test PDF 2
By A.H. Watson
Another short visit to that quirky little town of Hennyville - This would be considered more on the light side now - now, that we have allowed our mores to be watered to the extent that were it beer it would be called "point .o8 beer." Our parents being of a more religious bent would have called this story, "As you sow, so shall you reap" but sadly those days, and proper guilt so generated, were buried along with those dear - and much better class of people.
"Sit down Sam; Henny was just telling us about one of his many sexual exploits. I'm sure it will give both of us some additional insight to our friends entangled id." With those words the Judge loaded his pipe and nodded at Henny, as if to say -'continue.'
Sam removed his gun and heavy utility belt. A belt that State Trooper Headquarters had loaded, by fiat, with so many unnecessary items that three fellow officers had sunk without leaving a ripple during the preceding year.
Thinking to himself of the latest letter from Headquarters somewhere on his desk; a letter insisting that: " As of 5 September, FY06, each trooper - with out exception - shall add?one each, set, wings, inflatable - water: Serial # bvd-1269, to his standard belt, Utility."
Sam eased his large frame into the wing chair next to the garden window, still smiling at the picture of all his men walking up to a car - chock full of drug smugglers - carrying water wings.
Standing near the empty fireplace, hand behind his back in his normal, "address the jury mode" Henny barked.
"Well, Sam, I see you find my predicament funny ? damn your sorry ass!"
Henny had been sitting in his downtown office, a place even few close friends would attempt to disturb him ? their knowledge being he could only be found there while working on a closing speech, or legal brief.
A knock on the door brought rain to Henny's parade. No, it actually, as his two friends were finding out ? brought a flood; a flood of past memories, long, long gone; and far better forgotten.
"I'm not kidding fellows," Henny's voice rising. "She stood there in the door and said,"
"It's me, Henry."
"OK it's you. But you are standing in my light - while I am running the memory table ? ah? who is you?"
"Why Henry you old devil, you were always the kidder?it's me Gladys ? Gladys Dairyrimple, you know - from Fort Lauderdale."
Waiting for a response, she added?"The beach."
"Lady, I haven't been to the beach, or Lauderdale in thirt-fiv?"
"Did you have a bright blue one piece bathing suit?"
"Oh! Henry?you do remember!"
The Judge was frowning, being a lawyer and all, but Sam let out a whoop and smiled from ear to ear.
"And you remembered her you old cad? Forty years and you remembered her?"
"Of course not, Sam?unlike you Negroes, we don't have multiple daily sexual encounters or weekly for that matter - or if Episcopalian - even yearly ? that is? if you include leap year."
"Well, you old goat, there must have been something you remembered, to have put her in a bright blue bathing suit, after some twenty years or more. (The Judge had been with Henny in Lauderdale and had similar reasons for wishing to cut the years)
"Where is she now?Lover boy?' Henny could see all of Sam's teeth upon this particular question.
"Damn it Sam, stop that!"
"Just who in the hell took your side back when you looked so frigging miserable years ago? You were trying to join the Fraternity at Georgia and they gave you a sack and told you to go catch some snipe. Remember how I turned that around for you?"
"Yeah, well sure? and it worked too. But? " Sam never finished his thought before Henny was down his throat.
"But what - you junior G-man? They were going to shame your black ass and make fun of your being so gullible. Now tell me I am wrong."
The Judge entered the fray. "Now Henry, no need your getting so upset?."
"UPSET! You two bandits ain't seen upset."
I'll send you a mail-o-gram when I get "upset." Damn it Judge, you are no better than this scallywag. When Sam asked for help we turned it slap around on that snarky frat crowd. Remember Sam?"
Sam remembered. He had eventually gone back late that night to the fraternity house and told them that he had a hard time finding any snipe; But not before Henny had step in and kept Sam from being shamed and ridiculed to the point of distraction.
Drawing out his explanation of failure to the point the head frat brother had interrupted and said?
"No snipe? Hell, everyone knows there are no snipe! Why would we wish to pledge a freshman that is such a fool that he would spend all night chasing a bird that doesn't exist?
While the brothers laughed and made fun of Sam's stupidity, Sam had slowly opened his croaker sack and out flew six of the liveliest Snipe any man is likely to see. Turning over lamps, bouncing off the head of several brothers and shitting on everything that didn't get out of the way. Some brothers ran screaming ? some called for their momma's ? others, much as Sam stood - transfixed by the sheer chaos six rather small birds could cause.
Order, was later somewhat restored, but the only remaining dignity resided with Sam. The Fraternity President then started to blame Sam; this too soon blew up in his face ? much like a snipe leaving the dark confines of a damp croaker sack.
Sam stood before the now quiet, but perhaps, still traumatized fellowship of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. Using only one small lie, Sam told them of his evening capturing snipe.
"Boys, I saw your written directions to go snipe hunting yesterday and was given a croaker sack to hold them. I figured the person writing the directions had never been snipe hunting ? for sure he had never actually caught one - Hell, I feel sorry for him if he tried."
"Mr. President, you were kind enough to look up snipe in both the Dictionary and the Encyclopedia. You found out all about snipes, much as I had told you, while the fellows cleaned up the room.
But, what the books did not tell you is simply, that snipe hunting with sacks is never done. In fact, people, other that sportsmen such as a few in Hennyville, still practice this ancient art.
Times have changed ? the world has moved on. No one wishes to spend the time and effort to capture, live, a bird that provides so little nutrition. Hell, the white trash gave up long ago, once they discovered baloney?and especially when it became - FREE.
Those that hunt snipe now shoot them from small boats during the three days of full moon and extra high tides. This allows them to get boats into the reeds surrounding the salt-water canals and creeks of the coast. The unstable boat and darting flight of the birds still make them the best bet in any encounter."
Henny went on at length explaining to the assembled group that shooting snipe was not the real sport, how "Snipe Catching" was one of the few "manly" sports left. A sport so loved by "real men" that it was passed from father to son and was seldom known to be allowed to rank outsiders and those not deemed to have sufficient skill and grit to catch snipe on their nest at night when the tides were low.
The Judge - cutting Henny off, "Damn Hen, get off snipe hunting and get back to the lovely Miss Dairyrimple. Where is she now? What are you going to do ? Gonn'a make a honest woman of her, Hen?"
"Judge, Henny ain't got to the best part about my fraternity days at Georgia and how the snipe hunt helped. Let him fin?."
"The judge is right Sam lets get back to what is important now.
"She is still at the office John. I told her I had a client that must be seen to and that I would be back later, then I called you two for some advice and all I get is goosed."
"I mean it, John, the next time you snicker; You too, Sam? get that smile off your face and think ? the next time, I am going to call New York and send that Mexican Momma a plane ticket. I am going to tell her you just can't live with out her - by god, if Henny is about to get pussy whipped with your blessings?then you two will go down with me ?I will see to that?I will. Yes, I will sink both your rubber ducks AND shoot your dog? if you make me!"
Laughing, the Judge reminded Henny, "Bubba, the dog been dead a year and I could use a little of that Mexican Yankee at that."
"Don't mess with me you old goat, or you either, Sam. I'll buy you a dog today and hell I'll shoot the greaser instead? you looking forward to her, and all."
Eventually, the boys settled down and worked out a plan to help their old, but now overwrought, friend.
1. The basic plan had been the Judges idea. If Gladys was looking for Henny to take care of her, then devise a plan that provided for her anticipation with more home like duties than the poor girl could wish for.
To this end Henny was dispatched to amuse Gladys for the remainder of the day by taking her to the pond and catching, and keeping, a large mess of bream for dinner. But in no account were they to show back up at the house until around 6 PM. By the witching hour Sam and the Judge had accomplished their goals.
2. Every smidgen of "convenience food" had been removed from Henny's kitchen and freezer. All had been replaces with sacks of flour, rice, pails of lard and even the meat cooler room had shared the space with both the fresh deer and a beef quarter and half a hog. The pantry contained baskets of potatoes, apples, pears, and other assorted veggies
3. Sam had made a call to a local farmer and by three pm there was a new chicken coop with twenty-four hens and several large baskets of live ducks and geese.
4. Wilbur, with some small persuasion, had allowed his St. Bernard to come live with Henny. Wilbur, being the town sampler of fine booze, the Judge could only cringe when he thought about the inducement Sam must have made to get the use and loyalty of "Moose" the largest, smelliest, drool-ingest dog god ever created. Every thing could be handled if only the damn dog didn't insist on sitting in any lap available. It was not unusual to see several town people stand up every time "Moose" appeared unannounced. The stranger, and there-by unknowing, would assume right up until the "FLOP ? Drool ? Pant" that the approaching animal must be of some Royal descent worthy of being accorded a standing notice.
5. The Judge scheduled a Poker game for late that evening to be held at Henny's house
6. Sam's abode was cleared out and Sam's accoutrements moved in with the Judge. This would give Gladys a "Home of her own" and keep Henny from running straight to Mexico and his favorite hideaway.
