Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Random Grade School Memories

In Armadillo Creek, in 1976, kindergarten was an all-day kindergarten. It was a part of the elementary school, but because the school system was getting low on classroom space, the classes were held in a little house across the street from the rest of the elementary school. The little pink house looked, from the outside, like the traditional one-room schoolhouses that were commonly seen at one time in country communities. The kindergarten had it's own playground, a fenced in yard, and two classrooms. When lunchtime would come, both classes would line up, single file, and cross the street, up past the gymnasium, and tromp over to the lunchroom shared by all the grades, from Kindergarten, all the way up to the graduating senior class.

The first and second grades were in an 'annex' building, attached to but not really a part of the old school building, which had been built back in the 1930s, back along about the time that Johnny's Daddy was starting school. The grade school annex building housed four classrooms, two for first grade, and two for second. In first grade, Johnny Miller's teacher still used Dick and Jane books, but also broke up the monotony sometimes by bringing in a television, where the entire class would watch Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

And in second grade, Mrs. Williams, a neighbor of Johnny's family, was the teacher. Back in those days, there, many people were connected to the world by telephone, but not individual lines. Rather, neighbors would share a "party line", with each house having a unique ring. At that time, Johnny didn't understand what that really meant, but later on, when he became a teenager, just before the party lines were removed, Johnny would learn that he could listen to neighbor's conversations, but also knew that he'd have been in BIG trouble if he was ever caught doing so.

Third grade was Johnny's first visit into the big elementary school made of field rock so long ago. His first day of third grade started out a bit on the troublesome side, with Johnny being called into the hallway. He was scared that he had somehow done something really bad, but as it turns out the school had to adjust class sizes slightly, so he ended up having the other third grade teacher instead of the one he expected. He had always heard how mean she was, too...

But he learned that as long as he worked hard, she treated him fairly, and he learned a lot. And one day, he raised his hand, and said, "Mrs. Mullens, say 'gee', say 'gee'." Finally she did so, and he answered her, just like on television, "No, GTE!" There had been, for a while there, a barrage of television advertisements for GTE... where all their innovations were discussed, and someone would say, "Gee..." and someone else would say, "No... GTE"

Third grade also introduced Johnny Miller to the principle's office. One day, on the school bus, Johnny somehow got ahold of a magic marker... and drew a little bit on the seat. Graffiti, in all it's forms, was NOT allowed. When Mr. Jones found the stains on his seat, he asked the kids to fess up, and Johnny, ashamed, did not. His brother's good buddy Anthony took care of the job, though. And soon Johnny was called into the principle's office, fearing the worst.

Forth grade, in 1980, in the small community of Armadillo Creek, was different. It was the first time that Johnny Miller had to split time between multiple teachers. Mrs. Long, in the morning, his homeroom teacher, sometimes was a little short-tempered. And although she did usually bite her tongue, his sharp ears actually heard her mutter a bad word once or twice. He didn't know teachers did that! But Mrs. Kennedy, the afternoon teacher, had a completely different personality. She was always calm and smiling and offered to help.

When fifth grade rolled around, Johnny Miller's classes were even more different. For as time went on, the school became smaller and smaller. That is, class sizes grew bigger, and expanded beyond the ability to house them in the old buildings that had been there forever. Johnny's homeroom teacher was in the classroom opposite to where his afternoon forth grade class had been housed, but in the afternoon, after lunch recess was over, the class again crossed the street, and attended class in a house next to the kindergarten. Fifth grade brought other changes, too. The girls started to get flirtatious, and Johnny became self-conscious of how different he imagined he was compared to other kids. This was the year that the Rubik's Cube became popular, and after recieving one for Christmas, Johnny would spend hours and hours playing with it, making futile efforts to solve the darn thing. One afternoon, two of the "good" kids were acting up, and Miss Smith pulled them into the other room, out of sight of the rest of the kids... and "WHAM... WHAM... WHAM..."

They came back into the room, stifling their mirth, pretending to cry... and she came after them, brandishing her big paddle. What she had actually done was whacked the floor with it, and told them to act as if she'd hit them, instead. For a few moments at least, the whole class believed... And although she didn't fool anyone for long, she did get her point across, and discipline was once again restored.

