’ motherfucker” and smashed an empty 40 ounce against the side of his head.
Rachel scared the bitch so bad she ran neckked out of the trailer. Rachel filed for divorce
divorce the next day. For the last several days she’d been living in her rusted-out Escort
dodging the bastard.

Joe came to Monday morning with the sound of someone making a god-awful
racket beating on his door. His head felt like a mule had kicked the shit out of him. The idiot didn’t seem to understand that some folks might be sleepin’ in.
“Keep your shirt on asshole”, Joe shouted as he threw on a pair of shorts and stumbled to
the door.

“Let me in you cheatin’ bitch”, shouted an angry male voice on the other side.

It sounded like trouble to Joe as he grabbed a pool cue leaning against the door
jam. Joe threw open the door to a fat, red-faced fool. He was holding a bottle of cheap
wine and had dried puke running down the front of his shirt.

“Hey motherfucker”, the asshole shouted, “you fuckin’ my woman?”

“Fuck you dick head”, Joe replied in a tight voice. “You done lost yore honey to
a real man who knows how to take care of her. I ain’t playin’ yore stupid-ass cheatin’
heart games this morning fool. Get outta here ‘fore I bust yore head.”

The red-faced fat fucker lurched forwards and swung his bottle at Joe’s
head. Joe stepped back but the end of the bottle caught him on the head splattering cheap
wine everywhere. As Joe recoiled he reached over and grabbed the dropped pool cue
and swung on the fat fool. The pool cue made a solid ‘whap’ sound as it connected with
the drunk’s head. The ex slumped to the floor and started pissing himself. Prettysoon he went still. Rachel came through the bedroom door with just a pair of panties on,
took one look at the vomit covered drunk on the floor and started screaming.

“Shut-up dammit, you’ll get the neighbors ‘roused up.”

“Herbie Joe, you killed the bastard.”

“The fucker had it comin’ Rachel. Now we got to get this shit cleaned up.”

They rolled his lifeless body into a ratty carpet and threw it into the back of Joe’s
truck. When night came Joe drove the truck to a dumpster and threw the seemingly
lifeless body into it. The couple packed up a few clothes and such in Joe’s truck, drew
out all of Joe’s slim savings from an ATM and headed west. Joe kept to back roads and
drove at night. They stopped at seedy run-down places to avoid the law. He wasn’t
taking any chances.

The last campground Joe and Rachel stayed at a couple of friendly women
had taken pity on them and loaned them a tent to sleep in. Joe had promised the two
women he’d return the tent when they found a place to stay indoors.
Even as Joe promised the women he knew he was lying. “Fuck those broads, he thought.
It’s about survival.”

Yea, right

Sitting around the campfire, Joe took a hit from the joint he and Rachel
had conned out of the guy at the gas station. Joe held the toke in for as long as he
could. He followed it up with a man-sized slug from the bottle of cheap vodka.
Later, he’d get some pussy for dessert.

They’d eaten pretty good. Larry and Nina had made the chili. Joe and Rachel
had met them in a bar a couple of weeks ago. Joe and Larry had hit it off when neither
could beat each other at pool. Rachel and Nina got along well enough although both were wary of each other. The two couples had hung together since then working odd
jobs here and there. They stole from stores when no honest work showed.

Earlier that afternoon Bill, a single dad with three kids, had pulled into the camp.
He claimed to be from Illinois and seemed a friendly sort. They invited him to supper.

It was a bad decision.

After the chili, a loaf of bread and a twelve pack of Milwaukee’s Best
were scarfed down they sat around the fire passing around the half gallon of cheap
vodka and twisting up a couple of joints from carefully saved roaches. They were
pretty far gone when the conversation turned to politics.

“What’d ya think about Ross Perot?” Joe said, asking no one in particular.

“Some of tha' things he says sound good,” trumpted Larry.

“Yea if he could get us some fuckin’ work I’d vote for him,” Nina said.

“I think he’s fulla’ shit,” Bill snidely remarked.

“Aw man I think the guy’s pretty stand-up,” said Joe. “He talks like he has a plan to put people back to work.”

“You guys don’t know shit,” Bill said. “The fucker’s just another corporate jerk-
off tellin’ you want ya wanna hear.”

“You’d better watch your mouth ‘round my woman,” Larry said. “I’ve heard too
much of your shit already and I’m about ready to shove my fist down it.”

“Hey guy,” Joe said to Bill, “just chill out.”

“Chill out my ass mother fucker,” Bill said. “What the fuck ya gonna do about

“For one thing asshole,” Joe said, “I’m gonna pistol whip you with this forty-
five hog leg I got strapped to my hip. And second….”

About that time Larry came out of nowhere with a round house punch
to Bill’s jaw. Joe jumped in and smacked Bill a couple of times with the barrel
of his Colt. After that it was just a flurry of punches and kicks; then nothing but a

Joe was getting a blow job from Rachel. She gave damn good ones. “Hey
baby,” Joe said, “just keep lickin’ like it’s a Tastee Freeze--yeah, right.” Something was wrong though. He couldn’t get it up. Joe came out of the dream with Rachel
shouting at him from the door of the tent.

