“Ain’t never seen nothin’ like it, nor nothin’ like it since,” old Bert declared, as he rolled a stick of wheat straw between his teeth. “Ole Bobby Jim, he done saw red that day, was for certain. I recollect twas the Sunday of the great tornader of ’63
The old farts of Podunkville were gathered around the pickle barrel at Fody’s Livery, each of them clutching a jug of hot java in their mitts. This was a place where the fat got chewed until someone finally spat it out and some new gristle got brought up for the chaw.
“Would that be the Bobby Jim, used to drive the school bus in Crawford County?” Colby Watters asked.
“No, he’d be the one ridin’ the mini bus,” Bert countered. “Seein’ as he weren’t the swiftest fish in the pond.”
Bert Kody had passed the tattered picture around the circle, nodding his head and smiling all the while. Each man in turn fondled the Kodak as if to divine great significance from the scene. There stood Bobby Jim, chest extended, with his daddy’s pick up suspended in some pernicious oak. The damned tree looked as if it were sprouting from his noggin.
Sam Puddle, with his great beak nearly touching the photo, was the first to make a substantial remark.
“Say, boys, damn truck in that tree looks like one of dem high fallootin signs out on the interstate.”
“Ya mean the ones for the Titty Bars,” Grandpa Hatfield chuckled. “There’s a great set of headlights on that one, by George!”
Old Bert shuffled back and forth on his stool as the others let out a gaggle of back-slappin’ guffaws.
When the tittering died down, Bert said, “Well that has more to do with this tale than you might be mindful of. You see, Bobby Jim was all a twit over his true love, Betti-Jo Jenkins, from down in the hollow by Catfish Creek.”
Colby Watters nearly spat out his gum when he said, “That girl had knockers like watermelons.”
“And, sure enough, Bobby Jim saw her as his Daisy Duke,” Bert continued. “He wanted nothin’ more to impress that girl into lettin’ him taste her sweet nectar.”
Sam Moody was scratching a weeks worth of stubble when, in an offhanded way, he mumbled, “I was more partial to that Ginger gal on Gilligan.”
“Me, I kinda had a hard on for Ellie May Clampett,” Colby Walters added.
Old Bert waved his hand across the room as if to clear the air of any further intervention.
Leaning forward, he began by saying, “So, Bobby Jim saw himself as not unlike one of dem Duke Brothers from Hazzard County. Felt he could jump his daddy’s truck and make her fly just like the General Lee. Felt Betti-Jo would be putty in his hands and then some. And so, he set out to accomplishin’ just that.”
“So, that’s how the truck got in the tree?” Sam Puddle asked.
“Well, let’s not put the cart before the horse,” Bert Kody replied. “There’s way more to this tellin’!”
Each of the old men leaned forward as if the earth suddenly tipped on its axis. None of them hankered to have the rest of this tale fall on deaf ears. When all of the chair shifting came to a halt, Sam Moody said, “Go one then, give us the nitty-gritty.”
Bert’s eyes began to twinkle like the stars at night. He had his audience in the palm of his hand and he was about to milk it for all that it was worth.
“Bobby Jim didn’t have no Cooter Davenport to modify his ride, see. So he done juiced up that engine his own self. It took a full day to stack up the manure pile in the headlands and fashion it into a ramp. Bobby Jim felt leapin’ the creek would be a feat worthy of Betti-Jo Jenkins attention. He planned to take that gal along for the ride.”
“No shit?” Colby Walters exclaimed.
“Oh there was plenty of shit that day, boys. Seeing as that manure ramp of his was wet and fresh and near liquid.”
“But that there tree ain’t no where near to the creek,” Grandpa Hatfield observed.
“That, my boys, is the twist to this here tale,” Bert countered. “You see just as Bobby Jim and Betti-Jo approached that ramp at a hundred mile an hour the greatest of winds blew up.”
“The tornader,” Sam Puddle said, as an ear-to-ear grin creased his mug.
Old Bert was on Sam’s remark like butter on bread.
“Yes-sir-ee, Bob. Twister picked up the truck, the young lovers and a load a shit worthy of a forty acre spread, spun them around like turds in the toilet, and flung them two full counties away, high and not so dry in that there pernicious oak, pictured right there in the photo.”
“Son of a bitch,” Colby Waters hollered.
“No, Bobby Jim was Betty-Jo’s first cousin, twice removed,” Sam Puddle chuckled.
For the moment, the room fell silent as the old men contemplated the in and the outs and whys and the wherefores of what had just been beholden to them.
Finally, Grandpa Hatfield, his face drawn and withered, uttered the question they all had on their minds. “Did the boy get what he wanted? Was he able to harvest them melons?”
Bert Kody had saved the best for last. With a face glowing with three parts satisfaction and one part glee, Bert said, “Seems as if them melons came a crashing together with Bobby Jim’s face be-twixed and between ‘em. You couldn’t wipe the smile off that boy’s face for days on end, even though he smelled like the arse end of Splinter Mc Ginty’s fat sow.”
“So that’s why his chest is all puffed out,” Colby Walters remarked.
“And he’s wearing that smirky smirk,” Sam Moody added.
“Well that’s my story,” Old Bert interjected. And then with a wink and a smile he added, “And I’m surely stickin’ to it!”