“CHRISTMAS” in a CARDBOARD BOX

“Christmas gifts in short supply,” “Shop early to avoid empty shelves,” The black Christmas of 2021.” The headlines go on and on. If a body allowed themselves, all this bad news can really drag a person down, make ’em believe Christmas and all it stands for can be contained, held captive on some random cargo ship floating just off the coast somewhere.

But don’t you think on it, no sir, don’t you think on it one bit. I got some good news for us all. They may be tellin’ us the holidays are being held captive, but they’re wrong! Let me tell you why.

The Owens family are the stars of our little story, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Owen’s and big David from the book snippets. We join them on a very special day, up early, cleaned and pressed, David’s hair combed and oiled, his four sister’s hair carefully brushed and garnished with pretty bows of left over fabric. His Ma had the entire clan ready to go before sun up. The girls, bubbling over with excitement, picked, poked, and giggled at each other, all the while David looked to the Heavens and rolled his eyes. He couldn’t let ’em see his excitement, after all, while his Pa was at work he was the man of the house. This meant someone had to be the voice of reason.

You see friend: before cellular phones and tablets, before designer purses and Nike shoes, before those robot vacuum cleaners and that creepy Alexa lady who talks to you at home even in the most private of situations, before Atari, PlayStation and X-box. There was something more… a simple dog-eared cardboard box, but contained within that humble box, well… contained there was everything Christmas was about, everything Christmas promised and everything Christmas was, and as kids they looked forward to it’s yearly return with as much excitement as Santa Claus, maybe more.

Since it was Christmas basket season, that meant anything was possible, maybe even probable. Most folk have been fortunate enough to have never seen one, and that particular memory, like so many things from our past, seems to be slowly fading into obscurity. But to David and his sisters, all the magic and wonder of the holiday season was waiting for them inside that box.

Oh it’s all there…you just gotta know what to look for, the Christmas story in it’s entirety. From the simple to the sublime, the mundane to the magical, the humble to the most high. And like all good things (I mean really good things), very little, if any, money is required.

David and his sisters didn’t know “poor”, to them it was simply”life” and life needed no special words to quantify it, it simply was, and that was that. But… it was a different time and folks defined “poor” differently than we do now.

There they were, like a momma duck and her babies, all waddlin’ up the narrow road into town. If they were lucky, a neighbor would stop and offer a ride, if not there was plenty to talk about on the five mile hike. All the children could talk about were those boxes and what wonders waited inside. Each shared tales about what they hoped to find within, minds raced and imaginations soared as tales of last years treats and which ones were favorites flew though the cold air.

Before they knew it, the lodge came into to view and they could see the line of folks wrapping around the building like a black snake, all patiently waiting their turn. Now before we go any further we need to get one thing straight friend…this weren’t charity. Around here folk look out for each other, we share the gift as well as the burden. We didn’t need the government, we didn’t need a handout, and we didn’t need some politician deciding what our folk deserved. We had neighbors and friends who cared, and felt the pain of hardship like we all did.

The sights,sounds, and smells in that building were in a kids eyes, beyond words. Boxes packed full of holiday greatness were stacked floor to ceiling. The aroma of chocolate, citrus, cinnamon, and other treats unknown floated about the room before simmering into an aroma that brought goose-bumps to the skin. The roomful of voices and excited clamber mixed just as easily, composing a soothing hymn. This must truly be what Christmas was all about, those children were in Heaven and never wanted to leave.

A booming HO, HO, HO, snapped them to reality. The three girls pulled and tugged at David’s shirt, begging to go see Santa. David shot his ma a pleading glance.

Oh fine, she replied. Take your sister and go see Santa, I got some things to drop of at the tables anyway.

Without waiting on their brother, the girls ran to the short line of children, all waiting to tell the Jolly ol’ elf their most private of wishes. David knew it as soon as he laid eyes on the ol’ boy. The yards of red velvet and white fur trim couldn’t hide the tin toys and whistles dangling just below Santa’s coat. The ivory pipe he held clutched in his teeth could belong to no other, it was ol’ Shag Branch in the flesh. The wonderful ol’ man sat there, his lap full of children. From time to time his head fell back as a thunderous laugh filled the room. Shag was in his element, he loved those children and they loved him in return. Christmas seemed to fit Shag, his well worn stories of travel to far off and exotic lands were replaced with reindeer tales, and elf updates, the intricacies of toy manufacturing, and flight zones. The children (young and old) gathered round him as usual, mouths wide open and eyes star struck as they absorbed the tales like raindrops on dry clay.

