Ricky Harpole column 7-20-12

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2012

Extreme heat prompts search to find best liars

I have been in the tracking business for longer than I care to remember. I used to have to track down my little sister and cousins if they strayed too close to the Coldwater River. Later on it was rabbits or wounded deer from a bad shot and later bond jumpers and runaway husbands and wives. My success rate varied, but as a general rule I was on the upper end of the scale.

Well, sisters and cousins can mostly keep up with themselves now. I consider that a blessing.

Due to hawks, owls and coyotes, the rabbits are too scarce to bother with and the weather during meat-curing season is rough on brittle bones for a woodsman of my general condition. Too much cold or too much heat can be catastrophic on old dogs and dinosaurs like myself.

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Still, if tracking is in your blood you need to still have something to track. I decided on liars who can lie better than I can. The best and most entertaining were to be found in county courthouses, followed closely by the hunters and distillery crews (that’s just my opinion. You be the judge).

What follows is submission No. 1 donated at a whiskey still convention in Bolivar County.

Sho’-nuff ugly cannot be refined

(Author incarcerated).

“You talk about ugly, an y’all ain’t even seen it when it was pure and unadulterated. Sho-nuff ugly cannot be refined. It occurs on site, and if you say any different you’re a damned apprentice liar yo’self.

“My Uncle Jeff was so ugly that the moon rose twice one night cause it had  to go down and get another breath. He was so ugly he like to have poisoned the whole family and two of the neighbors.

“Ya see, he come home drunk one night, and even though Granny was blind, she could still smell whiskey and ugly, so he sat down on the edge of the well to let some of the ugly dissipate off in the dark and fell in the cistern.

“We all heard the commotion and cussin’ and managed to fetch him back up alive, (ugly and all) but that well wouldn’t produce nothing but pure ugly for a month and we had to get our drinkin’ water out of the swamp. He’s still alive and ugly as ever and setting right over there uglying up the atmosphere.”

You gotta admit. He’s a lying contender.

We all know that some lies shouldn’t even qualify. The fish that got away, or the Boone and Crockett deer that was smarter than Einstein are kindergarten lies. The Barney Fife Graduate School of Criminal Justice files belong in that department for the “half-cooked” prevarications they use to irritate judges and defense attorneys.

I won’t bore you with that nonsense. It’s time to get to the heat of the matter as told several years back by Jimmy Gregory and backed up by Ralf Sanders, both tax paying liars of Quitman County.

Submission No. 2 goes like this:

So hot, popcorn cooked off on stalk

“It was at an August barbecue and the temperature in the shade was about 105 degrees,” said Gregory. “There was a good crowd mingling around but for once the topic of conversation was mostly about heat instead of politics.

Mr. Sanders opened up by saying, “Hell, boys, this ain’t so bad. When I was a young’un, we wuz livin on a 60-acre farm raisin’ cotton and corn. There was mama and daddy, a yard full of chickens and guineas and turkeys, a hog or three, a milk cow, and three or four beef cows for the market.

“We owed the bank and there wasn’t (nor was there going to be) any cash money that year or any other as far as I could see. If it hadn’t been for turnip greens and hogs in the fall we wouldn’t have made it thru the winter.

“It was an extra bad year on account of the drought. We didn’t get enough rain to baptize a chigger. All the cash crops dried up. That was the year momma got cataracts and couldn’t read very well when she was ordering the garden seed and we wound up with popcorn instead of sweet corn.

“We kept the corn crop watered as best we could (not knowing it wasn’t sweet corn) and when the mercury hit about 130 degrees that ol’ popcorn went to “cookin” off. That was when the trouble started.

“The popcorn started cooking off in the shuck and the west wind carried it over the cow pasture. A cow, being a basically stupid creature, looked up and saw all that popcorn falling, jumped to the conclusion it was snowing and froze to death.

“All the other bovine idiots followed suit and we were stuck with the corpses of the whole herd in the dead hot heat (pardon the pun) of July.

“Well baby sis came up with a way to salvage the mess.

“She said, ‘We have sweated enough salt on the back porch to cure a buffalo herd, plus,’ she added, ‘we can pack ‘em in that popcorn to keep ‘em cooled down so they don’t thaw out before they spoil and cook ‘em in a pit and sell tickets for a Fourth of July party and let the men play poker and shoot craps against the house odds and pray afterwards that we will be forgiven.’

Jim paused for a moment and Ralf cranked up and said, “We could’ve got rich off that popcorn seed but the hogs had got as tired of turnip greens as we wuz and et up all the seed. I can’t remember if we starved to death or not.”

As you can see a good lie is hard to judge on merit alone. As Mark Twain said, “A lie has three or more legs but a good lie has at least one leg of truth woven into it to make it believable.”

Lie No. 3 is a prime example of a strong contender. It might not rate No. 1 because it was poorly executed, but since it was told by old Mr. Jones, remembered from his childhood, it qualifies.

One-eyed, bobtail cat gets turpentined

“Great Grandma Jones had a one-eyed, bobtail tom cat who went anywhere he wanted to. In the meantime and me and Bubba had to keep up with him and his messes. One morning ol Bubba had hatched a plan (he called it on adventure) for that damn cat. He woke the young Mr. Jones up and said, ‘Granny’s cat is getting ready to go in the corner again and we’re a-fixin’ to fix him.’

“‘How? the young Mr. Jones wanted to know.

“Well, I got this here corn cob and some turpentine, and you hold his tail up while I file him down till he’s good and rawy and then we;ll pour a good ole dose of this here turpentine on the tender spot and see what corner he backs up in next time.”

“Things didn’t go as smoothly as planned due to the claws and teeth but the objections of the cat which were finally subdued and subjected to the process of a pair of sturdy white mule work gloves and a rubber boot to contain his weapons and protect the treatment team.

“Upon his release he climbed walls, crossed ceilings, knocked over lamps and drug the offended part of his anatomy across Grandma’s new rug, then left for parts unknown, out thru the new screen door without slowing down to open it.

“’What in the hell is going on in there and what’s wrong with my cat?’ Mrs. Jones demanded to know.

“Well, that’s when the young Mr. Jones told his first lie. (I’m certain it wasn’t his last).

“‘Bubba stepped on his tail’ was all he could think of to say. Remember, ol’ Tom was a one-eyed, bobtail cat.”

Grandma remembered it too, and that’s when britches got hot as Panola County last week.

Still on the trail,

Ricky Harpole