As I recall this particular happenin', which we all referred tah as the "Froggin Incident", it all started out innocent 'nough. T'were on a pleasant summer Saturday gatherin at Doc an' Isabel's. The folks that had come tah call wuz enjoyin some mighty fine music an' vittles an' a couple swallers now an' then ah some "Pick Me Up". This particular day Isabel had cooked up a mess ah frogs legs. I don't know about flatlanders, but as all hill folks know, they ain't nethin quite so tasty as a fine batch ah fried frogs legs, an' Isabel's were first rate that afternoon. Sets muh mouth tah waterin jes' thinkin on 'em even tah this day.
I can't recall how old Joe musta been around that time, but he weren't taho big, jes' a nubbin underfoot really, but Lord how that boy could put down them frogs legs. He'd snatch 'em right off ah yer plate if yah weren't watchin close, like the world's supply ah frogs wuz dwindlin fast an' he were determined tah get his share afore they disappeared altahgether. 'Course he'd get his han' slapped on occasion an' a scoldin but never taho bad, cause truth be tahld, who could blame 'im? As I say, Isabel's frogs legs were considered some ah the best in the county.
When super wuz ended, an' the last ah them legs wuz ate, young Joe looked 'bout heart broke. There wuz still plenty ah other good snackin vittles around, like hush puppies an' corn dodgers, some chicken gizzards an' fried fish an' sech, but in Joe's mind, nothin else would do. He had the taste fer frogs legs an' that wuz all there wuz tah it. He set tah squallerin somethin fierce till Isabel had about as much as she could stahmach ah it.
"Joe" says she, "If yah want frogs legs, I reckon yah best git yerself down tah the cow pond early next Saturday afore I git tah cookin, an' bring us on back as many as yah reckon yah can eat. Fer now, I want yah tah hush up yer mouth, an' I'll hear no more ‘bout it this day."
Now lookin back on it, they mightn't ah been the best choice ah words fer Isabel tah use with Joe, cause as I done already tahld yah, when Joe got an idea fixed in 'is mind, it lodged itself in, right sound an' proper. Then an' there I reckon, Joe thought ther weren't enough frogs in the world tah sate his appetite, but he were goin tah give it ‘is best tah find out one way er the other.
The week drifted by, an’ next Saturday mornin’ come as expected. Doc an' Isabel had once agin tahld folks they wuz more'n happy tah have 'em drop by, which wuz agreeable tah all. I muhself showed up kinda early tah help Doc haul some jugs down from the still, an' tah provide some quality control assurance afore ever'one else got there, if'n yah catch muh drift. Usually young Joe wuz right there 'long with his paw, on mornins sech as this, tryin tah help as young'uns will, an’ generally bein’ more’n a hindrance than a help, but we wuz used tah him bein' around. This particular Saturday though, there weren't nary a sign ah Joe tah be found. Doc didn'a seem concerned 'bout ‘is younges' son's absence. Doc tahld me that Joe'd got up afore the first light that mornin', an' wuz out the door tah the sound ah the cock's crow.
We knowed ther weren't no way that Joe would miss the weekly gatherin, so ther weren't no reason fer worry, though I did miss the little fella, an' I reckon Doc did taho. It were unusual, but not unheard ah, fer him tah be off on some childish adventure on a Saturday mornin an' I couldna help wonderin what idea had poked itself intah the boy's head this time. 'Course me an' Doc had plum fergot what Isabel done tahld that young'un the week afore...young Joe hadna fergot one bit.
By the time we got the jugs down from the still, Isabel had covered the old plank table that sat off in the yard with a cloth an' started tah set some vittles on it. The other Yakel young'uns had brought out the old chairs that wuz kept jes’ fer this purpose, an' scattered 'em about the yard fer the folks tah relax in. All that wuz lackin wuz the company, an' that commenced arrivin straight off.
I reckon it were about an hour past noon time with folks in the yard talkin. Those with an extra large appetite wuz munchin away, yers truly included...a bachelor's gotta take advantage ah fine vittles when he can.
The boys wuz startin tah warm up ther instrements when I happen tah catch sight ah Joe headin on intah the house, luggin a great big ole burlap bag that seemed tah be filled up tah a size pert near as big as Joe hisself. He wuz a strugglin with it considerable, an' I could see it were an open question tah who wuz controllin who, but he finally managed tah get the whole thing on intah the side door.
Upon reflectin on the sight fer awhile, I reckoned that it mightn't hurt tah mention tah Isabel that her young'un wuz up tah somethin, an' so that's jes' what I done. She, upon hearin the boy wuz back, an' inside the dwellin’ no less, set off intah that house like a fox on the run, knowin Joe the way she done did.
I don't reckon it were more’n a minute passed when the commotion started. The screen door flew open an' out come Joe, a runnin an' hollerin like the Unholy Hellion, an' 'is maw Isabel trailin’ right behind. Now this in itself weren't sech an unusual sight, an' hardly called fer comment by those witnessin the event, but it did silence things down purty good. Ever'one wuz wonderin what Joe coulda done this time tah git the fire in his maw stoked so fast.
