The Timer Fuse (Or, Why did I Even DO that?)

The Timer Fuse (Or, Why did I Even DO that?)

James R. Aist

This true story took place when I was about 12 years old and living in Evening Shade, a small town in rural, north-central Arkansas. At that time, Evening shade had a population of 315, so everybody knew almost everyone else in town, and most everyone knew that Daddy was the minister at the local Methodist Church. That meant that I was trying very hard to stay out of trouble, so as not to embarrass Daddy and bring scandal down on the preacher’s family. Not to mention the fact, of course, that I didn’t want to embarrass myself; I was quite self-conscious.

Back then, at least in Arkansas, we had three full months of summer vacation from school. That was plenty of time to get bored and feel driven to do something interesting, or even exciting. Fireworks were legal, and they helped liven things up, especially in July. I had picked up a few firecracker tricks from some of my buddies, so one afternoon I reckoned it wouldn’t cause any harm to try to wake up sleepy little Evening Shade and get a giggle or two out of it for myself. Now, the key to this little prank was to make a homemade fuse that would produce a delayed explosion of the firecracker, a “timer fuse” as it were, and then insert one end of the timer fuse into the free end of the fuse of a firecracker. As it turns out, the perfect, convenient raw material for a timer fuse is thin, white, cotton string. When you light the end of the string with a match and then blow out the flame, the string will continue to smolder and burn shorter and shorter, much like a lighted cigarette left sitting in an ashtray. So, I did some test runs to determine how long the string needed to be to give about a two-minute delay, just long enough for me to make my getaway and appear completely innocent if there was an unexpected “incident.”

The action plan was to hide my materials and supplies (firecrackers, string cut to length, and safety matches) in my pockets, mosey innocently down to the center of town (about one block), stop at the big maple tree next to the telephone operator’s house on the left, you know, the tree with a huge hole, about waste high, that was facing the sidewalk. Then, I would turn and face the big hole in the tree, reach in and assemble the “bomb” inside the hole so that no one could see what I was doing, light the timer fuse, turn back toward home and mosey innocently up the hill, waiting to see if anyone would be startled by the “bang” so I could and watch (i.e., be entertained by) their reaction. I was more than a little nervous and apprehensive about this practical joke, because this kind of behavior wasn’t really like me, and because I didn’t want to cause Daddy (and me) any embarrassment should I got caught in the act.

That afternoon the town was especially quiet and almost devoid of traffic and pedestrians, a perfect setting for my plot, or so I thought. Everything went just as planned, and as I walked up the hill, I began feeling rather proud of myself for pulling off such a clever prank. Every so often I would take a quick look back to see if there was someone near or approaching the tree, because if they were too close, they might get hurt. The more I thought about that the more I became filled with the fear of causing an accident. I soon slipped into a panic mode, shaking and sweating and filled with angst (that’s not what we called it back then, but you know what I mean). Then, I began to wish that I had not set this plan in motion at all, and wondering if there was time for me to mosey on back to the tree and abort the mission, leaving no one the wiser. But, alas, I was almost two minutes away from a tree with a lit, two-minute time fuse in it. You do the math.

Suddenly I heard a loud “bang” and looked back to see a small cloud of smoke wafting out of the hole in the tree. Did anyone hear it; did anyone panic; did anyone lose control of their car and strike an innocent bystander? Why did I DO this?! Well, wouldn’t you know it, as it turned out the joke was on me: No one was there, not one pedestrian, not one car and not even one alarmed citizen rushing outside to see what had caused the explosion. Evening Shade really was asleep!

I was at once relieved and disappointed that no one was startled by my escapade. And, I was apparently the only one who even knew that anything unusual had happened on that lazy, summer afternoon in Evening Shade. But, I had managed to entertain myself for a while without embarrassing Daddy, so…mission accomplished.

(For more articles on TRUE TALES, click HERE)


Robbing the Bee Tree

Robbing the Bee Tree

by Angie Brown, Guest Author

Ken found a bee tree and asked us if we wanted them to cut the tree up for honey.  It’s an old tree, gnarled and lying on its side, so Ken felt justified in cutting it and taking some of the honey.  This opportunity was too inviting to turn down, so we agreed to go along. We were told to wear warm clothing and heavy shoes.  This was November in upstate New York, and the woods are chilly this time of year. Ken’s wife, Doris, had supper ready when we got to our rendezvous, their house.  After supper chores were finished, we began to layer our sweats and jackets on, putting on warm mittens too.

