Jake And His ‘Ont’ Bone
On The Back Page With Daryl Gay - March 2019
It was one of those rare, early March mornings… glowing sunshine and a zephyr from the south that was sheer pleasure to bask in following the biting brutality of February. All in all, during this ninth year of my existence, things couldn’t get much better as I tipped the old wooden chair back to the wall of Ma’s porch.
Belly full of breakfast, seemed just about time for a little nap…
“ONTS A RABBIT!”
Ever attempted to climb air?
The chair went one direction and my carcass another, each of us seeking a similar destination: away!
Gravity being what it is, however, both wound up in rather tilted positions on the floor of 50-year-old one-by-eights.
Predictably, that seemed to amuse the old hermit.
“JAKE!” I screeched. “You trying to scare a body to death on such a beautiful morning?”
“Hesh,” he retorted in a loud whisper, flapping like a buzzard trying to beat an oncoming 18-wheeler off the asphalt.“Yer Ma hears you an it’ll be MY body they’re totin’.”
Since I was only skint up a little with no apparent breakage, I chalked it up to the fact that things could have been worse—and often were—when dealing with my pungent old pal. And if he was desperate enough to sneak right up under Ma’s kitchen, something was seriously amiss.
Thought I had heard the word rabbit, but my head hit the floor right hard, so hallucination was in play.
“So what is it?”
“I ‘reddy tole you; I’m hongry and I onts a rabbit. Come shoot me one.”
My dear readers may be totally unfamiliar with what Pap referred to as an ‘ont bone.’ So, consider:
Jake has had one for as long as I’ve known him. Basically forever. I firmly believe that Ma broke mine early on with a flyflap and a wooden yardstick. Evidence of ont bones can be discovered in any retail setting in which children are present. Those originally equipped with ont bones can be identified while screaming at the top of their lungs, “I ont this, I ont that…”
Yeah; Ma nipped that early on…
“But Jake, rabbit season just went out. You know I can’t go shoot one in March.”
“Dey’s a season? On rabbits?”
“You know there is, and you know what my Pap would do if he heard I’d killed even one out of season, for any reason. I just can’t.”
He looked me up and down with baleful eyes that eventually softened. He knew the line between me, Pap and Daddy was one that couldn’t be breached. But it ain’t like he was giving up.
“So lemme borrow yer scattergun.”
“You know I can’t, knowing that you’re going to use it to break the law. And speaking of which, why a rabbit? You run out of free-range chickens to steal?”
“Don’t ont no chicken; I onts a rabbit. Full up to the gizzard on chicken and squerl. Onts me a rabbit, and I’m a’gonna git one, too.”
With that, he slipped into the bushes and was gone. Which is when I got the morning’s second jumpstart for my heart.
“So what are you going to do?” Ma asked from the darkness behind the screen door.
“How long you been standing there, Ma? Did you know Jake was here?”
“Long enough, and likely not at first. The wind shifted and fluttered in through the window. That putrid old rascal near made me faint; I had to sit down by the door to get my senses back. Heard what you told him, and I’m proud of you for it; your Pap will be, too. But whatever else that rank old rascal is, Jake is your friend. And he’s really suffering to come here like this. What are we going to do about that?”
We? Meaning me and who?
Then I saw the twinkle in her eye. Already surprised that Jake hadn’t left running with a load of nines from her .410 chasing him, I was flabbergasted by her offer of an offer.
Ma wasn’t tenderhearted, so’s you’d pick up on it right quick, but when it came to me, her only grandchild, she had her moments.
Later, as that gorgeous sun began slipping, I was making my way through the swamp toward a well-hidden shack. Thoroughly intent upon sneaking up on Jake the way he had me, it was all planned out: I’d come in like a Comanche, crawling on my belly if necessary, but that old hermit was about to get the surprise of his life!
One minor obstacle: it’s hard to sneak while totin’ a full-to-the-brim, still-warm Dutch oven!
Then too, I hadn’t factored in the swirling breeze, which ultimately ruined the plan.
I caught a whiff—maybe it was a gale—of Jake and stopped dead in my tracks. He was close, and obviously upwind; had I been spotted?
Moss fluttered. But there is none.
“JAKE!” equally as loudly as before. Behind that fluttering moss that was a beard he kinda stiffened like a rusty pump gun, and I thought he was going to keel over.
“Least’un,” he gasped. “I won’t never live to see a hundert now; you just cost me 10 years.”
“Well, we’re even. Now let’s take this pot up to the shack, and you might get some those years back.”
I whipped him up a pone over the fire, and that skinny old polecat downed near two whole rabbits and a gallon of gravy as I explained.
“No, I didn’t kill you two rabbits. Believe it or not, Ma dug a couple from the freezer for you. But lissen. She also said that if she ever caught you near that freezer…”