A Ricky and Roland comedy where Ricky tries to return to his roots with a raccoon hunt, only it throws him a twist in the end.
Copyright 2008, Jerry W. Engler
Spring’s just wonderful, Roland, and you know what I’m thinking of doing?” Ricky asked from where he sat sprawled on the porch front steps with his elbows propped back on the porch deck.
“The day really is nice, warm sun and all,” Roland answered from where he laid his scrawny frame in the lawn chair. “And I’m feeling all lazy-like, kind of sleepy. So I don’t know if I even want to know what you’re thinking, Ricky, on a day like this.”
Ricky looked up dreamily, with that far-away and long-ago look in his eyes. “Well, you see, Carol said I did such a great job at Valentine’s that she fixed me a special barbecued steak dinner for St. Patrick’s, and you know, I love barbeque.”
“Uh huh, think I better be going home now,” said Roland as he tightened his eyelids down in sudden irritation.
“No, no wait. You’re going to love this, I promise you. You’re involved.”
“No, I ain’t ever wanting to be involved again. I want to wake up now. This sounds like the beginning of a nightmare I have from time to time.”
“Anyway, Carol says we ought to celebrate every holiday that comes along, no matter how small, we’re having such a fun time now. She said I get the next one, April 1, April Fools’ Day, because as long as she’s known me, that’s just naturally been my day.”
“I think that woman just called you a fool, Ricky. You know, she always has been perceptive.”
“No, no, no, she hasn’t done any such thing. My wife knows I always like to play tricks and jokes on folks on April Fools’. You just wait. The best is coming.”
“Yes, I suppose it is. But I’m just getting up now. Nap time is over.”
“Sit still. You see, I have to add, Carol also said I’m the best kind of fool—sweet, innocent and loving—then she leaned over, and called me ‘Sweetie.’”
“Oh, so that’s the best part. Carol’s a fool too?”
“No,no,no. You know, I grew up poor. When I was young, we ate all kinds of meat, anything my Daddy could catch.”
“Uh huh. Well, you ain’t your Daddy. Let’s remember here we’re upscale, middle class folks. Isn’t it nice to have all that chicken, beef and pork. How about a turkey sandwich? We can quit having nightmares now.”
“It will be really special because I got me a hankering, Roland, a real desire to eat coon once like when I was a kid.”
“You ate coon? Yuck. You don’t mean raccoon, I hope, not the warm fuzzy kind with the black mask you see in the cartoons.”
“You have it part right, Roland, but I mean the snarling, furry up-a-tree kind you hunt with hounds. You and me, we’ll run through the night air with some boys who really know how to hunt, listen to the dogs bay the coons. Well barbeque those coons we caught ourselves, surprise the girls. You know, coon tastes just like beef.”
“Yeah, just like opossums taste like pork, and frog legs and most everything else you catch is said to taste like chicken. The best solution is to go to the grocery store, and buy some beef. Besides, your folks might have cooked coon, but I bet you don’t know how.”
“Opossums! You’re right, Roland. I nearly forgot about opossums. I’ll bet those dogs will run some opossums they track down up the trees too. We’ll barbeque opossums with the coons. I’ve been talking about how to cook them with Mrs. Violet Bureauford, an old-timer from down the street. Her son, DuAllen, runs coon hounds, and really knows how to do it all.”
“I don’t know. We’re good friends, Ricky, but I don’t know if I want anything to do with this,” said Roland, rolling his big almond-brown eyes in his slender face for emphasis.
“Violet says you skin the coons, and of course the opossums too since we’ll be going for them too.”
“Ricky, opossums look a lot like big rats.”
“Don’t talk like that. You’ll enjoy it all. Then after you skin’em, you boil’em outside in a big cooker. See, we’ll have a campfire, all outdoorsy. Then you skim the fat off, and you boil them again. Then you skim the fat off again, and then you cook it like beef. It’s really, really good.”
“Why do you keep skimming the fat off?”
“That’s where most of the bad flavor is. You don’t want them to taste gamey.”
“I repeat. That’s why we have jobs, so we aren’t poor anymore so we can buy beef. It’s really, really good. And, maybe this DuAllen has dogs, but I don’t know anything about coon dogs, and neither one of us even owns a rifle.”
“No matter, Roland. This is why we have jobs. We can pay people to help us be cool, and have fun, and we have friends. DuAllen has a rifle, and those dogs of his are all under his control, ferocious good trackers. And if that isn’t enough, our sheep farmer friend, Leon Gambel, said he can bring this other guy along that’s kind of uncanny, better than a dog himself. He’s also a crack shot, and between him and DuAllen, we can just ease back, and watch. The guy’s name is Oswald K. Underfoot, and he’s becoming notorious for his hunting abilities among the sheep farmers—even got a cougar that wasn’t there for Leon. Leon wants to bring him because he thinks he needs friends. As for DuAllen, he says for $20 we can come along, and keep all the coons we get.”
