American Humor: The Fighting Carmichaels

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American humor at its best: The fighting Carmichaels bicker at the Plumtree Crossin' General Store.

Last Laugh shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader submitted American humor with other readers. The fighting Carmichaels start their public bickering at the Plumtree Crossin’ General Store.

An old-timer is one who remembers when a family was considered shiftless if they lived from payday to payday. Now they’re considered good managers.

“I think everybody ought to take some interest in politics . . . if only in self-defense.” — Former Senator Sam J. Ervin

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” — Mark Twain

“My heart is as pure as the driven slush.” — Tallulah Bankhead;

“Lordamercy,” Cleedy McCannon muttered under his breath. “It’s the Carmichaels again.”

The rest of the loafers around the Plumtree Crossin’ General Store domino table looked up as the seedy couple exploded through the front door and — one by one — began mutterin’ under their breaths too. Fat lotta good it did any of ’em, of course, because — as usual — Angus and Olive Carmichael were entirely too engrossed in their own private (but loud! ) bickerin’s to pay any attention to anyone else.

“Why you old goat! If I was to sue you for divorce, I’d be entirely within my rights. Everyone in Barren County knows that you’re about as shiftless as a suck-egg dog while I’m as ideal as a wife can be.”

“Some ideal! The last time I hocked the kitchen stove to buy a new still . . . you didn’t miss it for nine days!” And with that, Angus ducked around behind the Nehi pop cooler just in time to avoid catchin’ a can of Campbell’s pork and beans up the side of the head.

Now I’ll grant you that folks woulda took notice if this’d been anybody else in Barren County. But it wasn’t anybody else, it was Angus and Olive Carmichael . . . who’ve been carryin’ on jest like that for at least 42 of their 35 years of marriage. Olive has a tongue that can take the whitewash offen an open barn door at 50 paces, Angus ain’t far behind . . . and most folks is jest glad that they keep the exercise of their talents within the family, so to speak, instead of spreadin’ ’em around the neighborhood.

“I know all about that still! I reckon I ought to . . . the way you come up to the house from the back woods drunk all the time. Why, your breath’d stagger a bull.”

“Oh you’re the smart one all right. You know it all. Well let me tell you, Mrs. IQ of 1978, I drank and lived with you for 30 years before you figured out what I was doin’ down there in the woods . . . and you wouldn’t have then if I hadn’t slipped up and come home sober one day.”

“Oh, so it’s a battle of wits you want is it? Well, nothin’ doin’, Mr. Hotshot. I refuse to go up against an unarmed man! ” This time it was Olive that had to do the duckin’.

Back around the domino table everybody was makin’ themselves small . . . as sacks of pinto beans and containers of evaporated milk started to bounce off the wall. At one time or another, every man jack in the place had lived through three or four of the Carmichaels’ fusillades, and they all knowed better’n to stick their noses in. Angus and Olive’s wrangling had been bubbling along, as everyone well knew, at a good steady continuous simmer for decades . . . and the only time anyone had ever seen it flare into genuine warfare was the night of Lem Tucker’s Barn Dance and Halloween Party. That was when Skeeter Ridges, who ordinarily woulda knowed better but who’d just drunk so much of Purvis Jacobs’ horse liniment that he was fancyin’ himself damn nigh invincible, tried to stop Olive from brainin’ Angus with a 10-gallon milk can. Well, quicker’n you could spit and say “howdy,” both the Carmichaels turned on him and liked to tore ole Skeet into bug bites. He was in the hospital for 13 weeks and ain’t nobody been brave enough to intervene in the continuing Carmichael saga since.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve, woman, talkin’ ’bout my still . . . after that pineapple-raspberry wine you made last year.”

“Why, they weren’t nothin’ wrong with my wine. It was right good to hold in your mouth.”

“Yes . . . but when you swallered it, my God. . . you thought you was eatin’ butcher knives.”

“I’ll ‘butcher knives’ you, you old coot. Take that!” Olive said as she lobbed a five-pound sack of Martha White flour over the meat case in Angus’ general direction. She had her windage all wrong, though, and the missile’s trajectory cleared Angus’ battered — obviously, by Olive — felt hat a good four feet before the sack screamed in to make a direct hit on the domino board.

Lordy, I hafta admit it was spectacular. Lafe Higgins, Newt Blanchard, and Ott Bartlett all went over backwards in a cloud of Super Fine XXX, and it was a good 30 seconds before we could see their six dark eyes — framed in three ghostly white faces — blinkin’ back up over the edge of the table. Newt was jest fixin’ to wave a flag of surrender that he’d tore outta Ott’s shirttail when he noticed — by the barrage of pickle jars and loaded Crisco cans that was makin’ its way toward the door that the Carmichaels was on their way out.

“And another thing! I heard you yesterday when you told Doc Thromberg that I came crawling to you on my hands and knees after that fight we had on Thursday!”

“Well you did.”

“Yes, but you didn’t tell him what I said when I found you: Come out from under that bed and fight like a man!”

Suddenly, it was all over as quickly as it had begun. The Carmichaels were back out the door and headed in the direction of Clarence Smithers, who’d just pulled up in the drive in his new Buick. As the color drained from his face and he frantically rolled up the car’s windows and locked its doors . . . we could hear Clarence muttering under his breath, “Lordamercy. It’s the Carmichaels again.”

“There are two freedoms: The false, where a person is free to do as he likes . . . and the true, where a person is free to do as he should.” — Charles Kingsley

“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune . . . but great minds rise above it.” — Washington Irving

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating. There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of weather.” — John Ruskin

“Liberty has never come from government. The history of liberty is the history of limitations of government power, not the increase of it.” — Woodrow Wilson

“Pray for a good harvest . . . but keep on hoeing.” — Slavic Proverb

At first, one learns to speak. After many years, one learns to keep still.

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