Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Of Vi-eeners and Calico Bottoms

We farmed all over Philips County, Arkansas.

Not that we were "big" farmers. Just that land rent was cheap back in the day, and my dad would pick up 60 acres here, a hundred there, and 80 down the road from that, until it seemed as though we spent as much time moving farm equipment from one place to the other as we did in the field, farming.

You haven't known excitement until you're halfway across a narrow bridge, the disc you're pulling lapping into the oncoming lane, and an 18-wheeler coming your way decides to share the bridge with you.

That's one reason I was always glad when we went to Calico Bottoms. It wasn't that far from the home place and we would be there a couple of days before we had to move again.

Which also meant that we (actually mostly me; Dad or Red Paul didn't seem to get excited about such things) could enjoy the farmer's version of a picnic lunch for a couple of days.

It might consist of thick-sliced baloney on white bread and mustard smeared on with a wooden ice-cream spoon. But lots of days it would be Vienna sausages, crackers, and pork'n'beans (eaten with the same wooden spoon), all spread out on the torn open paper sack from whatever country store Dad bought it from.

And all on the tailgate of the pickup under the shade of a giant elm tree on the edge of the field.

And as nightfall came, we would pile into the truck, worn out from
the bone-shaking racket of those John Deere tractors and covered with the gray gumbo dust. And head for home.

Calico Bottoms was the first place Daddy ever let me drive the truck by myself.

Calico Bottoms was also the first place I ever drove one of the big green tractors.  

It was where a deep dredge ditch bordered the west side of the field, and my heart was in my throat each time I came to the end of a row and had to spin that tractor around without dropping one of the front wheels (and thus the whole tractor, and also myself) into that ditch.

Calico Bottoms was where Red Paul ignited a stream of LP gas by carelessly flicking his Bic while my dad was fueling the truck. I learned that a not too pretty red-headed man looks even more not-too-pretty with his eyebrows singed off and his face all pink and shiny. The folks at the Emergency Room gave him some salve and sent him home.

The nearby country store was well stocked with the new 16 oz. bottled RC colas and was clean and well-kept, unlike what we called "The Cat-Poop Store (a sanitized version of what we actually called it)" up in Lee County. I won't say anymore about that except to observe that nothing will ruin your appetite like the sight of several cats licking the meat saw that is about to be used to slice your baloney!

My friend, professor and Sunday School teacher Art Hunt got a kick out of my pronunciation of "vi-eeners" when I gave my demonstration speech on the benefits of that delicious blend of mystery meat.

But if you should doubt the tastiness of vi-eeners, here's a question: have you ever seen a TV ad for Vienna sausages?

Nope. And you won't because they are so dang tasty that Armour and the other folks who make them don't need to advertise them. Folks just buy 'em and eat 'em.

If they should ever decide to put one of those "recommended serving" pictures on the can, it will look like this: vi-eeners laying on a paper sack next to a pile of pork'n'beans and a sleeve of saltine crackers.

All served up on the tailgate of a white Ford pickup under an elm tree in the Calico Bottoms.

Of course.

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