“Notorious, huh? I never heard of this Ozzie fellow.”
“No, Roland, never call him Ozzie. Leon said it’s very important to call the guy by his full name, Oswald K. Underfoot. He made me repeat the name several times. And it’s also very important never, never to say anything about him being spooky.”
Roland raised his eyebrows, “Oh boy, coons, opossums and Looney Tunes all in the same night.”
“Now, Roland, Carol and your wife went out together, and bought us matching red flannel shirts for the hunt, and we’ll wear our tan, duckcloth coats. It’s gonna be fun.”
By the time they got out there for the night of hunting, even Roland, fired up by Ricky’s constant chatter, was beginning to believe that it could be a little fun.
The sun was setting in a clear sky, promising a bright, moonlit night, as Ricky’s car dropped off the last street bricks to continue down another two miles of dirt road to a tall, two-story Victorian era white, frame house. In the front yard was what looked to Roland like an uncommonly well-made, tall scarecrow dressed in tan duckcloth clothes with a pack of tri-colored black, tan and white hounds around it.
Only the scarecrow proved to be the 6-foot-6-inch toothpick tall figure of DuAllen Bureauford swaddled deeply in clothes, his chinless, bush-haired eyebrowed face poking out.
“So, here we are for the coon hunt, Duallen,” Ricky said.
“Yup,” said DuAllen.
“This is my good friend, Roland.”
“Yup, spose so,” DuAllen replied, his yellow-brown eyes looking Roland up and down in an unusual pattern, as though each eye could look in a separate direction from its partner, from a still focused, unsmiling face as they shook hands. “Late, ain’t ya? Me and the dogs been waitin’ 15 minutes, and they’re gettin’ anxious. I said 5 p.m. See, it’s 5:15.”
“Couldn’t help it. Had to do some chores for the family, you know,” said Ricky. “Didn’t think the time would matter that much to the coons. Say, these dogs are interesting. I didn’t know coon hounds could be so short-legged as this one here. Some of the others are, well, a little on the short-legged side too.”
“They’re mongrels, just like me, to maximize their herterozygosity for vigor. That’s Ma Belle, the dam of the pack, half coon hound and half beagle, which kept her black and tan with good tracking ability. She always tracks the coons to see you through to a good hunt,” DuAllen said, continuing to stare at Roland with one eye, the other eye wandering toward Ricky. "You guys trying to be twins or somethin' with your matching clothes. Kind of strange, cuz you don't look alike."
Another car pulled up, and while a square-built, blond-haired man and a small, dark man got out to approach, Roland whispered into Ricky’s ear, “This DuAllen’s a little peculiar, isn’t he?”
DuAllen shook hands with blond Leon, but when he held out his hand to Oswald K. Underfoot, he was thrown off to find himself looking down into eyes darker than his own with eye brows equally bushy.
“Wuz you ever in the Nam?” Oswald K. Underfoot squinted one eye, and screwed his face up suspiciously to look up at DuAllen.
“Why, yes, I was, artillery,” DuAllen answered squinting an eye to return the expression.”
“Yeah, but you’re too tall ever to have gone down holes after Charlies, and you wasn’t infantry. Still, you might be somethin’, not like these other fellas here.
“So, this is your platoon is it, DuAllen Bureauford, snuff, snuff? Oswald K. Underfoot said, looking down at the dogs while stretching his hands out to his sides.
“What are you doing, Underfoot, trying to smell me or something?” DuAllen asked.
“The name’s Oswald K. Underfoot, and don’t you forget it,” the little man grimaced. “You get out on patrol, you might need me.”
“Oswald K. Underfoot and I didn’t bring any equipment, DuAllen,” said Leon. “Ricky said you’d have everything, but if you need something, Oswald K. Underfoot has a truckload of things he could bring. Say, aren’t those coon hounds a little short legged, especially that little female there?”
Oswald K. Underfoot dropped to all fours, sniffing noses with Ma Belle. “She’s just fine. She takes point with the platoon all the time, I can tell. Me and Ma Belle are gonna be fine.”
“I got enough of everything to take care of us,” DuAllen said. “Here’s a sack for each of you to carry for coons and whatever opossums we pick up too. Don’t like opossums much. They don’t climb the trees to get away from the dogs like the coons. They just play dead so the dogs will leave them alone, so all you get to do is whack them, and throw them in the bag. They’re cheap meat though.
“I got my rifle, and one box of shells is plenty,” he said, waving a .22 rifle with no stock in front of them. “And one of you needs to be my pole man,” he added, waving a 10-foot cut-wood staff.”