Henny arrived promptly at six; struggled up to the deck, then the rear door, with a wash pan full of fat bream; paused to take a quick breath, shook his head at the Judge and said. "She's a fishing fool, partner. She caught them faster than I could get them on the stringer. Finally I just started dropping them in the boat and chased them down when we finished."
Barely listening - the Judge smiled at Gladys, and then told her that a bunch of the guys had been invited for a fish fry and to play poker. He included that it was also to give her a chance to meet some of Henry's best friends. Those being? Wilbur (he had insisted upon seeing his dog Moose, once a day, before bedtime. Then there was "One eyed" Oliver, and a man that answered simply to the name?. "Meat."
The Judge told Gladys she could sit in the game, if she wished, as the seventh man, a man they called "rocket" couldn't come - seemed he had been arrested for wife beating that very same morning.
Sam added shaking his head that would really hurt Henny as "Rocket" was the closest of his friends, and they often double dated.
In an act of seeming compassion, the Judge offered that, if Gladys would clean the fish, he and Henny would start getting the rest of the meal together, as well as the chips and table set up.
Looking somewhat pale around her own gills, Gladys was led to the back yard fish cleaning area out near the creek. The creek ran under Sam's house situated in a old covered bridge spanning the water and giving access to path leading up to Johns larger home.
It should be noted that cleaning thirty bream should take a normal man about 15 minutes, with all of that time spent with a tablespoon rapidly removing the scales from the fish.
Once de-scaled it takes only a moment to stand the fish straight up (much as though he was still swimming) cut off the head right behind the gills and as you get to the bottom of the fish, lift up on the body as you pull back at the same time. This will, unless one is a complete spastic, remove the innards of the fish as the head comes off. That is right 15 minutes maximum. Trust me?or try it your own self; if - unlike some I know - you can catch a fish.
About an hour later the Judge checked on how Gladys was coming along. She had cleaned four Bream. Well no that's wrong?she had filleted four poor Bream ? and then skinned them.
Shaking his head the Judge brought one of the fillets to Sam and Henny. All any of the three could do was to smile. All that hard work and when John held the poor little fish up it looked similar to one of those small crocheted things your grandmother would put on the arms of all chairs and sofas in the parlor.
When held up to the light there were enough small holes ? tears and cuts to make each piece of fish to seem to have been created from small pieces of fish sewn together ? a doily made from fish.
We should have known at the time - but stupidity follows arrogance - as surely as meanness follows democrats. None saw it coming; we were all so damn secure in our own perfection.
"I'm sorry about the fish fellows. That is the way my husband does it when I watch him on the boat, but then thinking back I don't remember that he ever kept a fish under 5 lbs.
(We should have picked up on her use of the present tense?. and the mention of cleaning the fish ON the boat but to our eventual embarrassment and shame we continued not only to walk far out on the plank? but to jump up and down like the fools we were.)
While Henny had finished cleaning the fish, Gladys eagerly threw herself into helping Sam and the Judge prepare the remainder of the supper. She sliced and breaded the green tomatoes for frying and even chopped the onion for the Hush Puppies and showed the Judge how to add an egg to the buttermilk to help hold the small bread balls together better in the fryer.
Gladys was not only help in the kitchen, she could laugh and make fun with the boys, as well.
"I declare Sam, when I first met you I could have sworn you were the typical "fat Sheriff" the Yankees always make you in the movies. Now, just looking at you, I can see a fine specimen of a man. So trim and nice looking;" smiling, she added ? "where did all that fat go?"
Looking up at Gladys, Sam winked and nodded toward the chair. "It's hanging over there, Mam. Seems your government thinks the Police run to fast for the common criminal, so like a horse race, they handicap us with extra weights to keep things "even-steven; Can't have the police winning too often - won't be anyone left to vote for the democrats."
With a quick smile and light giggle, Gladys patted Sam lightly on the shoulder saying, "Wonder if the local Sheriff could help a poor girl find a Motel in this 'berg? Seems that in all the hustle and bustle today, I forgot to secure a room at the Inn,"
"No problem, Mam, Henny has fixed up a place for you here on the spread. You can have the quarters over the creek, and just help around the house a few hours a day"
Gladys then looked at Sam with puzzled features ? "And just why would I want to stay here, Sam? Tell me again that part."
The Judge then, hopping to recover the ball, then ran smoothly to the field?"What Sam is saying young lady ? is that for what ever length of time you wish to stay in Hennyville since having so recently lost your husband you would be welcome to?"