And sixth grade.... In ways, the final year of elementary school in Armadillo Creek, before the kids moved over to the high school building and started Junior High... In ways, it was like being in kindergarten again. For Johnny Miller's homeroom teacher, was the same teacher who had taught him in kindergarten. She was different, in sixth grade, but still, a great teacher. At this age, Johnny was already picking up his mother's habit of reading anything available, and took inspiration from a science fiction book that he had read, and wrote his own long (to him) story. He turned it in as an extra credit project, and his teacher gave him points for it, and lots of praise. Johnny Miller never got that story back and often in later years would wonder if she still had it....

The afternoon teacher... The day Johnny stepped into her classroom, she told him, "Oh... you're Tommy Miller's brother aren't you?" And when he said yes, you could almost see the dread in her eyes. Johnny felt he was badly mistreated by her for having this attitude when she didn't even know anything about him. But later in the year, she came to him, and apologized for being mean to him in the first part of the year. Tommy was a good kid, at heart, but never really cared to try very hard in his studies, and at times, following in his footsteps had proven a challenge. In this case, he won his teacher's heart by working extra hard to prove to her that he wasn't his brother.

After the sixth grade graduation ceremony, Johnny Miller moved on to the high school, where he would spend the next six years of his life. At home, things were changing, too. They no longer lived on the farm where he had always called home, but instead had moved into town. At eleven or twelve he was going door to door selling Grit magazines, and Christmas cards, and other things that an enterprising kid of the times could do to earn some cash and/or prizes.

The schools were changing, too. As Johnny entered his second year of Junior High, a new elementary was built across town, and Kindergarten through second were housed there for the first year or two, and eventually the entire grade school system. By the time Johnny graduated high school, the old fieldstone building where he and his Dad had gone to school was empty and abandoned, except for occasional use for storage and such.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Return

In the countryside around Armadillo Creek, at the end of winter, as spring took over, things began to turn green. Then quite before anyone realized it, Summertime had crept in. This return to summertime was a most pleasant time of year. School was out for a few months. The plants had been planted. Hopefully enough rain had come to make things grow. And it was time to relax a little, before having to go help pull the weeds, or do something else that seemed an awful lot like work.

Little Johnny Miller lived in the last house on the old dirt road, down the valley, before the National Forest took over. Often only one or two cars a day would pass by the old house, including the mail truck which would drive miles and miles of back roads to connect remote houses to the rest of the world. In the quiet, early summertime evenings, Johnny Miller would say, "C'mon Momma, it's time to go for a walk." If she wouldn't go, he'd usually find a brother or sister, or perhaps even Dad if he wasn't working on something....

And off they'd go. In one direction, they could walk up and over the Little Hill to the Big Hill. These summertime walks were pleasant, and they'd watch for deer out in the pastures, for tracks in the sand along the roadside, tadpoles and baby frogs living in the pools of water in the roadside ditches, which were constantly wet, fed by springs and pooling up before spilling into the culvert under the road and then under the fence into the pastureland beyond.

Or maybe they'd go the other direction, and walk down past the old House Place, where some person, long ago, had a home. Mimosa trees were in the yard of that old homeplace, growing along the road, and more growing up next to the stone foundations of what had once been someone's dream. Johnny Miller loved those big pink blossoms. They didn't smell as nice as some flowers... And he supposed they were messy when the flowers began to drop off into the yard. And hundreds of bees would often swarm around the trees, trying for their share of the nectar.

But the big pink and white blossoms would add color to his already colorful world. And once they were gone, the beanpods left behind would grow, and they made fun playthings... even if you couldn't eat the "beans" inside. These trees didn't grow that large, but were plenty large enough, and usually low enough, to be able to climb up into if Mom wasn't watching too closely.

Across the road from the old house place were two persimmon trees. These big fruits were edible, when ripe, although Johnny didn't ever spend a lot of time eating them. Edible didn't really equal tasty, although they were definitely something to try. When Johnnys cousins would be visiting, sometimes they'd stop at the old persimmon trees, and Johnny, or his brother Tommy, would talk one of the cousins into eating a green persimmon.

Now THAT was an adventure. Let's just say that if you've never had the pleasure of eating a green persimmon, you should really try it sometime. Or not. Green persimmons were about the mouth-puckering-up-est thing that Johnny had ever bitten into. They'd instantly turn your mouth inside out - or at least, it tasted like it.

