Bertan, the eldest of us seven brothers, must have been handed down a "double-dose" of Papa Abb's proclivity for poking fun. If ever there was a man who likes his pranks, it's Bert. However, I'll be quick to add that, not one of his pranks has ever been known to cause anybody any embarassment or harm...just a good laugh.
A few years ago, I was on assignment in The Netherlands. It was one of the coldest winters they had experienced in years. My office was on the third floor of a tall building, overlooking downtown Amsterdam. All the canals running through the city were frozen over, and I estimate that a "jillion" people were out skating on the frozen canals. It was an unforgettable sight.
As I sat there, in a foreign country, having been away from home almost a year, I got homesick. So, I picked up the phone and called Bertan...just to say "hidy". He answered the phone, and I started my "hidy" spiel; he interrupted to say:
"I can't talk to ye' right now, I'm puttin' in a new ice box", and hung up.
I got back stateside a few months later, and went to visit Bert and Nora in Homer, La., where they've lived for many years. After a fine supper of Nora Belle's delicious ham-and-egg pie, we got settled in our rocking chairs and leant back. I started razzin' him about hangin' up on me, when I'd called from the "other side of the world". Then, he related to me how the new "ice box" had come about.
He had lived in the same area for fifty-odd years, and seem to know just about everybody. He'd been tradin' at the same stores for so long, and the people came to know him so well, that Bert was hard-pressed to find someone "new" to pull a prank on.
One day, Nora Belle's refrigerator just gave up the ghost. Kuh-put! Bert got in his pick-up and drove downtown to buy a new refrigerator...at the same appliance store where he had purchased the old one. He walked into the store and the salesman, about twenty-years-old, came striding forward to meet him, with a big smile on his face. Bert thought: "unh-hunh....this boy don't know me."
"Good morning, sir! Can I help you?"
"Yeah", Bert replied, "if y'all mean what you say, about them money-back guarantees."
"Yes sir! That's the store policy; we stand behind everything we sell...what seems to be the problem, sir?"
"Wa'al, I bought a ice box here, and the thang just went an' busted this morning...it just quit. Now, I want to know what y'all gon' do about it."
"Don't you worry about a thing, sir. We'll take care of it. Do you have your sales slip with you?"
"Naw...I don't know what happened to the "ree-seep". I must've mis-laid it somewheres", Bert answered, truthfully.
"Well, I'm sure we have a record of the sale in our books. When did you purchase the unit, sir?"
"Wa'al", Bert said, as he scratched his head, "I reck'n it was about.....les'see, must be goin' on seb'm-teen year ago, now."
The young salesman's face blanched. He commenced to stammering and stuttering, and trying to dig a hole in the concrete floor with his toe.
"You wait right here, sir. I'll be right back", he finallyblurted, as he turned and fled to the rear of the store, where the owner's office was located. He banged through the door, panting for breath, and said:
"You better come out on the floor...there's a crazy man out here!"
"Settle down now, boy. What-in-the-dickens is the matter?"
"There's an old man out there who claims he bought a refrigerator from us seventeen years ago, and now it's "busted", and he wants to know if we're going to guarantee it!"
The owner got up from his swivel chair, and walked over to the office door. He stuck one eye around the door frame and saw Bert standing out in the store, eye-balling the new refrigerators.
The owner had been the very salesman who'd sold Bert the busted "ice box" in the first place, many years before and, since he and Bert had been huntin' and fishin' buddies for over fifty years, he figgered he might play along with Bert; just one more time.
He turned to his young salesman, and said:
"Hmmmm. He does look a mite peculiar, don't he? I s'pect we better not take any chances with him. Go out ‘ere and ask him which "ice box" he wants in trade for the busted one, and let him have it."
"But---but---sir! We can't just..."
"Naw, now...it's all right. We advertise in the paper and on the radio that our stuff is guaranteed, so I s'pect we better back it up, don't you think?"
The young man walked tentatively back across the store, unaware that the owner was following him. The salesman walked up to Bert and said:
"Sir--uh--what style of refrigerator did you have in mind?"
Bert had been given clear instructions by Nora Belle as to what she wanted, so he pointed at the biggest, state-of-the-art, refrigerator that would fit in his house, and said:
"That'n orta do it."
"Yessir; I'll--uh--make out the papers."
The owner stepped out from behind the young man, and said:
"Wa'al, Elmore...you caught a NEW one, didn't you?"
All Bert could say was: