Sotty Hoff’s Pub

Mar 3, 2015 by

It is hard to imagine Sycamore Shadows without Sotty Hoff’s Pub at the end of Short Street, next to the park.  It was built as an inn circa 1825, a log cabin with a puncheon floor and flaps for windows, and has remained the center of Sycamore Shadows’ social life for nearly two hundred years.  The logs are still inside the bricks and plaster,  so Happy Fohl says. He’s the owner and one of the nicest people I know. There’s not a person in town you won’t see eating or drinking at Sotty’s, except for Aunt Ada.  She shuns all appearance of evil as a general principle, it also being something of a rule with her that most things naturally appear evil, which is why she does a lot of shunning but not much...

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Sycamore Shadows Historical Marker...

Feb 23, 2015 by

I carry a camera with me wherever I go and though I am no photographer, I do snap an interesting photo on occasion. This sign is located at “the bend” just before the covered bridge and the town come into view.  Outsiders will often stop and read the sign, then invariably look around and scratch their chins, wondering where the place is, eventually concluding it no longer exists. Two minutes later they round the bend and the town pops up, sort of like driving through the tunnel into Pittsburgh, except it’s prettier.  I’m supposed to paint the sign, which isn’t as old as it looks, but don’t know when I’ll get to it.  I keep telling people that sign painters might be artists, but not all artists are sign...

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Fly Fishing with Curly

Feb 19, 2014 by

FLY FISHING WITH CURLY, or the dangers of too much equipment   When Curly Dowd decided he wanted to learn fly fishing, apprehension rippled through our small community, affecting both the sporting and the non-sporting, similar to the feeling one gets soon after the arrival of an alien spaceship but before the genocide commences. Lloyd Lloyd Chalmers, proprietor of Hibb’s Department Store, said retailers dream of such a customer as Curly. According to Lloyd Loyd, Curly followed him around the sporting goods department like an Arab sheik on a shopping spree, but without the explosive vest. Lloyd Lloyd had only to glance at an item to transfer it to Curly’s  basket, so that by the end of the mutually exhaustive shopping orgy, Curly had relieved Hibb’s Department Store of numerous retail artifacts, many of them covered...

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Little Bull Burson

Dec 7, 2011 by

“Little Bull” Burson was a youth of much promise before falling from the second-story Burson living quarters’ window and landing on his face. In fact, he was bound to be much smarter than either of his parents and “Big Bull” had hoped that his son would one day take over management of  The Burson Company, which is Burson’s Hardware. The unfortunate fall resulted in Little Bull being mentally damaged and twisted his features somewhat to the right, except for his nose, which pretty much stayed where it had always been, though now there was an eye directly above it. And so he has been barred for life from using power tools, an even greater tragedy for the son of a hardware store owner, especially since Little Bull has a thriving business of his own, making and selling...

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How Gertillia Backslid

Dec 5, 2011 by

Gertillia Mayberry backslid one Christmas Eve. Aunt Ada considered her a close friend before the conflagration but afterwards said she had suspected Mrs. Mayberry was a closet sinner, prone to works of the flesh when no one was watching, including a bit of tippling on certain occasions, though she did concede that Gertillia kept her eyes closed during the prayer. Aunt Ada keeps close watch on folks during the prayer, habitually making lists of anyone with their eyes opened, to the extent of putting stars beside the names of people bold enough to send text messages. She gives the list to the elders out of love for the many souls heading the broad way that leadeth to destruction. According to Aunt Ada, she wishes everyone would engage in fervent prayer to the Lord, if...