Mrs. Owens used the opportunity to finish some business. She placed a large basket on the table under the watchful eyes of the chief and mayor. A loud gasp was heard from both as she laid six fresh baked “cornmeal” pies in a neat line. Quit that she scolded as she swatted away the mayor’s hand. Those are for the raffle, you want a taste then go buy ye’selves a ticket.

Grumbles were heard as the two men turned to go in search of the ticket table.

We’ll be back Mrs. Owens replied Mayor Weaver, yea said the chief, with winning tickets too.

I hope so boys, she answered, I hope so.

To be perfectly honest; each family was to get just one box, but the men behind the tables, well… they knew things, the kinda things only a small town knows. With a wink, a finger to their lips and a quick shush, a box appeared before each of the children. The girls could scarce wrap their arms around the treasure. Once the boxes were held tight against they’re chests, they were quietly scatted outside.

Ma led her little band of ducks to a large sweet-gum tree, there beneath the gnarled branches they examined they’re spoils.

One large frozen roasting hen

Cans of pumpkin, green beans, corn and untold other vegetables

A bag of flour, cornmeal, and sugar

A large bag of tree nuts

A bag of pretty ribbon candy, creme drops, horehound candy, gum drops, and a box of Cracker Jacks

A large poke of oranges and a few grapefruit

But the best lay hidden at the bottom. All four filled their mouths with gum drops and began to dig. I found it yelled the youngest, soon followed by the other three. Four pairs of hands lifted the prize into the air. A brand new pocket New Testament. Still cold from the frozen chicken, leather bound with gold letters on the outside and red letters on the inside. (The red letters are the important ones).

Mrs. Owens let her little ones enjoy their newfound prizes for a few minutes before giving word that it was time to make the way back home. David secured each girl with a their own box before picking up his own. The little band began the journey back home.

The journey home was dominated by tales of Santa and the things he might bring. A thankful grin lay across the face of both David, and his ma. The hope and dreams of the three girls lifted they’re hearts and made the steps lighter.

As the four marched, the wind brought the scent of cinnamon and Liquorice to the nose. The aroma mixed and mingled with the scent of citrus and apples, until finally joining with the smell of cardboard and the cold of the chicken. The end result was nothing short of magical.

We all have special “triggers” in our lives, simple little things such as a TV. show, a special taste, a smell, or familiar tune. Something so small and innocuous that it means nothing to others, but to us, those “little” things have the power to instantly transport us back to simpler times and our childhood, or treasured memory. The smell of a Christmas basket is one of mine, and I’m sure, for David and his three sisters as well.

Remember when I said those boxes contained Christmas? Well…let’s talk about that a-bit shall we?

You may be, (and I pray that you are), unfamiliar with the concept of a “Christmas Basket” and what it meant to so many mountain families, not to mention children. Every year when the leaves began to change, local churches, businesses, friends, neighbors, heck, most of the whole town came together in the spirit of Love and Sacrifice. A humble yet grand effort to gift another with the simple respite from worry.

Food drives would be held, bake sales and raffles. Collection plates circulate in churches ,meeting halls, and even local beer joints. Most everyone gratefully shared what little they had, no avenue was left unchecked in the effort to fill as many boxes as possible.

Do such labors work? Do these humble actions of neighbors have lasting effect. Well…here sits an old man, typing away at his keyboard. As I write this story I smell that box,I feel the cold from the frozen bird against my face as I walk home. I feel the weight as I carry it close to my chest. The smell of citrus, chocolate and cinnamon fill my head and I’m transported back, way back.

Strip away the tinsel, the twinkling lights and greenery. Remove the silver, gold and blown glass. Forget about spending money you don’t have, to buy people you don’t like, things they don’t need.

Whats left?