"Excuse me Judge, what is this about losing my husband? He is not missing - I know just where I left him."
"Well, yes Madam, I am sure it is a nice cemetery, I would not expect less from a woman of your stature."
"DEAD? That prick best not be dead. I left him having the boat pulled to re copper the bottom, and to oversee the new guesthouse we are having built out near the water. If he is taking the easy way out ? I will have him shot!"
"You mean you are NOT moving to Hennyville to be with Henny?" The Judge fell back - deep into the den wing chair. Had you been there - and listening closely, you could have heard his hither-to "golden throat "? slam closed."
Gladys then went on to explain that she had met her future husband, as well as Henny, in Lauderdale that same year. She felt at the time that Henry as she called him, to be one of the more attractive men she met in South Florida's very own Gomorrah. She further said that Henry was both mature and had a peculiar look on life that appealed to her ? at the time. Being a good southern girl they had not had sex as we know it to day, just a couple of those hot and heavy nights that leave both parties ready to either marry ? or shoot themselves.
It had been the "other" boy she married; the one that sat besides the pool in a long sleeved shirt and cordovans - reading a chemistry book! She had later run into him at Florida State and eventually pushed him into dating ? anybody.
They had nothing; both sets of parents helped support them while Charlie finished school. One day Charlie had listened to several football players complain about being physically beat from practicing in the Florida sun.
This information, like most in life, had been randomly filed in Charlie's brain. For several weeks it sat soaking in other knowledge Charlie had accumulated over the last few years ? perhaps even while sitting by the pool in Lauderdale reading as others drank and dated - Who is to ever know.
But Charlie did remember the day the answer came full measure into his active thoughts. He was to later tell some awards group that the answer came full measure with not a change necessary.
Charlie had been outside doing normal maintenance to the family car ? replacing oil, air filter, spark plugs - all those things that hard use requires, if the car is to perform its best when asked by the owner. He looked down at his arm; beads of sweat were standing, and then running off - only to be replaced by other new beads. It came to him as clear as any equation in chemistry; people were not completely unlike cars. Perhaps they too needed to be adjusted after hard labor, much as Charlie had done for his car.
Three months of testing his own blood and sweat after taking various mixes of sugar ? salt ? and other minor natural items such as various vitamins. Charlie asked various friends to use his concoction after games of tennis - even football practice.
The results were such that the coaches asked that he provide the drink to the team. Soon even the average football fan could see the strength that the team brought to the 4th quarter of a game and with in the year Charlie's drink was available nation wide ? at least, to football teams.
It was here that the normal greed and utter lack of morality of the University showed it's self. Though Charlie had no contract with the school, nor did he develop the product on their time, or use their lab or equipment; the School claimed the invention as theirs and promptly sold the rights to a large food conglomerate. Seldom challenged - and counting on the fact they were large and Charlie small ? the University and company could in no way envision the blind stubbornness and hate they had inculcated in what once was sweet and mild mannered, Charles.
Charles blindly lucked into one of the few truly good lawyers in that part of the country. The man was feared through out the south for his handling of auto claims. He simply never lost. John MacDonald McNatt was known by friend and opposition alike, as "Road Wreck" McNatt. John would handle either side of a case that he thought deserved to win. His wins were so legendary that many companies, faced with a choice, simply ask John what he wanted - to just go away.
"Road Wreck" had been honest with Charles from the start and told him he had never litigated against a corporation/ University for criminal, as well as civil wrongs; but that as criminals seldom differed, except in the cost of the suit they wore, he felt their chances were good.
They were: after several years of protracted litigation Charles won everything he had ask for in the original complaint ? and more. The acts of the University and the Food Company in protracting the litigation had worn sorely on the court and the media. Mcnatt played, the poor waif against the vicious thugs of business, to the hilt winning court cost, ten million each from the University and the company. In addition the company was forced to return all net profits and the business to Charles control. Charles later sold the controlling interest in his concern to the same company for $150 million in stock and cash, while retaining some 20% of the stock in a separate trust.
Gladys had chosen well that spring in Lauderdale.
In the light of the new facts, the Judge had called off the Poker Game.
Over supper Gladys discussed her husband, their life and just why she had come to Hennyville.
Her opening act had been one that left the boys speechless. It would be added to the many events of Hennyville history told around the campfires at night.
Moose had been added to the Henny family to drive Gladys away from Henry; to make her as uncomfortable as the damn dog made everyone BUT Wilbur.
