1, No. 6, Sept. Oct. 1984
Leaning back in my cane bottom chair here on the porch the other day I got to thinking about the difference between living well and just living. What tips the scales? Is it money, or is it fame? Is it being a great traveler, or is it something else?
For sure, moneyís not the answer. Was a time in my life when that weekly paycheck down at the sawmill looked good, but by the time Thursday rolled around what wasnít eat up, drunk up, or burned up in gasoline made a sorry jingle in my right front pocket. Near poverty has a melody kinda like a cowbell, though not nearly as pretty.
Fame? Heck, Iím talked about from here to Massac County and word even has it that mention of Rawhide has crossed over into Kentucky. Does that bring cheer on a cold winter night when instead of spousely snoring all I hear is icy wind cackling in the eaves? Not for a minute. Another thing fame doesnít do, is make a fellow feel seventeen when his bones and birth certificate say heís sixty. My policy has always been to leave fame to the saints and bank robbers where it belongs. Rawhide is out for bigger game.
Being a world traveler isnít the greatest thing, either. As I lean back gazing thoughtfully into the hazy distance I recall the skyscrapers of Evansville, Indiana, and the traffic whizzing by on Division Street. Well I remember the mingling of the many accents in this melting pot of mid-America. But, even Evansville in all its mightiness has nothing to compare with Springhouse. Not only that, but tiny Herod, nestled on the banks of Gibbons Creek, has Springhouse and homegrown catfish too, so there you are. (My argument was never with Springhouse, just with the editors who are continually inflicting their opinions on the rest of us. If those birds would only quit thinking out loud in print and run, say, fifty-two pages of letters Springhouse would be the best little magazine since Woodchopperís Quarterly. As things stand now, enough slips past the editors to keep Springhouse not only afloat, but downright enjoyable, providing you take it with enough salt to kill an acre of pigweeds.)
Better than money, better than fame, better than thumbing through a picture album showing where all youíve been and what big shots youíve rubbed shoulders with is, you guessed it, just leaning back and soaking up the scenery, which is what I do most of the time. Heck, ten times better than any carnival is an afternoon in fall when nothing is really happening except that a woodpecker is hammering like crazy on some dead shagbark hickory the lightning found one howling night two years before. Come wintertime all I ask extra is coffee steaming in a cup that got cracked the time Great-Granddad leaped down a ravine this side Cumberland Gap. He was busy dodging a bear, Iím happy to say, and to his dying day he always swore it wasnít him the bear wanted as it was that pretty blue cup he was packing, the one with the stars on the side. What puts the finishing touch to summer and early fall will be brought in two paragraphs down the line. For now, though, pay close attention to whatís coming up next. Anyone who can read and still say Rawhide doesnít have depth is either near-sighted or crazy.
When middle-age hits you over the head like a padded hammer, bringing once jet-black hair to the luster of last winterís wood ashes, and the pretty girls all of a sudden donít know youíre there, instead of looking for a knife or rope to end it all, try peering out the kitchen window in hopes of those U.F.Oís from outer space has just arrived. If so, strike up a conversation with the nearest alien. Tell him thereís no future in the future anymore, and that if he and his pals would whisk you off to GOD KNOWS WHERE not only would you be eternally grateful, but would also happily scrub the decks of the mothership for nothing. In addition to doing wonders for a fellowís spirit, such a departure would also save on flower bills and the cost of a casket, plus give all the loafers from here to China something new to talk about.
If, however, your problem is not how to make it though life but only through hot weather, Rawhide has an answer for that, too. Itís nothing less than iced tea. Nectar of dog days they call it in Pope County, while next door in Saline County they call buzzards Pope County airplanes. In Williamson they call terrapins Saline County whirlwinds, but thatís getting off the subject.
Next to the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel the miracle of iced tea is one of civilizationís highlights. Many a day I have blistered in the sun only to dive indoors, yank open the ice box door, and grab a tall glass of tea from the coolish depths within. Talk about inspiration, the moment that warm air whams the glass, little beads of water form on it, and before you can say "Chicago deer hunters donít know deer from cows," these beads start sliding down. Just watching them do that, does for me what listening to classical music does for snobs. Meanwhile, the chunks of ice clinking around in all that delicious murkiness is as sweet a music to these ears as the noise the fox hounds make when theyíre two hollows over and running. Why, even just holding all that cool wetness get me to thinking on such an elevated level I get half fearful of slipping over into snobbishness myself. But itís the moment when the tea touches these parched lips that I forget about the heat fairly steaming up from the horseweeds in the yard. Also forgotten are sweat bees, ticks, wasps, rattlesnakes, falling trees, cockle burrs, even those miniature dragons, the tomato worms. All these and other summer hazards are sent crashing back to that part of the brain where painful memories are kept out of the way so us suffering mortals can break out into a square dance without warning. Finally, though, itís when the tea starts rushing down the old esophagus that the mailbox you can barely make out though the wax paper window, instead of having Pope County and my name scrawled on the side, might just as well read Hezekiah Rawhide RFD Heaven.
Before I forget it, I aim to challenge E. Andrew Andrews, Esquire, to a duel before the next issue comes out. That way you loyal readers wonít have to be kept in suspense as to who won and who didnít . If youíre laying odds on the outcome, hereís some advice: folks that pretend to be kings usually donít fare well in the real world. Come to think of it, REAL kings donít do much better. Better stick around for the fun.
That man of a million surprises,
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