Been awhile since I’ve seen Auntie–but she’s probably doing a bit of canning. This story is one she told me awhile back, about a strange thing that happened to a cousin of hers, a long time ago–back when cast-iron cookstoves were the height of technology. 😉
“Now mind you,” she began, “th’ cousin I’m a-talkin’ about was done’n an oldtimer when I was a small child, pert near as old as I am now. An’ I don’t know fer shore and sartin hit’s the truth, but this is what he told.
“Now he wasn’t raised up hyer. His mama and daddy had moved the fam’ly way off somers a-lookin’ for work, I reckon, an’ did’n find none—them was hard times—So anyhow, they decided to move back near to the family home. Now they was this ol’ empty house been settin’ thar deserted fer the longest, and they moved inter it after they cleaned hit out and bought a few pieces of furniter what they did’n have. The main piece they bought was an oldtimey cast-arn wood cookstove. It had been owned by this older couple both of who died, and their kids did’n none of ‘em have no use fer it.
“Well, they moved the cookstove in an’ put hits pipe up in the kitchen flue, and then they begin workin’ on plantin’ and harvestin’ a big garden fer cannin’, and fat’nin’ a pig fer meat an’all. Now all along they was usin’ this hyer cookstove jest fer reg’lur ever’day cookin’, three meals an’ heatin’ worsh water an’all. And all this time it jest acted like a normal cookstove.”
That “acted like a normal cookstove” sounds almightily suspicious.
“Well,” Auntie went on, “finally cannin’ season come. Now this was a big fam’ly, and they’d growed an awful big garden. So they’d picked off an awful lot of stuff, and had sausage even to can. They had their cannin’ jars, dozens of ‘em, a-settin’ thar on th’ table, and baskets an’ baskets o’ veg’tables a-settin’ just inside the door, on the floor, ready fer Ma an’ the girls to start, early early in the mornin afore it got too hot.
“So they all went t’bed early. Long about midnight the whole household gits woke up. They kin hyer noises from downstairs, like somebody a-shakin’ down th’ grates in th’ cookstove and buildin’ a far in it. Their mama nagged at their daddy to go down and see what was goin’ on. She thought maybe some sort o’ critter had broke in somehow, or come down the flue, and was messin’ around. Well, Daddy grumbled round a bit, but he went downstairs. He goes into the kitchen. None o’ th’ baskets been bothered—none o th’ sausage been et—none o’ th’ jars on the table moved—and the cookstove set thar quiet and cold like it never been lit afore atall. He checked the whole downstairs, but thar weren’t a durn thang down thar what coulda caused ‘at noise. He went back upstairs n’ tol’ Mama an’ the kids they weren’t nothin’ there, an’ went back to sleep.
“Dreckly, hyer come them noises agin. An’ this time Daddy just grunted an’ put a piller over his ear and went back t’sleep.
“So, says Cousin, Mama gits up round about four-thirty in the mornin’ an’ goes downstairs to far up the stove an’ have breakfast ready afore th’ cannin’ starts, an’ she’s no sooner set foot in th’ kitchen afore she goes to screamin’ like th’ whistle on a freight train. ‘William! WILLIAM!!! YOU GIT DOWN HYER RIGHT THIS MINNIT!!!!’
“Well, now, course that roused up th’ whole dadblamed house. Daddy an’ all the kids popped up and yanked on th’ first clothes they grabbed at an’ go staggerin’ downstairs to find Mama standin’ in the middle o’ th’ kitchen floor, owl-eyed and whimperin’ like a whupped puppy.
“An’ it was a sight to bee-HOLD. Cousin said that ever dang one o’ them baskets of veg’tables was empty, an’ ever dang one o’ them cannin’ jars what was empty th’ night b’fore was full of veg’tables, an’ even the sausage was canned. An’ what’s more, the jars was done cold an’ sealed.
“An’ ‘at ‘air cookstove was asettin’ thar cold like it hat’n been lit in a coon’s age.”
“What happened after that?”
Auntie grinned. “Cousin said that his mama was s’ shook up she made his daddy git rid o’ that cookstove that very day an’ buy her a new ‘un. Now about that, I say she was jes’ bein’ silly an’ flighty. Now if’n I’DA had ‘at cookstove, I’da brung whoever was a-doin’ it all they could can and tell ‘em t’ have at it and I’d brang ‘em more.”
But you see, Auntie’s not like other people. Whoever it was who worked with that curious cookstove would have found Auntie a hard ‘un t’ skeer. (^_^)