Friday, November 25, 2011

Who Blowed Up The Church House?

One time there was an old bachelor names Longstreet and he did not do no work, because he drawed a big pension every month.

After while he got so fat he wouldn't even chop his own kindling, and he hired some fellow to haul wood into town and rick it up right by the back door.

The old man kept a fishpole in the house, and it was just eight feet long, with a notch cut in the middle. He used to bring out the fishpole and measure the wood careful, and if the woodpile was eight foot long and four foot high, he would give the fellow seventy-five cents.

But if it measure even one inch short, old man Longstreet says it ain't a full rick, and he would nothing until the fellow put on some more wood.

The fellows that cut wood and sold it did not like old man Longstreet much. He did not get along very good with his neighbors, neither.

Every time a little cold spell come along, old man Longstreet would be grumbling hos somebody was stealing his wood in the night.

"There's folks in this town that ain't got no woodpile at all," says he, "but there's smoke coming out their chimney just the same, and you can smell meat a'frying."

Finally he put ups KEEP OUT signs in his back yard, and he says he is gong to shot anybody that come around there at night.

The sheriff told him he better get a big dog to watch the woodpile. But old man Longstreet says it would cost too much to feed the critter, and the goddam neighbors is mean enough to poison a dog anyhow.

The Baptist church set right across the lane from old man Longstreet's place, and one Sunday they had got a new preacher down from Springfield.

It was pretty cold, and the preacher wanted to build a little fire to take the chill off the pews.

Old man Longstreet was not home, as he had went fishing somewhere, so the new preacher went into the back yard and got an armful of wood. He says surely nobody will begrudge a few little sticks for the worship of God, but he didn't know old man Longstreet.

The preacher got the fire going good, and then he walked out the door of the church, a'thinking about his sermon.

All of a sudden the stove blowed up KER-WHAM!

It know the pulpit down, and broke most of the windows, and scattered live coals all over the church house. The whole place was full of smoke, and the preacher was hollering like a scalded bird dog. He wasn't hurt none, but he was scared witless.

Some folks come along and pumped water, and carried it round in their hats, or else the church house would have burnt plumb down.

And if that stove had blowed up after the meeting got started, it might have killed half the Baptists in the settlement.

The folks thought old man Longstreet had fixed a stick of wood with powder to last out the scoundrels he claimed was stealing his wood in the night.

But the old man swore he never done it, and he figured the neighbors must have loaded up a stick and put it in the woodpile to murder huim, as they are low-down thieving lot and he would not put anything past them.

The neighbors say they never done such a thing, and who would want to kill a crazy old fool like that, which he had got one foot in the grave already?

One fellow says old man Longstreet is always having trouble with the woodcutters because he claims they don't give him a full rick for his money, and maybe the woodcutters put powder in to get even with old man Longstreet.

The fellows that hauled wood says it is a outrageous lie, and people better be goddam careful who they say are accusing things like that.

And one woodcutter says everybody would like to get rid of old man Longstreet and the neighbors too, but he can't afford to buy powder so long as them tightwads will only pay seventy-feve cents ar ick.

"If they will give me a dollar and a quarts," says he, "I'll put free dynaminte in every woodpile, and them damn fools can blow each other up all over town for all I care."

We never did find out which one done it, or who they was trying to blow up. Some says one thing, and some says another.

There was a piece in the Durgeonville paper about how the folks down our way is against religion, but the home folks all knowed better.

There ain't nobody in this county would blow up a church house on purpose, and run the risk of killing a lot of good Christian people.

It was just one of these here unfortunate accidents, and you can't make nothing else out of it.

Who Blowed Up the Church House And Other Ozark Folk Tales, Vance Randolph, Columbia University Press, New York, 1952.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Since Claud had been drinking, the dare to ride the mule in the back door and out the front door of the church received but fleeting consideration, and in the blink of an eye the mule and rider were inside the church. Trying to exit with the spooked mule was when the trouble began.......