Chopley Splinters was an odd dude. He was the only neighbor living northwest of our shack up at the headwaters of the Miscanimba River which flows out of the Appalachian Mountains. His wood cabin was at least a mile up the side of a mountain. There’s no road just tall grass, wild flowers, and lots of oaks, hickories, and maples. He was somewhat of a recluse as we only saw him around the Thanksgiving Holiday. It might have had something to do with the fact he only had one leg.
“Lost it in the war.”
“Which war Chop?”
“War between the states.”
“You’re not that old.”
“The war between the state of confusion and the state of passion.”
Mom wouldn’t let him tell the rest. It’s rumored part of his leg is pickled in a jar and sitting on the fireplace mantle inside the Wild Nest tavern over in Kumquat County where Jeb Winkley is waiting to shoot him on sight.
Well on this one particular holiday Old Chop, as us kids called him, hobbled down off his mountain perch with a wild turkey in tow. I swear that bird was a good 5 feet in length. It was so long Mom couldn’t get it in her cooking pot. She cut it in two giving half to Big Blu, our hunting beagle, because she only had the one good pot.
Well as luck would have it Big Blu ate his half and as Mom was cutting up the yams and fixing sour dough corn bread he teamed up with Chiwawa our pet squirrel and the two of them came in behind her, grabbed the other half and took off into the woods. So there we were without a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Things were looking pretty glum when Old Chop came up with an idea which led to another idea.
“I know a place,” he said, “Where you can get the biggest steaks you ever saw. Only thing is I don’t have a car and can’t walk to get there.” Well we didn’t have a car either and besides all stores are closed on Thanksgiving.
“But we do have some ice cream,” said Mom.
We had a small freezer on the back porch that held some odds and ends including ice cream. So on this particular Thanksgiving Day we had a variety of vegetables, soups, and sour dough corn bread, with Neapolitan ice cream for dessert.
“Know why I prefer ice cream over steak?” Asked Old Chop trying to put a positive spin on the situation. “It’s because I like sugar.”
Well that’s probably a universal statement, everybody likes sweets.
“Let me explain,” he rumbled on. This all took place while we were eating so he had our full attention.
“If I eat meat then it just sits on my stomach and rumbles around slow to digest. And tends to produce intestinal gas.” Mom frowned at that and motioned him to stop the story right where he was.
He just looked at us kids and winked with his good eye, the other had been replaced by an odd sized glass eye he’d found at the Goodwill.
“Sugar however gives a spurt of energy then settles fast into the fat cells. That way there’s no digestion problem.”
“We love sugar,” I said.
“In addition, it has absolutely no nutritional value. And the sugar industry is subsidized by the American government so it’s on welfare like the rest of us.”
We kids all cheered feeling kind of a special kinship developing between our story teller, the sugar industry and us.
“Where else can you get fast digestion, quick energy, zero nutrition, and expanding fat cells? And feeding out of the public trough to boot?”
I looked around the room and darned if I could see a fat cell anywhere. I wasn’t sure where he was going with his story but felt the urge to have more Neapolitan.
“Besides,” said Old Chop. “When you’re done you don’t have to pick the leftovers out of your teeth.”
I had to admit the old boy had a few favorable points. Truth is when you’re eight years old and short of a turkey on Thanksgiving Day and have to settle for ice cream instead– you’re one lucky dude.