Moose had been forgotten. When he arrived he had been put in the Den with the door closed. The broken hearted mutt had spent the evening with his nose against the outside door hoping against hope that his master would deliver him from this strange abode.
After dinner the crowd, now accustomed to each other, entered the den for after dinner drinks. Gladys seated, awaited her brandy. Moose - noticing Gladys seated - trotted towards her, 160 lbs of drooling love.
The boys choked - then stood transfixed as Moose rapidly approached his target.
Gladys, her eyes level even with that of Moose, immediately read all.
With a calm and steady voice she said but one word, "Sit!"
Moose, as though hit with a brick, stopped, then quickly sat on his haunches, assuming the position one sees so often in those large Chinese porcelain fire dogs ? sitting un moved, head turned, as though awaiting a command of his master.
In seven years before on the planet earth, the single command Moose had EVER followed was the command, "Eat". It was the ONLY command ever unto this day, he has ever acknowledged.
The conversation between Gladys and the fellows, as she referred to them, ranged widely. As the evening turned to morning, the most enlightening part had been Gladys discussing her marriage and relationship to Charlie.
Briefly noted; they had, as we know, married young and poor of money, and to some degree, of passion. Gladys had smiled when explaining their early relationship.
"Henny, Charlie was the other side of you. He contained many of the traits you would need to find real happiness in life. But Charles was missing many of the great traits as well; traits that you had at the time, a sense of irony and the ability to find the nature of those in your immediate world. You could always find their wishes, their dreams and play to them. A dangerous power Henry ? I hope you used it well."
In a ribald manner Gladys went on to describe her life with Charlie. There was no meanness, just love and a sense of the ridiculousness of human effort, when up against the long and deeply held psychology of the mind - the id.
Gladys sounded much like one of us. Her copybook of life, so to speak, contained many of the same colors as ours - even the number of small smudges on various pages.
"I will never understand men, meaning, of course, she had our hide nailed to the barn, We hadn't been married long when I walked in and there was Charlie with a first class boner on, reading a text book on sex! No dirty pictures mind you - just a book on the mechanics of sex.
He had stammered at the time that he was aware that he was lacking in that area and really wished only to please me."
"Henny, you sweet talking old dog, in all your glibness you reckon you could ever ? on your best day do better than that?"
Looking sweetly at their new friend, in her new substance, "Well, as I remember, once I told you I wouldn't have kissed you if I didn't love you."
"Does that count?"
"John, Sam - why hasn't this man been shot by now?"
Gladys smiled at Henny and continued.
"I know what you are thinking, you evil ass, Henny.
Charlie is as straight as you and these other two Bubba's here. Charlie just?just doesn't think about sex too often, but once you get the ball rolling he can make the bottom of the hill with the best of you."
But we have all lived long enough to know, in our hearts, that love isn't about sex or money. Oh, they can help some, but they can more often destroy. Isn't that the case guys?"
"Let me tell you one quick story about what Charlie is all about, and just why he means so very much to me.
Real knowledge about people comes from observation of them in action. All of you fish. Think about a trout stream you have never seen. Come to some long flat stretch, even with no boulders showing, in a few minutes of quietly watching the water and the reflections, you can place most of the under water rocks and other conditions such as depth and speed of current at any particular spot. In so many words you have learned the water. You know, it and can now fish it with both safety and reasonable results."
"The same with people - especially Charlie - as to my knowledge he has no hidden agendas or quiet desperate wishes as many do. Charlie is happy in his own skin and wishes no other, god knows, he has sufficient money to meet his limited wants and needs!"
Gladys then told the boys about a trip north several years ago. A man of steady habits, Charles had lost a motel reservation due to some mix up, and they had been forced to drive further, to some small town in Pennsylvania. The next morning at breakfast they were served by a quiet woman of some thirty years of age. She was tired having worked the night shift at the local mill, and now waiting on tables, was about to drop. When I asked why, it was the universal story Husband left, and she was raising a boy with no help from any but her own two hands - To proud to take welfare, to poor to break out of the vice of poverty.
Gladys said that Charlie had told her to finish breakfast and wait there for him. About thirty minutes later she had seen him standing on the corner with his hand on a older mans shoulder, then a shaking of hand and some last minute seeming admonishment by Charles. His whole bearing seemed different taller and more commanding that she had ever noticed before.
Charles returned to the restaurant and when asked, told his wife that it was nothing but a small business arrangement that had come to him last night ?nothing of importance, or worth mentioning.