The three men walked ahead of us with a large lantern.  The two 12-year-old boys also carried a lantern, and the three teenage girls and three women trailed behind, grasping a shared lantern.  Watching our footing carefully, we walked through the grazing meadow – about a quarter of a mile – into the dark woods.  How quiet the woods were after dark.  I remember hearing the sound of a small animal scurrying through the leaves now and then.  Once, we were startled by the hoot of an owl.  And the pleasant smell of evergreens, moss, and old logs wafted through the air, completing the sensory experience as we walked along.

Reaching the old bee tree, the men prepared to get the sulfur going to calm the bees.  When the axe split the hard trunk, opening up the hive, we were amazed at the quantity of honey inside it.  This tree must have been home to the bees for many years.  Some of the bees moved around in a stupor, even crawling on the men’s clothing, but they were too lethargic to sting.  The inside of the tree was carpeted with layers of honey comb, a dark color near the wood and a gradually lighter color near the entrance to the hive.  We filled three pails with the combs, enough for each family.  And Ken made sure that there was plenty of honey left for the bees to survive the winter.

While the men worked on the cleanup, the girls began to feel cold, so the women decided we would go back to the house.  It was slow walking.  To make matters worse, the lantern carrier tripped, extinguishing the light.  Since we had no way of re-lighting the lantern, Doris said, “We’d better head for the road.” Almost everything was pitch dark, but looking up at the sky, we could distinguish between the tree line and the dim light of the sky.  That helped us to get our bearings. While we were making our way to the road, one of the bolder ones mentioned something about animals passing in the dark, inspiring us to walk faster. Before long, we had made it safely back to our rendezvous.

Doris made hot chocolate and brought out some cookies to go with it. Before long, we began to warm up.  The men finally came in with the pails of honey.  It is amazing how such small honeybees can amass such a bountiful delight.  (So it is with us, as we work together, how much we can accomplish.)  After our snack, we drove away exhilarated.  A walk in the woods at night can be an eventful and memorable experience, indeed!

After we got back home, I strained the honey and filled several jars to use in making cookies, breads, and desserts.  Wild honey has a unique taste, much different from clover honey, and stronger too.  If you would like to try your hand at making something with wild honey, I recommend the following:

Recipe for Honey Drops:

1 c. soft shortening (partly butter)

1 c. brown sugar

3 Tbsp. wild honey

3 Tbsp. white sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3-1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. soda

2 eggs

Mix and chill thoroughly.  Form into balls the size of walnuts.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  This makes about 40 cookies.

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)

God’s Perfect Timing

God’s Perfect Timing

A True Story by Angie Brown

Colleen finished the letter she was writing, folded it and slipped it into an envelope.  Nearby lay her purse.  She reached into it and pulled out nine one-dollar bills.  This was all the money she had earned in three weeks.  She was only 14 years old and had taken a job at the lake, working for a young family with two children.  Her job was to take care of the children and do some housework.  For these responsibilities, her wages were three dollars a week, plus room and board.  She was excited about this wonderful opportunity to earn a little money.

She counted the money again to make sure she had taken all of it from her purse.  “I never had so much money in all my life,” she said to herself.  “I could buy some new clothes for school, notebooks and maybe one of those erasers with the rough edges to erase ink.”  For a few moments she felt very rich, but then she remembered what she was really planning to do with the money.  Seven brothers and sisters at home were in need. She felt a burst of joy and satisfaction as she stuffed the money into the envelope with the letter and sealed it.  Then, with a sense of accomplishment, she put the letter in the mail.

A few days later, and many miles away, Colleen’s mother, Dessy, was in her kitchen checking the cupboard.  “If I had some flour and yeast, I could mix up some bread dough to bake,” she thought, “or a bone for soup; but payday is three days away.” “Tell me what to do, Lord” she prayed.