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Cornucopia Prym

Nov 28, 2011 by

Mom always said the Roderick and Karen Pryms were hippies and first consummated while camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, beneath towering hemlock trees by a gurgling brook and so Mrs. Prym, who had been Miss Sykes when they entered the mountains, came home with child, though she didn’t know it yet, and they named their daughter Appalachia Brook Prym, since Blue Ridge wouldn’t work. Mr. Prym suggested Hemlockia but Mrs. Prym, who knew her classical Greek, said a person so named was bound to commit suicide. Mom thinks Appalachia is a beautiful name and makes her think of Mountain Laurel, the smell of pine, and the sounds of a clear-running stream full of speckled brook trout, but everyone at school called her Cornucopia. Allan Hercules is the one who gave her...

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What Price Your Soul?

Nov 9, 2011 by

John Blue’s brother, whom everyone calls “Old Man” Blue even though they’re twins, hadn’t been to church for two, maybe three years, so there was a flock of raised eyebrows when he walked down the aisle this past Sunday morning.  The last time he attended there had been such a commotion on account of his snoring that he was given an ultimatum by the elders: either repent or embrace sin and quit attending altogether, which, though none of them would have admitted it, was what they secretly hoped would happen. It always seemed to me he’d embraced it already, church services or not. Old Man Blue has never cared for but one thing: auctions. He’s the craziest person for auctions I ever saw. It doesn’t matter what sort of auction: farm equipment, collectibles, maybe...

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The Girl Who Lost Her Heart

Oct 25, 2011 by

Abigail Padden located the following transcript one afternoon while helping me unpack boxes at the Imaginactory, surprisingly enough from the collection of Big Benny Cubbage, strange as is the idea of the illiterate stink-pot having any collection beyond commemorative beer cans. I have copied it word for word, leaving all errors in punctuation and orthography, partially to preserve the freshness of the document and partially to give my editor a break. As near as can be ascertained, the interview was the first of a short-lived attempt to document the history and folklore of Sycamore Shadows. Several transcripts, of which this is one, deal with the prevalence of “consumption” (tuberculosis) in 19th Century Sycamore Shadows. From other notes, it may be assumed that the interviewer was a nurse, though she was not a native of the area and nothing...

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Hip-hop Amish

Sep 28, 2011 by

Otto Hopp told Abigail Padden he saw Herman Yost on a cell phone one night, behind the Angel’s Rest,[1] talking to his second cousin from Lancaster.[2]  According to him, Herman was asking about hard drives, or maybe it was software, but it something electronic.   It sure wasn’t for his buggy. And speaking of the buggy: Cass Padden swears the Yost buggy has GPS installed, hidden under a blanket on the seat, powered by a battery pack. He said they passed him on the road one evening and swore he could hear a voice say in a monotone, “In two point three miles, turn right to destination,” even though they were only going home. Everyone laughed at him when he told it at the Crawdad Club, saying it was unlikely, but after what Otto...

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Ponder Keen

Sep 24, 2011 by

Nippy’s old coon dog Ponder lives on the crest of the ridge behind Nippy’s house, in a doghouse by the hedgerow that divides one field from another, just as you’d imagine from The Wind in the Willows or a Thomas Hardy novel. You can see miles from Ponder’s box and Nippy frequently uses it for a gun rest when shooting groundhogs.  Ponder doesn’t like the shooting, though. He’s not afraid of gunfire but it disturbs his sleep and Ponder takes his slumbers seriously. Nippy named him Ponder on account of the way he always looks as though he’s thinking and considering, when he’s not sleeping, that is. The box is insulated and covered with vinyl siding and there are two rooms: the outer which serves as a parlor for entertaining guests, eating bones, or baying at...

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Nippy Keen: Revolutionary War Veteran...

Sep 14, 2011 by

Nippy says his many greated grandfather fought with General Nathanael Greene in the southern campaign of the American Revolution. According to Nippy, his grandfather and the Quaker general were such great friends the common soldiers called them Keen & Greene, or Greene & Keen, but I don’t know about that.  Nippy knows more about the American Revolution than anyone I’ve ever known but he likes stretchers too, especially when it concerns his family, which he’s terribly proud of. About 25 years ago  Nippy decided to organize a reenactment group, known as The Sons of the Battle of Little Beaver, in recognition of what some historians consider the last skirmish of the American Revolution.[1]  Recruitment was somewhat sluggish at the start: two months into the organization Curly Dowd was the only other member. Nippy was...

