S h o r t C r e e k

This is to be a collection of short stories centered around the family and friends of Johnson and Rosezella Ford. Short Creek, if it still exists, is a small town just north of Wheeling, West Virginia on Route 2 along the Ohio River. Although the stories told here did not necessarily take place in Short Creek they took place in the genre of Short Creek. They take place in that era of l920 to l945. When America was Short Creek, when the 20's roared, the Depression was great, and when America finally entered the war. The Stories are "James, Go Get Willie" and "Pork Chops"


James, Go Get Willie

In autumn winds blow cold and out of the northwest over the hills of Ohio just east of Cadiz. It does not matter what time of day it is or what kind of day it is. If it is autumn it is cold and crisp. Even on those sun shiny days with only a few of those wispy clouds in the sky. 1926 was no different. The wind also raises up a little dust, but not nearly the dust it will raise up a few years later and a few states west of here.

The depression had not begun but times were already hard for Oberton Dixon. He had thought that things would go pretty well that year. He had gotten out a pretty good crop and with work pretty steady in the mine, he thought he could do pretty well. The old cow was going to be the best part of the salvation. Although she was now too old to give milk there were no more babies at home that needed the milk anyway. Her meat would save him from having to buy more meat for this winter. By saving that money now he could buy another cow that by next spring would be old enough to get ready to begin to give milk.

But now he stands there with the shotgun under the crook in his arm. The shotgun is loaded with slug shot, both the over and the under. It was an old under and over that he had bought in Martins Ferry some years ago and used mostly for hunting rabbits, but not "porchy rabbits" (but that is another story), and squirrels.

He stands there in the early autumn morn of eastern Ohio out back of the house, near the barn, the chicken coop and the doghouse. With him are his son, James, two of his grandsons, Johnny and Benny, his dog and the old cow. His son Willie was supposed to be on his way out but had not arrived yet. He would deal with Willie later.

The hole had been dug the night before by his sons, James and Willie. The hole was about eight feet long and six feet deep.

The stage has now been set. You can now anticipate the tragedy. Something bad has already happened only the conclusion awaits destiny. Although the dog thinks he is about to go on a hunting adventure and is nervously running around his master, his two grandsons and James know better. The old cow has been stricken with the obligatory disease that strikes the salvatory creatures of all of those who exist on the edge. The proverbial "Old Doc Wilson, the Vet", has diagnosed her with having some disease that will make it necessary to kill her without being able to salvage the hide or any of the meat. We have the old man, the anxious dog, the grandsons, the adolescent son, the old cow and the hole.

Oberton Dixon has his son James lead the old cow up in front of the hole. Oberton Dixon takes aim (well, not really but as much aim as you are going to take with a shotgun at a cow standing less than five feet from you). James stands ready to push her toward the hole once the shot is fired. Oberton Dixon fires the over shot.

Well, at the sound of the shot the dog, anxiously, begins to bay - did I tell you that this was a hound {not someone's favorite old Blue Tick Hound, but a hound anyway and a fair one at that}. The dog concludes that the quarry has been shot and it is now time to capture the quarry for his master. Even if the quarry is a cow. He then jumps atop the dog house, not far away, and continues to bay. No one has said a word. No one says anything. Oberton Dixon turns toward the dog switches to the under barrel takes aim and shoots the dog. No one has said a word. Oberton Dixon lays down the shotgun, walks over and picks up the dog, walks back over and throws it in the hole. No one says anything.

Oberton Dixon picks up the shotgun, reaches in his pocket and extracts two more shells, and reloads the shotgun. No one says anything. He then turns toward his son and quietly says "James, go get Willie. I am shooting everything this morning that is giving me trouble. James does not say anything. But he does not wait to be told a second time.


Written in November, 1992 as told to me by Benjamin J. Ford, alias Benny

By Benjamin J. Ford, II, 1997. All Rights Reserved.


PORK CHOPS

"Sarah, is the baby asleep?"
" Yes Ma'am, looks like he finally went off."
"Okay, then come in here and help me set the table. Your Daddy won't be home for dinner until later, but your brothers will be here soon."

Sarah Ford at age seven was small for a seven year old, but not really -- a more accurate description would be wiry. Just like everyone else in the family. Because Johnson Ford worked in the mines, ran a little store and raised a few chickens there was always enough food. But the familial constitution also just lent itself to an anatomy that did not result in much fat. It also was effected by the fact that this preceded the time of the automation of almost any household task. All of the washing was done in a big black cauldron on the side of the house. There was no vacuuming everything was swept, at least daily and more if necessary. There were no electric dishwashers or microwave ovens. This resulted in a steady stream of activity just to keep the house in order. This high level of activity (not hyper-activity) only helped to keep those thin and wiry who had a tendency to be thin and wiry. Of course, those who had tendencies toward largesse or laziness, also fulfilled their destinies with a full measure of robustness.

