Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Uncle Py And The Troll, FFF #25
"He had been told that crawling would get him nowhere, but-" Homer gestured with his arms above his head as I shuffled in through the door of Dave Syke's general store.
"No, no, no," Dave interrupted, "Now that Bob is here, you have to start from the beginning. There is no getting out of it. You promised!" Homer huffed as I settled onto the barrel of nails nearest the pot bellied stove. "What's this?" I asked.
"I was tellin' Dave about my uncle and he insisted that we wait for you. Well, after three games of checkers, Dave wanted to hear the tale, but he insisted that as soon as you showed up, I start all over." I stoked the fire in the stove, packed my pipe and settled in to spend a rainy Friday night of tall tales with the fellows. Dave handed me a mason jar, "Have a sip of this to chase away the chill." The corn liquor burned all the way down and made a warm spot in my middle.
"Alright, I'm listening," I said.
"Now neither one of you ever got to meet my Uncle Py, but he was something else," Homer began after a little nip from the jar to wet his lips. "He had all kinds of adventures and traveled all over the world. Now this particular time was when he was a young man and these mountains was still pretty wild and open country."
"Py? That's kind of a queer name innit?" Dave asked.
"He was named after Pythagoras, one of them old Greek dudes in the Bible," Homer answered. Book learnin' was not one of Homer's strong suits, but it is best not to call a man's shortcomings to his attention in front of others as it's libel to sour a friendship. "Now it was in the fall after the crops was in," Homer began again, "and all of the men of the community would gather up their batch of corn and turn it into shine so it was easier to get down off the mountain and sell it at market in Hecketsville. Now this took a couple of weeks to cook it all up, and of course everybody wanted to try some of the first batch. What followed was one big drunken party that lasted two weeks. They called it an Oh-Gee."
"Orgy?" Dave interrupted again.
"No, you mule-headed somebitch. An orgy you have with girls. This was an Oh-Gee. As in, 'Oh gee, I'm drunk but I'll have another sip'." Homer laughed at his own joke. "Now while they was cookin' up the mash, they'd have coon hunts and wrasslin' matches and story tellin' contests, just to see who could come up with the biggest whopper. Now Uncle Py had spent two weeks blind, stinkin' drunk and he figgered it was about time to go home and sleep it off so he left the others at the still, loaded up his mule and headed down the mountain. Afore he can get down it turns dark and a powerful storm rolls in. The rain comes down hard and you can't see your hand in front of your face. Well, Uncle Py and Della, that's the mule, they lose their way and get off the path."
"Now Uncle Py is not a man easily discouraged and was always of a bright an' cheerful nature. He knows that turning around and looking for the path in the dark is a lost cause so he lights his lantern and decides that he can just find his own way down, since he has been roaming these hills all his life. But the going is tough. The rain has turned the ground to mush and the trees grow thick together, so he has to kinda bust his way through. Now his lantern gives him a little light, but the briers and branches tug at his clothes and every here and there are loose patches of rocks. One wrong step and he goes ass over tea kettle down the mountain to his doom. Della the mule is a pretty sure-footed animal, but Della is blind, so they kinda have to help each other."
"After a couple of hours of stumbling through the dark and the rain, the storm really gets with it and the sky blisters with lightening and the thunder shakes the ground under their feet as it rolls through the valley. Well needless to say, Della gets spooked and takes off at a run dragging Uncle Py with her as well as six gallons of some of the sweetest moonshine this valley ever tasted."
"Despite her load, Uncle Py figgered she drug him a quarter mile through some of the worst briers and brambles the mountain had to offer. Della only stops because they get to a spring wash and she can hear the water rushing by. After hours of rain, there is a lot of water going by and purdy swift too. Uncle Py picks himself up and looks around and he can't even decide which side of the mountain they are on. He is wondering what to do, when by the flash of lightening, he spies a bridge over the washed out gully. He heads for it even though he had never known of any bridge being near the mountain or heard tell of one, but with a bridge you had a landmark, and perhaps a decent trail to follow until he could figure out just where the hell he was."
"So he gets Della calmed down and guides her to the bridge but she smells something and hunches up. About that time the sky lights up again and there in front of him is this big ol' troll. He's eight foot tall if he was an inch. He's long and gangly and green, with these big claws where he ought to have hands. He stinks to high heavens. His eyes glow red in the dark and Uncle Py can smell his putrid breathe in his face." Homer lowers his voice to a growl and grimaces. "You cross my bridge, you pay my toll! Six gold pieces or your life!"
"Now Uncle Py was always quick thinker when he had to be and it kept him out of some tight spots on several occasions. Uncle Py didn't have six gold pieces on him and the troll may as well have asked for the crown of the king of England but Uncle Py had something better than gold. He had shine. So Uncle Py offers the troll some of that instead. The troll clutches the jug in his bony claw and knocks back a big ol' snort. 'Yum' he says and he starts gulping it down."
"Well now that the two of them are on a more friendly basis, Uncle Py pulls out a dollar cigar that he won in a poker game. He lights it with the one dry match that he can find and offers it to the troll, just to be social like. The troll looks up from his drink and takes it and has a puff. Now while the troll has been drinkin', he can't hold the jug to good on account of his claws, so he's dumped a fair amount of shine all over his self. The troll smiles real big as he gets the hang of smokin' the cigar and everything is going just fine until a hot ash falls off the cigar and lands in the wet hairs on the troll's chest."
"All the sudden, whoosh, he catches fire. He dances around tryin to put it out but he still has the cigar in his claw and winds up lighting new spots that wasn't lit before. Now he's madder than a wet hen and he turns on Uncle Py, thinking that he planned on setting him on fire all along. Uncle Py claims that he was trying to take off his wet coat to smother the flames, but either way, when the troll lunged at him, he managed to step out of the way. The bad thing is Della didn't."
"The troll landed on her and knocked her flat, crushing five gallons of moonshine. They went up in an unholy fire ball that scorched the ground for thirty feet. Uncle Py said the only thing that saved him was the fact that he had his wet coat out in front of him or it would have burnt his face off. The blast threw him several feet and he landed on the far side of the bridge. The flash had left him blinded and he had been told as an itty-bitty boy that crawling would get him nowhere but that's what he did. He wandered the hills for three days before Old Man Sedgewick found him and patched him up."
"Uncle Py said he tried several times to find the spot where that bridge was but he could never find it. He did say that for the rest of his life that he could always tell when a bad storm was going to come over the mountain because you could always smell a little bit of burnt mule hair in the breeze."
We all sat silent for a moment as the late November wind whipped rain against the window and the little stove belched smoke from a down draft.
"You're fulla shit," Dave Sykes blurted out. I don't like to point out a man's short comings, but Dave ain't that mannerly.