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A Night in the Dog Box

Sep 10, 2011 by

Curly and Adelphie Dowd had a pretty big fight one night – bigger than normal.  He’d been coon hunting and drinking and lost his gun and didn’t get home until the next afternoon.  After the fight Curly left again, saying he wasn’t coming home again that night either – he’d rather sleep with Ponder in his box.  Of course, anyone who’s seen Adelphie Dowd would question the difference. Ponder didn’t bark or raise up when he saw Curly, who used to hunt with Nippy Keen. Curly messed around and stalled for quite some time, not sure just how to go about entering the box. It’s one of those things that seem simple when you’ve never done it, but there’s an art to entering a dog box – that’s a fact.[1]    And I’ll admit...

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Leaving St. Petersburg

Sep 8, 2011 by

Billy Hodges wasn’t much of a fisherman because he always believed there were more fish around the bend. We used to fish together frequently but he was off to the next pool before I’d complete the first cast and I wouldn’t see him for hours, so I quit asking. There was no difference between fishing alone and with him. He liked to read but never completed a book, always beginning the next one before he reached the last chapter. He favored picaresque stuff – it was really the only thing which suited him – Don Quixote, Tom Jones, The Wanderer[1] and most of all, Huckleberry Finn, which he swore was the only book he’d ever finished, or wanted to.  Said he could finish Huck Finn because it didn’t have an ending proper, only a promise...

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Keen’s Gas Station

Sep 3, 2011 by

From the Imaginactory Archives This gas station, the first and only one in town, was owned by Ebenezer Keen (Nippy Keen’s grandfather) and located on Sycpen Rd.,  just before the Pennsylvania line.  It has been in continuous operation since 1920 and is currently owned by Ed Hotchkiss, though it’s still known as Keen’s.  Ebenezer Keen supposedly operated a still in the rear during prohibition.  The Keen farm is on the same side of the road, just to the left of the...

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The Violent Amish and the Valiant...

Aug 27, 2011 by

Each autumn my mother says to Dad, “Why don’t we drive over to Amish country?” which means Holmes County, Ohio.  They’ll cruise around oohing and aahing at Amish farms which don’t look much different than regular farms, then eat at an Amish restaurant which serves food billed as “home cooking.”  I don’t  why anyone wants to go to a restaurant and eat home cooking. When I go out to eat I don’t want it to taste the same as at home, but my parents like it.  Besides, we have two Amish families in Sycamore Shadows up by Keen’s Station[1] – the Yosts and the Yoders – and my folks would only need to drive up the hill to see them, but no one oohs and aahs at their farms because they’re not marketing Amish...

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Gertilia Mayberry Ruins Pap’s Cigar...

Aug 17, 2011 by

It seems unfair that Gertilia Mayberry burned her house down and my family and most of the town has to suffer because of it, but that’s the way things work, especially when Aunt Ada and her virtues are nearby.  It doesn’t affect me since I live at the Imaginactory and don’t listen to her anyway but when I was at home it was different.  As Pap used to say, nothing can stand against her goodness – she just sucks the fun out of everything worth doing.  It’s not that she controls everyone, in a direct manner anyway, but once she finishes with you a thing just doesn’t hold the pleasure it once did, so you forgo the joy and try to find something she’ll approve of, which isn’t likely, or sneak.  And since my...