“Herbie Joe we got to get packed up. The deputies say we got a half hour ‘fore
they’re gonna start arrestin’ people.”

“What tha' fuck?” Joe groggily replied. Joe moved and his head felt like it had
been pounded with jack hammers and his mouth tasted like a cat had pissed in it. Joe
thought, “that stupid-assed mother fucker Bill, why the fuck couldn’t he have left well
enough alone?”

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Climb


Chuck Connors

The sunlight seemed magical as the shifting patterns of light danced along
the ridges and hollows. The trees swayed in the wind gently murmuring to each otherand the birds’ mating calls proclaimed the age-old rites of spring. It was the day
for the climb up the mountain. Crossing over an old foot log Eddie paused to look down
at the trout holding position in the current of the stream. He wondered what those
trout thought in their tiny fish minds of the huge creature seemingly suspended in
another universe above their lies?

Something caught Eddie’s attention on the bank. An old man shabbily dressed
and leaning heavily on a walking stick hobbled on a path by the creek towards the boy.Eddie wasn’t sure what he might be up to.

“Hey who you be?” said the old man. Grimy and ragged he limped closer and
showed a snaggled-toothed grin.

“My folks named me Eddie, sur and I’m climbin’ to the top of the mountain
today. Have you been up thare?”

“Yep, many times,” replied the old man. “On a clear day you can see all the way
to the settin’ sun—some say even further.

“Is the way passable?”

“Yep,” replied the old man, “but its growed up an rocky an’ steep in
places. Last year another boy was charged by an old boar bear who dens near
the top. The boy ran and the bear caught an killed ‘em. You’d best be careful.”

“Oh I’ll take care,” said Eddie. “No old boar bear is goin’ to stop me from
gettin’ to the top.”

“Keep yur eyes peeled,” said the old man. “he’s liable ta show up when you
least expect ‘em.”

As the old man disappeared in the bushes downstream Eddie gazed up at the ridge
and said a silent, but fierce prayer of determination to the God that the preachers
shouted about. He gripped his stout walking stick, checked his hunting knife
in its sheath and thought “enough, time to do it.”

Eddie walked silently on the path as it gradually wound above the stream.
From time to time he saw dark shapes leaping through the trees. Their piercing
barks and furtive movements marked them as fox squirrels. He had hunted them
with his blow gun in the hollows near his families’ cabin. At other times Eddie
heard loud crashes deeper in the woods. He thought these were probably Elk but
he wasn’t sure. The noises sent shivers down his spine.

Eddie crossed the creek, now only a yard wide and followed the overgrown
path as ancient steps led into a cave-like cleft in the rock. The ceiling was low.
Eddie bent to keep from cracking his head on the jagged rock. Lichen grew on thewalls of the cave. It smelled of bat droppings and things rotten.

Eddie finally emerged from the cleft and stood on a bluff overlooking the
valley. He took a short break. He could see down the drainage for several miles.
A tiny spring came out of the ground between two rocks. Eddie greedily drank all
he could hold.

As Eddie climbed onward, the character of the trail and forest changed.
The trail became steeper and rockier while tall incredibly dense mountain
laurel, impenetrable to humans, replaced the hemlock and rhododendron of the
lower elevations. Eddie looked upward as he heard a high pitched ‘kree kree,’
just able to see the tiny outlines of hawks against the clouds.

Suddenly there was a loud commotion in the bushes just ahead. Cat-like
screams pierced the air as the laurel rocked backed and forth. A fully grown
catamount burst out of the bushes and bounded up the path. Right on its heels
a huge panther leaped out with a roar it’s claws raking at its opponent. Both
cats disappeared quickly leaving a few startled birds and the shaken boy.

Eddie grasped his staff tighter and climbed higher. He finally came
to tremendous sheer cliffs that fell from the top of the mountain far above down
to the valley below. There was only one possible way. A tiny ledge, only a
couple of feet wide, seemed to cross the cliff face. Beads of sweat covered
Eddie’s face as he carefully placed each foot on the loose shale. He used his
staff to test for dangerous spots. Weathered hand-holds helped him to cling
to the rock.

Eddie inched his way several hundred feet across the cliff face when
from around a sharp bend he heard a low menacing growl. Eddie froze.
The sound came again and now it was a roar of defiance and hate. Something
long, dark and low, with lots of teeth and claws came around the bend in the
cliff face. The demonic creature launched itself directly at Eddie’s throat.
Eddie instinctively brought up the end of his staff in a defensive posture.

The thing, mean looking with red eyes and slobbering jaws hit the end of the
staff with its chest, jarring Eddie to his knees. Eddie ducked as the beast flew
past his shoulder. One of its sabered paws reached out and tried to rake Eddie’s
head. Instead its claws ripped the shoulder of Eddie’s hunting shirt. Eddie
managed to pivot the staff and watched as the hell-beast fell into the valley
below. Its crazed screams were extinguished as the faint sound of its body crashing
into tree limbs reached Eddie’s ears. He stood upright and wiped the fear-sweat
from his brow.