Just an old cardboard box, much like an old wooden manger, both filled with hope, joy, and promise. The return of which was looked forward to every year at this special time. Remember that pocket New Testament those little ones were so desperate to find too? Oh it was there in that manger as well. Oh not a little book mind you, but nothing less than the word manifest in flesh, the Christ child. A promise made, a promise fulfilled.

Oh I nearly forgot; Remember those pies Mrs. Owens baked? There’s a lesson there as well. In my simple mind I believe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost is best described as a cornmeal pie cut into three slices. Each separate at the surface,but the middle, the ooey gooey sweet part, is still as one.

Mary had a little Lamb, so very long ago.

Though our sins be as crimson..

The Lamb can wash them white as snow.

My sin debt was paid by that Little Lamb, in that manger long ago.

And now where that Lamb has gone, I shall surely go.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Tin Cup Clan. It’s been a wonderful year, God has allowed me to continue sharing these tales with you even though the doctors tell me other wise. We thank each of you for your prayers and support and continue to pray that the Lord bless you and your Loved ones without measure.

So…next time you hear or read of all the evil afoot in this ol’ world. Stop a second and think of Big David and his sisters, a corn meal pie, and a humble little “cardboard box.” Then with a deep breath, smile a bit and smell the citrus. God’s got this, I promise.

Please like an share this story. I’m certain we all know others who need to read it. I don’t get out much anymore so leave a comment or two as well, we certainly enjoy reading them. THE TIN CUP CLAN

Ahab’s real name was Wendall

Ahab…the name carry’s with it a ponderous weight. Scenes of massive wooden ships under full canvas fill our noggins, if we allow ourselves the privilege, we can almost hear the overbearing Captain as he berates the lowly shipmates. With little effort we may go so far as to catch a glimpse of the massive white back as it breaches the ocean’s surface. ” If his chest had been a cannon he would have shot his heart upon it,” the quote rings in our head as a church bell…but.

Yes we’ve all read the book, (you have haven’t you ?)

Pundits and scholars have debated the various morals, lessons or inner guidance one might glean from Captain Ahab for the better part of a hundred and seventy years. But I got one on ’em, that’s right, this Ol’ hillbilly has been blessed with the opportunity to have known Ol’ Ahab in the Christian flesh, (that’s right, in the flesh) but…his real name was a bit on the humbler side…Wendall, (with two L’s), and the whale…well in this story at least, that denizen of the deep, that Leviathan of maritime nightmares will be played by “of all things,” a lowly little possum with the inner stones of a mountain lion.

“What’s that you say? Such a thing cain’t be true, he’s lost his mind. Well… bear with me for a brief while as I introduce you to a fella (and his whale) I don’t think you’re gonna forget either one of ’em anytime soon. Who knows, maybe we can even laugh a bit together.

As I recall, Wendall was an odd duck, as far as ducks go. His pasty white skin clung to his bones like an old wet overcoat. The sight was worsened by a large hooked nose and pitiful excuse for a hairpiece that weren’t foolin’ a soul. He rode an ol’ motorbike where-ever he went, he would cruise main-street, face in the wind, grinnin’ from ear to ear, and that hair piece flopping up and down in the breeze, slappin’ against the front of his helmet. Sittin’ there square betwixed his legs was the scruffiest lookin’ little mutt you ever saw. That animal went everywhere with him and possessed the same ill nature as it’s owner. The whole sight was to much to witness with a straight face.

His physical appearance hid a rather odd defect of character, an explosive temper. Lookin’ back, I’m sure his short fuse was the result of a lifetime filled with constant ribbing and practical jokes, or maybe his hairpiece made his head itch somethin’ terrible. Whatever the reason, he was heels dug in and ready to fight at the drop of a hat,(dog and all). Unfortunately, he usually managed to came out on the short end of most brawls, but I reckon the few he did win kept his spirits up, there’s a lesson there, but this ain’t the story for it. No matter his flaws I counted him as a friend and was glad for it, and a truer friend I never had.

He came by my house one day, excited beyond measure. He jabbered on, hands flailin’ wild in the air, mouth goin’ a mile a minute, dog barkin’ and yappin’, he had bought his first house.

