A MONTHLY STROLL DOWN FOLKSY BYWAYS
with Jack Pendarvis
Ebenezer Pendarvis, my grandfather, started his farm in 1908 with just a handful of prunes and a dream. Today, his once-majestic prune farm lies in disrepair. Dust settles sensuous and heavy on the forgotten prunes.
Yet, just like my grandfather, prunes are the heartiest of fellows, requiring but a little encouragement to thrive. Unfortunately, that encouragement comes in the form of ample elbow grease, a rare liquid with which my family, after the passing of a generation, has largely chosen not to acquaint itself. No: viscous corn liquor, distilled in dire secrecy, is their preferred libation. It is no secret that my uncles are drunkards who have driven the farm to the very edge of ruin. I am also a drunkard, but of the cheerful type beloved by all. And so it falls to me to rescue the prune farm and restore the honor of the family name. Now comes the hard part: here, dear reader, we must part forever.
Brooding amongst the rows of prunes one night, I fancied I saw his silent figure in the moonlight: Ebenezer Pendarvis himself, gone these many years, hands on his hips in that good-natured posture I knew so well. I hardly dared approach. I sensed the specter would demand some accounting of my actions. And what could I answer? That I had neglected kith and kin all for the sake of the gold and low women with which the magazine columnist finds himself continuously supplied? Lucky for me, I was spared the necessity of saying anything to the mysterious apparition. It turned out to be a stick. Years of scratching out my humble thoughts have left me with the weak eyes of a pervert.
Still, the encounter had an undeniable effect on my soul.
I fear my new responsibilities will leave me little time for penning such lithesome bagatelles as this column, which, from inception to final edit, often takes upward of twenty minutes. Instead I must heed the ringing of the old bunkhouse triangle, speaking eloquently in its tintinnabulations of that most ancient and pleasurable of calls: “There is work to be done on the farm!”
Next time you are sitting around reading in your air-conditioned parlor, consuming delicate bonbons from a conveniently placed dish of exquisite china, think of me, shirtless, glistening in the summer sun, wielding my prune hatchet in the endless fields of rich, fragrant prunes, experiencing the true satisfaction that can never come from the pointless internal murmuring of the puny bookworm in his cocoon of so-called knowledge; also, I am pantless in this scenario.
Why are you still reading this? I feel repulsed when I think about it. I can just picture you. I’m literally watching as you atrophy. Meanwhile I just get stronger in mind, body, and spirit. I’m like fricking Hercules. I ought to get one of those pelts like he used to wear, with just the one shoulder strap. The weird thing is that my hair was never curly before, but it’s curling itself as I type these words. So shiny! I’m tossing my shining curls back and forth right now. I wish you could see me. The power I feel is almost unbearable. When I actually start farming, will I be able to lift a car with my mind? Seems likely. I could push you around, but I won’t, because I’m not a jerk. Maybe you’re the jerk. You’re just too weak to do anything about it. Does that make me better than you? Yes.
That being said, you’re a swell bunch of guys and gals and I’ve had a real blast hanging out. As much as I’ll miss visiting with each and every one of you through the medium of words and punctuation and ink and paper and communication and the nation’s mighty lumber industry where the paper comes from, I have to admit I look forward to getting my hands dirty again. In fact, the first thing I’m going to do is find a big pile of dirt and just run my hands through it. Then I’ll sleep in it, setting the alarm clock for 9:30 a.m. sharp, so I can get up and personally vacuum the sensuous dust off the prunes.
Illustration by Jason Polan.