Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grandpa Archie: Cousin Bill's Comment

Typical Ozark Scene
White River
Not terribly far from Norfork Lake
(Image from ozarkmountains.org)

Even Cousin Bill is now waxing nostalgic -- as readers of Sunday's comments already know -- but his nostalgia is as well-waxed as Grandpa Archie's old pickup truck . . . actually far better, for that truck was never waxed. Anyway, I've posted Cousin Bill's comment here, which begin with a reference to the music of David Lynn Jones:
In a previous Blog comment I relayed my two memories of DLJ's beautiful music.
Bill, I found one memory but not the other. No matter, though, carry on:
Now, I will relay two or three stories about Grandpa Arch.
For the benefit of my foreign readership -- such as folks from the State of Misery, just north of Arkansas, or elsewhere beyond even state lines -- the following scene takes place at my paternal grandmother's Big Creek farm, which was situated some eight miles from Norfork Lake, about halfway between the small northern Arkansas towns of Eliabeth and Viola, up on an Ozark ridge, mostly, and at the isolated end of a six-mile dirt road, just at the beginning of the wild lands, so there was a lot of wildlife around there. Grandpa Archie, as I've noted before, was a genuine woodsman -- the old-style hillbilly of part-Cherokee blood who grew up knowing the woods and hills and the creatures in them. According to Cousin Bill:
We (myself, wife, Grandma Nora and Grandpa Arch) were sitting in the living room late one night when Archie turned his head, listened intently to something, arose and proceeded outside without a word. Shortly the front door opened and Archie walks in, one arm behind his back, grinned and thrust a neck-held live possum straight out for all to see. He explained he heard a ruckess in the hen house. I have a picture of old Arch standing there with the critter, and, well, he's grinning like a possum.
Knowing Grandpa Archie, he probably let the poor creature go free . . . unless he decided that it would make a good possum pie for the next evening meal. Grandpa Archie was always catching some creature with just his hands. I'd seen him sneak up silently behind a bullfrog and grab it with his hands before it even noticed him, which may not sound like a great accomplishment, but just try it some time, and with your own repeated failures will come some respect for a fellow who could do it easily, repeatedly, without fail.

I wouldn't be especially surprised to learn that he'd also caught a bird that way . . . though I've never heard that he did. But I've seen him catch those big glade lizards, a feat requiring even more skill than catching bullfrogs.

The next scene described by Cousin Bill takes place mainly on the narrow dirt road leading down the farm's ridge on its steep side, which was wooded and rapidly declined some hundred and fifty feet or more in altitude along its slope to the little, spring-fed branch below:
Secondly, years ago, I took little brother Scott (a college freshman) to the farm for a week. While there we contributed to the woodpile, with Archie doing the cutting, us trying to split and stack, did a little fishing and ate them out of house and home. While there we headed to town in Archie's black, hand-brush-painted pickup. We headed down the lane, round the curve and down the hill toward the branch, and this pickup was rapidly gaining speed with Archie frantically clutching and going through the gears. I looked toward Archie, noticed mid seated brother Scott's sudden large eyeballs, and tried to calmly ask why he didn't use the brakes. The answer, "ain't got any, haven't had any for a long time". And so we continued [the seven miles] to Viola and back.
Broken down that truck may have been, but Grandpa Archie was partial to it . . . and he was a man of principle, in some mighty peculiar ways, as Cousin Bill relates:
In later years that pickup carried license tags with an outdated year sticker. I ask why no renewal, Archie's reply was "the tax went up a dollar and I ain't gonna pay it".
The government wasn't about to stop Grandpa Archie . . . nor was old age, as the next scene reveals:
Another time years ago, the wife and I took Grandma Nora and Grandpa Archie to the Salem singing, note here that it was darn good music by local folks, and I can vouch for Archie's dancing ability, even twirling around a little with Grandma and my bride. I even thought Grandpa Arch had perhaps located a little moonshine the way he twirled around.
Grandpa Archie stayed healthy, strong, and often slightly unshaven nearly so long as he lived, as Cousin Bill's wife can also attest:
And wife Cheryl still remembers us arrving for a visit and Archie's quick pace (even in later years) heading her way. Once there he give her his big hug and going for the welcome kiss would leave scratch marks from his two day old whiskers.
I remember those scratchy whiskers, too, but I noticed that Grandpa Archie always shaved on Sunday mornings, and when he had got dressed up, too, he looked right handsome.

