BULL-NETTLES AND LITTLE BROTHERS
copyright Sam Elmore


Recently, a friend asked me: "How do you get away with telling those tales about your family? If I did that, my kinfolks would part my hair on both sides of my head with a ball bat!"

I informed my friend that, so far, I have only written about the 'good stuff'. If my kin takes me to task about my stories, I might start writing about some of the shenanigans they pulled which don't qualify for the 'good stuff' category.

In all honesty, I consider myself quite a fortunate feller, being one of twelve brothers and sisters. They have all accepted my tales about them with good humor and grace. Of course, 'forgiving' is easy for them, since they are cognizant of the fact that, most of the time, it was me what caused the ruckus in the first place.

There has been a family rumor hovering around for years. It has been discussed and rearranged so many times that no one, except the three actual participants, remembers the real truth of what happened some sixty-odd year ago. (There might even be a slight difference of opinion amongst the participants as to what constitutes the truth.)

I'll just lay this out here, warts and all, for your consideration. I d'ruther let you, the reader, determine who is the real culprit. The rumor goes something like this....it is claimed that when we were youngsters, Barge (that's my big brother) and I took great pleasure in pushing our younger brother Baucum ('the baby') into every bull-nettle we could find.

That wretched accusation grossly maligns the exemplary reputation of a minister-of-the-gospel (Barge, called 'Todd')), as well as the reputation of yore'n truly (which ain't much to brag about, but it's all I got). The accusation reared it's head, again, at the last family reunion, and received a lot of 'air time' amongst the kin-folk. You can make up your own mind who to believe; but, here is my version of the matter:

You may recall a tale of mine titled: "Youth and Light-bread", in which I tried to describe the excitement we felt when we first discovered we could 'run without touching the ground'. In our desire to achieve maximum velocity, Todd and I were beset on every hand by technical problems: wind resistance, drag, roll, pitch and yaw, and several other of Nature's forces which I can't even put a name to. Similar problems have plagued racing drivers and astronauts for years.

Lacking the mental acumen to circumvent those technical roadblocks, me an' Barge figgered we was just stuck with what we had, and there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it. Then one day, seemingly having pondered the problem in great detail, Barge (our self-appointed leader and know-everything-luminary) announced:

"It's gotta be these dang overalls."

"Hunh?", I intelligently responded.

"It's 'ese Big Smif's...they slowin' us down".

"Ye' reck'n?"

(It's very seldom you come across two such brilliant, analytical, minds cipherin' out a singular problem like that.)

"Gotta be. Let's git nekkid an' run; I bet we speed up some."

(I firmly believe that if Barge had been a member of NASA's space program from it's inception, people would have been share-croppin' on Mars for thirty-some-odd year now.)

We shucked out of our overalls, and took a trial sprint across the pasture. Be-dad-gum if Barge wasn't right! We both noticed a definite increase in our velocity, and a marked decline in wind resistance, roll, pitch, yaw, etc. Our sagging spirits were revitalized, and our quest for pure-dee acceleration gained new impetus.

(Some of you may have been wondering: 'Where was 'the baby' while all this was going on?'...that's a good question.)

He was leanin' ag'inst a sweet gum saplin', apparently unimpressed (or tryin' to appear so) by our magical discovery. Every move we made, though, he watched like a chicken hawk, make no mistake about that; prob'ly in case he saw us do something that merited a later report to Mama Hattie. A live butterfly was settin' in the palm of Baucum's hand, waving it's wings; from our perspective, he appeared to be talkin' to the thang.

Barge and I could (and often-times did) run off and leave 'the baby' behind; at his age, he couldn't match our speed. When we did that, most of the time he'd go on about his rat-killin'; holdin' two-way conversations with squirrels; blowing thistle feathers into the wind and tellin' them where to go...(you know, 'normal' stuff like that.)

However, if there were no animals around that felt like having a chat with him, or if a contrary notion struck him, Baucum could get real cross-threaded with us for running off and leavin' him. That's when he'd make a bee-line for the house and 'blow the whistle' on us to Mama.

On the very day that Barge made his propitious discovery that: 'nekkid = less wind resistance = more speed', Mama had ordered us to take Baucum along with us, and warned us not to run off and leave him. So, yonder he stood; conversin' with his butterfly. Here was me and Barge, trying to figger out how to enjoy our newly-discovered speed capabilities.

Baucum nonchalantly sidled over to us and said:

"I wanta run nekkid, too".

Awww, foot! Now we had us a dilemma. If we had to run at his pace, we wouldn't be able to push the edge of the speed curve. On the other hand, if we refused to let him run with us, or left him behind, he'd go straight to Mama (= lots-a trouble.) What was we gon' do now?

'Barge-The-Wise' scratched his head, glanced over at me, and came to a unilateral decision. He nodded his head a time or two, then laid it out for us:

"Aw-right, here's what we gon' do....Sam, you grab a-holt of his hand on that side, and I'll git a-holt of this'n....little bruh, you run in the middle....zat suit you?"

Baucum nodded and grinned, already shucking out of his overalls (which had started out as Barge's, then they was mine, and now they was Baucum's). As soon as he was nekkid like us, me and Todd grabbed a-holt of him and started at a trot across the pasture, which was gently sloped.

It wasn't long 'fore it was obvious to me that Baucum was gon' be a drag....in more ways than one. If we slowed down to accommodate him, we'd be defeating our own purpose. In that case, me and Barge might as well start talkin' to butterflies too.

As we jogged along, we came to a pretty steep incline in the pasture and, before we hardly realized it, me an' Barge were runnin' flat-out! Baucum hadn't made a sound since we'd started runnin', so I cut my eye around to check on 'im. His over-long hair was whippin' in the breeze, and he was grinnin' from ear to ear---with good reason.

He was traveling about seventy- leb'm miles-an-hour, and not one of his feet was touchin' the ground! He was jest danglin' out 'ere 'tween me and Barge; laughin' his head off. Barge hadn't noticed that Baucum was gettin' a free ride, 'cause he was too excited about being able to go faster, nekkid, than he could with clothes on.

Back when this incident happened, there was no such thing as a bush-hog or a mowing machine on our place. Oh, sure; the pasture looked like it had been mowed---but that was done by the livestock. If something was growing in the pasture, taller than anything else around, it was because the animals wouldn't eat it; like bull-nettles, for instance.

Me and Barge never claimed that we was brilliant; or even half-smart. But I'll guarantee ye' one thang....we knew better than to run through a bull-nettle---nekkid! So, Barge went on t'other side, and I took this'n. It wasn't our fault if 'the baby' jest happened to be hanging out 'ere between us, nekkid as a jay bird, when we bracketed that bull-nettle at max velocity.

Wa'al, there you have it, folks; all the evidence is in. Once't and for all, I'd like to put a qui-ee-tus to the accusation that me and Barge pushed our dear, sweet, li'l brother into bull nettles. We have never, in our lives, 'pushed' Baucum into no bull-nettle.

Now, who are you gonna believe? The 'baby' (and them soft-hearted kinfolk who always take his side of thangs?) or, me---and a full-fledged, swore-in, certificated, minister-of-the-gospel?

(I'm glad we finally got that sorted out.)