In Smith's General Store, this pot belly stove-tale was widely talked about and it is a tale that I can personally vouch for as being the truth. The small town in
which I grew up was, as is the case in all small towns, a very close knit community. Not much
went on that went unnoticed whether it was the sour note hit by Miss Mattie on the piano during
Sunday morning church services, or news that since Aunt Bess' new store-bought shoes were
hurting her bunions, she had to slit the sides for some relief, or that Fred Harper's old dog, Champ,
died after being chewed up by a disgruntled raccoon. Everyone was kept well informed through the
gossip grapevine that had its roots right there at the pot belly stove.
A Quick Trip to Grandma's
I'll begin this stove-tale with the long version about two boys, Sonny and Dan, of equal age and not yet
old enough to attend first grade. Their mothers would allow them to play at the other's house, but
always with a set time limit, which usually was a couple of hours. On one occasion they had been
playing coyboys and Indians in Dan's backyard and were getting weary of all that shootin' and stuff.
So they sat down and started figurin' what else they might find to do.
Since they had been playin' for quite a while, they decided they should ask Dan's mom how much
time they had left before Sonny had to go home. When she said, "five minutes more", they hurried back
outside to continue their plannin'. Sonny's Grandma Cunningham lived about two miles up the little
country road that ran along a creek. Why not go up the there and pay her a visit?
Counting Five Minutes More
They reckoned it would only take about two minutes to ride up there; they could stay one minute
and have a piece of mincemeat pie with a glass of milk, head back home in another two minutes, and in
their limited experience with
that would account for the five minutes they had remaining.
One of the reasons they felt so confident about makin' this trip was their two trusty horses. They
knew that once ole' Pete and Dolly had a little time to rest up after all that cowboy and Indian stuff,
they would be fresh and rarin' to go. So, off they went trottin' up the road on Pete and Dolly, with
cowboy hats cinched down tight around their ears and six shooters flapping against their legs. Just
as they reached Hoover's fort, Sonny pulled up quick on old' Pete and pointed toward the elderberry
patch growing in the middle of the fort.
I'm Goin" Bear Huntin'.....
"It's a bear!" Sonny declared, with pronounced certainty. "Quick, we gotta' save the fort!"
Kur-Pow, Kur-Pow went Dan's genuine plastic-handled-colt six-shooter. Sonny ran around to the corner
of the fort to get a better vantage point. Kur-Pow rang another shot. Sonny shouted, "We need more
fire power", as he grabbed a couple of hand grenades laying on the ground, just outside the fort and
launched them towards the bear, which put the frightened 'corkscrew-tailed-bear' oinking back into his cave.
After cleaning the mud from their chaps, they gathered Pete and Dolly and headed off again, feeling
good about saving Hoover's fort from the ravaging animal. As they approached the bridge at the bottom
of See Hill, they stopped to rest their horses. Suddenly the ground began to rumble and a roar could be
heard in the distance. Pete and Dolly seemed content, but Sonny and Dan sensed there was trouble on
the way. Then Dan yelled, "Run, we have to hide. Here comes the stagecoach and it's full of Indians!"
Quickly the two cowboys dodged under the bridge, just in time for the long yellow stagecoach to rumble
across the bridge and start up the mountain.
...Where the Buffalo Roam...
They continued the trail up See Hill and Sonny spotted a herd of buffalo up ahead. So, with a couple
of kicks and a smack on the rump, Pete and Dolly were off at a full run to scatter the herd so they could
single one out to take for meat and the hide. Shots were fired from the six-shooters, but the buffalo
were too fast for the tiring horses. So the chase was abandoned for another time.
Finally they arrived at Grandma's house. They entered the front door, tired and battered from the
adventures. Grandma was shocked to see the two frazzled cow hands and asked what in heaven's name
they were doing there. Sonny quickly told her that they had five minutes left to play, and how they
figured they would have just enough time to make the trip. Not having a phone to call their mothers,
Grandma prepared the cowboys a quick snack, but insisted they start back home, pronto. After finishing the
pie and downing the last drop of fresh, cold milk, they saddled up and began the two minute trip back
to the ranch.
Smoke Signals Ahead
They made it back down to the bridge, when Sonny stopped and pointed down the trail at a cloud
of dust. Out of the dust came a 1950 gray, 4-door Dodge. All of a sudden, Dolly & Pete became stick horses, and the realization of impending doom came across the once brave
cowboys. They looked at one another with mutual fear, not knowing whether to run or stand their
The Dodge came to a sudden and deliberate stop and out stepped two 'deputy'
mothers who were at their wits end with worry, but also had tears of relief in their eyes. One quick yank
and the two cowboys were taken into custody and transported back to the ranch, where Sonny's
mother marched him to his house. The two brave cowboys who had saved Hoover's fort earlier,
were sent to their rooms where they were jailed until the Sheriff arrived home from work. He would
decide their fate and administer their due punishment.
To this day, Sonny and I will never forget that afternoon. The jail time awaiting the arrival of the
Sheriff was harder than the actual thrashing we received, and probably deserved, for worrying our
mothers with fear that we had fallen into the creek and drowned, or God knows what! But years later,
our mothers admitted they had never seen a cuter sight than the two of us little cowboys riding our
Short Version of the
Pot Belly Stove Tale
The short version of this tale as it was told around the pot belly stove goes something like this.
"Did you hear about the thrashing Bob and Willard gave the boys for taking off without telling their
mothers they were going up to Grandma Cunningham's house?"
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