Usually, after stopping at the mimosa trees, and maybe the persimmon trees, they'd continue on till the road really got up in the woods a ways... Where the hard packed red clay was perfect for leaving black marks with bicycle tires (which Johnny and Tommy had fun doing when they were a bit older). But there were other treats ahead, as well.

For just past the packed red clay, before and after you crested the hill, groups of huckleberry bushes stretched off into the forest. For the most part, Johnny, and if he came along, Tommy, would just pick the wild blueberries right off of the bushes and stuff them in their mouths. When the skins of the berries were a true blue color, sometimes a lighter blue but often such a deep blue that they appeared black, the taste was fairly sweet. But when they'd grab a berry not quite so ripe, either a deep purple or even still holding a reddish tint, the taste would be tart, and make their mouths warp a little, and they'd squint their eyes and grit their teeth as their taste buds went crazy with delight.

If they did happen to bring along a bucket to put the berries in, they could bring a quart of them back home, where Momma Miller could bake a nice pie for the family.... But usually, there was too much eating "at the bush" to even consider saving some for a pie... Such is the enthusiasm of youth - loving the here and now so much that the lure of that tasty pie would fade into oblivion.

Sometimes, Johnny and his Momma, or Johnny and Tommy, or Johnny and one of the older siblings - it didn't matter so much to Johnny who walked with him as long as he could go for a walk - would walk down the side lane, off the main road, down the hill and the rough, rocky road, to the creek beyond. Sometimes down here, they'd pause and pick blackberries off wild blackberry bushes. This was a tasty treat, but much different from the huckleberries.

The huckleberries were small in diameter from bb=sized all the way up to perhaps a quarter inch in diameter - and thus it took some time to pick enough of them to make a pie or something similar with. However, the wild blackberries tended to be much, much larger. Often, they'd be a half-inch or more in diameter, and would fill a bucket rather quickly.

These tasty treats, too, would be eaten right from the vine, but it was easier to get your fill of them and start hitting the bucket instead of your mouth. As a result, the Miller household usually saw more blackberry cobblers and pies than they did huckleberry pies. The only problems anyone had with the blackberries were that, first of all, the berries grew on sticker-bushes. That is to say, blackberry bushes, unlike the huckleberries, were covered in sharp barbs that would rip a kid's skin open if they weren't careful.

This didn't very much bother the Miller kids, since they'd just wipe off any blood onto their pants leg and keep on picking... But the really nasty thing they had to watch out for was chiggers. For some reason, these tiny little red pests, almost invisible to the naked eye, loved to lurk in the blackberry bushes, just waiting to jump on unsuspecting berry pickers and leave them with itchy red welps by the time they arrived at home, where alcohol or something similar, followed by a good scrub, could be used to kill them off.

When the days grew too hot for berry picking, and no one really felt like adventuring down the road very much, unless it was to the swimming hole in the creek beyond, sometimes Johnny and Tommy would play in the old dirt-floored shed, where their Dad's tractor would be parked. In the dirt and dust of the shed, Johnny knew that he could find treasures that would be missed by most kids.

There were creatures lurking there that most would never suspect. The only sign of their presence would be little trails in the dust, and cone-shaped depressions in the sand. Tommy taught Johnny to say:

Doodlebug, doodlebug, come up and get a grain of corn.
Your house is burning up.

Or they'd chant other version which went something like this:

Doodlebug, doodlebug,
Come out of your hole;
Your house is on fire,
And your children will burn.

The sound of their voices, and the push of their breaths above the delicate dust or sand walls of the doodlebug's burrow, would cause the sand to trickle down into the hole, alerting the tiny doodlebug that invaders were present. If they persisted, usually the doodlebug would stick his tiny pincers through the sand at the bottom of the pit, looking for prey (which should have been ants), and they'd talk to him...

If the doodlebug refused to come out, sometimes they'd grab a blade of grass, or a small stick, and poke around in the hole till the doodlebug was uncovered, and then innocently torment the poor thing. Eventually they'd tire of playing with the creature and return to other pursuits.