Cousin Bill winds his anecdotes down by confirming two of Uncle Cran's creature-feature tales . . . but goes on to warn about an additional story, a tale of what sounds like a far more alarming but thankfully imaginary creature apparently dreamed up by Uncle Cran in some techno-dystopian-induced nightmare:
I've lots of good memories of both grandparents. Good people and characters, both of them. Now, to our Uncle Cran's fishing/turtle tale, lightning strike tale and upcoming bear story. I believe the first two, however, if he comes up with some hare brained snake story about rattleheadedcoppermoccasins, I'll suggest he was a little touched by Arkansas "Fan Death" when electricity arrived at the farm and the Flora community in, I believe, the early 50's. Or he got a little brain-toasted from hours sitting under the single, center ceiling mounted light bulb or got the neck noosed by the lightbulb's pull string hanging down.
'Fan Death' in the Ozarks?! Say it ain't so! I remember Flora Church in the early 1960s, and folks were still sitting and sweating in pews despite the open windows that let the wasps in, and every soul was waving those hand-held fans with depictions of Jesus holding a little lost lamb, without an electric fan in sight, so I doubt that Uncle Cran suffered there from the effects of the most-dreaded entity, the electric fan . . . unless you mean (shudder) in the farmhouse itself, a thing too terrible to imagine -- and largely unimaginable anyway, for Grandma Nora and Grandpa Archie both lived to be nearly 100, a feat impossible if their health had been affected by deadly electric fans. But brain damage by radiant waves emanating from that single light bulb . . . well, that may be a factor in Uncle Cran's amazing stories. Couldn't be that bulb's pull string, though, for pull strings are harmless. They don't pull; they are pulled.

Cousin Bill then tacks on a couple of three lines more:
And one word on our Grandpa Horace. Dad once told me "if you like Woodrow, you'd have loved my Dad. Will wait for more tales from you both.
I wish that I knew more about my paternal grandfather Horace, for I've inherited his name, but if he was like Woodrow, then I would indeed have loved him. As for tales from me, they'll have to wait until Uncle Cran finishes those two still untold tales about a bear . . . and some imaginary varmint called a rattleheadedcoppermoccasin?

I presume that this latter 'critter' has never been confirmed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

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At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I came to my first church as pastor, La Junta Baptist Tabernacle, La Junta, CO, another pastor asked me, "Do you know who are the most wonderful people in the world?" I told him I didn't. He said, "It's the widow's previous husband, and the former pastor."
Archie was a good man, but could never measure up to my dad in Mom's eyes. But he was good to Ginny and me. After awhile, about a year following his marriage to mom, he would let me drive his old truck to feed the cows from the haystacks. Pretty soon just driving seemed too tame, the urge hit me to spin the tires, and I revved up the truck and spun out some "donuts." A few days Archie said, "I saw where someone cut come cat's ***es
by the haystack." Nothing else was said, and I never did it again.
Archie was sometimes good with asterisks.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's a good story, too, Uncle Cran.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never met a combined rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasin, known as a rattleheadcoppermoccasin, as nephew Bill suggests, but I always hoped to take a peek at Wiley Hanes' "Wampus Cat," that he kept locked up in his small outbuilding.
He said it was half mountain lion, half alligator, and if it ever got out, or you tried to open his building, it would eat us boys alive, {assuming we hadn't already 'gone on' from fright}.
Sometimes I thought he might be feeding it, as smoke would come out of a metal stovepipe sticking out of the roof.
Brother Bradley finally informed me that Wiley had a whiskey still there, and didn't us poking around and trying to look in it.
Oh yes! I remember Archie always like to get some boys and show how he could bend a match so part stuck up in the air when he placed it on the ground, then he would rest his knees on his elbows, stand on his hands, bend over, and pick up the match in his mouth, and lean back until his feet touched the ground. The boys trying it would fall, or stick their nose in the ground, and Archie would laugh. It isn't easy to do.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, I remember, too.

Grandpa Archie could do that up into his seventies or longer . . . if my memory serves me well.

Grandpa Perryman, by the way, could kick above his head when he was in his seventies.

I can't do either of those two feats at 51, and I'm in good physical condition.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always heard they were called "rattlingcoppermouths." Or are these two separate animals?

Herpetologically speaking of course.


At 5:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Rattleheadedcoppermoccasin? Rattlingcoppermouths?

Hah! You two ignurt billhillies don't even know the local snakes.

It's called a "rat-mouthed mockercopaceteckin," and I'll just have to blog about it.

Jeffery Hodges

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