Last Laugh: The Mud Season Contest

Winning Doc Thromberg's mud season contest wasn't what Ott Bartlett had been led to believe it would be.

| March/April 1985

  • last laugh - mud season
    Everyone in Plumtree Crossing had trouble keeping their temper during mud season.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • last laugh - mud season

He who laughs, lasts.Mary Pettibone Poole

Well sir, what we call the mud season surlies round these parts is that tow sack of perturbability everyone lugs when them ol' perspiring rains make roads impassable and tempers intolerable. You'd a knowed what I mean if you'd braved a wettin' down the other day to make your way up to the Plumtree Crossin' General Store. Inside that leaky establishment, the local reprobates was all hunched around the potbellied stove, wearing raincoats, and sporting a few just-sprouted watercresses in their beards.

And surly ... well, it were enough to make you want to toss a firecracker in a midwinter bear den just to meet some good-natured company. There was Ott Bartlett and Newt Blanchard playing checkers ... almost regular-like 'cept that ever' time one piece reached the other guy's side, that fella'd acknowledge the feat by flingin' the whole board to the floor. Meanwhile, Lafe Higgins were busily grindin' his pipe into the floor with his foot 'cause the fool thing was too wet to light, an' August Carmichael were breakin' the store's hat rack into kindlin' sticks and shovin' them into the stove jist 'cause he didn't like the way it'd been lookin' over his shoulder.

An' them goin's-on kept goin' on till Doc Thromberg came in. Now, I suppose it may be because a fella in his line of work sees plenty of real cause for unhappiness, but whatever the reason, a spat of foul weather don't never seem to ruffle Doc none. Fact is, oftentimes he serves as peacemaker when the rest of the crew put on their wet-weather uglies.

Doc decided the remedy for this partic'lar case of the surlies might jist be a sportin' proposition. "Boys," he said, ploppin' down in a soft, soggy seat, "I just visited a patient over in Erosion Junction, and that reminded me of the big Easter Parade that town's going to have two weeks from now. You see, they've invited me to drive the '37 Packard I keep stored up" (Doc used a beat-up four-wheel-drive for regular transportation) "at the head of this year's parade."

"Well, ain't that the biggest thing since the Head Lice Banjo Players," snarled Lafe Higgins.

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