Another pastime that they could do for hours without ever leaving the yard, was to hunt locust shells. Johnny Miller's Dad called these creatures locusts... Many people refer to them as cicadas. All Johnny knew was that they lived there, in the zillions, and he could usually find the dried, crispy skins left behind by the insects as they molted and grew. He could spend hours lining these shells up and playing army with them, as if some monster army had been created from some murky nightmare. When the war was done, the combatants could be destroyed with just a few swats of his hand, the skins reduced to dust - but there was no loss there, because dozens more of them could be found in other trees around the yard.

It is true that around the Miller Homestead, and around the Armadillo Creek area, a return to summertime meant a fair share of work, what with cutting hay and raising livestock and vegetables and the like... But the best part of summer for young Johnny Miller was all the fun to be found in the out-of-doors on a hot summer day, without ever having to leave this place called home.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Armadillo Country

The countryside around the small town of Armadillo Creek is broken up by scenic wonders. There was a large man-made lake, with some of the purest waters to be found in the United States, there for the enjoyment of the residents and tourists who flock to the area. All around this lake is "government land"... that is, public land controlled and managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the State Parks Department.

There are a few tourist areas, and resorts, and the sort, along certain parts of the shoreline of this lake, but primarily, there are little camping areas and day use areas sprinkled all along the hundreds of miles of shoreline. Since the lake had been built in the forties, following World War II, by the time Johnny Miller was growing up, the area was settled down and just "there".

But at the time the lake was created, there were several small towns whose residents were forced to relocate, or find themselves under water. And in the current day, there are still some of those same towns, in existence, below water. It's turned into a scuba paradise, in some ways, in addition to a great fishing area.

In addition to the large lake, there are miles and miles of national forest, which actually cover most of the surface area of the county. The population, in the eighties, of the county was less than eight thousand residents, spread out of a rather large geographical area. The number of trees probably outnumber humans on a scale of millions or billions to one.

The school districts, all three of them, were spread out, located in some of the larger (relatively speaking) towns, with the county seat of Armadillo Creek hosting the largest school, which at the time of Johnny Miller's graduation, had a graduating class of forty-three students. The smallest school had less than a dozen in its graduating class. Children were typically bussed for miles and miles, with many kids on the bus an hour or more, morning and night.

But the compensation for this inconvenience was the lifestyle that allowed these kids the chance to become one with the world around them. It was nothing for Johnny and his brother to go wandering through the woods near their home, in the wintertime finding patches of ice in the creeks to skate on, or in the summertime, wandering the wilderness looking for wild animals or caves or waterfalls or anything that took their fancy.

In those days, there was no fear of strangers coming along and taking the kids, or of the kids falling and breaking a leg, for that matter. It seemed like the kids were used to handling themselves, and somehow they seemed tougher than many kids of today, in more urban areas.

Driving through the countryside around Armadillo Creek, one would note miles and miles of forest, broken here and there by farms.... but these farms were typically "country farms" where a few cows or pigs or other livestock were left to graze, and various types of hay might be cut a couple of times per year.... So although you will find some "farming" it's mostly cow pastures with a stream or a few trees, not the extensive fields of corn or soybeans or cotton that are found elsewhere.

There's still many a dirt road in the area, although over the past few years, more and more of them are at least being paved through the end of where the houses are, then gravel/dirt on through the unpopulated forests.

In these areas, in the seventies and eighties, when Johnny Miller was growing up, there were many tracts of forest that would be clear-cut of trees, and reseeded with pine trees to begin a new layer of forest. But, over the years, through the eighties and on into the nineties, and beyond, the large swaths of land used for this purpose have gotten smaller and smaller, till selective cutting has replaced much of the older-style clear cutting.

Southern Pine Beetle infestations have killed off some percentage of the pine forests, and more hardwoods have stepped in to take their place. It's probably a restoration of the natural order of things, as the area was predominately hardwood when the white man first began to settle in the early eighteen-hundreds. Over the years, the wildlife variety has changed somewhat, too. Early in the twentieth century the black bear population, the coyotes and wild foxes and many other creatures were hunted to the verge of extinction, and the white tail deer and turkey population plummeted as well.

But by the end of the twentieth century, order had once again returned, and it's not unusual to drive down a dirt road and spot a road runner running along ahead of you, and flying up to sit on a fencepost and watch you as you drive past. To see a bear, or a fox, though still unusual, is not that uncommon. And, if you sit quietly at night, either outside, or with a window open, you can hear the coyotes singing their song in the still evening air.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Angel Moon

Johnny Miller, at about three years old, was laying in bed one evening. He should have long been asleep, but instead, he was jabbering to himself, laying there, looking up and out the window, at the huge moon beyond the peach tree that lived there. He could see the leaves swaying up and down in the moonlight, and there was a bit of magic in the moment.