Just around the bend the ledge ended. Running in a zigzag pattern up the
cliff was a crack not much wider than his body. Eddie tied the staff to his back
with a short piece of rope and began crawling up the indentation. Each foot he
climbed was taken literally hand over hand and he dared not look down.

Eddie finally clawed his way between two gigantic boulders which were poised
on the edge of the cliff. Crawling up on a flat area Eddie was amazed at what he saw.
Several circles of rocks, each stone larger than a man, stood one inside the other on the
summit. In the very center was a tall flat stone with strange markings on it.
Eddie had heard legends about the top of the mountain but he hadn’t really believed
any of them until now. There was something eerie about the flat stone. It seemed to
somehow not be of this world as it shimmered in the dim light. Poised just over the
summit a gathering of huge blue-black clouds gave Eddie a feeling of an ominous threat.

As Eddie slowly moved towards the summit stone he heard a deep woofing
sound just to the south of the summit. Small Spruce trees were knocked down
or pushed aside. As in a feat of sorcery a huge bear suddenly appeared limping into the clearing.
Its ancient grizzled snout snuffling at the air. Eddie quickly reached behind his back and
untied the staff. The old boar bear, Eddie estimated, looked bigger than one of the heifers
his mother owned. Its fur was shaggy and a nasty stench came from the gigantic beast.

The bruin caught the scent of man-flesh and let out a roar of anger as it began to
lope towards him. Eddie crouched low with his staff extended point first and prepared
to meet the charge of the angry animal. The slavering monster slid to a stop just
a few steps in front of Eddie and reared up with a gigantic roar. Eddie desperately
speared his staff into the chest of the bear before the bear batted the point out and away.

Eddie took a step back keeping the point of the staff directed at the bear. He
told himself that he probably didn’t have much longer to live but he refused to give
up. The bear charged and Eddie thrust the staff into the side of the bear and jumped
to one side. The bear roared, broke the staff into two pieces and tried to wheel.
Its two hind legs slipping on the very edge of the precipice as the monster struggled
to keep from going over. The taloned front paws dug huge furrows in the rocky
soil. The bruin stopped its fall and pulled itself back on to the summit plateau.
The horrible thing was insane with rage. Eddie pulled the large hunting knife
from its sheath. Balancing the heavy blade in his hand he threw the knife as hard as
he could point first into the chest of the bear. The bear swiped at it with one of its
paws but couldn’t brush it free. It charged Eddie.

At that moment a strange blue light seemed to envelope both the boy and
the bear. The air crackled and Eddie’s hair stood on end. He threw himself to one side as
the bear, its huge canines dripping with saliva, attempted to engage him in a death grip.
A bolt of whitish-blue fire streaked from the heavens and struck the ground just in front
of the bear. Eddie was knocked unconscious.

When Eddie regained consciousness he lifted his head and realized his hair and
clothes were smoking from the tremendous heat generated by the bolt. He saw that the
bear had been cooked in a split second and its pelt was on fire. The bear’s eyes still
gleamed with a seeming hunger-hatred.

Eddie staggered to his feet with the noise of the thunderclap still ringing in his
ears. He stumbled over to the tall flat stone and pulled himself up to the top by steps that
had been hollowed out of the side. The stone seemed to vibrate with power.

As Eddie stood it seemed he was on top of the world. Eddie turned to the
West and saw far towards the horizon, where the sun goes to sleep at night, a
tremendous range of snow-capped mountains. Eddie knew now that this had just
been the beginning.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tootles the Dancing Cat


Chuck Connors

Ya’ll might of heard about Oscar the ‘death cat’. He’s the furry nursing home‘therapy’ animal up in Rhode Island that likes to be there at the end. Some folks claim he’s got special powers that give him the inside dope on a patient’s passing. Shoot, adoctor even wrote about him in the high brow New England Journal of Medicine. It all may be true but I sure wouldn’t bet my last dollar on it. Speakin’ of dollars that reminds me of my daddy’s friend Delmar Judaculla Moses and his dancing cat, Tootles.

Now Delmar was always the fast talker—willing to trade for just about anything.
He usually got the best end of the deal too. Delmar ran a produce and souvenir stand
just outside of Dillsboro on Highway 441. When he wasn’t fleecing tourists at the stand
he was installin’ indoor plumbing for the snooty town folks.

One day after school I went over to Delmar’s house to go huntin’ squirrels with
his two boys Elbert and Willie. Delmar had a big cardboard box up under the porch and
said “you boys ken take a look if yore real quiet like.

We poked our noses up under the porch and lo and behold the box was full of
kittens! They was all black ‘cept for one—a scruffy lookin’ gray with four white
slippers. Lookin’ closer, the girl-kitten had something we’d never seen before—a blue
eye an’ a gray eye. After a bit Delmar told us to git and to leave the critters alone.

The next year was a dry spring an’ not much rain a ‘tall throughout the summer.
Hershel Greene, who’d been drilling wells for the folks that just couldn’t cotton
to perfectly good spring water was havin’ a hard time findin’ water for some of ‘em.
Delmar heard about it and called up Hershel sayin’ he figured he had just the thing.
Hershel, knowin’ that Delmar had studied up on some geology when he’d gone to
college figured that Delmar might could help him out, said to come on up to the
drill site near Cashiers.

