Last Laugh: Mud Season and the Greased Pig Chase

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Illustration by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
No one will ever really know why or how mud season brought out a charitable impulse in certain denizens of Plumtree Crossing.

“There’s no fool like an old fool; you can’t beat experience.”Jacob M. Braude

Well sir, ’round these parts, most folks know there’re five seasons to the year: spring, summer, fall, winter, an’ mud. An’ as you kin imagine, nary a soul here’s fond of the annual axle-buryin’ spell (it’s sorta to weather what kudzu is to crops). But there ain’t nobody hates mud season worse’n the ol’ store-loafin’ galoots what constitute the Plumtree Crossin’ Gen’rally Inebriated Society. Jist grab yerself an earful of the fellers’ conversation on a recent March afternoon, and you’ll soon see what I mean.

“Purvis!” Ott Bartlett bellowed. “My gullet’s as parched as Satan’s cornpatch. I lie in dire need of your homemade tonic ‘ ”

“Don’t tell me about it!” Purvis Jacobs snapped back. “Y know I ain’t got any!”

“Well, you don’t need to go remindin’ me of thet mizzerble fact, do you?” Ott retorted.

All in all, it were plain to see thet those two was feelin’ feistier’n cornered crawdads. An’ all the rest of the ol’ boys was obviously jist as ill-tempered, ’cause they took ev’ry chance they could to toss a “you tell ‘im!” … a “durned right!” … or a downright unrepeatable expletive into the discussion. As any fool could perceive, the members of the Plumtree Crossin’ Truth and Veracity League was sorely missin’ their social lubricant, thet all-purpose peacemakin’ potion: corn whiskey.

Fer security reasons, you see, Mister Jacob’s likker-makin’ facility was tucked way back up in a holler thet takes little short of a miracle to drive to in the best of weather. It’s flat impossible to reach durin’ the soggy month of March. As Purvis often put it, “When the mud’s here, the moonshine ain’t.”

“Gents,” Doc Thromberg broke in, “seein’s how there’s a sorrowful lack of the medicine I’d otherwise perscribe fer the case of the surlies I herewith behold, I suggest an alternative remedy. Let’s all git out and do somethin’ constructive.”

“Yeah,” Lafe Higgins agreed, “like bite the heads off’n Purvis’s chickens.”

“Actually,” Doc continued, “I had in mind a more civic-minded activity like settin’ up a booth at thet big fund-raiser next week fer the Barren County Children’s Hospital.”

“WHAT?” yapped the entire crew of laze-abouts in unison, droppin’ the pipes from their teeth, gulpin’ the chaws in their cheeks, fallin’ over backwards in their chairs … or doin’ all three at once’t.

Well, I’ll spare you the details of the ensuin’ debate. Somehow, though, those confed’rates in misery did talk theirselves into particypatin’ in the project (which, I guess, goes to show the strange things people will do when they’re sober). So they signed up with the Barren County Ladies Auxiliary and Highminded Civic League — the group what was runnin’ the affair — an’ agreed to be in charge of thet ol’ favorite, the young’uns’ greased-pig chase.

An’ since the partic’lar Saturday when this fund-raisin’ festival were held turned out to be one of those rare sunny days thet March will tease you with once’t in a while, jist about all the youngsters in the entire county an’ their parents assembled in the town square at Erosion junction fer the goin’s on. Why, a TV crew from the big city of Buzzard’s Roost even come out to take pictures of all the activities (an’ to interview Beatrice Snodpebble, the head of the women’s league, who was beamin’ prouder’n a pregnant pussycat).

Finally, at around two o’clock in the afternoon, it come time fer Plumtree’s finest to stage the great greased-pig chase. So whilst some of the old gents collected all the tickets they’d sold and lined up the eager young particypants, Doc Thromberg turned to Cleedy McCannon and said, “I got the lard. Where’s the pig.

“I dunno,” said Cleedy. “Ain’t Lafe s’posed to bring it?”

“Lafe ain’t got no pigs!” answered Doc. ” You was s’posed to bring one!”

“Why, thet’s right,” said Cleedy. “I were, weren’t I?”

“Listen here, Cleedy,” Doc ordered, “we sold over 200 fifty-cent tickets to this here thing, and I’ll be cussed from here to Sunday if we have to give the money back. So we’re goin’ to have a greased-pig chase … even if those children are forced to pursue a two-legged substitute!”