When his Mamma came in to check on him, to find out why he was still awake, he posed a question to her.

"Do you know how come that tree out there looks so purty, Mamma?"

"No, I don't guess I do..."

"It's because the angels came down and kissed it, that's why it's so purty...."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Armadillo Wanderings

When Johnny Miller was small, he always somehow felt "different". But, as it turns out, most kids probably feel "different" than their peers. Johnny did not know this, of course - he thought it was just him. But, he did still live in a carefree, innocent world, where he was expected to do certain things, his daily chores and going to school and all, but never too much to handle.

He was aware, from a very young age, that growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be. He'd lay awake some nights, at 9 or 10 years old, thinking about how he didn't ever want to grow up. It seemed to him that grownups had tons of burdens - things that as a child he was spared. He supposed most kids couldn't wait to be grown up and independent - and although he was more than willing to do the work of an older boy - even selling papers for a time, and mowing grass - he didn't really WANT to be an adult. He wished that these days could last forever, but somehow sensed that they wouldn't.

Some of those sleepless nights, Johnny would lay there in the bed, and listen to his older brother Tommy across the room in his bed, saying "Nymph umm phut... I don't care if... Muphhf lutt blauf," then rolling over in his sleep and settling into a deeper slumber.

One of the thoughts he'd think, this little boy, would be about what life would be like without his father. It seemed, in the wintertime, his mother would often get sick, mostly because of her allergies, and sometimes would get so "down" that she wouldn't leave her bedroom for days, except, perhaps, to visit the bathroom. Yet, in his mind, it was his father who would die first. It wasn't a happy thought, by any means, but it was there, nonetheless.

Johnny was the youngest child in the family. His Dad was in his forties when Johnny was born, and his mother entering her forties by the time he understood what "age" was. Of course, every birthday, his Dad would be nineteen again, and on hers, his Grandma would be twenty-nine. Little Johnny was sorely confused when his mother turned thirty-nine. Something just didn't quite seem right there, when Mom turned 39, Granny was 29, and Dad was only 19. It didn't take him too long to figure out there was a skunk in the outhouse somewhere there.

When Johnny was fourteen, his worst nightmares became a reality, and his father did indeed pass on to the next world, leaving this one behind. His father had always been the breadwinner in the house, and his passing left the family without a whole lot in terms of material possessions. They had furniture, and a truck, but they also still had possession of the family farm out in the country, and the houses in town his Dad had inherited.

His mother sold the two houses in town, and they moved back out to the country, paying off the truck and putting some money into remodeling the house. That money did not last forever, but Johnny soon found part-time jobs to help out, and his uncle came to live with them for a while till the family could support itself again.

This older Johnny was dramatically different from the younger one. He had always been somewhat reserved and now it became more so. He sank deeper into the world of music and books, and nature. He'd often go for walks out in the forest near the house. He'd go through an old garden spot at an abandoned homestead up the road, looking for arrowheads left by Indians many years ago, or just traipse off through the woods looking for nothing in particular.

One day, he left the road, crossed the rusty strand or two of barbed wire fence that separated the "field" (now a very densely grown up patch of woods) from the ditch, and headed into the underbrush. About a hundred feet from the road, seemingly from right under his feet, and certainly no more than a couple of feet away, a fawn jumped up and high-tailed it off through the woods. Johnny had thought there for a moment that his heart was gonna stop.

Another day, actually probably only a few hundred yards from the very same spot, Johnny came upon a clear area, free from underbrush, where he saw the signs of an armadillo's rooting around for grubs and things. As he was examining the holes in the earth, he heard a rustle nearby. Turning and looking, he spotted the armadillo - and then it saw him. Most folks probably don't know what armadillos do when they're scared, but to back up a moment, we'll explain armadillo road kill.

If an armadillo is crossing the road, it's small enough that many a pickup will be able to straddle it and never even touch it. But many of the beasts lose their lives despite this, because unlike the possum's habit of playing dead when frightened, an armadillo tends to jump straight up in the air. So, many an armadillo that could have lived to see another day has died on the highways by actually jumping up and hitting the underside of a car or truck and getting rolled in the process.

