Maria Island, October 11, 1989
Of Crackers and chickens
By Gib Bergquist
light drizzle was falling last Saturday morning as the Cracker went down to Bayfront Park
with a broom in one hand and a bucket of soap suds in the other to tidy up the large
pavilion there. You see, he was hosting the 47th year reunion of the Class of 42 of
ol Mulberry High School later that day and wanted everything to be spic and span.
The past week had been spent
in cast netting and smoking mullet and digging and processing clams. Of course, he had a
lot of help from his local friends.
By noontime, ol Sol had
dissipated the rain clouds and all was bright and sunny again a perfect Florida
fall day on the beach for welcoming his classmates.
One classmate and her
husband, neither of whom we had laid eyes on since Heck was a pup, arrived a little late.
She dispatched her husband to reconnoiter the scene to be sure they were at the right
place since it was their first visit to Anna Maria Island.
After eyeballing the
assembled group, he returned to their car to report that the gathering of old folks seated
under the pavilion couldnt possibly be her high school mates. But, in truth it was _
we had all become a gray 65 in a hurry.
Our guests of honor were our
beloved high school principal, Wilbur Purcell and his wife, who are both hale and hearty
and sharp as a tack.
As each classmate brought us
up-to-date on family news, the aroma of frying fish and hush puppies filled the air and
whetted our appetites.
Presiding over the cooking
was the Crackers brother, Richard, and two friends, Loren and Angelo. To put it in
the Cracker vernacular, when it comes to frying mullet, they dont come no
When all was ready, we all
sat down to a gigantic Cracker spread since each and every classmate had brought along his
or her favorite dish to share.
You didnt ask, but let
the Cracker tell you what was on the table. For starters, there was clam chowder followed
by fried and smoked mullet, fried chicken, hush puppies, cheese grits, swamp cabbage,
blackeyed peas, pickled okra, pickled beets and onions, and a host of other delicacies too
numerous to mention.
On the dessert table sat a
large cake decorated for the occasion, pecan pies, cookies and cakes of every description,
and to top it all off, a large guava cobbler, the likes of which this Cracker hadnt
tasted in a coons age.
When the Cracker was growing
up, guava trees grew wild all over his area of Polk County but had largely disappeared due
to the same freezes that decimated our citrus groves. The guava has now made a remarkable
comeback and is growing in the wild again, as well as in dooryard plantings.
Our classmate, Truby, is the
videotaper of our reunions. As he set up his video camera on its tripod and prepared to
record this happy happening, he suddenly realized he had left the battery pack for the
camera at home. This is typical of what happens when you reach 65.
Truby also told his favorite
chicken story, not remembering that he had told the same story last year. This
didnt really matter since there were some new faces present and most of us had
forgotten it anyway. Heres his story:
It seems that there is this
traveling salesman chugging down the road in his automobile, when he passes a farm and
sees a Rhode Island Red rooster standing beside the road. Thinking that the fowl might
dart in front of his car, the traveler slows down.
The chicken, instead of
crossing the road for all the reasons weve heard about through the years, starts
running alongside the vehicle.
Thinking that he would leave
the rooster in a cloud of dust, he floorboards the gas pedal. When the driver looks out of
the car window again, he is amazed and astounded to find that the frisky chicken is
running neck to neck with him, if not a little ahead of the car.
The salesman turns his car
around in the first farm lane and races back to the farm. By now, the rooster is back in
the farmyard and is crowing a victory song as he struts around. For the first time, the
visitor notices that this is no ordinary rooster since he has five legs.
The driver walks over to
where the farmer is leaning on his pitchfork wondering what all of the commotion is about.
Thats the most
amazing chicken Ive ever seen, sez the salesman. Where in the world did
you get him?
Well, you see,
stranger, the farmer replies, Ive got 10 kids and every last one of them
has a hankering for drumsticks so, by a slow process of selective breeding, Ive
developed this five-legged chicken.
Are the drumsticks from
this new chicken just as good? asks the stranger.
know, sir, replied the farmer. We havent been able to catch one
Well, anyway, it was another
great reunion and the Cracker cant wait to hear the chicken story again next year.
From Cracker's Crumbs, ©1995 Gib Bergquist