“DuAllen,” said Ricky,”how are you going to use a rifle with no stock?”
“The dogs tree the coon, the pole man puts one end of the pole on the ground, and points the pole at the coon. I lay my single shot along the pole, and bingo, it usually only takes one shot if the pole’s held steady. No sense wasting shells. Here,” he said, shoving the pole at Roland,” you be the pole man. Now, no more jawing, the river and the woods are waiting, let’s get them coons.”
He released the hounds from their station beside him with a single word, "Yaaa." Ma Belle was in front at a gallop with nose to the ground, her dozen offspring behind her, Oswald K. Underfoot trotting behind the dogs, the men walking quickly behind.
“Say,” whispered DuAllen, leaning over to Roland’s ear, “This Oswald K. Underfoot’s a little peculiar, isn’t he?”
“Aren’t we all, aren’t we all?” Roland replied, staring at the .22 that looked partly dismantled swinging back and forth in the tall man’s hand. Roland had given up on his pleading sideways glances at Ricky to go home.
They heard the “owwl, owwl, owwl,” of baying hounds switching to excited barking signaling a treed coon not far away in the distance. A moment later came a higher pitched “yeowl, yeowl, yeowl” along with them.
“What the heck is that yeowling with my dogs?” DuAllen asked, stopping to scratch at an eyebrow.
“Uh, I think that would be our friend, Oswald K. Underfoot,” said Leon.
“How could he get so far ahead of us?” puffed Roland. “This doggone pole keeps catching on the brush.”
“He’s like a banshee out of a fantasy story,” added Ricky.
“Oh, Oswald K. Underfoot is capable of things you wouldn’t believe. Get a look at the cougar-claw necklace under his coat if you can,” said Leon.
It was a big, nice boar coon snarling down from the upper tree branches at the pack of yapping dogs and the little man jumping up and down under him.
“Steady there, steady with the pole, Roland,” DuAllen said.” And crraack went the .22 with the coon dropping like a rock to the ground. Oswald K. Underfoot threw him in a sack while dancing like a mystic Celtic sprite.
The night wore on with the hounds and Oswald K. Underfoot showing little wear while the hunters grew tired with carrying two coons to every sack along with the occasional opossum.
“This is great, this is just great, Roland,” said Ricky, the sweat beginning to roll down his forehead under the load. “This fresh air is making me hungry. I can almost taste the coon now. Hey, you other guys are expected to bring your families over to eat too. You too, DuAllen.”
“I can always eat coon,” said DuAllen.
“I think I’m sick. All I want to do is sleep, and wake up again, or wake up right now if I am asleep,” said Roland.
“Have you all noticed how the coons snarl down at us, staring down from their little black masks, and how Oswald K. Underfoot growls back at them,” said Leon.
“That Oswald K. Underfoot is peculiar,” said DuAllen.
“Almost spooky,” said Ricky, Roland nodding in agreement.
“Just don’t let him hear you say anything like that,” Leon shuddered.
“Just one more coon ought to do it,” said DuAllen.
They made their way to the river bank, where the dancing dogs and man cavorted under one last tree, a tall thin-stemmed whip of a tree that swayed back and forth in the wind channeled down the water.
As they approached, they could hear the furry animal in the top of the tree snarling loudly and furiously at the dogs, “Reeowr.”
“Why, that’s no coon,” said DuAllen, his eyebrows rising in surprise. “That’s the biggest old tomcat I ever did see—big old yellow tiger stripe with that broad head.”
“Just get the dogs, and let’s go,” said Ricky. “The cat will get down if we leave him alone.”
“No, no, I can’t do that. I have to bring him down. I won’t ever be able to get the dogs away with him up in the tree. I got to shoot him.”
“You can’t aim along this pole with him swaying back and forth so much,” Roland said.
“That’s right. But I got a method for everything. You just stand here, and I lay the barrel on your shoulder, snug alongside your neck, and I get the sway of it to pick him off. Steady now. Don’t wince.”
“I’m not wincing, I’m just closing my eyes,” said Roland. “I’d rather leave him alone. I’ve had enough of this. Poor old tomcat.”
Crrack, crrack, crrack, went the rifle, time after time, Roland gritting his teeth, and soon the box of shells was empty.
“I’ll be, I’ve never missed like that before,” said DuAllen.
“What are we going to do now?” asked Ricky.
“Reeowr,” growled the cat, baring his teeth and laying back his ears at the dancing, baying dogs.
“Hss, I’ll get him,” snarled Oswald K. Underfoot, baring his teeth, and pushing his forefingers back along his ears. “Just empty a sack for me to get him.” Then he locked his heels into the tree trunk, and began pulling himself up with his hands and arms in a shinnying climb.