Delmar drove up bright and early the next morning and got out of the beat-up
Ford pick ‘em-up he drove with a cardboard box that had a bunch of holes poked in it.

“What’ch got thare Delmar?” Hershel said with a big grin on his mug just knowin' that Delmar was gonna pull some sort of trick.

"Oh just this here cat I trained to find water Hershel," said Delmar.

“I know you ain’t trying to mess with me with some kinda foolishness Delmar.”

“Naw, it’s the real thang Hershel. I’ve been trainin’ up this cat for the best part of
a year and she always hits it right on.”

“Now this is somethin’ I’ll just half to see,” said Hershel with a look a pure
skepticism that woulda made one of them college types proud.

Delmar reached in the box and pulled out a scruffy gray queen with white feet
and said “Tootles, its time to go to work.” Delmar pulled out one of those cat toys, a fake
mouse on a string, that you could buy in the dog and cat section of the hardware store
downtown and commenced to dangle it above the cat’s nose. Tootles half-heartedly
batted at it a couple of times and gave Delmar a look as if to say, “is this what you
brought me here for?"

Delmar said “okay Tootles you always want a treat first, here’s ya one. Now
dance for me and find the water,” as he threw the gray a sardine out of a can he’d opened
Tootles leaped for the sardine, ate it and suddenly started to jump up and down like she was on a hot stove. “C’mon now find it girl,” Delmar urged as Hershel looked
on in total disbelief. The cat continued to bounce around on its back paws for about a
minute and suddenly sat down and began to wash its paws. All of a sudden Tootles quit
washing, jumped over to a spot off under a bush and began howlin’ like she was in heat.

“Hershel, that thares whare yore water’s gonna be at—probably purt close to the
surface, the way she was howlin’ and all.”

“Now if that don’t beat all,” said Hershel disbelievingly. “Jus’ how in the name
of all that's holy does that cat now whare the water’s at?”

“That’s were it’s at Hershel and if ya don’t believe me and Tootles well you ken
jus keep hittin’ dry holes” said Delmar as he picked up the cat and got in the truck. “Oh
by the way Hershel that one won’t cost you ‘nothin’—but the next one, well me an’
Tootles charge by the job,” said Delmar as he took off towards Tuckaseigee. It weren’t
but a day or two ‘fore Delmar got a call from Hershel.

“Darned if you weren’t right Delmar. I didn’t drill twenty foot ‘fore we hit a
gusher. I got a ‘nother couple of drill sites up near Highlands if you’d like to brang that

Pretty soon word got around that Delmar had a cat that could beat the dowsers
with their sticks just about every time. One afternoon a big fancy Cadillac pulled up
and a flatland city-slicker got out smoking on a big cigar.

“How’re you doin’ today Mr. Moses? My name is John May Pettigrew, pleased
to meet you suh.”

Eye’n the city-slicker up and down, Delmar noticed the Florida plates on the
caddy. “Well I ‘spect I’m doin’ fair to middlin’ Mr. Pettigrew. Kin I get ‘cha some o’
these ripe ‘maters I jus got in?”

“No thank you Mr. Moses, I’ve come to see about buying that amazing Felis
silvestris catus
you’ve been using to find water here in these magnificent Smoky

Well I’d be real put out to part with such a valuable cat Mr. Pettigrew,” Delmar
said as he looked the flatlander up and down and knew that he had ‘em in the palm of
his hand.

“Mr. Moses, would $1,000.00 make you more agreeable,” said Pettigrew as he
pulled out a fat wallet?

“I might re-consider let’n you take this here cat off’n my hands for say
$2,000.00,” Delmar said as he scuffed the toe of his beat-up Redwings in the dust.

“Done, Mr. Moses,” Pettigrew said excitedly as he fanned out a sheaf of bills.
Pettigrew tore out of there with Tootles like his pants were on fire. Delmar laughed all
the way to the bank!

‘Course ya’ll know how the story ends. Delmar had trained the cat to dance and
howl when he made a little signal with his hands as folks would be too busy watchin’
Tootles do her bouncin’ and howlin’ act. What happened to Tootles, you say? Well after
the word got out that Tootles was just a good performer Delmar gave her to me. Two or
three kittens in each one of her litters would come to have those strange blue and gray
eyes an’ at least two white paws. They got to be right smart mousers too. Least that’s
what them snooty town folks I sold ‘em to tell me.

Aunt Lucille Whups the Bear


Chuck Connors

Some of ya’ll might have heard about the bear that staged a break-in at the WNC
Nature Center in Asheville awhile back. Accordin’ to media reports a yearling black
bear scaled a ten foot fence and dropped in to do a little visitin’ with the center’s
herd of deer. Bob Fay, the nature center’s critter curator, said the deer “didn’t much
appreciate the visitor”. Why wouldn’t Bambi welcome a friendly visit with his ole buddy
Smokey the Bear?