It was over a year before Gladys found out the substance of the morning meeting in Pennsylvania the year before. Charlie had hidden nothing, it would never occur to him to do so. Gladys had seen a letter on the desk from a Bank in the small town where they had enjoyed breakfast a year before. When she asked Charlie about it he told her what had happened the morning when he left her in the restaurant.
"Gladys, if I hadn't been fortunate enough to get you to marry me it never would have occurred to me that we could help that waitress that morning at breakfast, it simply would never have occurred to me. Thankfully you did marry me, and I saw that we could be of some real help."
Charlie went on to tell his wife that walking over to the Police station it had been his original idea to make funds available to give the woman some small financial relief. By the time he reached the station, in his mind, that all changed.
Upon seeing the Chief, Charlie had offered to call the Florida Attorney General, at home, and have him vouch for Charles. He then asked the chief to ask the Mayor, Bank President and school Principal to come to the station for a quick meeting that would benefit the town greatly?but, time was of the essence, they needed to be there in thirty minutes as Charles must soon leave for a previous scheduled appointment.
In a brief discussion, Charlie assigned each of the men certain and specific task concerning the affairs of the now known? Mrs. Nona Grant.
The Principal was assigned the task of seeing her son equipped to handle college work and get his resume cleaned to the extent any college would eagerly accept the young man ? this assumed, of course, the boy was fit for the task.
The Mayor was to find a home in a proper neighborhood ? one he would find fit for his daughter ? and Charles would purchase it and rent it for a nominal sum to Mrs. Grant. This was to keep her from feeling the effect of too much intrusion in her life.
The Bank Manager was to handle all financial matters for the woman. Simply stating that she had been left an amount of funds by some one that wished to remain unknown. That the funds, $3,000 per month, required some few acts on her part; She was to quit the Mill and the restaurant, return to school? getting an education that would lead to a work environment such as Nursing or Court reporting.
The police Chief was to keep one eye on each: the boy and the mother, allowing no undue crud of this life, to fall on either. The unsavory, be they suitors, or unsuitable male friends of the boy, were to be warned away ? even forced, if it became necessary.
When the young son left for college, were she was still doing well, and still uninformed as to her benefactor, Charlie had promised the Mayor, to either turn over the home to be used for a battered woman's shelter, or buy another building and fund the program for several years until local support could take over.
Gladys paused a moment, to gather herself, it seemed, and smiling at the boys, told them ?" the only way to really see someone is much like the trout stream ? stand back and watch what they do on their own with no one watching.
If I had never know another thing about Charlie - other than this, I would love him to the day I die."
Having told her story, Gladys looked at the fellows and said, " that is why I am here Henny - John ?Sam ? not to steal Henny."
"Anyone that stole Henny would most likely return him the next day with a Hundred dollar bill and a note stuck in his teeth that said ' this is all I have? but, but if you keep him away, I will try to raise more by next week!"
"I am on my way to watch that boy, Jody, graduate from Davidson College, up the road a piece from where you bad boys hang out. You would appreciate this Henry. Jody was accepted at all the Ivy League schools he applied - but when he finally had to choose, he told his mother he wished to come south - he had had it with Yankees."
Henry, it has been a real pleasure to see you - especially to meet your friends. I only hope that re-establishing our friendship will mean that you and these fine fellows that must truly care for you to have gone to all this trouble ?Moose? - A poker player named 'Meat'? - Fifty-pound sacks of flour and rice? - will still come to Florida fishing."
"Gracious so much work to get rid of one little girl."
In the annals of Hennyville, never had the three men been so quiet. In truth, there was nothing TO say. The three of them had fallen heads over heels for this fine woman. And secretly most likely wondered what their own lives would have been like - if married to Gladys.
With little left to say, Sam broke the silence by suggesting a final nightcap, while Henny told Gladys about the great snipe hunt and how it led to success for the first black KA in the history of Henny's old frat house.
"Hell, Sam she won't care about that trip? as funny as it turned out to be."
"Well, I just thought that it having happened around the same time you and the Judge were making eyes at Gladys all those years ago!"
"Yes Henny do tell. You were such a devil back then I bet it's a good story." Gladys smiled and patted Henny on the shoulder, then gave him a quick hug.
Henny protested weakly then quickly told Gladys about the time Sigma Nu Fraternity tried to shame Sam by sending him on a Snipe Hunt. Then he told her about turning the tables on the asses and turning a bag of Mud hens lose on the brothers causing havoc and a new group of believers in Snipe ? having seen them? and all.
