Archived Story

A place with chipbucks and tax-free living

Published 11:37am Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Column: Tales From Exit 22

I was talking to myself.

Why not? I’m friends.

I do that while shopping at the Food Crypt. I overpaid at the self-check aisle. No surprise. I’ve had no formal training as a cashier.

I’d been busier than an octopus with itchy skin.

Earlier, I’d paid my respects to the two gravesites of Alice Goodnight. She was the assistant for Lame-O the Magician whose big trick was sawing Alice in half. Hence, the two graves. I know many of those who are now occupants of the cemetery. I was born in the area because I wanted to be close to my mother.

I stopped to ask a man if he was all right. He was sitting by himself on a graveyard bench and not using a cellphone. That’s odd behavior. He was repeating the words, “Jean-Claude Van Damme.” That way he could sound like he was cussing without actually cussing. He stood up while holding a small bottle and began jumping up and down. I asked again if he was OK.

He replied, “I didn’t notice until after I took this medicine that I was supposed to shake it well.”

I had lunch at the Eat Around It Cafe with someone from a large city. She said, “There are more churches than stoplights here.”

I suspect that was her definition of a small town. For the record, there are two churches and no stoplights in this small town. Fuel’s Paradise could advertise that it has the lowest gas prices in town. It’s the only gas station in town. Weasel begs for money outside Fuel’s Paradise each day. He’s trying to raise enough money to go on a cruise by proving that beggars can be cruisers. He’s not allowed into Fuel’s Paradise since the big giveaway fiasco. He told everyone that he’d won a motorhome after buying a slice of pizza at Fuel’s Paradise. That angered the owner, as the most anyone could win was a free breakfast. Weasel’s winning slip had read, “Win a bagel.”

Another diner told me that he’d had all his teeth taken out and a new stove put in.

I know that those two things weren’t related, but I couldn’t get the odd pictures out of my head.

The Silly Corn Valley where I live was settled by people, and contrary to popular belief, there were no UFOs involved. Most of those near me are here because they’re part of the Federal Witness Protection Program. Have you ever wondered what happened to Dan Quayle and Billy Ray Cyrus? I can’t say more. I’ve already said too much. People wear “You don’t know me” T-shirts to church. Whispering Walt, who always yells, claims to have moved here because of his beliefs. He believes that it’s OK to cheat at cards.

I’d come to town for the Town Board meeting, held at the Bureau of Tourism and Corn. I burst in like a rich uncle saying, “Boardman, Boardman, Boardman!”

Everyone gave me an odd look.

I’m used to that.

Before they could ask, I told them that by saying “Boardman” three times, I was supposed to avoid paying real estate taxes next year. I explained that this was a law from back in the days when things existed that were tax-free.

The Boardman brothers were the first settlers in Hartland Township. They took up residence along the shores of Mule Lake in 1857.

I didn’t have my taxes forgiven. I guess the Boardman name no longer carries much influence here.

The old legend didn’t work.

I expected that. I’d invented the old legend. So I gave the chipbuck count that I do each year.

The chipbuck isn’t a myth. We have so many deer here that they’re breeding with chipmunks. The result is a little rodent with a large white tail and huge antlers. The sad part is that the antlers make it impossible for the chipbucks to get back into their burrows, as the entrance holes are too small. They become wedged in the holes and fall prey to coyotes.

I arrived home after shopping. It’d been a good day. I’d rid myself of the irritating electrical charge I’d been carrying. I was ex-static until I lost the house key. I was on a journey of discovery. I searched the lawn for it. I’d lost the keys in the car, but the light was better on the lawn.

I said, “Boardman, Boardman, Boardman,” in the hopes that’d help me find it.

My momma didn’t raise no dummies.

The lady next door raised me.

 

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