((of Ozark, Alabama) (in two chapters))
Elmer the Nut
((Elmer Jr and Melody Barchans) (1830 to 1923))
Chapter One o
Elmer Barchans, born 1830, died in 1900, fell off the roof of his house when he was mending it. His Son Elmer Jr, born 1875, had married Melody Christianson, ten-years his junior. They had two kids, both girls, and we are now going to skip to the year 1923.
Elmer the Nut, that’s what we ended up calling him, what we all called him—oh, not at first just after his wife left him, grabbed the two girls, fled to Ozark, and caught a train to that godforsaken place up north called Minnesota, to some town called Stillwater. Thereafter, no one ever heard from her again. My guess, Molly O’Day, had something to do with that. Melody had never been there, been to Minnesota, Molly had relatives up there though, I’m sure she got some good gossip she never told us—back from that little town, from Melody.
Anyhow, Elmer’s father, was a level headed man, fell off that roof one day, and his son lazier than a one legged dog, with a wife and two girls, just let the 400-acres of land go to pot, because he was on a treasure hut.
Yes, Elmer Jr., has quite a different story than his father, who was like the rest of us folks down in Ozark—normal! Elmer Sr., never had much luck with crops, but he didn’t starve to death, and after he died, Elmer the Nut, had to sell this and that and some land to the Ritts, to eat. But that isn’t the funny or sad part of it all. It was the day after Mrs. Melody Barchans came into town and told Sheriff Parker Jr., we called him Junior for short, and she told this wild and cock-and-bull story. Molly O’Day put her up in a room for three days thereafter, until the train came, and we all, seven of us folk, snuck out to the Barchans plantation, just beyond—ten miles just beyond, the Smileys, making it a twenty-seven mile ride.
We went down to White Creek; we rode most of the way, and walked a great distance, the horses pretty tired. Besides, White Creek runs into Goose Creek that runs into the Chattahoochee River, of which the Chattahoochee and Flint form the Apalachicola River, which runs all the way down to the Gulf, which runs into the Atlantic Ocean I hear.
Well there we were, on a hill, or a kind of mound looking down on Elmer, alongside the creek was an old mine—dug out fifty years ago, if not more and there was Elmer, nodding as if he was agreeing with someone, but there was no one there to nod to—by-gimmidy.
After a good while, we understood what we were watching, I mean we had got a briefing from his wife, and now it all look official. He had a long fuse like tied onto a rat’s tail, he had several rats in cages, leather strings tied around their mouths, and the fuses were soaked into some kind of solution, I think saltpeter, alongside him there were two wooden casks of gunpowder. His face appeared caked with mud and blood and—well to be honest he was indescribable.
He filled little sacks full of gunpowder, tied them to the bellies of the rats, and had that long fuse tied around the tail of the rats, which led to their bellies where the little sack was. We then saw him carve up a half cow, we were just praying it wasn’t one of ours, and he butchered it good, and threw it down the two-hundred foot hole in the cave. We all knew there was a hole in the cave; we figured it probably led to the underground springs around here. We never did know for certain.
Well, to make a long afternoon short, this is what he did: he got all seven of those darn rats tied up with those little bags; his idea was to have them run into the cave, as he chased them, and they’d run to the hole and jump in after the raw meat. This would somehow release the treasure in the hole—once they exploded that is, the treasure which those old prospectors, legend said, hid in the cave, back fifty or seventy-five years ago. And that person he was nodding to would give him further instructions, so we all figure it had to be.
Well, things again didn’t work out the way he planned. So Elmer ignited the fuses, and the rats ran into the cave, one blew up to smithereens, never making it to the hole, and the rest ran right back out—we figured perhaps the sulfur taste in the air, who’s to say. Fine, we all said, and watched the rats running wild back and fourth and around Elmer, entrails all flying here and there, intestines were hanging on his cloths, some areas that had lightly dried, were not dry anymore.
We really didn’t need anymore proof of his level of recklessness, although we figured a man ought to be able to do what he wants to do on his own property, like it or not, but White Creek, was just a tinge to the side of his property, and that made it the Sheriff’s business. He died in that sanitarium in 1930, I hear tell: kind of poetic justice, in that, someone poisoned him with rat poison.
((Melody Barchans, Pick Ritt, Molly O’Day and Mahogany) (1923))
Pick Ritt’s son, Earnest Ritt, (Owner of the Ritt Bank), had given Melody two-hundred dollars to make her way to Stillwater, Minnesota, at the request of Molly O’Day, and Molly gave Melody a place to stay for three days, as the Sheriff removed her husband from the plantation, to bring him to the so called, ‘Funny Farm’. Actually, she felt safer now, and Earnest Ritt assured her, he’d sell the plantation, and give the money to Molly, who would send the money to her.
Earnest could be a gentleman, or a rogue, he fit into both categories. He had come over to see Molly, she was gone, he gave the black woman that worked for her—a cleaning woman, called, Mahogany, a silver dollar to keep quiet, and leave, as he slipped into Melody’s room, she was taking a bath. Mrs. Barchans was splashing about in the cast-iron tub’s water; she did not notice Earnest —
“Mahogany,” said Melody, “That Mr. Ritt is sure a kind man, and not bad looking,” and she laughed. “Do you know if all the girls in town are after him?”
“Hmm…” Earnest murmured in a low, high-pitched tone, just behind her a foot or two.
“Well?” asked Melody.
Ritt did not answer.
“I’m sure he does,” commented Melody, “He’s obviously very rich, I wonder if he has a favorite here in Ozark. I know or heard tell, his father used to date Emma Hightower and Cara Smiley.
Earnest Ritt did not answer.
“Old man Smiley’s brother, when he visited his brother, used to visit our place quite often too, especially during the lean years, bring us over some chickens, and bread, he was well-suited for an afternoon bed,” and she laughed, adding “I should not be saying all this to you.”
“Melody,” said Ritt, grinning at her naked back.
“Mr. Ritt!” said Melody, frazzled, then splashing water on him, to shoo him away. “You are truly not a gentleman as I thought.”
“I don’t feel like one today, you looking for one?”
“Leave here right this minute!”
“I’d rather look at you!”
She was very red and heated in the face. Earnest could see she had been underfed, quite thin, with droopy breasts, but a nice enough figure for her age.
“Yes, I fear I will stay.”
“I guess I’ve misjudged you—“
“No,” said Ritt, “you’re right on the mark; I’m all you think I am, and more.”
“I am completely naked sir.” She mumbled.
“Yes, I can see that!”
“And this water is starting to chill!”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Once more I ask you to please leave.”
In reply, Ritt walked closer to the cast-iron tub, to its edge, took her by the shoulders, lifted her up, she stood and stared at him, as he pulled her shoulders to his breast, she started to scream, started to but not completely…he laughed, undressed himself, stepped into the tub,
“Are you going to rape me?” she asked. Then she hesitated, said, “that will not be necessary, but in the plain of day?”
And not another sound was heard but water sounds.