A Poisonous Clique : The Hen House Chronicles
In Honor Of Our Izzy
Once again it is time to create another hub destined for a place some of us use to communicate without fear of moderation. At least, not as much interference from the oh-so-righteous anonymous entities laboring under their usual delusions of power by censorship. I forgive them though, they’ll eventually wake up to the reality of their puny judgments.
I don’t know exactly what this one will comprise until I finish it. Sometimes I merely write and see where it leads me. I know, lazy of me, but I’m not too inspired lately with all of the sob stories plastered across the forums. Apparently Paul is sticking to his vow not to discuss the embarrassing Related Search ads everyone is complaining about. I suppose there’s no secret why he avoids the subject..
This will be another creative attempt as I expect the comments to fulfill the bill if not the tale. I’ll throw in the usual polls, graphs, photos, etc. to hopefully pass the QRAP hoops, but no big deal if it doesn’t. Merely consider the source, and please take into consideration how sensitive I am. So without further ado, here the hell it is.
All Good Mules Go To Heaven
“I spose he wanted tuh go a-trudging’ in de woods one mo’ time,” Uncle Jericho murmured softly. “I found ‘im layin’ dere daid ‘tween the wagon hafts, jest lak he wuz agoin’ someplace dis mawnin’. He wuz 40 yars old ya know, the best mule I ever knowed in all my born days.”
A lot of folks felt the same way about Abe, knew he was a noble beast, even if he was just a mule. Jericho wasn’t really my uncle, nor his wife Essie my aunt, but I was closer to them than to my white relatives in the area. Jericho and Essie had lived right down the road from us for over 30 years. Jericho had been in charge of my grandfather’s vast pine forests, had chipped the thousands of pine trees and dipped the resulting sap from each individual box.
Abe pulled the turpentine wagon through the myriad lanes crisscrossing the timberland while Jericho ambled from tree to tree, scraping the clear sap from each box. When his bucket got full he only had to walk a short distance to where Abe waited with the wagon bearing a lone turpentine barrel. The mule watched Jericho working the boxes and kept abreast with him without being spoken to. He knew his job well, needed no prompting to do it properly.
A Perfume Of Pine
I was only 10 years old the year Abe died. It was in 1959 and my father and I--we being Thomas and Patrick Brady--walked down the road to see if we could offer our condolences to the old black couple.
As we were approaching their old unpainted house, I thought back on my time spent with Jericho, Essie, and Abe, during my short time on earth. Aunt Essie had kept me many times when I was a child, had raised me as if I were her own. When I grew older, I would accompany Uncle Jericho and Abe on their rounds in the deep woods.
I was forbidden to help Jericho dip tar out of the boxes because it was impossible not to get it on your clothes, or anywhere else for that matter. Jericho’s clothes were coated with the substance, as was his old straw hat.
Aunt Essie had to boil his overalls in an old black pot to get the tar out of them. Even when Jericho wasn’t wearing his "tar dippin’" clothes he still smelled of pine. I’ll always think of him when the aroma of fresh pine wafts my way.
A Sad And Gloomy Day
I learned a lot about mules from Uncle Jericho. “Mules is smarter dan hosses,” he expounded on the subject “dey’s better for working in de red clay we has down heah in Georgie too. Dey can hear better ‘n a person, especially if dey’s listnen’ for somebody dey knows.” I’d remember those words a long time after he said them, never forgot them, as a matter of fact.
I was surprised at the amount of people who had come to see Abe for the last time. There were both white and black folks who had come to pay their last respects to both Abe and his owner. On the way home my father told me why this was so.
“When I was a bit older than you are now Patrick," my father began "I was riding on the school bus--actually it was just an old truck converted to a bus to take kids to school--after a day of pouring rain had turned the roads into a virtual quagmire. The bus driver--old man Homer Perkins was his name--lost control of the vehicle and the rear end dropped into the creek, turning the old truck on its side.”
The Nick Of Time
“There were over 20 children trapped inside of the old truck, with the angle such that none could escape easily. Uncle Jericho told me later on that he and Abe were waiting out the storm under a nearby tobacco barn shelter when suddenly, Abe pricked up his ears and started raising a fuss to go.”
“I knowed Abe heard somethin’ he wanted to go ‘vestigate right now.” Jericho said. “I unhitched him from de wagon an’ grabbed my ole log chain, jest in case dere was somebody stuck as usual when it rained lak dis. Sho nuff, I seed de old bus wit its rear end down in de crick.”
“Jericho and Abe showed up almost immediately after the accident ,” my father continued “Using the log chain, Jericho hitched Abe to it and pulled the bus back on its wheels, allowing the children to escape the flooded wreck. All but one person escaped without a scratch. “ At his point my father was silent for a bit as we continued on towards our house. I saw his eyes had filled with tears sometime during his telling of the story.
Acts Of Kindness
Finally he cleared his throat and finished the tale. “All of those people paying their respects to Jericho were either those who were on the bus that day, or had loved ones saved by Jericho and old Abe. The only child lost that day was Jericho and Essie’s little boy Eddie.
This was because old man Perkins always made him ride in the back of the bus by himself. He wouldn’t allow me to sit back there with him as I wanted to. I never forgave that man, never will.”
Years later after my father told me that sad story I remembered what Jericho had said about Abe’s hearing ability. It was little Eddie he’d heard screaming that horrible day. Eddie had loved the old mule, had been raised around him all his young life.
No wonder Abe was so insistent in going to his rescue. I also understood why I’d been kept by Uncle Jericho and Essie so often. It was my father’s way of thanking the old black couple for their loss. I wish I’d known that then.