Speakin’ of visitin’ that reminds me of the time brother bear visited my Aunt
Lucille. Aunt Lucille was a nurse up at C.J. Harris hospital and a lot of times she’d
work over-time and get back to the house pretty late. Her husband Rufus would leave the
back door unlocked when he left to go to work at the mill in Sylva ‘cause sometimes
Aunt Lucille would forget her key to the house. The bolt on the back door didn’t catch
too well and Aunt Lucille had been pestern’ Uncle Rufus to fix it for the longest time.
But you know how us men-folks can be with those honey-do’s.

It had been a cool spring with a late freeze and most of the berries and such that
bears and other critters in the woods ate just weren’t coming out. A big ‘ole black boar
bear happened to be huntin’ up some garbage cans close to town and scented Aunt
Lucille’s pot roast simmerin’ on the back of the stove. He peered into the house
and spotted a plate of cookies settin’ on the kitchen table like they was just waiting for
him! Well it weren’t long ‘fore brother bear just happened to nose up to the back door
and give it a little push. The pearly gates opened up and brother bear was in heaven!

First, brother bear devoured the oatmeal-raisin cookies on the kitchen table.
Like a lot of us folks brother bear’s motto was dessert first main course later.
Next he attacked the pot roast on the back of the stove—sliding it frontwards and spilling
the contents all over the kitchen floor. A perfect mess!

After devouring the tasty pot roast off the kitchen floor, brother bear smelled a
strange scent coming from the pantry. He ambled over to the pantry door pushing it
open. There sittin’ in the corner was Uncle Rufus’ beer crock plum full of strong bubbly
brew. After chowing down on the cookies and the pot roast brother bear had a powerful
thirst. He knocked the heavy clay top off and commenced to slurpin’ up Uncle Rufus’
best homebrew.

When ‘ole brother bear was done he belched contentedly and feeling a little
sleepy padded up the stairs wobbling from side-to-side. Nosing the bedroom door open
brother bear saw Lucille and Rufus’ bed which looked just fine for a post-feast nap.

Aunt Lucille came home to find the back door wide open to the world. She
took one look at the hog wallow in her kitchen and just about had a conniption fit.
“That man,” she thought, “he’s a gonna get my broom on his backside” as she
commenced to cleanin’ up.

When Aunt Lucille got done cleaning up the mess she was plum wore
out. As she started to the head of the stairs she could hear the snorin’ and thought to
herself, “Rufe ate all that pot roast, cleaned out the brewin’ crock of homemade beer
and now it sounds like he’s logging the whole forest. Can’t I ever get any rest?”

The light was burnt out in the hallway and Aunt Lucille felt her way up the stairs
to the bedroom that she and Uncle Rufus shared. As she opened the door the snoring
from brother bear sounded like hogs tussling over the feeding trough. Aunt Lucille got
into her night gown and slippin’ into bed gave brother bear a poke with her elbow and
said “Rufe quiet down so’s I can get a little sleep.” Brother bear grunted and shifted in
his home brew induced stupor.

When brother bear wouldn’t quit snoring Aunt Lucille gave the bruin a little
nudge with her hip. Well brother bear didn’t like that too much and gave out a little
growl that made Lucille sit up and take notice. She took one look at who her bed partner
was and sprang out of bed like she’d seen the Booger man himself!

Aunt Lucille grabbed the broom settin’ in the corner and started chasin’
brother bear ‘round the room. Just when she was gainin’ on him the bear would give a
little jump and get away. Finally, Aunt Lucille cornered the poor drunken bruin by the
dresser and gave him a good whop with the broom. Brother bear saw his chance and
leaped towards the window like one of them gold medal winnin’ Olympic high jumpers
and crashed right through it. Aunt Lucille rushed to the window and all she could see
was brother bear high-tailin’ it for the woods like a thirsty man headed for his still.

After that little incident Aunt Lucille made sure Uncle Rufus fixed that bolt on the
back door. So the next time you see brother bear pokin’ ‘round the backyard of your
‘little house in the big woods’ just remember he’s hungry and it’s his front yard!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Uncle Billy Ray's Sheep Get Baptized


Chuck Connors

Down in the flatlands of Eastern North Carolina there’s an Apex man that’s
got a powerful interest in sheep. Now just wait a minute ‘for you get the wrong
idea ‘cause this ain’t one of them kinda stories. According to the A-ssociated
Press, David Watts was arrested for having 77 sheep in his house just outside of
Raleigh. The police were called when someone happened to notice “sheep grazing
in the town cemetery.” Investigatin’ further the police discovered Watts kept “some
of the younger sheep on the ground floor of his house” and “others in pens in the

Now all this tomfoolery reminds me of the time my Uncle Billy Ray’s sheep
got baptized. Say what? Uncle Billy Ray had a place up Cullowhee creek and was
something of a free spirit and a practical joker. He was known through out the
county for the menagerie of critters he kept too. Besides dogs, cats, pigs, cows and
the odd ‘possum , Uncle Billy had a small flock of Merino sheep. One day Uncle
Billy heard about a new circuit ridin’ preacher in the county so he thought he’d have
a little fun.

