The Last Laugh shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS American humor with magazine readers, includes memories of Plumtree Crossing in late fall and winter and stories from Ott Bartlett.
The Last Laugh column shares American humor and sage and folksy stories for MOTHER readers.
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Enjoy MOTHER's American humor and folksy advice shared with magazine readers.
The following advertisement appeared in 1914 in a Virginia newspaper:
FOR SALE: One large red cow, three-eights mule and five-eights wildcat. She usually goes on a visit every summer, but she is very much attached to her home at present by means of a log chain. Any person wishing to buy her, I will throw in fifty feet of two-inch rope and an old axe. Would like to sell her to some man who thinks he can whip Mexico singlehanded.
In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.
I like men who have a future and women who have a past.
We cannot hold a torch to light another path without brightening our own.
Well sir, if there's a special time of the year for livin' out here in the country, I reckon that late fall and early winter is it. Oh, there's nothin' wrong with the rest of the months, you understand-to every time there's a season and all that-but late fall and early winter . . . well, they're jest . . .
special, that's all.
The bugs and poison ivy of summer and early fall are all gone, for one thing. And the blizzards of January and February and those sloppy, muddy days of March and April are still a long ways off. The crops are all in and the huntin's good and the fish tend to bite better'n they did during the heat of summer . . . and they taste better when you fry 'em up too.
And now that the young'uns are back in school and Halloween's over and there's a nip — but no serious cold — in the air once again . . . well, the oldtimers are startin' to drift back to their rightful places around the stove down to the Plumtree Creagan' General Store. Not that anybody's found it necessary to build up a truly heroic blaze in the old potbelly yet. But it's easy enough to see by the casual manner in which the first few exchanges of the season have taken place over a couple or three corncob-and-kindling-take-the-hill-of-fires . . . that the neighborhood is settling in for some serious lyin' before the winter is out.
''Say, Purvis. '' It was Ott Bartlett, who's 80 if he's a day and who loves to throw out the odd question and see what he can reel in. "How was that vacation you and the missus took back thereat the end of the summer?"
"Can't complain. We went up to Turkle Neck Lake and stayed at the lodge. Had a real nice room, too, with an adjoining."
''An adjoining? An adjoining what?"
"Don't know. We never could get the door open.
"Whattaya mean, you 'couldn't get the door open'? Don't you know there's no such word as 'can't'?"
"You ever try to strike a match on a bar of soap?"
"Or keep rats outta the corncrib?" someone else had chimed in.
"Waall, you've got a point there. And speakin' of vermin and other forms of low life, have you noticed what them buffoons in Washington has been up to lately? Why it's enough to make a man get all trancified and start speakin' in tongues."
"Hell, that ain't nothin' new. Tell me sumpthin' new. Damn."
I've always said the only way to make sure crime doesn't pay is to let the government run it . . . but after the last couple of administrations, I don't even know about that anymore. If successful politicians are the ones who don't get caught, we've sure had a sorry run of unsuccessful politicians lately. Course that hasn't seemed to slow any of 'em down when it comes to spendin' our money and layin' on new taxes,"
''Yeah. I can remember back when just Washington's face was on all our dollars. Now Washington's hands are on every one of 'em too.''
"Ain't that a fact! And the national debt jest keeps on a' growin'. Sometimes I think it's a pity the future generations of the world ain't here to get a look at all the magnificent things we're doin' with their money."
"Not we . . . it's them clowns in Washington that's spendin' everybody's wealth hand over fist."
"Why, how you boys do go on . . . and, as usual, I happen to know you've got your tongues all tangled 'round your eyeteeth and can't see what you're sayin'. Now I have it on good authority that those thievin', scalawaggin' miscreants haven't spent everybody's money at all. No sir. They've kept a healthy portion for themselves. And they ain't low-life varmints either, the way you called 'em, Ott. No sir. Why, you might say we've got some of the finest politicians serving in Washington right now that money can buy."
"Well I'll drink to that all right. But — my Godfreys! — how much longer do they expect us to keep payin'?"
"Yeah, all them peckerwoods do is spend and spend . . . and then sock us with the bills. That old saw about death and taxes bein' inevitable was right all right, except that it was jest a little turned wrong end to. The real tragedy of the whole affair is that the taxes part comes first!"
"And jest keeps on a'comin' and a'comin' without no end."
"Amen. If those knotholes in Washington wanna spend money so bad . . . let 'em spend their own."
''Now jest a danged minute there. If it was left to you fellows, you'd soon shut what little glory there is in civilization off at the wellhead . . . and turn all our 'respectable' politicians into criminals to boot. Why, everybody knows that when a politician buys a few votes with his own money he's guilty of bribery. But when he buys a few million votes with someone else's money, why he's a Great Humanitarian!''
"Well, all I can say is that nobody knows what Washington is coming to . . . but I sure do hope that it comes to sometime soon!"
''Well sir, be careful what you're wishin' for 'cause it might jest happen."
"I don't foller ya."
"They's only two things that worry me these days. One is that things may never get back to normal . . . and the second is that maybe they already have!"
"Yeah, I can see yer point. Well, iffen it's all the same to the rest of ya," and whoever it was that was speakin' at the time stood up and stretched, "I think I'll be moseyin' on home."
That seemed like a pretty good idea to everyone at the time and the store was already emptied out pretty good when Lafe Higgins come bouncin' into the driveway behind his mule on that old flatbed wagon of his . . . and the wagon was piled high with stovewood.
''Lafe! Where ya been? You're usually the first one in line when we start carvin' up the scoundrels in Washington. Now here we are all leavin' and you're jest a'pullin' up. What happened?"
''Well, I'll tell ya. I've been down in Lost Devil Swamp, cuttin' firewood — as you can plainly see — and I started home 'bout three hours ago."
"Three hours! Why, even with that spavined ole mule of yours, that ain't no more'n a 45-minute drive. What happened?"
"Well I was doin' purty good till I picked up the preacher over on Bluefly Hill . . . and, ya know, from that point on this blessed mule couldn't understand a dotlimbed word I said!"
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