Now it so happens that the Parson Sheperd, jes’ the week afore, had done a sermon on Moses an' the Pharaoh an' the troubles that the Lord let down on Egypt cause ah ther wicked ways, which, as yah might recall, included amongst other things, a plague ah frogs. I can remember at the time a hearin that how I thought it were a kinda comical idea, an' hardly fittin as an act ah the Lord as what harm could a mess ah frogs do anyhow? But when I wandered on over tah the open front door an' see'd what wuz inside, well sir, I tahok tah quick unnerstandin’ ah what kinda trouble that there Pharaoh had with Moses.
Turns out that Joe had spent all them hours gatherin up ever frog that must ah lived in that derned pond. There wuz big ole gran'daddy bullfrogs, an' little bitty peepers, an' ever size an' shape ah frog in betwixt. The boy wuz a right good frogger an' he proved it that day, but I don't allow Isabel counted that tahward his credit, leastwise not at that particular moment.
Ther musta been hundreds ah frogs in that house, jes’ a hoppin ever which way, an' makin theyselves right tah home. I reckon Joe wuz bringin 'em all tah his maw in ther natural state fer her tah cook up, an' hadna considered that it might be more prudent tah do the "prepatahry work" afore he lugged 'em all in.
Anyhow, about the time Isabel walked in tah see what Joe wuz up tah, the bag had proved taho much fer the lad tah maintain, an' it got away from 'im, spillin its lively contents ontah the floor. Those captive hoppers saw ther chance fer freedom an' done tahok it right quick. Joe ‘parently tahok a look at his maw's face, an' likewise drawed the conclusion that this wuz his chance tah depart right quick. He scooted on past her afore the shock done wore off, headin fer the hills as fast as his legs would take ‘im. Isabel wuz a quick witted woman, but the sight ah all them frogs scatterin theyselves throughout her house gave Joe a coupla seconds head start afore she could regain her sensibility an' take off after ‘im.
I jes’ praised the Lord that day I hadna mentioned tah her that I might ah stahpped Joe fer he got in the house with his cargo, er I mighta been right 'longside Joe skedaddlin it down the road with Isabel hot on muh trail as well, hickory switch in han', an' bent on terrible justice. Even now, if'n she reads this here narrative, I reckon I'll still catch a peck ah hell fer it, as I don't spect that she ever quite got over the whole episode tah this day.
By the time Isabel come back, holdin Joe by the ear an' a lecturin 'im fer all he wuz worth, with emphasis laid on by a switch, we had tried tah gather up all the frogs we could an' clear the house ah 'em right proper. We had done a fair job ah it, but the mountain dew already consumed, 'long with the fits ah laughter that would catch hold ah us, weren't a helpin the effort one little bit. On tahp ah which, those frogs had already been caught once that day an' were determined not tah let it happen agin. I don't know if we gathered as much as we scattered but it were the thought that count. Leastways that’s the way I saw it, though Isabel an' Doc didn'a seem tah share the sentiment a'tall.
Even Doc, who generally could han'le most anythin', wuz fired up considerably fer quite a spell. He tahld me it wuz weeks afore he could lay down in ‘is bed er git up in the night without wonderin if somethin slimy wuz a gonna git squashed underneath 'im. I reckon frogs underfoot is worse'n young'uns, an' a squashed frog must be a godawful mess tah clean up in the house.
An' ah course, there wuz the problem ah them frogs that crawled off tah outta the way places tah meet ther maker. Lord, yah couldn'a walk in that house fer quite a spell without an unappealin odor sorta sneakin up on yah, which caused Isabel no end ah embarrassment.
Poor Joe, I reckon he caught a whoopin ‘bout ever’time another frog wuz found in the house fer a week an' maybe more. What's even worse wuz Isabel didn'a take taho kindly tah all the good natured kiddin that come her way, an' she refused tah make frogs legs the rest ah the summer. Which jes' goes tah show the irrationality ah women, cause when yah think about it, how much more convenient could it ah got fer her, what with all those frogs hidin out right there in 'er own house? An' she done tahld Joe he could fetch as many as he thought fit anyhow...
An' that ther's the great Juggin Joe frog gatherin stahry which is still talked ‘bout up in the hills even untah this day, but not in the presence ah Isabel though. Doc’s temperament softened up eventually, an' he even saw the humor in it, but maybe not as much as the rest ah us.
Joe still loves them frogs legs, an' Isabel got back tah preparin 'em on ocassion, but after that episode, she was plum clear in her discussion with Joe 'bout exactly how many frogs he could catch in the pond, an' left no doubt in anyones mind that they wuzn't gonna be brought back intah the Yakel household agin.
"The Legend of Juggin Joe", ISBN 1-4116-2588-9, written by none other'n Joseph Yakel, is available at Lulu Press
If'n yah'd like tah read the rest ah the rip-roarin' stahry, Juggin Joe'd be much obliged tah have yah stahp intah the dadblamed website fer a visit. If'n yah decide yah wants tah git a copy ah the book fer yerself er one ah yer kin, it won't cost yah but a bit ah yer butter'n egg money, as Joe ain't partial tah sep'ratin folks from a load ah ther spendin' cabbage.
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