Aunt Willie’s Crackers

I was just thinking about family lore. You know; the stories people like to tell or tell on each other at family gatherings. This is one of the funniest stories about my Aunt Willie and Uncle Coley.

Uncle Coley was, like most of the family, a bit of a prankster. He loved to “get someone’s goat” in order to have something to laugh at. This one though was done over time, which made it all the more delicious.

Willie was in the kitchen cooking dinner, the mid-day meal when Coley swanned in from some escapade or another. He certainly wasn’t out working like he was meant to be.

He headed for the back door and Willie stopped him. “Where are you off to?” Coley stopped and thought for a minute. I reckon I’ll go down to Miss Myrtle’s store for some tobacco.

“Well, get some soda crackers while you’re there. I’m making some vegetable soup for Daddy’s dinner.” Coley already had one foot out the door and gave a grunt of assent. He knew damned well he wasn’t worried about some soda crackers. He had a bit of fun on his mind.

Photo credit: Southern Living

As he walked along the road, nearing Miss Myrtle’s store he heard the shrieking whistle of the Southern Railways train as it struggled up the hill headed toward Birmingham and parts west. Without giving it a second thought, he ran to the railroad, knowing the train would still be moving quite slowly by the time it arrived at the crossing.

The open side door in the boxcar was all the invitation he needed. With a quick jog and sudden lifting of his knees, he was on his way. As the story goes, he managed to evade detection and didn’t jump off the train until they pulled into Phoenix, Arizona!

No one in the family had ever been so far from home! He piddled around the bustling city and landed a job working in the fields. It was hard, sweaty work and it didn’t suit him but he had to eat and sleep, didn’t he?

Depending on who was telling the story he was gone anywhere from three to six months when he decided it was time to go home. So, he jumped another train, and off he went riding into the sunrise.

Photo credit: AmericanRails.com

When the train passed through Jacksonville, Coley made ready to jump. He knew the train would be going a bit faster in this direction, but he knew just where to leap from the boxcar to land in the soft embrace of the kudzu growing next to the tracks.

“Damn! That was a rough landing!” Coley gingerly got to his feet and dusted himself off, ensuring nothing was broken, and started the short walk to the house. Rounding a short bend in the road, Miss Myrtle’s store came emerged from the morning fog and a sly smile crept across Coley’s face.

The screen door slammed. Coley found himself in the somewhat dark, pungent-smelling grocery run by Myrtle Cranston. He wandered around a bit until Miss Myrtle peered at him over her glasses.

“What can I get for ye, boy?” Startled, Coley whipped around to see the old lady standing next to the enormous cash register. “Willie wanted me to get some soda crackers for Daddy’s dinner.”

He made his purchase and jaunted out of the store with a new spring in his step and a wide grin on his face. Within minutes he was walking in the back door. As usual, Willie was cooking dinner. The kitchen was hot and so was Willie’s legendary temper.

Coley casually tossed a paper sack onto the table. “What’s in that sack?” His grin widened; “It’s for you. You told me to stop at Miss Myrtles for some soda crackers.”

Willie’s face turned ghastly white and then suddenly reddened to the point of bursting into flames. “Damn you boy, I asked for them crackers six damn months ago!”

“You didn’t say when you wanted them; you just said to bring you some…”

Willie rounded the table, murder in her eyes. Coley made a hasty exit through the back door, howling with laughter.

Many, many years later Willie would still get angry when that story was told. I miss the stories of the old ones.

Y’all come back now, you hear?

About Ol' Big Jim

Ol' Big Jim, has been a storekeeper, an embalmer, a hospital orderly, a medical biller, and through it all, a teller of tall tales. Many of his stories, like his first book, New Yesterdays, are set in his hometown of Piedmont, Alabama. For seven years, he lived in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Amman, Jordan where he spends his time trying to visit each one of the thousands of Ammani coffee shops and scribbling in his ever-present notebook. These days, you can find him back stateside, still filling notebooks.
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