Upstate Liars, Part I

"When I was a boy, this area was quite a bit more rural than it is today. In fact I remember when the road out there was paved for the first time and when they closed the two room schoolhouse and bussed us all down the Hill to the Central School.

Well, we had a set of neighbors who lived down the road in the old blue house, the Schwartzs, and I remember that they were possibly the filthiest human beings I've ever met. Now, my mother wasn't the cleanest housekeeper, but my parents would never let us eat anything off of their farm because of the awful state of affairs. My father said it was downright embarrassing for the whole neighborhood.

But regardless, Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz were good people and I was friends with Tommy Schwartz so it wasn't too odd when my Grandpa, he lived next door, came over and asked me if I wanted to see Mr. Schwartz's new mule. Well, it was summer and I was always willing to do something with Grandpa so I said yes. I was also a bit curious as I had heard about the mule, it being some sort of special pure-bred, and as I had never seen a special mule before I wanted to take a look.

Well, we went down to Schwartz's farm and sure enough there was Mr. Schwartz with a group of the neighbors, mostly old men, showing off his new mule. It was a handsome beast, a spry and strong young thing and even though I didn't know the first thing about mules (besides the fact that Grandpa said that ever since the he drove them in the Great War he would take them over a horse any day), I could see that this was a special one.

Now Mr. Schwartz was awfully proud of that beast and he wanted to show off it's abilities, so he went into the barn and got out the stone boat (that's a sled that's used to drag stones off a field after plowing). Now if the Schwartz household was good for one thing, that was the fact that it was full of junk, and so he started to pile up stuff on the stone boat. Everybody pitched in, even me, and we soon had that stone boat piled up with bits and pieces of broken machinery, old bags of grain, rusty tools, buckets of nails and even an old stove.

When we stepped back everyone realized that this was an awful lot for even a strong fully grown mule to pull, not to mention a young, immature one. My grandfather took Mr. Schwartz aside and told him he'd break his prize mule if he tried to pull that, but Schwartz was a proud man and after all that boasting he had done, he couldn't exactly start taking stuff off again. So he hitched up that mule and started to have her pull the load. I must say, she gave an awfully good show of it, dragging the load a good 20 yards before the back end slipped into a ditch.

Well, Schwartz whipped and hollered and shook those reins and that mule pulled and pulled and pulled until all of a sudden, we all heard a "pop!" and that mule sat right down on her rear end, there in the mud and filth of Schwartz's farm; her eyes were crossed, her tongue hung out and her head rolled about. I don't have to tell you that Schwartz was awful worried about that, after all, he had just gotten this mule and it wasn't cheap. So after discussing it a bit, they sent me running down the Hill a ways to fetch Dr. Pratt. Now Doc Pratt was famous in the area for his learning, propriety and, most of all, cleanliness and sanitation in his work; needless to say, he didn't often frequent the Schwartz Farm.

However, he was a professional man and agreed to help. He came up, picking his way through the garbage that littered the Schwartz's lawn and arrived there at the circle of men. He looked at that handsome young mule, then at the stone boat, then back at the mule. He shook his head and said 'Jim, you can't work a young mule like this or you'll break her. Luckily I can fix the problem but, you best be more careful with her while she's young." Mr. Schwartz nodded and then the doctor went to work. He opened up his black back and took a piece of garden hose, about 3 feet long; he took that bit of hose and shoved it right up that mule's arse. He took then other end, inhaled deeply and blew as hard as he could into that hose. Well, that mule perked right up, in fact if I remember rightly, her ears stood right on end. He then went around to the front side of her, opened up her mouth and took her jaw in one hand and her nose in the other, then jerked them in opposite directions with a single smooth motion. The mule stood right up and her eyes uncrossed, as good as new. Well, everyone thought that was a right fine trick and complimented the Doctor, especially Schwartz. The Doctor said it was fine, just not to do it again and that his bill would be in the mail.

Well, by this time, more of the neighbors had gathered around and everyone wanted to see how the new mule performed. Schwartz was awfully pleased with himself, after all, it wasn’t every day his neighbors would risk dysentery, cholera and the plague to enter his disgusting farm, so he said he would give another demonstration and told his wife Mary to bring out some lemonade for the people; I don’t think anyone drank it. He took about half of the load off of that stone boat and got it out of the ditch; he was about to have that mule give a good show when he overheard someone, probably one of the Masters’ boys, comment that it was an awfully small load and not very impressive. So Schwartz got off that stone boat and began to load it up some more. By the time he was done, it was about the same as the first time, perhaps minus the cast-iron stove.

As you might suspect, the second time around was just about the same as the first time, which was probably the goal of John Masters when he made that comment. Sure enough, there was that poor mule, sitting like a fool on the ground, head lolling about, tongue hanging out and eyes crossed. Well, Jim Schwartz couldn’t go and call that Doctor again so soon so he thought he would try to fix the problem himself. He got everybody digging around in the trash about his house looking for a piece of garden hose. They located one, Jim cut it to the right length and proceeded to stick it up that mule’s rear end and blow for all his worth. But try as he might, he couldn’t get any change out of that mule. Everybody offered advice, but nobody else was willing to put their mouth on some piece of hose that come out of Jim Schwartz’s barn, so all that happened was Jim Schwartz blew until he got all light-headed and fell down.

It was decided that something had to be done and once again I was sent for Doc Pratt. Well, the Doctor was probably expecting me, but I don’t think that made him any more pleased to be summoned. He came down in a bit of a huff and arrived in that filth strewn field filled with all his kinfolk and neighbors. He looked at Jim Schwartz, at the stone boat, at the mule, at the piece of piping still sticking out of that mule’s behind and then back a Jim Schwartz. He then went over, took that piece of piping out of the mule, looked at it real close like, then turned it around and stuck the other end it the mule, took the end that had just been inside that animals rear end, gave a mighty blast of air and repeated his earlier treatment. Sure enough, that mule was as right as rain.

Well, Jim Schwartz was just about fit to be tied. He said ‘jeeze Doc, I’m awful sorry, but I’m curious, I couldn’t see any difference between those two ends of the tube, why’d you turn it around like that?’ The Doctor looked at him real hard and said ‘There isn’t any difference between the two, damn Jim, you think I’d put my mouth on some piece of tubing that you had just stuck in yours? That’s disgusting’ ”

-A true York State tale as related to me by Dick Harasta, a storyteller from the Town of Maine in Broome County. Posted by Jesse


joe said...

I liked that story, but it's too long. Us kids these day need more excitement more concisely expounded.

Natalie said...

I like a long yarn, plus I'm not sure if the nature of expounding enables it to be done concisely.

joe said...

Natalie, will you bear me a child?

Alia said...

I love that this post was entitled "Upstate Liars, Part 1," leading me to the conclusion that there will be more lies posted soon.

Coop said...

that was a great story, it should be animated and featured on Reading Rainbow