The Last Laugh shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader submitted American humor with other readers. The Plumtree boys meet up with Burt, who tells about how being a helpful country neighbor can really pay off in the long run.
American Humor: A Helpful Country Neighbor
"[Mules] are like sum men, verry korrupt at harte: ive known them tu be good mules for 6 months, just tu git a good chanse tu kick sumbody."
"My nephew Bill has the laziest rooster in the world. He never crows, but waits until some other rooster crows and then nods his head."
Uncle Levi Zink
"A banker is a fellow who hands you an umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain."
Well sir, it bein' harvest time, most folks around Plumtree Crossin' has been too blamed busy to git inta the kind of sitchyations what make fer good stories. (The of gents what usually gather at th' Gen'ral Store ain't really been workin' much theyselves, o'course, but those fellers has been layin' purty low so's to avoid gittin' volunteered fer enny labor.)
Thet bein' th' case, I'm right pleased to be able to share a fine piece of foolishness what originally appeared in Angus MacLander's "Hardscrabble" column in a periodical knowed as The Farmer's Friend (thet weekly paper kin be ordered fer a mere $6.00 per year from Towanda Printing Company, Dept. TMEN, Towanda, Pennsylvania).
So without further ado, here's the tale of Angus calls . . .
THAT'S WHAT NEIGHBORS ARE FOR . . .
As usual, I parked the truck between the machinery shed and the milk house, making sure not to block the path of the bulk truck. The Eastern driver always picked up Burt's milk about 8:30 every other day. As I headed for the farmhouse, my watch showed 8:00 — that meant Burt should be in the kitchen by the stove with last night's Gazette. He always claimed that bad news would keep till breakfast and go down easier after a couple cups of coffee.
Even though the wind had shifted to the south, it still had the sharp bite of winter. As I pulled my cap down tighter, I noticed movement over by the woodshed. A wiry figure was holding on to one end of a large green tarp, while the other end flapped like a giant flag.
"Morning, Burt. Can I give you a hand?"
"Ketch that far end and pull it down over the wood. It's gonna snow directly."
As I grabbed the canvas, I noticed that the pile was fresh-cut unsplit oak.
"That's quite a pile of wood."
"I reckon it is."
A few of the butt-pieces showed the tell-tale signs of rot that often brings premature death to trees.
"Thought you didn't have white oak in your woods."
"Then where'd it come from?"
"Matilda and I dumped it here day before yesterday. Thought for a while the old girl was gonna bust a spring — had to make three trips."
"Buying oak with fifty acres of your own hardwood is sort of living high on the hog for you, isn't it?" (This time I thought I had him. Old Burt even made change in the collection plate.) When I saw the Red Man being taken out of his pocket, I knew I should have kept my mouth shut. A fresh chaw while we were talking always meant I was going to come out on the short end.
"Didn't pay for the wood."
"What do you mean, 'didn't pay for it'? There must be more than a cord here."
"Well sir, Matilda and I was downtown gettin' a fresh supply of chaw for me, and some high octane for her, when I heard a commotion over to Lawyer Clutch's place. By the time we got there, there was a half-dozen young fellers climbin' all over his big oak tree like fleas on a new dog. They had a big truck with 'Tree Surgeon' painted on the side, and one of them apple picker arms . . ."
"You mean cherry picker."
"Whatever. Well, about that time, Lawyer Clutch comes over to me mumbling somethin' about feeling poorly. I said, 'If you're feelin' poorly, how come it's the tree they're cuttin' on?' "
"What'd Lawyer Clutch say to that?"
"Nope. He don't have his Missus' sense of humor. He just commenced to ask me how much I thought they were charging him to take down the tree. I reckoned as I didn't know, so he told me anyway. Two hundred dollars, just to cut it down. Well, I reckoned as how that was a lot. Clutch didn't even leave that tree to go in for his dinner, though his Missus must have called him ten times. When they was done, all the wood was still there. Seein' as the good lawyer don't have a woodstove, I asked him why they left the wood. He says, 'Seventy-five dollars, that's why.' I says what? and he says they wanted another seventy-five dollars just to cart it away."
"Hold it, Burt. You're not going to tell me that shrewd lawyer just up and gave you all that wood?"
"Then how the devil did you get it?"
"Well, I agreed with him that payin' strangers seventy-five dollars was nigh onto stealin' — especially when he had honest neighbors who'd take the wood and only charge him twenty-five."
Just then, a voice drifted toward us from the farmhouse.
"I guess the Missus has vittles on the table . . . mind, now, she'll still most likely be makin' a fuss about them flowers."
"They was delivered last night."
"You sly old devil!"
"Didn't send them. Got them."
"Got them? Who'd ever send you flowers?"
"Lawyer Clutch's Missus."
As we reached the back porch, the first flakes began to fall.
"Those who like sausage or political policy should not watch either being made."
"It is not work that kills men . . . it is worry. Worry is rust upon the blade."
Henry Ward Beecher
"The youth wishes to be the only 'I' in the whole world; maturity consists in understanding this 'thou' for itself, even if it is not said to any other single man. Thou shalt, thou shalt love thy neighbor. O my hearer, it is not you to whom I speak; it is to me, to whom eternity says: 'Thou shalt.' "
"What we think is less than what we know; what we know is less than what we love; what we love is so much less than what there is; and to this precise extent, we are much less than what we are."