“There are two times in a man’s life when he shouldn’t speculate…when he can’t afford it and when he can.” -Mark Twain
Well sir, it were only a few years back that I told you how–in these parts–when the birds start leavin’ for the winter, that peculiar human breed, the urban leaf peeper, begins a-comin’ in, to ogle at the fall mountain tree colors. An’ furthermore, seein’ as how the gents of the Plumtree Crossin’ Truth an’ Veracity League spend most of their daily hours roostin’ on the front porch of the Crossin’s sole Gen’ral Store, as often as not those ol’ boys end up serving as Plumtree’s unofficial reception committee!
Now, taken as a group, the leaf peepers are good enough sorts. They don’t mean no harm, an’ if they sometimes don’t exactly know the proper codes of rural conversational conduct, at least they’s politely ignorant. So the fellas gen’rally do they best to help our autumnal visitors out (so long as such assistance don’t entail expendin’ any physical effort, o’ course). But ever’ now an’ agin, somebody a wee bit more weasel-natured comes along, an’ receives a different sort of welcome.
In fact, jist the other day, a spankin’ new bechromed an’ bedazzlin’ red pickup truck–with “SPECULATE REAL ESTATE CO.” splattered on it in big letters (and “For the Discriminating Farmette Buyer” written in underneath)—-pulled right up to the store. That machine hadn’t even been properly clicked off afore out popped a slick-haired man wearin’ pressed blue jeans, polished work boots, and a mail-order plaid shirt that looked downright allergic to sweat. He run right up to the porch, thrust a business card into each feller’s hand–or under their hats if they looked like they was asleep–and, standin’ right in the flight path to the ol’ boys’ spittoon, announced, “Pleased to meet you, gentlemen! Dealer McWheeler’s my name! I was wondering if you citizens might know of any prime growing land I could put up on the market.”
Well, he were greeted by a silence thick enough to plant ‘taters in.
“Boys, you gotta understand there’s an ever-increasing realty market out here, you know, ‘Where Water’s Pure, and Air Smells Like Manure.’ Why, I’m talkin’ about the upscale buyer, the high-class people who want a cute little place out in the country and can pay for it (not those little-guy homesteaders who study soil types and shop for mortgages!). Savvy? We’re talking M-O-O-L-A!”
Newt Blanchard glanced around, but none of the other fellers so much as lifted an eye, so Newt figured he had to do the honors. “Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but land ’round here ain’t worth a hoot. After all, ’tain’t more’n a bunch of mommy and daddy boulders, with lots of they little chillun in between.”
“Can’t anything be raised on it?” McWheeler asked earnestly.
“Snakes and kudzu, my friend, and that’s in a good year. Why, jist look around you. See this fine crew of farmers here?”
Dealer gazed at the bedraggled porch perchers, most of whom gave the impression they’d been thrown inta their seats months ago (an’ left there), and then he turned back to Newt.
“Those fellers ought to be out harvestin’ their field crops for winter, right? ‘Stead, they’s sittin’ here, still recoverin’ from the labor of tryin’ to plow the ground last spring! Heck, they didn’t have enough strength left to sow anythin’!”
Well, that disheartened salesman was at the point of turnin’ to leave, when Lafe Higgins’ voice kinda crept out from under his hat. “Hey Newt, what about the place ol’ Plenty abandoned?”
“By golly,” Newt declared, “I plum forgot about Horna Plenty’s farm over to White Rock Cove. That place were a bit different. The soil there were so sweet it’d rot a worm’s teeth, so lush you felt like you was walking on pillows, and so rich ol’ Plenty used to perk hot water through a handful and serve the drink fer coffee!”
At that, the visitor hopped back faster’n a bullfrog caught in a cloggin’ contest an’ shouted, “Abandoned? Near here? What happened?”
“Well, Horna was an industrious sort of feller. So when he first found that south-facin’ cove boxed in by two steep quartz cliffs, he figured what with that lush soil and all the sunlight reflectin’ off them white rocks, he’d located the best growin’ spot this side of Eden.
“An’ it were, too! He set him up a nice little homestead, with a few animals, a big ol’ garden, and a nice hayfield out front. And believe me, that man worked to keep his place up, why, he’d pull a weed afore it broke the ground.
“But then his momma over in Erosion junction took sick and died, and Horna had to go to the funeral. Well, what with the arrangements and service and all, it was nigh onto a week afore he arrived back home. Only Plenty figured he must’ve got lost on the way, ’cause the first thing he came to was a grove of tall, branchless trees growin’ so thick he could barely wedge his way through! ‘Twasn’t till he saw the tops of them timbers all start swayin’ in a mild breeze that he realized he was fightin’ his way through his own hayfield!
“Horna finally managed to make it over to his house, but as soon as he opened the front door, a river of yellow liquid kinda oozed out, an’ he heard a buzzin’ like a chorus of chain saws. Seems his honeybees had loaded their hive so full while he was gone that they’d had to move inta the house, an’ they’d dang near stuffed it, too! An’ Horna had hardly turned his back on that mess when a bunch of 20-foot-tall white boulders rolled right up to him. One even crashed into him, but the darn thing was so soft and matty it didn’t hurt. I Turned out it was one of his sheep! Plenty could hear the critter bleatin’ somewhere inside all that wool, but he couldn’t for the life of him find where!
“Gettin’ a mite perplexed by this time, Horna headed out to his garden, climbed over the turnip row, an’ saw that the whole place had grown out of control. His pole beans had reached the top of a nearby poplar grove an’ were startin’ to get a grip on the sunbeams. His wax peppers were so big they coulda been carved into canoes. And when he heard something growin’ toward him, he had to skedaddle out of the plot, an’ barely kept ahead of them marauding zucchini vines!”
By now, the listener were rubbin’ his hands together fit to spark a fire. “Well, what happened to the place?” he asked.
“Oh,” said Newt, “Horna knew then he’d fallen a little behind on his chores, so he jist figured he’d have to wait till ev’rythin’ died back in winter, clean things up, an’ have another go the next spring. Meanwhile, he moved down to Erosion Junction an’ took a lumber mill job. The thing is, though, he never did come back, ’cause he found out about some really good land, ground that was worth farmin’.”
“Shucks, ev’rybody knows that the bestest growin’ plots in seven counties are jist outside Erosion Junction. In fact, folks there have set up a group, the Barren County Ladies Auxiliary an’ Highminded Civic League [EDITOR’S NOTE: The wily women who pulled one over on the Plumtree boys just last issue], to tell folks where the best for-sale acreage is.”
“Yep. Head down that road there till you hit stoplights, an’ ask around for Miz Beatrice Snodpebble. In fact, tell her Newt Blanchard sent you so you won’t have to waste no time on introductions.”
“Thanks!” Dealer McWheeler shouted as he pounced back into his truck an’ raced out of sight. The boys sat up long enough to reclaim the use of their spittoon an’ give each other knowin’ winks. At which point, they all set back to wait, for the next fall visitor.
“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.” –Henry James
“The cultivation of the earth necessarily brought about its distribution; and property, once recognised, gave rise to the first rules of justice; for, to secure each man his own, it had to be possible for each to have something. Besides, as men began to look forward to the future, and all had something to lose, every one had reason to apprehend that reprisals would follow any injury he might do to another. This origin is so much the more natural, as it is impossible to conceive how property can come from anything but manual labour, for what else can a man add to things which he does not originally create, so as to make them his own property? It is the husbandman’s labour alone that, giving him a title to the produce of the ground he has tilled, gives him a claim also to the land itself, at least till harvest, and so, from year to year, a constant possession which is easily transformed into property.” -Rousseau