On this particular spring afternoon, when Johnny spotted that armadillo, and it spotted him, the armadillo did what they do when frightened. It jumped straight up in the air – seemed like it must have jumped at least a foot, maybe more... Then it tore off through the woods like it's tail was on fire.

This was another time when Johnny's heart felt as if it were going to stop. He was not afraid of an armadillo at all, but to be walking along, hearing an occasional chirp of a bird, a rustle in the leaves as a squirrel travels along it's own made-up trail, hearing the wind swishing through the treetops, this is the time when peacefulness would enter into Johnny's heart. The calm and serenity of the forest would heal the broken parts of his soul. To have this stillness disturbed by the sudden uprush of activity as the armadillo, or indeed, even the fawn, jumped up and ran through the woods was a rude awakening to a dozing soul. But once the adrenaline rush was over, and his heart calmed a bit, Johnny was happier than he'd been in days, or even months.

The teenage Johnny would often return home from these “wanderings” recharged and ready to face a new day. As he'd lay his head down on his pillow in the evening, listening to the sound of cicadas in the treetops seesawing along, and hearing the whippoorwill call in the trees just across the way from the homeplace, he'd dream happy dreams...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Soggy Sawdust

Name: Johnny Arthur Miller
Found: February 20, 1971
Exact Age: Unknown

In Johnny Miller's family, each of the kids had a 'birth story'. They came up with the stories on their own, or with the egging on of their siblings. And depending on the child's imagination, at the time, the stories tended to be a little fanciful. But once adopted, the stories 'stuck' and although the details may have been stretched in the retelling, the basic story stayed the same.

For example, when Ann Miller, Johnny's older sister, was born, she was born a little black baby. Now, there was nothing wrong with this, black folks and white folks are all the same inside - but the Miller family was and had always been a southern white family. So, understanding this, the doctors picked little Baby Ann up, and holding her by the thumb and index finger, dipped her down in a big bottle of bleach. This bleaching did the trick, and to this day, Ann looks like any other child who was born white. Except. For one little bit of her. That bit where the thumb and finger came together, effectively pinching her as she was dipped in the bleach. In that one little spot, she was still dark colored.

Now, some kids would have just pointed out that they had a birthmark, but, who's to say which story was better? Who is to say that the bleach bottle story wasn't true? Certainly little Ann told it as if it were. Her baby brothers, Johnny and Tommy, thought it was true.

Johnny Miller had his own 'birth story'. In some ways, perhaps, it was not quite as fanciful as Ann's story, but, it was his story, nonetheless, and as true as could be. You see, when Johnny Miller was a baby, the sleepy little town of Armadillo Creek had two factories - a glove factory, and a shoe factory, in addition to the logging, farming, and mining. Out back of the old shoe factory was a huge pile of sawdust.

Johnny never could remember why there was such a pile of sawdust there, but it was there. And sometimes, people would go with a pickup and shovel in a load of it and haul it away for some purpose or other, to put on the fields, or something. Johnny Miller's Daddy did this one day, and as he was shoveling the sawdust from the giant pile, his shovel struck something semi-solid. He reached down and raked the sawdust off, and, lo and behold, there was a baby boy there, buried in the sawdust.

Well, as everyone knows a baby should be cleaned up and taken care of - Daddy Miller could not very well just ignore this child, so he loaded him up in the truck, and headed into the city the next county over, where the hospital was. The doctors and nurses there took great care of little Johnny. In his telling, Johnny recounted that they had gotten water hoses to clean all the sawdust off of him, and then, out of his head - and they'd stuck the end of one water hose in his left nostril, and blew sawdust and dirt out of his right earhole, and then they'd switch to the other nostril, and back and forth, till the worst of the sawdust was washed out of his poor noggin.

Once he was cleaned up, he was a right presentable little baby, and the Miller family brought him home with them, and he was a welcome addition to the family. There were already the three older kids, and Tommy, and last in line was little Johnny. Whenever he'd tell this story to wondering adults or other kids his age, he’d finish it up by shaking his head vigorously, and asking, “Did you hear that sloshing sound? There still some water and soggy sawdust up there….”