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The Town Bird part 2

Jul 30, 2011 by

I don’t think they expected an underground wood thrush faction, or that opposition would be as violent.  Really, it’s been a mess — lifelong friends not speaking, Little Johnny Cubbage, who delivers the Evening Shadow and isn’t smart enough to find a turkey in a flock of hummingbirds, refusing to leave newspapers to the “nuthatchers,” Rube Elder finding one of his chickens dead on the porch with a note attached to it written in crayon which wasn’t very nice, and I heard Otto Hopp call Wid Coulter a “mother-thrusher” right in front of the book store, and Doc Ghesslet’s boy was standing right next to him and heard every word.  Mayor Chibble, who I’d guess won’t be re-elected, had a shouting match with Nippy Keen – as partisan a thrush man as I’ve ever...

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The Town Bird

Jul 27, 2011 by

In most towns you’ll find one or two people who believe every political unit needs an official bird if they are to continue as a free society. Gradine Hess has mentioned it on occasion, though she’s not the type to interest folks in anything, and even Pap used to say it would be a nice gesture. Then Oris Hocket visited his ailing mother Clara[ 1 ] in Erie last May and returned wearing knickers, a tweed hat that should’ve been put away until cooler weather, new binoculars hanging from a custom leather strap he bought from a homeless man,[ 2 ] a CD of common bird songs found at a rest area on the turnpike which his wife wouldn’t allow him to play in the car, and a two-year subscription to wild bird magazine which entitled him to a free...

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Hexenringe

Jul 16, 2011 by

…And now about the cauldron sing, Like elves and fairies in a ring, enchanting all that you put in. Shakespeare; Macbeth 4.1 Cass Padden told me he’d found something in the woods the other day, in the midst of a stand of white pines: a perfect circle made of mushrooms, twenty feet across in a small opening in the trees, bone-white fungi as perfectly round as the circle itself, each of which seemed lighted from within.  He didn’t know what it was, having never heard of such a thing as a fairy ring, but found it mentioned in one of his folklore books at home that evening.   He returned to the ring after dark, stepped inside, closed his eyes, and thought of her, as if he really believed in the ring and the power...

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That Pleasing Chug-chug Chuggily-clank...

Jul 13, 2011 by

I don’t care for the lonesome whistle’s blow any more than I care for the song of the lonesome whippoorwill which, to anyone unfortunate enough to live within their range and hear one on a regular basis, can sour a person for life. But there are few sounds more pleasing than the regular chug-chug chuggily-clank of a freight train in the wee hours of the morning, and I can only imagine what a delightful symphony of noise it must be when a body is actually on the train and leaving home after years of oppression and misery, bound for some wonderful new land where the fish always bite. Matt Boucher Jr., proud descendant of William Esperance Boucher, a famous banjo maker in the 19th century, pretty much figured the same way when he convinced George Feagle’s daughter- I...

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Why Pap Painted his House Black...

Jul 6, 2011 by

When my grandmother Sanderling died the family didn’t expect Pap to take it so hard since she mostly filled a maid role in the marriage,  or a butler perhaps, but certainly not a couple like my parents and more certainly not a continuous romance like the Wilsons before Edson got caught in the hammock with Edna Minzel, or John Blue and Nicole Hibbson, who was Nicole Knight before she was married and would have been Nicole Blue if she had gone to the wedding instead of running off to Europe with Winston Hibbson.   I suspect the lack of romance on Pap and Grandma’s part may have been because Grandma did not look like either Nicole Hibbson or Mrs. Wilson or Edna Minzel, who are all three what you would call good-looking except for...

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The Violent Death of “Big Benny” Cubbage...

Jul 2, 2011 by

Udders Cubbage says the ghost of her deceased husband Big Benny visits her every Tuesday evening at seven sharp, in the bathroom while she’s soaking in the tub, and he’s been gone for fifteen years.   She says he’s so regular about it that she gave up using bubble-bath on that particular night  just to give him the pleasure of looking where the bubbles would be every other day of the week.   The eternal spirit of Big Benny Cubbage sits on the edge of the tub listening, and smoking, while Udders washes and tells about her week, what needs done around the house, and the latest news in town.  Then he scrubs her back and disappears.  Well, I never heard of a ghost smoking but she isn’t the type to believe in far-out things.  About...

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