Story by Rick Fisher Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved. All Characters are fictional. Any resemblance to folks living or dead is purely coincidental and not intended to reflect poorly upon the good non-fictional people we know.
A bad storm came through Diffle County last week. I always know when a summer storm is a bad one by my telephone. Since I live in Nother County, the boys don't call me in to help out unless they are desperate. I can accept that. Big Don likes to say, "Ricky, we can do it with you or without you." Mostly they do it without me.
But eventually, being the back-up to the alternate to the part-timer to the full-timer gets you called on the phone after a nasty storm.
Big Don on the phone:
"Ricky, what are you doing today? A bad storm came through. Ol' John is down with a bad knee, Arthur is in Florida, and Father Figure, well..he's on a mission...you aren't on the need to know list so we will leave it at that."
"What about Larry Lohman? Isn't he available?" I was trying to think of an excuse. It was 5 a.m.
"Larry has a lawn maintenance seminar to attend . Ricky, we know you aren't busy at five in the morning. You might as well come in." Big Don believes that sleeping doesn't count as doing something.
There were a good number of trees down over roads, and large branches too. As soon as I got into the office, Big Don and I grabbed chainsaws and hopped in the Township truck. He drove and I rode. He knew where he was going. Here is how the system works: All night long, trees fall down. All night long folks who should stay home in a bad storm but don't dial up 911. All night long the State Police call Big Don.
"Is Walt (our esteemed zoning officer originally from Long Island) out helping too? I asked, as we bumped along on the back roads.
"Ricky, how many New Yorkers do you know who can handle a chainsaw?" Big Don replied with feigned irritation. After that we kept our conversations to the business of cutting limbs and clearing roads.
We were cutting a large Oak limb on Weldon Drive when Big Don's cell phone started playing "Made in America" by Toby Keith. "Ah, it's Melissa." (All women are named Melissa to Big Don. It's kind of catchy, you should try it at home.) He spoke with a couple of "uhuhs" and "okays" and a "whew" and then a "thank you Melissa" before hanging up the phone. We finished carving up the branch and tossing it into the woods at the road's edge.
"Ricky, Melissa says we'll have to go rescue Marcus Spoot."
Marcus Spoot is a true mountain man. He owns seventy-six acres of woods on a small rise surrounded by gentle valleys. This is the same seventy-six acres that his daddy owned, his Pappy owned, and his great Granddaddy owned. Before that, there is a missing deed (Chief Running Bear's deed, according to Native Americans and their casino backers), then a John Becker, and back even further, and not surprisingly, the property (along with half of Pennsylvania) was owned by the Honorable William Penn.
Marcus Spoot had a driveway made of legend. Only 4-wheel drive vehicles could easily ascend to the top. Once the mountain snow and ice arrived, the Spoot homestead was only accessible by snowmobile and ATV's. In the winter, Marcus Spoot parked his old Dodge truck next to the mailbox down by the main road.
If he needed to go somewhere, Spoot ditched the snowmobile in Clawney's old barn, across the highway, hopped in his truck and drove. During the warmer seasons, the Dodge carried junk, tons of junk, picked up every trash night throughout the county, then carted up the mountain and tossed on the ground- new treasures every week.
Spoot's daddy was a junk collector. Spoot's grand-pappy was a junk collector. Spoot's Great grandfather collected metal and wood. The first pile is still there, rusting an decaying. On top of Spoot mountain, there are over 5 acres of Spoot-declared treasure- from half a piper cub to a 39 foot sailboat jacked up on cinder blocks with paint peeling faster than a drunken pee. Four generations of junk sure can add up.
Over the years, Spoot Mountain has also accumulated 55-gallon plastic barrels and Marcus has put them to good use fermenting peaches, sugar pears, apples, grapes, and more. It is the most unsanitary winery known to man. Fly strips full of winged insects hang from the ceiling of his makeshift garage, and a thousand more circle the barrels. If you saw it, you wouldn't want to drink it.
Yet the wine is 150 proof and an absolute delight as long as you only sip half a glass or pour down more than two glasses. You don't want to drink enough to remember your reaction, friend. Or you want to drink enough to forget your reaction, babydoll.
Spoot had fancy names for his wine. "Applenesia" "Sugarpear Snare", "Grape Sinner" and "Peach Plowed" are some of the names Spoot has used in the past. "Hey Marcus, what kind of wine is this?", I asked one day when he dropped off a couple of jars for the boys. "That red one is "Strawberry Snatch". They be snatching your children away from you after you drink some of that. The yellow one is Daffodil Dyke. Drink a few glassfuls and you be hitting on all the wrong girls in the bar. A few more glasses, and you be dancin' in the wrong bar, and a few more, you be shaving your head and marching in the parade."
He once invited the State Auditor, a lovely, professional accountant, over to his "winery" for a tasting. A connoisseur of fine wines, she naturally agreed. They found her 2 days later in Stopton, 40 miles away, wandering down the middle of Main Street in search of her car. Spoot says he warned her. "I told her, this one is Elderberry Eraser- erase your mind as fast as you drink it down.
It was hard for us to believe that Spoot needed our help. But when we arrived we saw there were dozens of trees down over his driveway, which was mostly washed out. And Spoot was feeling poorly, fightin off some serious chest pains. An ambulance and crew waited at the driveway entrance to take him in, while we went to work at clearing those trees.
Dave got on cellular and called George Watkins, who lived nearby. "George, we need the big machine. Over at Spoots. Yep. Okay. Send the bill to the Township. Yep. Melissa says Howdy. Bye now." We stood around chatting with the ambulance crew for a few minutes when the sound of thunder started rolling our way.
Within minutes, the thunder became a clanking roar of yellow iron and rust- George Watkins had arrived on top of his 1957 D8 and, without so much as a wave, attacked the trees on Spoot's driveway- breaking trees and pushing them aside like little twigs, then scraping the dirt and pushing it forward, filling the ruts in nice and tight.
We followed with our chainsaws, cutting back a limb here, tossing minor branches aside there- while Watkins and his mighty D8 carved a new driveway to Spoot's front door. Within an hour we reached the old man, and there he was sitting on a half-finished deck, feet hanging over the edge, naked down to his tighty-whiteys, a half-empty jar of Mighty Melon Masher in one hand.
"Howdy boys! Took ya long enough! I thought I was gonna die and so I thought I'd better get to drinkin' and not remember my ending...then the aliens came and they took me up in their spaceship and poked at me with funny white sticks. I shared a jar of my Masher with them..whooee, they was happy after that..knocked down all them trees in the driveway trying to get back to the sky...then a cat and an otter showed up looking for some armor. I found them a couple of nice oven doors from a couple of stoves my pappy picked up on the Johnston farm a few years back..."
Marcus Spoots vitals were checked out by the EMT and he politely refused a ride to the hospital, "..and don't even think about charging me for a house call!" George turned his dozer around and gave a sweep back down the mountain for a final grade, and Big Don and I declined a glass of Melon Mash, but Big Don did remind Spoot that we fixed his driveway and to stop by for hot dogs next Tuesday, oh and don't forget to get those aliens registered to vote, election's coming up and Big Don sure could use a few extra votes.
The next morning, the Diffle County Reporter ran the front page headline:
"Wobbling U.F.O. Spotted Hovering Over Spoot Mountain"
State Police Confirm Sighting of Leaf-Covered Disc in Sky
State Police Confirm Sighting of Leaf-Covered Disc in Sky