Saturday, August 23, 2003

County Fair Midweek

Uncle Billy sat on his shavehorse and inspected the sassafras stick clamped in the jaws of the bench. It was dried well and was straight. The bark was still on it an' would mostly stay that way. Folks at the fair didn't much want a good kitchen broom or house broom. They wanted somethin' pretty to hang on a wall or some such thing. He thought it was nonsense, but the fancy ones sold, so he weren't gonna raise much fuss.

He set his drawknife aside. It was too big for shavin the sassafras stick. He only wanted to take the rough off the bark an' maybe have a few places the wood would peek through. Folks liked that real good. He picked up a spokeshave and set it to the rough bark of the stick.

Folks standin' an' watchin' smelled the sassafras as soon as he took the first stroke. Several of the youngin's took deep sniffs real loud. Uncle Billy chuckled an' looked up.

"Y'all like that smell don't ye?"

Course, the youngin's nodded their heads to beat the band. Nothin' smelled better than fresh sassafras. Uncle Billy set the stick he was workin' on aside an' picked up one that was rougher an' not fit for makin' a broom handle. He kept a couple o' sticks like that layin' round for just such an occasion.

"Let me give you'uns somethin' to carry round an' snort on for a while." he said as he picked up his drawknife an' slid it quickly down the stick. The fragrance filled the area around him with the sweet smell of sassafras. He quickly made a small pile of shavin's and handed a couple to each youngin'. In the back o' the group was a little ol' girl with blond hair an' brown eyes. She was a grinnin but hid behind her mama as Uncle Billy approached.

"Come here, darlin'. I got a special one for you."

She timidly walked closer an' Uncle Billy took a long curl o' sassafras an' dangled it from her ear like an earring.

"What 'bout the other ear?" she asked.

Uncle Billy laughed right hard when she spoke up. "Here ye are, darlin'. One for the other ear. Gal's gotta look good for the fair."

She felt each one as if to be sure they were in just the right place and grinned. Uncle Billy handed out the rest o' the shavin's. More than one grownup reached out a hand for their own shavin'.

As folks left Uncle Billy went back to work on the broom handle.

Later in the evenin' he stopped to get a bite to eat. As he was headin' over to the Clay County Pork Producers booth to get a big ol' grilled and butter-flied pork chop he saw that little ol' gal walkin' with her mama.

When she saw Uncle Billy she grinned an' pulled back her hair from her ears. Right there, danglin' from each ear was a long curl of the finest red sassafras the mountains o' Kentucky ever did grow.

Uncle Billy chuckled an' hollered out, "Are you a flirtin' with me? I'm too old for you now!"

Don't ye know, that little ol' girl grinned, blushed an' ran to catch up with her mama as fast as she could.

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