Sarah had helped her mother with the washing, the baby and now with dinner after school that day. The table would be set and all of the family, except Dad (Johnson Ford) would be there for dinner. Sarah would help set the table after looking after the baby. Sarah happily helped her Mother set the table. She would make certain that Johnny, her oldest and favorite brother, would have his choice of pork chops, the meat for dinner that night. Johnny loved pork chops. Sarah was convinced that he would eat pork chops for every meal if he could.

Johnson Ford, known in the community as "Deacon" because of his position as a Deacon at the church, enjoyed working in the church and knew that his work on the Board was important, but was especially looking forward to getting home that night. Pork chops were going to be ready for eating that night -- breaded, fried golden brown pork chops, his favorite. Cooked his favorite way by Rosezella, who knew how to cook them just the right way. Today wasn't even Sunday and he was having his favorite meat, pork chops. The occasion was his son Johnny's birthday, who like his father loved pork chops. He knew Rosezella would have baked a cake, with jelly icing between the layers, for the boy. Rosezella would probably have cooked some butter beans, candied yams, greens, or maybe macaroni and cheese and at least some of her good old home-made rolls (of course everyone at this time had home-made rolls, but none of them were as good as Rosezella's). His wife could cook and he could enjoy eating it. He did not know whether he or his son Johnny loved pork chops more. They both loved to eat pork chops

The meeting consisted of really nothing that night. Just talking of old things. The discussion that evening was about who was going to organize the painting of the church come spring and whether to leave church services before the Sunday School or put the services after Sunday School. It was decided that Henry, who did a lot a painting, would be in charge of the painting, as usual. It was decided to leave Sunday School where it was, before church services. The meeting did not drag but it took up time and Johnson was anxious to get home to his breaded, fried golden pork chops.

It was dark when he left the church. He walked the half-mile from the church to home with Henry. The conversation was about the paining. When to do the painting and from where the paint should be purchased. Should they go up to Weirton and get it or go down to Wheeling. The price would be better if they bought it in Weirton but they would have to pay all the money first and wait for it to be ordered. If they bought it in Wheeling they could wait until the weather was right and they had collected all of the money but it would cost more. They could save almost ten dollars if they bought it in Weirton. Henry went on talking about all of those things. Deacon went on thinking.

"Deacon, you know I wonder if we should use those six inch or eight inch brushes,"' said Henry

Breaded, golden fried pork chops, thought Deacon. "Well I know you will get the right ones," said Deacon

"Yeah, but you know the work would go much faster if we got the bigger brushes," said Henry.

Butter beans and macaroni and cheese thought Deacon. "Yeah, but you know better than anybody else," said Deacon

"You know if we set up a special collection and started collecting now and went until spring I bet we could have enough money to pay cash for the paint and not wait until May," said Henry.

Candied yams, home-made rolls and good old yellow cake with jelly icing, thought Deacon. "Henry, you know that no one has any extra money to put in the offering plate in February. People are keeping hold of their money through the winter just in case they need it for more wood, or somebody gets low sick," said Deacon

Yeah, but it sure would be nice to save the extra money by paying in advance. "You remember two years ago we saved almost ten dollars because we bought the paint and stuff in Weirton," said Henry.

Yes, pass the pork chops, I believe I could eat one more breaded, golden fried pork chop thought Deacon, just anticipating dinner. "Well Henry, we'll all do what we can and trust in the Lord that the best will happen to us," said Deacon.

They had now reached Deacon's home and Henry would walk the rest of the way alone. He would walk on down to the path to the river road and home. On to his, home to the navy bean soup with some ham-bone in it. Deacon would stop in for a few minutes to check on George Burris in the store. The first floor of the building was where his little store was and also contained a second large room that he rented out to the Elks on Saturday nights for their dances. He would check in on George and talk to him for a few minutes (George was a Trustee in the church). His conversation was with George but his thoughts were consumed by . . . breaded, golden fried pork chops.

The table was set and everyone but Dad was there. Sarah looked and there was the birthday boy, Johnny, sitting at the head of the table where Dad usually sat. They would eat tonight before Dad got home because he was at the Deacon's meeting. Sarah was carrying her Mom's home-made rolls to the table. These rolls were so good that they gave you amnesia. You couldn't remember eating them, but you know you did because you were full and the plate was empty. They melted in your mouth like cotton candy but were flavored like butter. Or so you thought you remembered. When she got to the table everything else was there. There, right in front of Johnny, was a platter of breaded, golden fried pork chops. Johnny's favorite meat for dinner which along with the bag of hard candy, to be given to him after dinner, were his birthday presents. There in front of Benny, two years younger than Johnny and a little more than two weeks away from his birthday, was a bowl of candied yams. Shorty sat there next to Benny looking over the butter beans and macaroni and cheese.

