Written by Stumblin’ Jimmy Watermelon
ourth of July, yeah I love it. Everybody with free time and money goes out shootin’ off fireworks. Braggin’ about big rockets they shot up or how many firecrackers they sent spatterin’ across the ground. Well buddy, my fourth of July last year had ‘em all licked.
I’d been stayin’ out at Bo’s place. I was in between steady jobs an bein’ as I was his third cousin he took me in. Since I was ‘once removed”, he took me in lettin’ me stay at the barn where he kept his old mule, Nicodemous. Now don’t get me wrong, Nicodemous was his favorite mule. That bein’ the case I didn’t feel so belittled or nothin’.
Now along with stayin’ in the barn with Nicodemous, Bo also gave me his momma-in-law’s old iron skillet, a case of beans, fourteen pounds of onions and double that in deepfroze sausage dawgs. There was an ol’ time cooler box to keep the perishables in. The hay was clean, an’ it weren’t miserable hot yet, so things all in all were goin’ o.k.
Well in exchange for Bo’s gracious efforts on my behalf, it was requested that I hitch up Nicodemous on as many days as it took and plow under some old ground Bo was eyein’ for a fall plantin’. How could I refuse? Anyway, I wandered that plow day in an’ day out with ol’ Nicodemous towin’ hard. After two weeks we were nearly done an’ worn to a frazzle.
On what I figured was to be our last day out , the heat of first summer kicked up an’ sent a scorcher. Now that mule an’ I had been workin’ together for a while, remember. That mornin’, as it happened it was the fourth of July mornin’, I looked at Nicodemous an’ he looked at me an’ I knew we was both thinkin’ the same thing. We’d lay up all day through the heat in the shade of that ol’ barn just eatin’ an drinkin’ root beer (did I tell you Bo gave me a box o’ bottles his aunt Linny had brought him filled with ripe home brewed root beer?). He was surely a generous man. An’ I was bound an’ determined to be a generous man back. So without Bo an’ family to lavish this bounty upon, it was just me an’ ol’ Nicodemous.
I spared no measure, We ate can after can of beans, dozens of them sausage dawgs, heavy sprinkled with all the chopped onion my tearin’ eyes could stand and washed it all down with fourteen bottles of the ripest root beer you ever pulled a cork on. It was gooood eatin’. An’ we shoveled it in ‘til we could eat no more. When we had finished an’ I looked over at that mule, I’d swear to this day he was grinnin’. Finally the cool of evening arrived. Nicodemous an’ I set out to finish our obligation an’ turn up that last bit of ground.
Now Bo an’ everybody had gone into town for the July fourth party an’ all. Good man that he was he left one o’ those big fancy cigars with the colored paper band an’ all; to celebrate you know. On our way out to the field I stuck it in my breast pocket along with a dozen kitchen matches.
We got started slow an’ it wasn’t long before ol’ Nic an’ I began hearin’ our meal talk. An’ folks let me tell you, it were strong conversation. Well I decided that it might be a good time to torch up that cigar an’ diffuse the air so to speak. Lord, there was a roar an’ a twin belch of fire an’ sparks that came from everywhere an’ nowhere at the same time. Even before I smelled the singe of mule’s tail an’ slow man’s scalp I knew our goose was cooked. But it was a light show folks, the likes of which had seldom ever been seen! They all came out from town to marvel at that pyrotechnic display.
The mule, ol’ Nicodemous, ran off ablaze an’ caught the barn afire. The crowd arrived just as I was stumblin’, smoldering, from the field. When I saw Bo all I could think of to say was, “Happy Fourth of July...”. It truly was, though accidental, a masterful display; never to be repeated (by order of the sheriff an’ signed by Judge Wilber T. Overton).
I left for a job at a witch-hazel plant in Mobile, ol’ Nicodemous won’t go near plow, nor field, nor pans of food (not to mention root beer). An Bo, well Fourth of July this year he an’ the missus are goin’ a ways off for the holiday. I guess after that July night last year bein’ such a bolt of excitement an’ calamity, anything else at home would just be a letdown.
Might as well break ground somewhere’s else I always say. Done saved up for a hinney (that’s a mule, city folks) of my own an’ a pocket full of gravy. I hear Bluffton is a great place for a fresh start. Just point me to the grocery an’ a cigar store, then set me loose on clean ground.
See y’all this Fourth of July!
Going Coastal —
Twelve Months And Then Some of
Stumblin’ Jimmy Watermelon
James Lynah Palmer Jr.
Sea Oats Publishing LLC
A collection of short stories straight from the heart of the Lowcountry. Stumblin’ Jimmy shares adventures from his life that include many colorful characters. His tales have such wit and drip with so much southern charm that he has been called the twenieth century Mark Twain. Jimmy is a monthly contributer to the Bluffton Breeze Magazine and his work is in syndication. To purchase “Going Coastal” email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (843)762-2606.