*You just gotta come see it” he bragged. On and on he went until I finally saw things his way and agreed to go see his newly acquired mansion. We jumped into my truck (there was no way I was gonna ride that scooter with him and the dog), and off we went. We rattled down an ol’ gravel road until at last he began slappin’ the dash and pointin’ to an ol’ rusty mailbox. At the end of the mud and gravel sat an ancient dilapidated shotgun house. Poison vines and ivy snaked they’re way up the wood siding, very nearly covering the entire structure, as a matter of fact the sight led me to believe the vines were the sole means of support for the ol’ house. Rusty tin covered the roof, well most of it anyways, the wind had blown a few pieces off leaving weathered grey boards open to the rain.

But it was his and he was proud of it. He hooked his thumbs around the galluses of his liberty’s and drew in a deep breath, “ain’t no kinda man if you don’t own some land” he bragged. I was proud for him too.

We set to work right away, the foundation had fallen away at one corner, the sole source of lighting was a single bulb hanging from the ceiling in each room. There were only five or six functioning electrical outlets in the entire house, and to be honest, I was rather concerned about ’em. The well pump worked depending on it’s mood, which considering it’s foul disposition wasn’t often. None of that phased him, no sir, not one bit. The two of ’em moved in that very first night, it was then and there he discovered someone else called that house a home, and he wasn’t welcome. He wasn’t welcome at all.

Enter stage right…the whale.

I arrived the next mornin’ bright and early, coffee in hand and ready to start the day. But no sign of Wendall. I walked around the porch only to find an ol’ Confederate battle flag nailed over the living room window and bath towels over the rest. I began poundin’ on each of ’em until finally rousin’ him and his dog from the bed. They looked horrible, the both of ’em. He didn’t have his wig on and the dog just looked…well…aggravated.

What in the world happened to you? I asked. The both of you look pitiful.

Both hands covered his face as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and scratched his stubble. He opened his mouth in a wide yawn, I think we got a haint he replied.

I chuckled a bit. You’ve lost your mind. I replied. Let’s git to work.

We got a lot done that day, black and white tiles on the kitchen floor, new counter tops from the local salvage yard. Heck…even that ugly dog caught a couple of rats. (the rats looked better than the dog). Pretty good day, even if I had to listen to him go on and on about the foot-steps on the porch last night, or the strange scratchin’ on the walls. Yep…we got our selves a haint alright he said, a sneaky one at that, and I’m gonna git ‘im. Gonna be him or me said, gonna be him or me.

Well…days went by, we worked on the ol’ house most week ends, Wendall came of the mind that his haint was gettin’ bolder by the night. He was obsessed with this private battle of his. He had convinced himself there could only be one winner, and it was ordained by God almighty that winner was gonna be him (and his dog). Night after night he waited for his ghost, hearing the scratching and foot steps, but never seeing hide nor hair.

I figured some neighborhood kids were messin’ with him or somethin’ of that nature. He didn’t have a workin’ firearm to speak off and I was grateful for that. He did however own a piece of an ol’ shotgun, from a distance it looked deadly enough, but in fact it was absent most of the pieces-parts needed to allow it to fire. I eventually considered the entire situation a joke, but the strain on Wendall and his ugly little dog was becomin’ more evident by the day.

Until finally, it all came to the most comical and extreme of climaxes a body could think of.

I arrived one cold and frosty Fall mornin’, usual coffee in hand, only to be greeted by a horrific and bloody (yes I said bloody) sight. The porch lay covered with broken bits and pieces of sheet-rock. Lumber and plumbing scattered throughout the yard. I panicked, dropped the coffee and burst through the kitchen door expecting to find ol’ Wendall, a victim of some horrendous crime, mangled and bloody on the floor with that ugly ol’ dog.

As I burst through the door I was met by a terrible sight. The new tile floor was charred and black, a strange circle in the center. The cabinet doors were torn from their hinges and partialy burned. It was obvious, someone had attempted to burn the place to the ground. But that wasn’t the worst of it (OH NO), areas of the floor and wall were splattered with blood. I was shook to my marrow bones when I noticed a blood soaked sledge hammer layin’ next to the sink. I just knew my friend was well and truly dead.

Wendall, I yelled. You dead? In a panic, I ran to his bedroom searchin’ for him. WENDALL.