Billy Ray invited the new preacher to stay up at his place and the circuit
rider, a Reverend Henry T. Willis, accepted hoping to win another soul for the Lord.
Preacher Willis rode up to Uncle Billy’s place ‘bout a week later on a decrepit old
mule. Billy Ray welcomed the preacher and invited him in to have some victuals.

During the meal Uncle Billy poured the preacher a cup of clear liquid (XXX)
from an old clay jug Uncle Billy kept for special occasions. The preacher took a sip,
made a peculiar face, and said, “Brother Billy this here’s some strange tastin’

Uncle Billy told the preacher, “why Reverend that thare’s some special water
from my ‘sacred spring’.” “Sacred spring”, remarked the preacher, "I ain't heard a any
a’ them kind a’ miracles ‘round these parts!”

“Yes suh,” said Uncle Billy Ray, “we was havin’ trouble with it runnin’ so’s I got
the old circuit rider, Preacher Jones, ta bless it.” “I dug a pond on the hill out
back and folks been comin’ from all over to get baptized right here in the ‘Holy
waters’ of tha ‘sacred spring’.”

“Praise the Lord,” said the preacher (who was fully took in by Uncle Billy’s ruse),
“it tastes powerful strange but I likes it. Can I git another?”

Much later, after a lot more cups of ‘water’ from the ‘sacred spring’, Uncle
Billy had to pour the preacher into his bed. Billy Ray said the man of the cloth was
just a snoring up a storm.

A little before sunrise Uncle Billy poked the preacher sayin’ “Preacher
wake up there’s sinners to be baptized and souls to be saved from the Devil.”
The preacher, all bleary-eyed and far from sober said, “Brother Billy,
give me a ‘nother cup a’ that sacred spring water so’s I can wet my throat.”

Uncle Billy did, helped him to his feet, and led him in the dark to the
‘baptizing pond’ out back of the house on the hillside. Earlier that morning
Uncle Billy Ray had penned up his sheep right next to the pond and he also had
invited a whole crowd of his friends and neighbors from up and down the creek.
Little did they know just what Uncle Billy was plannin’.

Preacher Willis said a long prayer, not much of which anybody could understand,
and ended with a loud “A-men.” He stepped into the pond and immediately
proceeded to fall flat on his back-side sending a wave of ‘sacred spring’ water
soakin’ the legs of the gathered crowd. Preacher Willis struggled to his feet with a kind
of pinched look on his face and drippin’ wet cried out “Brothers and Sisters we’re
gathered here this fine mornin’ ta’ bring sinners to tha Lord.” “Who’s gonna be
first to be saved?”

Uncle Billy Ray replied, “Preacher, I got a whole bunch of repenters for ya”
“They wuz at a house party up the way an’ lightnin’ struck the house. I think they’s
got the fear of the Almighty in ‘em. They’s ready ta come ta the Lord.”

“Thank ya Brother Billy,” said the preacher. “ Bring me the first sinner.”

Uncle Billy Ray started to open the pen and grab the first ewe. Right then,
my cousin Eugene who’d just come back from Asheville on a late night moonshine
run and had over indulged hisself in several heaping plates of pinto beans and cornbread
at an Asheville greasy spoon, cut loose with what I believe to be the loudest flatulence
ever produced by a human being on Cullowhee creek.

A woman screamed and Uncle Billy’s sheep stampeded knockin’ the pen flat.
Most of the crowd of folks was plum run over by the crazed ruminants. The
‘baptizing pool’ became a riot of floundering humans and struggling sheep.
Preacher Willis had a look of absolute terror on his face as a large ram jumped
up and ducked him under with a loud ‘Baaaa’. Uncle Billy managed to escape a
dunkin’ until one of the angry women threw a lamb in the water at his feet an’
drenched ‘em.

Later on Uncle Billy made a public apology at the Church and even sent
a bushel of apples to the Bishop. I imagine the folks down in Apex will be talking for
sometime about Watts and his sheep just like folks up on Cullowhee creek still
remember the day Uncle Billy Ray’s sheep got baptized.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Cousin Eugene Fights the Train


Chuck Connors

Ed Stephens of Dillsboro has a problem with the Great Smoky Mountain
Railroad. According to the Sylva Herald Stephens says the railroad is abandoning
old train cars on his property. Stephens “called them and asked them to remove the
cars.” “They told me to get a lawyer.” Now this wouldn’t be much more than a
‘tempest in a teapot’ ‘cept Stephens drove his pick-up truck up on the tracks and
left it there for a couple of days. Now why would he do a thing like that?

Up here in the mountains where folks have been livin’ real close to each
to each other, cousins and all, for longer than anybody can remember, you got to
expect a little craziness now and then. I don’t know who done what to who
but it sure does recollect me of my Cousin Eugene and the time he fought the train.

