Jake Cures March Madness

Life On The Back Page - March 2023

Daryl Gay | March 3, 2023

Consternation, I would say, aptly described the look on the old hermit’s face. Of course, I’d never say it to HIM, because we’re forthwith contemplating a dissertation of explanation.

I can just hear him now: “Ye said what? I look how? Do I need to pick up a oak limb?”

It struck me that consternation was a fairly new one for Jake. Crafty, terrified, amazed, possum—those have been around for years. But concerned and dumbfounded all wrapped into the same bearded package was unprecedented. And, as always, it was my fault. In fact, it was MY look that had caused HIS look to begin with.

My look? I’m sticking with “morose,” refusing to drop any nearer toward “depressed.” And although he’s been knowing me since the first time I ever fell on my head—which was probably his fault—it’s unlikely things had gotten this bad in his presence.

You see, my take on life is that every day is a good day. I don’t know what depression is; it’s out there, I’m sure, but I tend to stay too busy for it to get much inside a mile.

Until… maybe… March.

“Come on now, Least’un, I don’t know as I’z ever seed you like this,” Jake fairly pleaded. “You act like you’ve lost your best friend, but here I is standing right in front of you so I know it can’t be that.”

He flashed what passed as a grin, and while it wasn’t overly entertaining, something at least caught my eye.

“I couldn’t exactly say for sure there, Jake,” I mused, “but through that wooly mammoth of an excuse for a beard you got, I thought I saw four teeth. Last count, you were down to three, right?”

He tucked his left thumb into his palm and counted the backs of the exposed fingers: “One, two, three, FOUR! Yep, I got all four left!”

The triumph in his voice kinda shook me out of the doldrums and he asked again: “What’s eatin’ at you, anyways? You ain’t got that March Madness, is you?”

Suddenly, it’s my turn to wear the possum look.

“How in the world do you know about March Madness, Jake? I didn’t have any idea you were a basketball fan!”

“Wal, I don’t know what a basketball is,” he spluttered, “and about the only thing I knows I’m a fan of is you. Yore boys played them baseballs and footballs, but I never seed ‘em totin’ no baskets around.”

Hmmm… OK, but that still doesn’t explain where in tarnation he heard the term. Wait a minute…

“Jake, has Flossie Mae Gooch still got that little black and white television set on her dresser?”

“Yep,” he blurted right out, “and them fellers on it was a’runnin’ up and down bouncin’ a big ol’ ball and then all of a sudden they’d flang that thang… HEY! THAT AIN’T FAIR!”

OK, so I admit it; catching him out like that was not at all sportsmanlike, even though I had known for some time that he had a thang, er, thing, for Flossie Mae. Not that he’d ever admit it. And Flossie Mae must have been sipping on his tonic to even contemplate allowing him across the threshold, considering that she was going to have to fumigate twice a week for a month…

So, foul—but hilarious!

“Wal then, now that you got that thar persimmon-suckin’ look off yer face, what in the cathair has been wrong with you?”

“Well, if you gotta know, Jake, they won’t let me kill nothing no more.”

Yeah, that possum face fits him better. I can purely see ping pong balls bouncing between his ears.

Expelling a long, “Wwwhhheeeeeeooooowww” of relief, he immediately set out to seek a cure.

“How many Winchesters is you down to now, ‘bout forty-leven? Load one or three of ‘em and come on; I can hep ye solve that problem.”

“Legally, Jake, legally. Bear season is out, deer season is out, dove season, quail season, rabbit, squirrel… You know it always makes me feel better to go kill something, unzip it and toss it on a fire. But now…”

“Oh, so it’s the game warden you’re worried about. Well, then, I’ll skedaddle north about two mile and go to blastin’, and when he heads my way, you ease south and just helps yoreself…”

“He ain’t got nothing to do with it, Jake. He don’t make the laws, it’s his job to enforce them and see that hoodlums like you don’t break them. I want my boys to be able to hunt 50 years from now, same as him.”

“Like me? What’s a hoodlum? Do I need to pick up a oak limb? And if you’re so all-fared worried about seasons, when perzactly does the next one come in?”

“Well, turkey season opens next month, but I guess I’ll just have to content myself with fishing until August, after which I can probably ruin a few squirrels’ day. Every day. For the next seven months…”

“You ain’t even never kilt no turkeys, is you, so how do you know it wouldn’t lift yer sperrits?”

“I just ain’t got the heart. I make my little box screech and whine and they go to booming off in the distance and I keep talking and they keep talking, strut in and start putting on a show, acting goofier and getting louder and I just can’t make myself pull the trigger.”

“Which is purty near perzactly where I comes in, and I can tell ye I don’t mind a bit blastin’ one to smithereens and lightin’ a far. You call, I shoot!”

“Come on, Jake, that would be about like whacking a chicken.”

“Ye want a chicken? Wal, you know Flossie Mae’s Uncle Cooter’s got a whole herd of them thangs. All we gots to do…”

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