I stuck my head in the dark bedroom to find him, blood stained and sprawled out across the bed. Next to him, watchin’ over his master was the dog, his right eye swollen shut and fur matted with God knows what. My heart fell, and I felt sick to my stomach.

What in hell are you goin’ on about? Wendall growned as he sat his self right.

Man I thought you was dead.

Naw…but he is. Wendall crawled outta bed, picked up his dog and walked past me to the kitchen.

What in the Hell happened in here I asked.

Well…let me tell ye.

He was here again last night, but this time I was ready for ‘im. I heard im’ scurrying across the porch, I figured that ol’ shotgun might be enough to scare im’ off if he weren’t already dead. Me and the dog waited for im’ at the kitchen door, then just at the right moment we jumped out, shotgun ready. It was dark and I couldn’t see nothin’, but the dog did. he came a chargin’ out, growlin’ and snarlin’ and bittin’. I felt somethin’ run ‘tween my legs but I couldn’t see im’. The dog did though, had im’ cornered behind the stack of sheet rock, you should have heard the commotion. I couldn’t let im’ hurt my dog, so I used the gun as a club and started frailin’.

It was blacker than the inside of a cow, but I kept slingin’ in the dark like a wild man. A bit of light came from the open door so I could see a bit. When i looked down I saw him a layin’ there, shakin’ somethin’ pitiful. When I looked closer I saw I was beatin’ the snot outta my own dog. Lord I figured I killed im’, but that ol’ dog is tougher than I am. Bout that time something hissed and ran past me and through the door.

I ran in behind im’, just in time to see im’ run under the sink. I looked and there he was, the biggest possum I ever seen. Sulled up in the corner, he was mad as hell. I broke the stock off the gun when I was out on the porch, so I looked around for somethin’ else, the sledge hammer. I poked and poked at ‘im, but all he did was hiss and bite at the handle, after a few minutes I figured I might try and smoke im’ out. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

So…I fetched the trashcan threw some papers in it and lit a handful of ’em. But the more I poked at that possum the tighter he got. he weren’t even afraid of fire. I looked at the trash can and saw the fire was gettin’ to big, I forgot about them varnish rags we put in it.

While my back was turned a puttin’ out the fire, my dog figured he’d give the possum one more go, it sounded like he was losin’, so I ran over to help him, this time I was swingin’ as hard as I could. It ran through the cabinets to the other corner and that’s where I got my first good lick in. It was hard to see on account of the smoke so I just kept swinging and swingin’ till they was nothin’ to swing at.

I got ‘im bygod, I got ‘im.

I fanned the door back and forth for quite awhile till I got most of the smoke out. That’s when I saw all the blood and possum pieces. Me and the dog was plum tuckered out, so we laid across the bed to rest for awhile. Next thing I knew…you was yellin’ at me.

I stopped him. Man you nearly burned the house down. Tore the cabinets all to pieces, ruined the kitchen floor, almost beat your dog to death, and what for? Nothin’ but a stupid ol’ possum. How’s that make you feel?

He sat there a moment wipin’ on his bloody shirt sleeves. Then he stopped, hunched his shoulders above his head, gave his crippled ol’ dog a scratch and sighed.

Come to think of it…makes me feel a bit like that Ahab feller we read about when we was in school.

I couldn’t argue with that.

So…that’s the end of our story. I told ya when we started, Ahab’s real name was Wendall didn’t I? I don’t reckon you need a big ol’ whale to obsess about. Nope…somethin’ as small as a possum can completely take control, if you let it. Leading’ you to destroy most everything you’ve worked so hard for. Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

Granny always said,”life’s about moderation,” that goes for everything. To much work, to much play, to much stuff, to much worry. Just give it a think for awhile. How many things have you ever worried about, have actually been as bad as you imagined when they came to pass? Not many I’d wager. All that from a possum, who’da thought it.

Once again, The Tin Cup Clan thanks you for your time, and wish Gods blessings to you and your family. Life is so busy now a days and time so precious we are humbled that you chose to spend some of with us. Do us a kindness, share this with at least one friend, like, comment, we’d love to hear from ya. Till next time…….The Tin Cup Clan

The Most Important Meal of the Day

How many remember fifth grade? More importantly; how many remember the lunch room? Most don’t understand the politics, social exchange and class warfare that transpired there. So…for just a bit, experience the “lunch-room” through the eyes of the Tin Cup Clan. This is just a small excerpt from Chapter Eight, I hope you can get a little “feel” for the boys and maybe even catch a faint hint of frying sausage and burnt toast.

