Chocolate Cake Bait For Jake The Hermit

Daryl Gay's Back Page, July 2005

Daryl Gay | July 1, 2005

Grandma’s 88 now. Getting a little bored with the garden club. Misses her four “boys,” my uncles and me, all grown and gone — though not far.

Sixteen-gauge shotgun shells are getting hard to find. So, it seemed to be a natural fit: I took my reloader and 2,000 hulls over to grandma’s house so all the “boys” can be ready for dove season.

Oh, you think it’s funny?

Hey, she’s about a whole lot more than baking biscuits! Grandma’s experimented enough with black powder and lead by now to cook you up a real shoulder-swapper; yeah, that’s when recoil slaps your right shoulder over where your left’s supposed to be and WAS just a trigger-pull ago. You should see her in her apron (leather, not kitchen!) proudly shucking finished shells into our 50-shell haulers. Simpler’n baking a cake…

Only thing a little worrisome about the whole idea is her smoking those little Clint-Eastwood-western cigars. Puffs them things like a locomotive. Boy, I’d sure hate to see all those finished shells go up in smoke. Oh, and her, too. But that was just what we thought had happened last week. Turned out to be nothing more than a little damage to the outhouse…

Ma’s hale and hearty, but she has one thorn in the flesh: Jake the Hermit, whose sole motivation for living is to be sure and certain Ma stays aggravated to her dying day. And we’ll probably bury them side by side so that she’s sure to stay busy forever. Let’s see, Ma’s 88, so Jake would have to be about a 130. I happen to remember Ma as a fairly young woman, but Jake ain’t ever been anything but old. And, according to Ma, lazy, shiftless, good for nothing, ornery, deceitful — pretty much every despicable adjective you can think of.

Another thing: Ma ain’t never slowed down none a’tall, and despite living alone, she usually still cooks like her boys were all living at home. And with the old hermit skulking around to snap up whatever he can get his gums into, that’s probably a good thing.

See, back when Grandaddy was with us, he would oft-times take some of Ma’s leftovers to the old hermit. Truth be told, me and him were about the only ones who could find the old man, and when he didn’t want to be found, I was the only one who knew where he was.

Anyhows, Jake developed a fine appreciation of Ma’s cooking. And if a fresh baker of biscuits ever made its way out of the oven and onto the back-porch bannister to cool, Jake was apt to leave the yard with very warm fingers juggling the finest sourdoughs he’ll ever flop a lip on. Oh, it wasn’t like she didn’t know what would happen; it had become a  game of sorts over the years.

Happened again just last week.

I was riding by checking on my shells — I mean Ma — when I caught a glimpse of a shadow leaving the edge of the yard. I knew that shadow well, and figured it would soon be wanting a slab of some critter or other to go on a biscuit. So, I decided to slip into the treeline with him to help out.

“Wheeessscht. Wheeessscht.”


He almost dropped his biscuits.

“When are you going to get some teeth so that you can whistle? You sound like a steam engine with no steam.”

“Well, ifвn you could hear my heart right now you’d be pretty impressed with hit,’ the crusty old coot replied. “Hit’s a’beatinв like a drummer in a brass band. You ’bout scared the freckles off me. Ain’t got no rabbit on you, is you?”

Jake can be rather direct, especially when he’s a mite hyped.

“No? Go shoot a couple.”

“Ain’t got no shells.”

I know it was an evil thought, but I couldn’t help myself: “Ma’s got a’plenty.”

“Yep. Noticed. And that ain’t all she’s got. Gunpowder, too. She don’t know just perzactly where my shack is, does she?”

“Jake, you and I are the only two people in the world who know where your shack is,” I reassured him. “Besides, why would Ma want to know?”

“Just wouldn’t want to be lying in bed one instant and be blown to smithereens the next!”

“Relax. She’s just loading some shells for me…”

I really believed that was the extent of what she was doing. Little did I know she was also loading some for Jake.

It was two nights later, and Ma had baited him up with chocolate cake. She cooks her own chocolate, and the very scent of it will create an instant chocoholic in the strongest-willed among us. Well, she let up every window in the old house and turned on the fans. Then went to baking the 16 wafer-thin layers she lovingly slathers with that hot, flowing, syrupy chocolate…

It was too much for Ol’ Jake, who flitted mesmerized out from behind a sweet gum and bolted across 20 open yards to the corner of the old outhouse, 50 yards away and unused for years. Out the kitchen window came a shattering roar, and white splotches appeared as if by magic across the bottom half of the half-moon house.

Ma, who admittedly has slowed a step or two, had missed him clean, although from all the caterwauling going on you’d never have known it!

Hefting Granddaddy’s old Sportsman 58 however, she wasn’t aiming on doing it twice!

“Come on outta there you old scalawag,” she yelped. “I’m a’gonna sprinkle the bottom of yore overhauls with this little touch of rock salt ’til you’ll think you’ve been living in a bee’s nest. It ain’t but a half load of powder, so come on and take yore medicine. She touched off again, and the powdery results proved too much for the old hermit.

He hoofed a beeline straight off the back of his protective shed and into the trees before stopping 100 yards away and ruefully looking back. That’s when he saw me. Oh yeah, I had smelled that cake, too. And was standing on the stoop holding it. Later, digging into it at his shack, he incredulously accused me of using him as a distraction.

“Never knowed you was there, Jake,” I explained. “Didn’t know Ma had gotten so good with that reloader, either. But that ain’t the problem now.”

He looked up quizzically.

“Problem now is, what kinda load is she gonna work up for me?”


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