Ol’ Red and the Devil

I wrote this for my dad, Thomas Junior Darby (1933-1995,) shortly after returning home from having buried him. It’s based on my eulogy given at the time of his funeral. I took what I said and reworked it into a poem. Red refers to his once wavy head of  red hair…

It’s for sure Ol’ Red went to God,
For a chance in heaven to promenade.
But ol’ Red found him a hitch
In his git-up and had him an itch.

Ol’ Red knew this was one chance
To meet the Devil and bet the ranch.
Saint Pete would have to wait
‘Cause Ol’ Red, he had a date.

So Ol’ Red met the Devil that day,
Gabbin’ along in his mischievous way.
And if you hear thunder a-soundin’
It’s just the Devil, he’s just a-poundin’.

It’s the Devil whose mad as Hell,
Not jus’ ’cause he’d been slickered well.
It’s from his tail he tied in a-knot,
When he found Ol’ Red could talk a-lot.

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Dark Shadows

“That danged washer is broke down again,” Mom said over the phone to Dad. He was working at the Requa Air Force Station. Earlier that year he had been able to get permission from the Base Commander to use the station’s laundry facilities.

A few minutes later Dad called back. Mom lifted the receiver from its cradled and answered. “Sorry,” Dad started off, “the laundry facilities are out of order up here as well.” After a few more minutes of conversation, they hung up one from the other.

“Tommy, Adam,” Mom yelled out.

Both of the boys were in their bedroom when she called. They rushed to her immediately.

“I’m going to need your help with the laundry,” she said.

She picked up the telephone and called Camp Marigold to see if they could use their washing machines. Camp Marigold was just over the fence in the back yard.

It was an RV park during the summer and not much of anything else during the winter. It was long past summer and using their laundry room would prove to be no problem.

The plan was to take the laundry over and wash it. Then they would haul it back over the fence and dry it, since the dryer was still working. And after a weeks time with four children and two adults, there were fourteen piles of dirty clothes laid out in masses on the floor.

Adam looked at Tommy and said, “There goes our day.”

They both sighed because each knew the younger brother was right.

There were only two washers available in the campground’s laundry room. And each took nearly twice the time to wash as their washer did at home.

The going was slow and the coins in their pockets burned even slower yet. However they continued to climb back and forth over the fence, each with a load of laundry in tow.

They were down to their last three loads of laundry at sunset. The summertime day had grown into a winter-like evening. Finally the back porch light was turned on.

The yellow glow from the single bulb cast long shadows towards the fence. There were actually two fences. Theirs was set higher by two feet with a foot and a half gap to the lower fence built by the owner of Camp Marigold.

All that day Adam and Tommy had climbed over their fence and down to theirs and finally to the ground. Then they climbed up the camp’s fence and then higher yet over theirs then down into their backyard.

After dark there was very little lighting on the Camp’s side of the fence. And from behind the top of the higher fence to about ten feet out on the Camp’s side, there was no light at all. In fact it was absolutely dark.

Having noticed this, Tommy set about with a devious plan. He would wait for Adam to start climbing the fence and then he would scare him.

Tommy chuckled to himself, for the very thought caused an image in his brain. He saw himself reaching out into the pitch-blackness and touching his younger brother on the shoulder.

And even though he knew he would not be able to see his brothers’ face, he imagined the frightened wideness of his eyes. He imagined his inability to scream as panic choked off any sound he would have started to make. Meanwhile he could see Adam running in place from fear.

He crouched down in the darkness, between the light of the porch and the shadow of the fence. Tommy sat and waited.

Suddenly Adam appeared from the corner of the old building they sat near-by. He approached the fence. He set the basket full of wet, clean laundry on the top rail of the Camp’s fence and proceeded to climb up it.

That’s when his older brother reached out and grabbed his shoulder and in his scariest voice, half whisper and half growled, “Little boy!”

Adam’s body stiffened at the touch and unleashed at the sound of the voice.

The older brother could see nothing of the scared brother’s face or body. The darkness blanketed everything, including the lightening swift right fist Adam hurled at the sound of the voice. Adam was on target and Tommy never saw it coming. He had punched him squarely in the nose.

Tommy fell backwards as Adam clamored over the fence. The basket of wet, clean clothes toppled from the fence rail and landed in the mid-section of the wounded boy. He gasped for air and could only breathe through his mouth.

He laid there for a few second in the dew-heavy grass, beneath the apple tree, next to the old building, by the fence. Tommy awakened to the stabbing pain of a beam of light shining in his eyes. He tried to lift himself up, however he could only raise up on his elbow, his head heavy and swimming with confusion.

Dad had a flashlight. He was looking down at Tommy from a top the fence. He quickly climbed over and down to be next to the boy as he lay on the ground. Tommy leaned back, hoping that Dad would have pity on him and the sorrowful state he was in.

“Cripes! I think you broke his nose, Adam!” Dad yelled up towards the fence.

Adam’s silhouette rose up slowly from beyond the fence at that moment.

“Well, he shouldn’t have scared me like that,” he said in his defense. Then he added, “I didn’t know it was Tommy.”

Dad helped Tommy sit up and then eventually stand-up. He felt sick to his stomach and his legs were weak.

“The only reason I don’t give you a whipping’ is ‘because your brother already don it for me,” Dad said.

Tommy thought to himself, “I wish I could have taken a trip to the wood shed.”

He would have preferred that over being beaten to the ground with a single punch to the face from his kid brother.

His mother was less sympathetic. After cleaning him up, she sent him back out to finish the wash. That included re-washing the wet, clean load of laundry that had fell on top of him.

The load he managed to bleed all over.