Then she walked out into the back yard and began taking the freshly dried laundry off the clothes line, still praying.  After filling her arms with a load of clothes, she walked back into the kitchen and heard the sound of footsteps on the front porch.  She laid the clothes down and walked to the front door, just as the mailman was leaving.  “Oh,” she said to herself, taking the mail out of the box, “a letter from Colleen.  I’m so glad she has this opportunity to work at the lake.”  Colleen and the two older children were a big help to her at this particular time.

As she opened the letter to read it, a bunch of bills fluttered out.  When she had read Colleen’s letter and counted the nine one-dollar bills, she exclaimed, “She…she has sent me all the wages she has earned!”  Dessy’s cheeks were drenched with tears as she thanked God over and over for answered prayer. So, with money in hand, she left immediately for the grocery store.

Later, when Colleen’s employer learned that she had risked sending cash in a letter, she was concerned.  “You know, you took a big chance sending the money that way”, she said. Colleen paused for a moment and then replied “Oh, I knew it would get there. It was needed at home.”

Isn’t that a beautiful example of how God answers prayer and provides for the needs of His own people? And just in time, too!  His timing is perfect, isn’t it?

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)

Fakin’ the Tears, Payin’ the Price

spanking photo: spanking spanking.gifFakin’ the Tears, Payin’ the Price

 James R. Aist

My brother, Johnny, and I are only 17 months apart in age, and when we were growing up together, we lived way out in the “sticks” of central Arkansas at first, and then, when Daddy became an ordained minister in the Methodist church, we moved from one small, rural community to the next. In the rural areas of Arkansas back then, we often were unable to make many other friends, and, when we did, there were days at a time when we were not able to get together with them. So, out of necessity, we did a lot of things together. Things like playing, arguing, disobeying Mamma and suffering the consequences.

Well, Johnny and I were about as close to being cute little angels most of the time as you could imagine, but every now and then we would mess up, get caught and find ourselves cross-wise of the family disciplinarian, who was, you guessed it, Mamma. Now, these were the days before “political correctness”, and so Mamma was hesitant to “spare the rod”, if you get my drift. When our transgressions were relatively minor, we would get off with just a short lecture and a stern warning. But, now and then, we foolishly crossed an invisible line and had to face the dreaded consequences: a meaningful whipping applied to our backsides with whatever was the latest, or most convenient, hand-wielded, wooden flogging device; usually a stick of some sort. But hey, at least this gave us yet another thing to do together!

After undergoing several of these painful and embarrassing disciplinary sessions over a period of time, we began comparing notes about a pattern we had noticed. Mamma would strike us, in turn, over and over – whap, whap, whap, etc. – until we could no longer hold back the tears, and then we would begin to cry. Well, now, we reasoned, if crying was what convinced her to stop the whipping, why don’t we just start crying with the first blow, even if we don’t really have to, and, cleverly, spare ourselves the remainder of the whipping? So, we coveted with each other to do just that the next time we were “in for it”, thinking we would surely get off easy. Keep in mind, now, that the timing of this little scheme was everything. We had to absorb the first blow; then, and only then, would we burst suddenly into tears and, magically, “make” her stop.

Well, sure enough, it wasn’t long before we were “in for it” again. As Mamma was herding us into the torture chamber to administer the inevitable punishment, Johnny and I gave each other a “knowing” look to make sure we were both on the same page with our plan to fake the tears. Now, you know as well as I do that a plan is only as good as the execution of it, and that’s where we got caught in the act…literally. Don’t ask me why, but we both, in turn, burst into tears just before the first blow, instead of just after it! Now our Mamma was no fool, and she sensed immediately that we were trying to put one over on her, much to our surprise and chagrin. We knew, right then and there, that this was not to going to end well for us. And so it didn’t; Mamma proceeded to give us the worst whipping we had ever deserved, and, trust me, the tears were real! “Ow, ow, ow…no, I’m not alright, thanks for asking!”

Now, the moral of this story is two-fold: 1) execute, execute, execute; and 2) don’t ever think you can put one over on a seasoned veteran like Mamma! The price of getting caught – and you will get caught — isn’t worth it.

(For more articles on TRUE TALES, click HERE)