When he got to the top of the tree, it went whipping around in a huge circle, and there was a furious chorus of snarls and counter-snarls. “Reeowr, eeor, yaaawh, snap, arrgh.” Then there was one last terrible “Heereeowroyay.”
“Good lord, what was that last cry?” asked Ricky.
“I can’t hear anything. My ears are ringing,” said Roland.
“That was Oswald K. Underfoot,” said Leon.
“Near as I can tell,” said DuAllen, “the tomcat had his teeth in Oswald K. Underfoot’s ear, and Oswald K. Underfoot had his teeth in the scruff of the cat’s neck. The cat had his claws in Oswald K. Underfoot’s head, but Oswald K. Underfoot had his fingers around the cat’s body. That was peculiar.”
Miracuously, only a small bead of blood was trickling down Oswald K. Underfoot’s neck when he hit the ground with a bulge in the bag bouncing one side out, and then the other.
Later, on a soft, humid spring day, both the fragrance of blooming trees and tangy babecued meat permeated the air where people gathered to eat around redwood picnic tables on the newly mowed grass.
“This is just great, Roland,” Ricky said, “Everybody, even our wives, said they’d at least try eating the coons. Hey, what’s that you’re eating? That’s not coon.”
“No, Ricky, somebody brought a marinade chicken. I’m just going to stick with that. I don’t feel like eating coon.”
“Gosh, some friend you’re being, Roland. I thought you’d at least eat a little of the coon. Are you that weak stomached?”
“Ricky, did any of you guys know what Oswald K. Underfoot did with the tomcat? I watched him, but I never could see. I just don’t feel like I can eat that barbecue without knowing that tomcat isn’t in there.”
“I see what you mean, Roland. Hey, I think I’ll try some of that chicken too. It doesn’t look bad at all—kind of loosen me up for some of the coon later, maybe. Let’s don’t say anything to the others, don’t want to ruin their enjoyment. Wonder if tomcat tastes more like chicken or more like beef.”
Ricky stood for a while longer, thoughtfully munching on a piece of chicken. “You know, Roland, it was thoughtful of somebody to bring chicken because maybe not everyone would want to try eating coon
or opossum other than just trying a little piece. Your Nancy’s thoughtful that way. So, she bought the chicken, right?”
“No, Ricky, Nancy didn’t bring the chicken.”
Carol, who was walkng by just then, heard them talking. “No, boys, you’ll never guess who brought the chicken. It was your friend, Oswald K. Underfoot. Isn’t he thoughtful—and kind of cute too. We’ve been talking to him. They say he has something for me too.”
Roland dropped his plate on the ground.
Then, hearing the sounds of conversation rise in the background, they turned around to see at the other side of the yard, Oswald K. Underfoot placing a big yellow tomcat in Carol’s arms.
“He gentled up really nice,” said Oswald K. Underfoot. “But then, I have a different way with cats. I thought he ought to belong to you, Miss Carol, you’re so nice,” the little man said turning the deepest red possible for a dark person.
“You can call me Ozzie if you want to. But you’re the only one who can.”
“Well, isn’t that peculiar,” said DuAllen Bueauford, who seemed to be able to focus on the cat in the woman’s arms with one eye while focusing on the chicken all over Ricky’s shoes with the other.
Site: Jerry W. Engler
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"Prowling for Kitty Cat Barbe-coon"
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|Reviewed by P-M Terry Lamar
|This is a wonderful story. Full of peculiar people with the "normal ones" proved to be the fools in the end. Fantastic.
|Reviewed by Mr. Ed
|Now ain't that Oswald K. Underfoot a very nice guy after all! And ain't that Ricky and Roland quite a pair; and this is quite a story, Jerry.|
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Delightful story, Jerry; bravo! :)|
|Reviewed by JASMIN HORST SEILER
|Jerry, it was like being in the movies, wonderful entertaining, you are a great story teller my friend, the flow and expressions are like a babbling brook of southern comfort, loved it! Jasmin Horst|
|Reviewed by Cleve Sylcox
|This is also my first Dive into Ricky and Roland’s world. Wonderful imagery, vivid detail…Bravo!|
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
|Vividly imaged, you draw the reader immediately into your tail...er, tale. :) Love it, well done, Jerry!
(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.
|Reviewed by Kathy Kopp
|Jerry, This was my introduction to Ricky and Roland. And it's the first short story that has held my interest for a long time. Easy to read, full of visual images, an exciting twist at the end. Characterization really vivid. I enjoyed it, thanks.|
|Reviewed by Jean Pike
|Jerry, enjoyed this peek into the lives of Ricky and Roland. I'm so glad to see you posting stories again!|