Excerpt from Chapter 8 “Was She Flirtin’ and Best Laid Plans”

Whatever conversations or business transactions that were taking place were put on hold for the time being. A far more important matter was at hand. Breakfast. 

The opening of the lunch-room door was held with nearly as much high spirited anticipation as, well… Christmas morning. This morning the planets were obviously in perfect alignment and Madam Karma was apparently in an extraordinary mood. 

Because when we opened that door… the air hung heavy with the wonderful soothing aroma of sausage, eggs, and toast. It had to be a sign straight from the all-mighty himself. Maybe, just maybe, things were finally going my way. 

We stood just inside the doorway, frozen in our tracks. Each of us staring at the other three. I didn’t want to take any chances, blurting out “that’s it no trades” as quickly as possible. 

Big David’s eyes narrowed into thin slits. He turned his head looking down at Stick with a look that could kill. 

That’s fine by me friend. How about you Stick? 

Stick looked up, swallowing the lump growing in his throat. What are you lookin’ at me for? I ain’t done nothin.’ 

Big Dave never broke his stare, “Just am friend that’s all, just am.” 

Before us lay a veritable smorgasbord, the sight of steaming pans full of scrambled eggs, stacks of sausage, and hot biscuits made our mouths water. The four of us gazed at the food like kids in a candy store window as hair-netted lunch ladies filled our trays. 

Sure does look good, don’t it friend? 

Chucky looked up at David, you do realize, those are just powdered eggs don’t ya? They ain’t real, they just add water to ‘em and fry ‘em up, that’s all. 

Well, they’s’ allot of stuff that’s good when you add water to it, argued big Dave. You ain’t forgot ‘bout Tang, have ye? And don’t fergit ‘bout Ovaltine.  

Mark and his cronies were ahead of us in line. We watched in disgust as he and his buddies flirted with the lunch ladies. Grinning under their hairnets as they piled the boy’s trays high with double portions. Our blood boiled as we watched them buy extra milks and juice when they reached Mrs. Tuttle. I thought about it for a second. 

Ya-know… I’m gonna do that one of these days. 

Do what? Asked Stick. 

I’m gonna git it all, milks, orange juice, extra food, all of it. For the four of us, just like the jocks. 

Oh… that… sure said Stick, I cain’t wait. He looked over at Chucky while rolling his eyes. 

Hey! I snapped; I saw that. 

Chucky snickered. What-cha gonna do, start boot-leggin’ at school or somethin’? Some rich uncle about to get out of the poorhouse. 

I just might do that… yep, never can tell, I just might. 

Now it’s your turn, if you like the story, tell a friend, tell your Ma, Pa, tell an enemy, just tell somebody. Don’t forget to Like, Follow, and Comment. Until next week…Thank You for your time. The Tin Cup Clan. God Bless.

CHANGES WITH “THE TIN CUP CLAN”

Hi friends…Many things are changing here at “The tin cup Clan” and I desperately need your help. I’ve had a lot going on lately and feel I have far to many irons in the fire. The books are coming out very soon and I’ve decided to narrow social media to just a couple of platforms. I love and respect all our followers, I don’t want to lose any of you. We are going to focus most of our energy on the Face Book page for the time being. If you like the T.C.C. and want to continue reading these simple yet oft times corny stories PLEASE LIKE THE FB PAGE. We’ve found we can reach far more people here and Instagram than anywhere else. Not to mention we can be far more interactive. For the time being The Tin Cup Clan .com will be under renovation, I think you’re gonna love it when it’s rolled out soon. Remember…The Tin Cup Clan FB page!!! Go there and hit the like button. You’ll be glad you did. Instagram is coming in the next couple of days…my daughter is working on getting it up and running. SEE YOU THERE…LOVE ALWAYS!!! The Tin Cup Clan

The Tin Cup Clan, (the journey begins)

Well friends as promised, The clan is back and current. There is still plenty of work yet to be done but I find myself with the time to sit and write (finally). Since we are starting off in new surroundings I thought it might be nice to bring the boys’ to you in a new light as well. But there’s a catch, I need your help.