Cousin Eugene was a few cards short of a full deck mentally speaking. He’d
got that way by racin’ his homemade chopper-style bicycle through the woods.
For Eugene it was ‘live to ride and ride like hell’ and it seemed that every time I
stopped by to visit he’d hit another rock, flown through air like Evel Knievel the
motorcycle daredevil, and knocked a considerable amount of bark off of a hapless
tree with his head. In fact Cousin Eugene had been held back in the third grade three
times and twice in sixth for his mental deficiencies. Sayin’ he actually graduated would
be kind ‘cause when Eugene turned sixteen he quit darkenen’ the school house door.

Cousin Eugene’s need for speed eventually led him to make a deal with Fred
the junkyard man on Scott’s Creek to let him work stripping cars in exchange for
a beat-up 1962 Chevy pick-up. It back-fired and lurched a lot but it got Eugene
on down the road. Soon as Eugene had real wheels he made a deal with some fellers
(no names please!) up the branch he lived on to haul certain illicit distilled spirits
over to some warehouse in Asheville.

On the way home Eugene always liked to sample a pint (yep in a Mason jar)
of the latest product. By this time the ‘shine might have aged a whole day! Somewhere
between Waynesville and the house Eugene would get a little drowsy from sampling
that Smoky Mountain mother’s milk and usually fall asleep right on one of the
railroad crossings that cut over U.S. 74.

Now Southern Railway, which by the early ‘70s was pretty much running
one passenger and one freight train a day, would sometimes put on an extra freight
to haul cardboard out of the Mead plant in Sylva. All of the regular engineers
knew about Cousin Eugene and had figured out that the easiest way to get him off
the tracks was to drive the engine right up to Eugene’s truck and slowly rev the big
diesel motor. Cousin Eugene would come to, see the immediate necessity of moving
his truck off the tracks and slowly pull off down the road.

One time for some reason or another the extra freight had a substitute engineer
driving it. He was from up north somewhere and had a low tolerance for Southern
‘Hillbillies.’ Cousin Eugene had made it as far as Balsam before passing out on the
crossing and was slumped over the wheel with the beat-up Chevy blocking the tracks like
he owned ‘em. The Yankee engineer gave out a couple of short toots on his air horns.
These warnings weren’t successful in cuttin’ through Eugene’s befuddled head. The
frustrated trainman pulled the train a little closer to Cousin Eugene’s truck and hit
the air horn with a longer, much louder blare, kinda like a thunderstorm reverberating
off Waterrock Knob. Finally the engineer moved right up to Eugene’s truck, gave
it a nudge and cut loose with a blast that could have raised the dead down at Ochre Hill.
Cousin Eugene jumped up, grabbed his 12 gauge double-barreled shotgun and blew the
engine’s head light into a thousand pieces. This scared the Yankee engineer so much
he wet his pants and backed the train up almost to Barber’s Orchard. Eugene calmly
cranked up the truck and headed down to the house.

Later on Cousin Eugene had to pay for the engine’s headlight. I don’t know
if he ever apologized to the substitute engineer though. I reckon if Cousin Eugene
was to pass on a little experience to Ed Stephens of Dillsboro he might say “Don’t
let’em try to scare you with a huff an’ a puff an’ a big noise, ’least as long as you got
a 12 gauge double-barreled shotgun in your pick‘em-up truck.”

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Day Uncle Curtis' Bunnys Did the Town


Chuck Connors

Well if this don’t beat all. Over in eastern Germany where lederhosen,
apple strudel, and skin heads are tourist attractions, Karl Szmolinsky is
fixin’ to feed the world’s hungry. Maybe not the whole world, but you’ve got
to start somewhere. And what better place to start than North Korea where
thousands are starving to death every day!

It seems some of Kim Jong Il aka ‘Wacky Kim’s’ people found out
Szmolinsky raises really big rabbits to dress up that sour cabbage that Germans
like to eat. These rabbits, called ‘German Giants’ are as least as big as
Cocker Spaniels. Arf arf. The North Koreans “came here and they checked
out the rabbits,” Szmolinsky told the Associated Press. “They really liked them.”

Well all this foolishness reminds me of my Uncle Curtis. Uncle
Curtis was a good old boy raised right here in the mountains. He was looking
at the Sears and Roebuck catalog one afternoon while taking care of business
in the outhouse. One of the advertisements Uncle Curtis just happened to spot
was selling breeding pairs of rabbits. “Start Your Own Rabbit Farm—Guaranteed to
Make Money,” the ad said. Next thing we kids knew Uncle Curtis was pullin’
up the road with a big crate in the bed of his rusty old Ford. Curtis told us kids to not
mess with nothin’. When he turned his back we peered through the slats in the crate and
poked sticks inside.

The only thing we could see was big floppy ears and brown rat-like noses.
These rabbits didn’t look anything like Bugs Bunny in the cartoons they showed before
the movie in town. Uncle Curtis ran us off and moved the crate into the old tobacco
curing shed and locked the doors. It wasn’t too much later we kids forgot about the
rabbits and went back to fishin’, stealing apples from old man Carter up the road, and
laying out of school when we could get away with it.

Every once in a while Uncle Curtis would haul some big sacks of rabbit
pellets from the general store in town. This was in addition to the sacks of ground
corn and sugar he brought in as raw materials for the still up the branch.