Her mother sat at the head of the other end of the table. Sarah sat on the other side of the table from her two older brothers and next to her younger brother William. The baby, Asbury, lay asleep in the crib in the corner of the room. She and William looked at the steam rising from the greens and then looked at each other and almost licked their lips when they saw the jelly just barely leaking out from between the two layers of the yellow cake.

Johnny, who was twelve that day said grace. Each child in turn then said their own bible verse. Sarah always wondered if Benny or Shorty would say her favorite verse, which they sometimes did, and make her quickly scramble to find a new one. When they did she would wait until her Dad was around, but not watching, and pinch the one that had said her verse. They knew better than to hit her and if they complained to Dad he would always tell them that as big as they were their little sister could not hurt them. William always followed up by saying, "Jesus wept."

Quick work was made of the dinner. It was only on Sundays or birthdays that these special meals were had. February would be a good month. There were three birthdays Johnny's, William's and then Benny's and of course all of those Sundays in between. While the children continued to eat Rosezella got down an extra plate and filled it with things for Johnson.

Let's see, three breaded, golden fried pork chops, some of those butter beans that she had canned last summer, some macaroni and cheese, some greens and four of her home-made rolls. Johnson was small but he could eat. He could especially eat when it was something he liked. She would also save some cake for him, some for that day and some for his lunch at the mine the next day. Rosezella also fixed a plate to carry to Mother Donaldson who was bedridden. She would leave the children to clean up and take Shorty along with her to Mother Donaldson's. He could throw rocks at those currish dogs, something he would enjoy immensely, while she carried the plate.

Dinner was over and it was now time to eat the cake. there was one small candle that had been located for the occasion and Rosezella lit it with a little tender ignited from the coal stove in the corner. The candle then being lit Johnny blew it out and made his wish, it was probably for more pork chops. Rosezella and the children all sang happy birthday to him. Johnny beamed all through the song. Rosezella then gave him his bag of hard candy. Johnny looked in it and took out one piece and popped it in his mouth. His brothers and sister looked on wanting to ask for a piece but knowing the time had not yet come. Later they would beg him for a piece and after letting them beg for a while he would relent and give them each a piece. But this was now the time that he was the favored one and this was his present, he would be the only one eating candy. Rosezella then gave each child a piece of cake and began to put away the other food.

Rosezella had saved the pork chops for Johnson and fixed the plate for Mother Donaldson just in time. The plate was empty of pork chops but there was enough of the other food to be warmed up for a good dinner for tomorrow. Although it was dark it was still early. Yes, it was his birthday but Johnny could still be in charge of washing the dishes. Benny could help him and Sarah could help by keeping William out of the way. She had mashed up some food and fed it to Asbury, who was just a few months past two, just before they had dinner. He would now sleep until she got back and if not then Johnny and Benny could take care of him until she got back.

Who knows what possessed them to do what they did, but children are children and the things they do are only consistent with that measure of logic and training that has been applied and has taken hold. At times there are glitches. Johnny, Benny and Sarah each helped themselves to another pork chop after doing the dishes (just a little snack). Asbury had awakened and had been put up to the table. He was within arm's reach of Johnson's plate with the three, breaded golden pork chops but he had not taken the pork chop off the plate. In fact the bone represented the only scrap of pork chop he had eaten. But all the bones lay there in front of him. The grease as well as other effluent surrounded his lips, you know how little children eat.


Johnson helped George close up the store and came out into the cold wind to make the quick dash up the stairs. Even though the wind blew from the south that night it was February and the wind blew cold up the river. Up the stairs he ran, sprightly for a forty-year old. In he walked wishing Johnny happy birthday while giving Benny his coat and hat to put up. He went to the sink to wash a bit before eating, looking back over his right shoulder at the plate on the table. He knew that under the cover there lay his good eating. His breaded, golden fried pork chops. He came over to the table and sat down without particularly noticing the eerie silence from the three older children. He smiled at the baby but paid no particular attention to the pork chop bones in front of him, the bone sticking out of his mouth or the grease around his lips. He reached over and brought the plate closer to him and lifted the cover. Plenty of good food here, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, greens, candied yams and those good home-made rolls, but no breaded, golden fried pork chops. He looked up from his plate, his brow was furrowed and the perplexion could be read in his eyes. He looked at his three children who in anticipation of his inquiry were all pointing at the baby, Asbury, sitting there happily sucking on a large bone from the last pork chop.

We have no real memory of pain and it's a good thing. Asbury got a good whipping that night. Rosezella never said anything to Johnson but the other three got good whippings the next morning after Johnson had left for work in the mine.


By Benjamin J. Ford, II, 1997. All Rights Reserved as to this story.


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By Benjamin J. Ford, II, 1998, 1999. All Rights Reserved.