Let’s start this new era off with the prolog from the book. I would be ever so grateful if you might take a bit of your time and critic it a bit. Yea…I know, that’s a dangerous word “critic,” and I’ve never put the work out there for such a purpose, but I really need the feed back.

I’m blessed to have some VERY accomplished writers that follow our blog and I would be honored to have the feedback.

With that in mind I present to you the Prolog to “The Tin Cup Clan” Mystery of the Leech cemetery witch.

Autumn is always a welcome time in the mountains of East Tennessee. Months of oppressive heat and humidity are at long last replaced by frosty cold mornings and cool comfortable days. This time of year calls upon this old man to relive the fondest of memories.

The chilly mornings finds the local wildlife at their busiest. After all there is no time to waste, larders must be filled, nests built and insulated. Preparations are in order for the long winter to come.

During the night miniature miracles dot the ground. Small patches of wet earth rise on delicate pillars of early morning frost, forming delicate magical cathedrals.

Lightly frozen ground gives way to the foot with a pleasing “crunch,” while the crisp air bestows a good natured nip to the lips. A natural perfume floats in the mist, resting easy on the nose. The scent of burning Oak rises into the air from countless chimneys, the aroma reminiscent of sandal wood, ground pepper, and ginger.

Such a magical environment is inevitably bound to give birth to endless fairy tales. Stories as ancient as the mountains themselves. Passed down through generations by elders sitting by glowing hearths before wide-eyed children. Who in amazement, absorb long epic tales of hardship and sacrifice, yarns of ghosts and wraiths, life and death, bravery, and honor. Stories of a fairy tale past which with the passage of time inevitably take on a life of their own.

How I enjoyed those stories as a young boy, sitting in front of the fire, absorbing them like raindrops on dry clay. As I close my eyes a faint hint of smoke from a those fires tease me, calling me back to a time long ago.

Now accepted as fact not simple folklore, time renders these tales carved in stone and just as certain as God’s creation. Ignoring, or heaven forbid denying such tales, was tantamount to blasphemy. After all, granny, with her lips lined with dried snuff was never wrong and never to be doubted.

It was during one such particular fall as this, that one such particular fable as this, would capture and inspire the imaginations of one such particular, (and possibly brazen) group of boys as this. And just like all good stories, present itself completely and undeniably irresistible.

The resulting adventure would prove to be the first of many to come. And in many ways shape the lives of four young friends and one other, whom as I look back through the eyes of an old man, realize had just as much to learn, perhaps even more so than ourselves. Our adventure starts as many do, in a rather boring, not to mention pitifully small hometown.

A coal-mining town nestled deep in the Tennessee mountains. Small by any standard, and like most towns in coal country; time was slowly but surely passing us by. The town stores and buildings seemed well aware that death was slowly but surely reclaiming them. Returning them back to the earth from where they came. We all felt it in one way or the other, the entire settlement was well and truly fading into history.

Our players include my quite young self, a rather handsome young’un if I may be so bold as to say so. Three somewhat meddlesome friends, but tried and true all of em, and of all people the class bully.

Add an ill-conceived exchange of homemade liquor, an old cemetery complete with a rumored witch. Stir in a hollow grave-marker guarded by a ghost dog, and the promise of answers to the most personal of questions, and you got yourself one heck of a story.

Oh! And I can’t forget; one thin, somewhat scruffy old man whom asit would turn out, had a far greater role to play in our story, and our lives than any of us could ever have imagined possible.

So dear reader, if I may have a bit of your time, find yourself a warm hearth, a comfortable chair, maybe a warm cup of cocoa, and let’s get started.

“Stumbling Blocks” or “Stepping Stones”

As I write these stories my fervent hope would be; they become as real to you as they are to me. I want you to know the boys,see they’re home town when you close your eyes, even feel what they feel. That statement may seem a bit “campy” but please dear reader, do me the honor of hearing me out. So far we have visited the home of “big” David, a warm quintessential mountain home. Complete with a loving Christian ma’ and pa’, brothers and sisters. The kind of family that may come to mind when you dream of the perfect family. David’s reflects his home, slow and deliberate in his actions and thoughts, and mindful of his reputation.