With thet, the fellers started crowdin’ in around Cleedy. “Now wait jist a minute,” he cried … but it were too late. The entire assemblage jumped on the unfortunate Mister McCannon, stripped off all his clothes except his undershorts, and smeared white lard all over his body. Then they stood him up and told the children to get ready.

..I ain’t a-doing it!” Cleedy insisted. “I ain’t a-doing it!”

At thet point, though, the startin’ gun went off, and 200 chase-crazed young’uns charged full steam, flailin’ they arms and howlin’ worse’n hounds in heat right toward the grease-coated apparition.

“I’m a-doing it! I’m a-doing it!” Cleedy yelled, an’ skedaddled out around the town square a couple of times with thet pack of greased-person chasers nippin’ at his heels. Then he ducked down a side street and into a nearby building — what turned out to be the Golden Years Rest Home! Well, darned if the sight of a lard-covered, undershorted runaway didn’t set those umptygenarians’ blood to boilin’. “After thet scoundrel!” hollered one of ’em, an’ the entire brigade of rest-home residents started off in hot persuit.

Poor Cleedy! He raced out the side door and through a dog kennel, accident’ly knockin’ open the back gate an’ puttin’ them grease-hungry dogs on his trail! Then he tore in the rear of a restaurant an’ come out the front with the eatery’s owner, chef, an’ waitress hot on his heels. Finally, he dashed back to the town square, shinnied hisself right up to the top of the flagpole — I wouldn’ta believed he coulda done it, covered in lard as he were, if I hadn’t seen it myself — and perched there, pantin’ for air.

Well, when Ol’ Man Bartlett an’ the rest seen what were goin’ on, they figgered they’d best try fer an exit. So they backed a high-walled pickup next to the pole, loaded Cleedy in, and sped away from the scene of the disaster as fast as they could.

Two days later, when the whole kit and caboodle was gathered in the Gen’ral Store agin, feelin’ meaner an’ grouchier than ev’er, up rolled the county sheriff an’ some deputies in two patrol cars, packed up all them ol’ boys, an’ drove ’em right back to Erosion junction. Worse yet, waitin’ right in the town square were thet Buzzard’s Roost TV crew, Missus Snodpebble, the restaurant and kennel owners, an’ a couple of ladies from the nursin’ home! Well, movin’ more than a mite reluctantly, the ol’ reprobates got outya the police vehicles … and danged if Missus Snodpebble didn’t lead the entire delegation over, grab Doc Thromberg’s hand, and say, “Congratulations! You boys has won the prize fer the best event at the fair!”

“What?!” Doc said, his jaw droppin’ down to his socks.

“Thet’s right,” replied Missus Snodpebble, pumpin’ his hand eagerly (but lookin’ right into the TV camera all the while). “Them television folks filmed the whole chase, an’ showed it on the Buzzard’s Roost evenin’ news. People have been callin’ in donations fer our little children’s hospital ever since!”

“Yes, an’ ev’rybody comes to my restaurant now to laugh about the greased-person chase … an’ then stays to eat!” said the cafe proprietor.

“Folks sure found out about my kennel in a hurry, too,” added the dog boarder.

“An’ those children,” chimed in the rest home ladies, “had so much fun with our dear senior citizens thet they’re going to come visit ev’ry week!”

Well sir, by this point you coulda knocked Plumtree’s prize winners over with a single pinch of evaporated snake spit. Somehow, though, Doc kept his feet under him long enough to ask, “So what’ll we git outa this?”

“You’ll be pleased to larn thet the hospital construction crew has offered the group what put on the best event the services of a bulldozer fer one day,” Missus Snodpebble mouthed at the camera. “Now I’m sure you gen’lmen can find a good use fer thet wonderful machine, cain’t you.

Doc didn’t have to think of a use … it come to him by instinct . “Them things can go up most any road, no matter how muddy, cain’t they?”

“I’m jist sartin they can,” Missus Snodpebble assured him sweetly.

“Well then, Miz Be’trice,” Doc declared, as he reached out t’ put his arm around his old, dear friend Purvis Jacobs, “I b’lieve we can find some good way to use thet thing. I do b’lieve we can.”

“To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”— Edmund Burke