Last Laugh shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader submitted American humor with other readers.
Save up your money, pile up your rocks and you'll always have tobacco in the old tobacco box.
Well sir, it's been a couple of months since you've had a chance to read this feature, but I'm sure you still recollect that the good fellas of the Plumtree Crossing General Assembly are touring America by railroad, and I know you remember that they're currently visiting Hiram Bartlett, Ott's cousin who lives up in northern Vermont, and there's no way you'd forget that, with the help of a jug of Purvis Jacob's liquid tongue loosener, Hiram's been regaling the boys by explaining why Vermonters are standoffish to outsiders.
Hiram finished that lecture just as a late spring snowstorm ("poor man's fertilizer," Hiram called it) began to cut loose. There didn't seem any point in getting up from the farmhouse woodstove. To pass the time, Ott spoke up. "Hiram," he said, "you may not come from friendly stock, but leastways you seem to be getting on right well. I notice you're able to pay a hired hand."
"He don't get paid," Hiram retorted. "He's just working for me till his back pay amounts to the worth of the place. Then I'll go to work for him."
"Well, you got yourself a big mess of children. You must be making some money, or you couldn't afford to feed them all."
"Aw, that ain't hard," said Hiram. "I just find out what food they don't like and give them plenty of it."
At that point, Hiram grabbed the jug again, took two full swigs and commenced lecturing about another distinctive New England trait: frugality.
Now look here, boys, it ain't like I'm the only one who ever squeezed a dollar. I was down at Cola Hudson's general store just last week to pick up a few tomatoes. When I pointed out to Cola that her tomatoes were pretty small for being so pricey, all she said was, "Yup." I took 'em home, ate 'em down and dropped back by Cola's the next day.
"Those tomatoes didn't taste very good," I told her.
"Good thing they was small, wasn't it," was all she'd say.
Then there was that church supper I went to last month. The dessert table was decked out with fresh-baked biscuits covered with fresh strawberries and whipped cream—all guarded by a big woman with a cash box and a sign that said, "Strawberry Shortcake. First Plate, 50¢. All You Want, $1."
Well, I got me a serving, ate it up and prepared to leave. I went to the lady and handed her 50¢.
"Want any more?" she asked.
"Nope, I'm full."
"Then you owe $1," she said. Made me pay it, too.
Safford Bayley, the dairyman down the road, he ain't no big spender. I remember when I saw him after he got married. "I hear you got hitched, Safford," I said.
"Where did you go for your honeymoon?" "Niagara Falls."
"Did your wife like it?"
"She didn't go."
"Heck, no. She'd been to Niagara Falls." That's not all. Safford once went into the Montpelier Bank and asked the loan officer there to lend him $5,000.
"What kind of security you got, Mr. Bayley?" the officer asked.
"Just my farm."
"What's the land like?"
"Well, it's got 140 acres, but all but 20 are swamp or woods."
"How's the barn?"
"Well, one side's sunk down pretty bad. And a good bit of the roof blew off in a windstorm. But I can fix most of that."
"Got any animals?"
"Twenty-five cows. They seem to get mastitis pretty often, though, and a few of 'em's barren. Look, are you going to give me the loan or not?"
"I'm afraid we can't give a loan to a man in your circumstances."
Safford got right up from that desk, went over to the teller and deposited $5,000 in a savings account. The loan officer was so stunned he stopped Safford from leaving to press him for an explanation.
Said Safford, "I just inherited $5,000 from my late uncle. I wasn't sure where to put it, so I decided to check out your bank. When you told me you wouldn't make a loan to a man like me, I figured the money was real safe here."
Then there's Renwick Teed, runs the bait shop. Remember that summer tourister professor I told you about before? He once tried to trick Renwick out of a dollar. "Let's play a game," he says, all sly-like. "We'll ask each other a question, and the person who can't answer pays the other a dollar."
"I don't know," Renwick replied. "You've had twice the education I ever got. Seems like it'd be fairer if I only had to pay 50C when I miss."
"Agreed," the professor laughed. "I'll even let you go first."
"All right, what has three legs and flies?"
Well, the professor pondered that one quite a while, but finally he gave up. "Here's your dollar," he said. "Now it's my turn. What does have three legs and flies?"
"Darned if I know," Renwick said. "Here's your 50¢."
No sirree, I ain't alone when it comes to being tight with money. Everybody in Vermont's that way. Why, I went to a town meeting last fall, and Ashley Blodgett, the butcher, spoke right up in public. "Mr. Chairman," he said, "is it true the town recently paid the hospital $500 to pay for the birth of Iva Lack's illegitimate child?"
"Is it also true," Blodgett continued, "that the town later collected $550 from the father of said illegitimate child?"
"Well then, you might say the town made a net profit of $50 on the deal?"
"I guess you could."
"Mr. Chairman, I make a motion we breed her again."