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Podunk PetePosted Sunday, July 6, 2008, at 1:47 PM
As I reminisce the years of the 1920's, when I was growing up in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, I remembered a fellow who lived back in "Possum Holler." Now this possum holler was just about as far back as one could get and still be considered a part of the civilized society. It was even farther back than the roads were cut out, and. after you came to the end of the dirt road, you had to follow a winding path through the woods for about a quarter of a mile where there was a little log cabin, nestled in a patch of pin-oak trees and papaw bushes.
Podunk Pete was a bachelor, who lived all alone in this wilderness solitude, where his most valuable possessions were a one-eyed mule by the name of "Shadrack," and a long-eared, Bluetick hound, which he called "Indigo." His other property consisted mainly of a few pots and pans, a double barrel shotgun and a Moon Shine still. Old Shadrack provided the horsepower for cultivating a few acres of corn, which, after the refining process, was measured in pints and quarts. He was also Pete's main source of transportation, especially when Pete was delivering some of his "Liquid Assets."
Indigo was also a source of revenue, as he was very good at treeing possums, and together with Shadrack, the two of them provided beautiful music. Shadrack had a braying voice with the reverberating rhythm that sounded like "The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B," and Indigo could yodel a long drawn out crescendo that would make Hank Williams sound like second class.
In addition to the "Special Recipe" that Pete provided for the surrounding community, he also raised a few chickens, most of which were raised after dark. He was so good at this profession that he could, by the light of the moon, raise a Dominicker hen from her roosting place, make her feel comfortable in a burlap bag, and do all this without ruffling a feather or creating a squawk that would alert the neighbor's watch-dog. If there were some eggs left in the nests, Pete would also bring a few of them along for good measure.
Pete had grown so accustomed to his bachelor's life style in this pristine setting that he was not aware of the fact that his was a lonely life. He had never known the thrill of getting out of bed in the middle of the night and tangling his toes in the webbing of a corset lying on the floor. He had never had the exercise of stooping down every time he went through the doorway to avoid being trapped in a pair of black satin bloomers that were part of the laundry which had been hung there to dry, nor had he ever had the experience of shaving with a straight blade razor that had been used by the better half, to slice bacon or to trim toenails.
As the years passed, Pete began to imagine that there should be some way that he could add more pleasure to his humble life style, if he had some companion, other than a one-eyed mule and a flop-eared dog. However, he could never seem to get around to pursuing this line of thought, until, finally one day there came a knock at his door. It was the first knock that he had heard since a haughty woodpecker had tried to drill a hole through his door to get to the corn mash that was left over from a batch of his special recipe.
When Pete opened the door, there stood a Mr. Leroy McNab, who asked for admittance, so that he could rest his weary bones. Mr. McNab said that he had left his home, with hopes of getting a job as President of some bank, but it seemed that the banks had all the presidents they needed, so he just headed west into the timber country, where he had found a job as "Joe-Hole Jockey" for $15.00 per week at the sawmill about a mile back down the road.
Leroy arranged for room and board with Pete, and after sampling some of Pete's special recipe, they became friends, telling each other about their family. Leroy told Pete about a very voluptuous person of the feminine persuasion, by the name of Rosie O'Riley, and how he was going to send for her, and that they were going to be married just as soon as he could raise enough cash to pay the freight on her trip from Hazard, Kentucky. After a few weeks of wheeling sawdust, Leroy had saved enough money, so he sent Rosie a Postal Money-Order to cover the cost of transportation
When it was about time for Rosie to arrive, it so happened by coincidence, or by some finagling on the part of Podunk Pete, that Leroy was sent by the manager of the sawmill on a three-day trip to inspect a track of timber over in the next county.
In expectation of Rosie's arrival, Pete wanted to make a favorable impression, so he swept out the cabin for the first time in five years. He shined his boots with some possum grease, shaved the two weeks' growth of beard off his face, put on a pair of red suspenders, and waited for events to occur.
Shortly after noon, Rosie came riding down the path on a $25.00 horse and saddle that she had purchased with her own money. When Rosie inquired about her absent lover, Pete told her that Leroy had been fired from his sawmill job, and that he had headed for California.
At this point, Rosie let out a wail that would put a pack of coyotes to shame. Rosie cried on Pete's shoulder for almost a whole minute, then Pete brought out some of his "Special Recipe" and together they did an adequate job of drowning Rosie's sorrows.
After careful consideration, they decided to make the most of this situation, so Rosie mounted her $25.00 horse, and with Pete on his one-eyed mule, they rode about five miles over to the Justice of the Peace and got married.
When they arrived back at the cabin, Leroy was there. He had found Rosie's bundle of clothes. He noticed that the cabin had been swept clean, and that Pete's clean pair of pants and his red suspenders were not hanging on the nail behind the stove, so he had a pretty good idea as to what was going on.
After verifying what had taken place, Leroy lost all faith in mankind, and, to some extent, in womankind. He decided that love was not exactly what it was cracked up to be, so he told Pete that he owed him $15.00 for Rosie's transportation.
When Pete swore with a rumbling oath that he would not pay it, Leroy mounted Pete's one-eyed mule, took Pete's double-barrel shotgun, a gallon of Pete's special recipe and headed for Arkansas, leaving Pete holding an overstuffed bag of potential problems.
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Paul Corbin is a 98-year-old historian, humorist, and amateur archeologist from Advance, Mo. He grew up in the Greenbrier area west of Advance, where he attended Stepp School on the banks of Cato Slough and the Castor River, important waterways throughout his life. In an age when many area residents did not go to high school, the young Corbin made the decision to walk the five miles to Zalma, graduating in 1933. Throughout his life, he was an enterprising businessman, selling Watkins products from house to house throughout a large area - and later opening a variety store in Advance. He and his wife Geneva traveled throughout the United States, even following the route that the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled. His knowledge of Native American culture is extensive, and he has donated a sizeable collection of his artifacts to the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center and the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill. Throughout the years, he has submitted articles to TBY, the North Stoddard Countian, the Ozark Mountaineer, and several other Missouri publications. He has also written two books - "Reflections in Missouri Mud," and "Fragments of my Feeble Mind." The first one is out of print.