One day, a couple of years later, the whole county was as excited as a hive
of stirred up bees over the news that the Governor was planning on makin’ a
speech in front of the court house. A big fair was planned with a livestock show,
pie eating contest and best of all to us kids, a dunking booth with the Chief of Police
in the seat of honor.

On ‘The’ day Uncle Curtis backed his truck up to the shed and loaded
it with a dozen large crates and threw a big tarp over all of ‘em. He drove to town
and backed right up to the livestock tent. The fair manager ran over and began to
raise a ruckus with Uncle Curtis ‘cause he hadn’t reserved a stall.

Uncle Curtis and the manager disappeared around the corner shoutin’ at
each other. Little Johnny Blanton, who was probably the meanest kid in our school
saw his chance. Johnny snuck up to the truck and unlocked all the cages. The
Governor was just starting to ‘speechify’ up on the stage in front of the court house
when someone cut loose with a string of firecrackers .

That was all she wrote for Uncle Curtis’ bunnies. Seemingly hundreds of
the scared rodents broke free of their prison and started hopping like mad through
the crowd. Women screamed, kids shrieked and men jumped. The Governor’s
bodyguards hustled him off the stage and into a State Patrol cruiser. It looked
for all the world as if downtown Sylva had gone mad.

Later on when things got sorted out Uncle Curtis had to promise the Judge
not to raise anymore rabbits. I believe that eventually the rabbits went to feed the
convicts at the county work farm. Humm, did I say work farm? I guess that’s why
‘Wacky Kim’ wants some rabbits for his people. He better watch out though.
Uncle Curtis could tell him a thing or two about loud explosions and keepin’
rabbits penned up.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tipping One Back With Baby


Chuck Connors

Gee, what’ll they think of next. In Olympia, the capital of Washington state,

there’s a state representative that’s proposing that dogs be allowed to drink in bars.

Well not exactly drink although I’m sure that some dog owners might pour a cool

one in one of those collapsible doggy bowls for their thirsty purebreds now and then.

The bill will allow bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to “welcome

dogs, as long as they accompany their owners and remain leashed. Establishments

wouldn’t be required to allow dogs except for service animals.”

This whole business reminds me of the time I was hoisting a few with an

acquaintance of mine in another state when I was much younger and only half

as smart as I am now. My drinking buddy Vic and me were in his pickup

careening down dusty back roads one hot southern summer afternoon. In the back,

as he barely kept the truck between the ditches, was his gigantic female Mastiff

‘Baby’ who occasionally gave out deafening howls. Which upon sober recollection

much later, was probably an indication she was coming into season.

Vic was speeding along and had just spotted a box turtle up ahead to play

‘chicken’ with when I shouted “hey there’s a bar up ahead let’s get some more beer.

Vic immediately forgot all about running the box turtle over and shouted “hell yea

I’m as dry as a bone—we need some more brewskys before we pick up the girls.”

He gunned the motor and simultaneously hit the brakes and we did a near

perfect power slide, with only a little skittering of the rear end on the graveled lot.

The truck came to a stop just a tad cross-ways in front of the place. We both jumped

out slamming the doors on the rusty Ford and ‘Baby’ launched herself out of the bed

and landed in the dirt with a loud ‘woof.’

We all walked in through the open screen door. As our eyes began to

adjust to the dark interior I couldn’t help but notice the juke box blaring an old

George Jones/Tammy Wynette song which instinctively made me feel in my

pocket for my Gerber lock blade—just in case. The honky tonk seemed to have

all of the standard furnishings for a red neck bar in the deep South—a huge

Confederate Battle Flag tacked up on one wall, pictures of NASCAR drivers with

their cars, half-neckked girls posing on out-of-date wall calendars, several tables

and chairs, a pool table, and a long bar at the back.

Behind the bar stood a balding fat man wearing a tee shirt that looked as if

he’d been fixing cars and drinking chocolate milk. “What ya’ll boys drankin’?”, the

Junior Samples look-a-like bellowed at us. Vic hollered back, “give us a couple a

drafts and a case of Bud to go mister.”

While the barkeep was busy drawing us a couple of beers I happened to look

over past the end of the bar. Just to the left of the door that said “This way to Outhouse”

I noticed a big mottled Bull dog spread out in the cool stillness. I thought

sure as all get out there was going to be a dog fight. Next thing I knew Mr. grease

and chocolate stain tee shirt was setting down two dog bowls full of cheap beer

for the Bull dog and Vic’s Mastiff. “It’ll keep them dawgs more socialable boys”,

said the barkeep.

Damned if it wasn’t so. After a few more rounds we all three staggered out

to the truck with our case-to-go and both me and Vic had to load ‘Baby’ up

in the bed ‘cause she sure couldn’t have made the jump in her condition. We sped

off into the gathering darkness all three of us howling at the moon.

So I guess its okay for some Washington state left-coasters to make legal

what we Southerners have been doing on the sly for years. If you want to take your

canine riding partner into the bar with you just make sure you show the pooch

where the outhouse door is.