Archived Story

Picture the naughty people in handbaskets

Published 12:47pm Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

There was a spot on our farm where I went to yell. I could yell from anywhere on the farm, but this one place offered an echo. It was a duet yourself kit.

One day I hollered something that I had heard regularly as a boy. I heard it at the café, the hardware store and the elevator.

“The world is going to hell in a handbasket.”

I tried to picture naughty people sitting in burning handbaskets. The problem was that I wasn’t sure what a handbasket was. The closest I could come was a bushelbasket. The cartoon bubble over my head showed a bad guy in a bushelbasket surrounded by flames.

When I yelled, “The world is going to hell in a bushelbasket,” the echo agreed with me.

 

Blue Cross wouldn’t cover it

It was toast buttered, salted, and/or peppered to taste, and then covered with warm milk. It was something eaten by a sick person. Proponents claimed that it went down easy. I never found that to be true. I think it was because of the name of the concoction. Graveyard stew.

 

The tree house

We built a tree house. We placed the crudely built structure in a solid tree. It wasn’t a tall tree, but it spread wide and grew in a manner that invited the presence of a tree house. The only things that looked like ants from up in that tree house were ants.

We had guinea fowl that patrolled the area under the tree house. They were of the pearl variety — gray with small white spots. Studies have shown that guineas are consumers of ticks. We liked guineas. Anything that eats a tick is worth having around. The females called, “Come back, come back, come back.”

The male and female guineas were good watchbirds. They made loud and long alarm cries at the slightest disturbance. Most were false alarms. They constantly alerted us to the invisible, nomadic people moving through the farm. My father believed that those cries would drive rats away. Lucky us, we had rats, ticks and guinea fowl that we called “guinea hens.”

 

From the bleachers

I was watching 10-year-old girls play fastpitch softball. It’s a great game and the girls give me hope. During the game, a man came from a house near the field and walked his leashed dog across the outfield. The outfielders at these games do not play deep, so the man and dog had room to roam.

The dog stopped in centerfield and did one of those things that a dog does. It completed the higher number of the two acts you are considering. The man had a baggie and scooped the poop. No one applauded, but it was something you would not likely see at Target Field.

 

A long haul

A friend retired recently. He had worked for the same company for 49 years. I asked if he had enjoyed his job. I thought he must have to have worked there that long.

He told me that he had liked his job.

My next question was, “Then why didn’t you hang in there until you had 50 years?”

He replied, “I didn’t like the job that much.”

 

The passion pit

In my time as a boy, there was a drive-in movie theater not far from our farm. It was called the “passion pit.” Some folks claimed that nothing on the screen ever matched the goings-on in the parked cars. I don’t know if that was true, but I do know that the movie stopped working one night and it was 40 minutes before anyone complained.

 

He wasn’t the Avon man

As a boy, I wasn’t sure that my mother ever slept. She was up before me in the morning, no matter how early I arose. She went to bed after me, no matter how late I stayed awake.

I thought about that as an Iowa farmer named Roger told me a story of when he was a young man, long before he became a CBA (he defined it as Corn, Beans, Arizona).

Roger was saying goodnight to the young woman he was dating. She would become his wife. It was past midnight and the two were kissing at the front door of her house. All parents know that nothing good happens after midnight. Roger was so focused on smooching that he didn’t hear her mother come downstairs. His future mother-in-law snarled, “What do you want, Roger?”

Roger had no answer.

His elbow had been leaning against the doorbell.

 Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.