Realizing the situation, the next day Henny told Sam to quietly offer to take a few of the brothers out "Sniping" over the next weekend evening, during the next new moon. (Low tide) Sam, as Henny had told him, demanded that only a few brothers be told as this was a special event that few could attend. He told the Fraternity President that once the state Governor had been turned down when he asked to be included.
Nothing creates demand - like telling someone they can't be included. Sam would go on to say, "tell them that if there is another opportunity they will be first to be chosen."
That Friday evening, though only 30 had been invited, close to 100 Sigma Nus, and assorted friends, showed up at the fish camp on the 40' cliff overlooking the tidal creek and shrimp docks.
When told that, due to government regulation, only 40 individuals could participate in the hunt. Henny suggested that "first come-first serve" be the ruling factor. The big wigs of the Fraternity demanded that it be done by - Fraternity seniority.
And so it was.
Imagine yourselves on a forty-foot high bluff overlooking a rather large tidal creek some fifty feet wide at high tide. In front of you to the East is the large Island of St. Catherine, sufficiently large to contain its own fresh water ponds and even a running brook, and pastures. The island is riff with Turkey, Deer, wild Boar, pheasant, alligator and black squirrels the size of small dogs.
Unfortunately the one mote, in the eye of all this paradise, is the rattlesnake. It dines on the squirrels and any toothless alligators available. The word big - does not do them justice.
Between the Island and the high bluff is the sea of marsh grass rising from a base of thick costal mud and oyster shell. This island of marsh grass is devoid of animal life other than crustaceans such as crab and shelled creatures, a few misdirected birds and the Marsh hen that find the gooey mess the perfect home.
To conjure up a view of the area to be hunted, picture yourself standing on the bluff looking out at a sea of tall brown grass; hold your arms out as thought embracing a large tree. Your chest would be the Bluff, your arms the tidal creek and in the distance?say, between your hands would be the Island just mentioned, cut off from the grass island by a part the same tidal creek running its length. As you can most likely see by now, the Bluff and fishing camp gave a grandstand like effect to the coming battle between man and beast.
Henny had seen that Sam was the one to address the "hunters" and, as well, had given him a few clues as what should be said?and how!
Around 9pm - as full darkness and low tide came to bear on the Sea Marsh, Sam assembled the group. The disappointed non-hunters sitting to his rear, Sam spoke to the eager participants.
"Very few people get this special opportunity to catch the wily snipe. I notice that some of you were even able to obtain the standard Croaker sack; other will have to make do with plastic and cotton sacks you brought ? though I expect your task will be more difficult and worthy of great satisfaction for those that succeed."
With this pronouncement you could both see, and feel, the breast of the anointed few raise with pride.
Sam continued: "You will be divided into two, twenty man teams. One team will be released on the right side of the marsh; the remaining team will be taken to the left side of the marsh. When you hear the shot turn on your lights." (they had arrived with assorted means of light- some five celled flashlights, some miners lights on their caps and some with ungainly gas lanterns)
"Separate yourselves by some 20 yards and work slowly toward each other looking for snipe on their nest. When one is located, quietly slip your long bass net over the entire nest then put the Snipe in your sack and continue.
Now listen, this is important. Many of the nest will be empty, the bird will have heard you and slipped from the nest and will be creeping slowly across the flats. This is the reason we divide you into two groups. If you will notice from this map when you meet, you will have covered half the reed flats - So you will turn to the east toward St. Catherine Island."
"Reposition yourselves, across the island, twenty yards apart and drive the birds east toward the end of the marsh. If you have done this correctly, there should be plenty of birds for the taking."
"Two final points and we shall be off to catch the wily Snipe. One, if when you meet, there are a few brothers that have no stamina to continue or just don't wish to put out the effort for the rest of you, use this waterproof cell phone to call and we will deliver one of the disappointed here on shore to take their place. I cannot stress enough how necessary it is to have the line complete as you seep east to gather the birds. This will take about an hour but is well worth waiting to insure no holes in the line that would allow the birds to slip back to the nest behind you."
A semi-frantic voice rose from the group of Fraternity leaders assembled?"You said there were two final points!"
"So I did. Thank you for reminding me. When you reach the tidal creek at the end of the island you will see a long dock on the other side of the creek leading on to St. Catherine. Wade the creek and wait to be picked up there early tomorrow morning. No need to call as the local fisherman will be picking you up coming back from his all night fishing trip ? around 7am, I would think."
"Oh! One more thing; if you have time, once on the island dock, you may wish to visit the interior, it is a rare beauty. If you do, don't pull up a log to sit on."
"Big environmentalist, huh?"
Henny just couldn't let the opportunity go by.
