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From the Mouth of the River

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From the Mouth of the River

Independence Day in Chipmunk Falls

 

In the river city of Chipmunk Falls, one of the most laid back towns on the river, if not the most laid back, I have noticed there are certain words, when spoken during fishing or hunting season, that will send the men here into spasms of major proportions; words like; work, honey-do’s, job, or anything related. I have seen entire construction crews not show up on Monday morning, the opening day of elk season, much to the surprise of the out-of-state contractor. In fact, the only ones who showed up at all that week were the ones who got their elk on opening day. When the outraged contractor threatened to fire the whole crew, they just shrugged their shoulders and said, “‘at’s okay, we were looking for work when we found this job and besides, we haven’t got our deer yet.” I might add, that contractor later moved to Chipmunk Falls and now hunts and fishes with the rest of ‘em. 

“Why people all over America work their butt off and go a hundred miles an hour trying to get far enough ahead to live like we do every day is beyond me, when they could be doing it now,” Charlie Fuddruckers said. 

It doesn’t make sense to me neither, because 30 days after they retire their bodies go into shock from all those years of stress and they have a grabber and die. They leave a rich widow for some of our most needy bachelors to mother up to. It works out good for both sides. He gets her old man’s fishing boat and all his tackle, teaches her to fish and pick huckleberries and she gets to teach him how to shave, bathe, and be respectable.  

Speaking of respect, we just had the 4th of July celebration and before that the Memorial Day celebration. Both days were set aside to honor our country’s fallen servicemen and women. One, for giving us this country and the other for keeping it. If you’re one of those people who wondered what that feels like you should stand on Main Street in Chipmunk Falls during the 4th of July parade, or better yet, join it. Main Street, which is also state highway 200, is blocked off at both ends of town just for the parade. Traffic is not rerouted and you just wait until the parade is over, which can take up to 20 minutes on a good year. It only goes for two blocks, but it’s the best parade in the state and the ever-growing crowds prove it. Everything in the parade is homemade and every entry is expected to throw a ton or two of candy to the kids. Sometimes it even gets thrown back at the floats, there’s so much. The entire town waits all year for this day and they celebrate it from dawn to way past dark. Oh sure, some grown men drink a little too much Kick-a-Pooh juice and try to climb a greased pole or get in a three legged race with their mother-in- law, but all and all it’s a fun day of celebration with family and friends.

Then, there’s the fireworks. Like any small town along the river you can hear fireworks being set off at any time of the day all day long. Kids missing fingers from holding firecrackers too long before throwing them will tease other kids about throwing theirs too soon. Dogs with hairless tails, or no tails at all, will hide under porches until after the fifth or sixth of July. Cats? Nowhere in sight. 

As dark approaches, adult men will try to out-do each other when it comes to creating fireworks to entertain and impress their family and friends. Putting a cherry bomb under a tomato can as a kid to see how high it would go has been replaced by bigger things—oil drums and dynamite. It was soon discovered that anything over a half stick of dynamite would just blow the barrels apart and wouldn’t get much lift at all. However, Fred Hollertree come up with the idea that if he put a pound or two of black powder in a sack and tied it up in the barrel about half way, it would serve as a second stage rocket. The dynamite would lift the barrel off the ground and set off the black powder which burns slower than dynamite and would serve as a booster rocket sending the barrel way above the town. 

At the same time Ed Shagnasty over on Second Street was taking this opportunity to unclog the drain field of his septic system. Not wanting to spend the kind of money a pump truck would charge to clean it out, Ed had remembered what Stubby McGillas had said about using dynamite to unplug a drain field. It seems the pressure from the explosion would blow out any clogged up drain field and because the dynamite would be underground no one would hear an explosion, maybe just a ka-thump.

After digging the lid up and removing it, Ed found the tank to be full with a foot or two of heavy crust on top, an obvious reason the drain field wouldn’t drain. Out in his woodshed Ed found he only had one stick of new dynamite, but found an old rusty brittle stick left over from his mining days. Tying them together and inserting a cap and lighting two feet of fuse he shoved the explosives down to the bottom of his tank and pulled the iron lid shut. Ed walked over and leaned on the fence next to the alley. Somewhere along here is buried a hundred feet of plugged up drain pipe, Ed thought, that’s about to be unplugged. 

A rocket streaked across the sky from the baseball field signifying the start of the town’s fireworks display. All eyes watched as the rocket exploded with a golden starburst of pink and green flares followed by a septic tank lid cutting through the glow with its own spray of malty colored fragments settling over the town. The septic tank lid took out a Kenworth load of logs parked over on Fifth Street as it re-entered the city limits. A hundred feet of drain field pipe plowed through two gardens and fertilized as it went, coming to rest against the courthouse steps. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to anyone until they saw the damage the next morning and Ed didn’t show up for coffee at the Mercantile. 

“The shit stops here,” the mayor declared as he addressed the city fathers the next morning. “We will clean this mess up and the city of Chipmunk Falls will have its own swimming pool, thinks to Ed Shagnasty. May his soul rest in peace as his ass is all over town.” 

PS. When dynamite becomes old and crystallized its makeup changes and it becomes nitroglycerin. Two drops can blow the hinges off a bank safe. Don’t try this at home.

 

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Boots Reynolds Boots Reynolds The "internationally-renowned cowboy artist" Boots Reynolds has moved his comedic interpretation of life into the writing field with his regular column in the River Journal - From the Mouth of the River.

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