"Nope Bubba - big Rattlesnakes."
No sooner had the boat pulled away from the dock with the eager hunters, the judge opened the far gate to the camp and ushered in the guest that had been invited to attend a midnight oyster roast and shrimp boil. Some members of the Georgia Freshman Class led by Sam, of course, had invited officers of the other main Fraternities and Sororities. They had also included Professors they liked and even some of the University coaches.
It was a mixed bag, but for the most part, was a group that found the Sigma Nu's to be an unusually arrogant and to use a play on words, a foul bunch - even by undergraduate standards.
The Dean of Men, a man that had even been sued by this group for insisting on certain regulations regarding women in the Frat Houses, grabbed a beer and watched with a benign smile as he looked over the vast dark bog now full of small lights. Random curse words carried on the shore breeze, to attentive and appreciative minds arrayed on the bluff overlooking the distant battle.
A battle between ? not the anticipated man and beast ? but rather one between arrogant men, an unforgiving, vast, un relenting, sticky, and foul smelling? mud.
True to his world the morning boat found all of the brothers at the very tip end of the dock. The Captain having been at the meeting the night before, told Sam and Henny that each of the men were covered head to foot in about twenty pounds of stinking mud, yet, the walkway to the island carried not one footstep or oz of mud.
Standing some 40 feet below Sam; the group was asked to pose for a group picture. In the middle of the frame stood tall, and proud as a peacock, the Sigma Nu President - holding one small very dead Snipe/ Mud hen.
Henny overheard the blowhard explaining to all that would listen, how he had deftly snuck up on the poor bird - and pounced - throwing his net over the nest, then wrestling the bird a few moment and then, finally, into the proper croaker sack he had the foresight to bring with him.
Looking at the boys ripped pants, bloody oyster shell cut shins, and the twenty pounds of mud, even Henny, cold of heart, had not the will to inform the boys listeners that the poor bird had been dead for at least a day- no doubt shot by some hunter yet making her way home to die on his own nest. The smell alone told him this was so. If the mud did not smell so damn rotten it's self, the boys would have noticed it being?. long dead.
At the bottom of the bluff Sam had noticed that some of the Brotherhood had unsettling doubt about their fine adventure. But not the top officers, to a man they pounded each others back used their nick names, i.e. "Way to go long dong" ? "You too big butt!"
An African safari - even those with hats full of stray arrows and half the bearers having been roasted to a turn - never ended with more bravado, back-slapping, and undisclosed relief.
All this ended, however, when they reached the top of the stairs. Though there were a few remarks ? none were necessary - One look at the faces of who was there - told it all.
Gladys had laughed out loud several times during the telling.
"Oh Sam! Was that the end of it? Did anything happen to you or them, later?"
Henny picked up her question, "Well Gladys, It made Sam a hero on campus. I think especially cause he never mentioned the "hunt " again. I know, for a fact, some of the Professor gave him grades he didn't deserve ? just to thank him for shutting those Asses up."
"Oh! Sam forgot. That same afternoon - the student paper came out, all 20,000 copies. Front page above the fold was a large picture of the Brother standing on the dock; the fool president of the fraternity holding out the dead bird."
The caption had read, "Great White Hunters foul out."
Sam was not only the first black to become president of his class for four year. He had a Polly science major running his campaign. No speeches, no promises, and hell he didn't even attend the damn three-hour Inter service rally.
The Woman's only campaign effort had been to cover the campus with large pictures of Sam printed with simply the words, "No mud on this man."
"Hands down, Gladys. Hands down. Think he got 87% of the vote and there were five people running."
Gladys stayed in Henny's guestroom that evening. The following morning Sam and the Judge arrived to take her to Rosie's for breakfast and to meet some of the actual Hennyville natives. Henny joined them after cleaning up the mess in the yard.
Somehow, they had left Moose in the yard that night. With his newfound freedom Moose had evidently attempted to sit in the lap of every damn chicken and duck in the coop.
Most were squashed flat. Those that had made it to high ground - not only looked frazzled, but many had that nine-mile stare Henny had not seen since 63' in Nam.
Eggs? Check back in about 10 years, it would most likely take 5 years for them to start making that faux chewing gum, again.
Gladys headed north after breakfast. They made plans to meet at her place later in the year. By afternoon, boys had her on their collective mind. It would be several days before her great laugh and the lilt of her voice faded. And like many such promises, only time would see if it were fulfilled.
Had they not made that very same promise - all those many years before?
©2006 A.H. Watson, all rights reserved.