Then we looked at Stick’s family, hard working ma’ and pa’. His pa’ works a dangerous job seven days a week, making sure the ends meet. His ma’ running the home as efficiently as a major corporation, all the while keeping those ends tied. Each has a place and each has a responsibility. Little time is left for worship, work has replaced the church as the center pin and character is measured by the strength of one’s back. Stick is the product of this “normal,” strong in his opinion, always quick with a joke and lives by the motto “if you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

But now we look at Chucky. Life (as it often does) has not been so kind to them. His father worked at the local Mill since he was a boy, just as his father and his father before him. But times in mid-century Appalachia are hard and it’s left it’s mark on them, perhaps harder than any other family in the area. Without warning the Mill cut back, Chucky’s pa’ prayed that seniority would spare him from the chopping block but that wasn’t the case. Before he knew it, he was out of work and the family home was lost. I think many of us can relate to this.

Soon they found themselves dependent on friends, and blessed beyond measure with a small town. You see…folks around here help each other, lift each other up so to speak. When help is offered, declining it was seen as “insult,” and when you recovered, not returning the favor and helping another family was beyond consideration.

During such a crisis families have two choices. Circle the wagons and fight, (or as often is the case), split and go separate ways, leaving yet another family shattered and lost in time.

Fortunately, (I prefer to think by God’s grace), they circled the wagons and trusted that help was on the way. I’m not saying it was easy mind you, far from it. Some times the best you can do is dig your heels in and weather the storm…and the storm came for them dear reader, it came in the worst way.

Excerpt : Chapter : (1) The Unlikeliest of Hero’s

Chucky’s dad works the belt and washer, just as dirty, if not more, but maybe just a little safer.

The pay’s not near what the hole pays, but he’s lucky to get it. He used to work at the mill, but when they cut back, he was one of the first to get the axe. Big David’s dad pulled some strings and got him on at the Blue Diamond mine. He ain’t been there to long so he’s still playing catch up as far as money goes.

Excerpt : Chapter (6) “It ain’t Much but It’s Home”

“Chucky’s place is about a mile down the road. He don’t like us coming by his place much. We all figure it’s because he’s kinda embarrassed by it. It’s been tough for him, his place ain’t much really. His Pa lost their house to the bank when he lost his job at the plant. No warning or nothing, just went in one day and found a piece of paper with his time-card. Right now they’re rebuilding, they all live in a Shasta camper with a room built onto the side.

The room’s not very fancy, just boards and tar-paper topped off with a rusted metal roof. Just stuff his dad could scavenge up I spose. He ain’t never let any of us inside yet, we don’t say nothing about it. Out of proper respect I reckon.”

So…this is Chucky’s “normal.” His family was (blessed) in a strange way. Often you got to lose everything, before you discover you’ve had everything all along. Family, friends, community, and all the gooey stuff that comes along with it. Now…dear reader you know Chucky. Is this “your” normal? If so, look around you, you may find things aren’t so bad after all.

Next time, we visit Mikey’s family. I’m afraid the wagons didn’t circle this time. How does a single parent raise a young boy in times such as these? Well…we’ll talk about that on our next post.

Once again The Tin Cup Clan would like to thank you for stopping by, and we are honored that your choose to spend just a bit of your time with us. As always God Bless and please hit a few buttons or share with someone that may need to stop for a while and read.

Sincerely : The Tin Cup Clan

Is there really a “Normal” family?

As promised, here is the first in our visits with the boy’s families. I thought big David would be a good place to start since his family serves as “home base” for our boys. As a child I knew a big David, and his family was very similar to the David in the books, and yes, I envied him quiet a bit. They didn’t have money, didn’t live in a fine home, didn’t drive new cars, or go on vacations, but they had each other and that was enough.

Those things don’t make a family, and most certainly don’t make a happy family. My granny would say, “blessed be nothing, no trouble at all” and “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” I think you’re gonna find this true with all the boys, but by the end of the book, one of them will have to learn this the hard way.

Do you see your family in big David’s? Great, then that’s your normal, soak it up, enjoy it as you would sunshine on a summer day. If not… well hang around for Stick’s family, maybe you just might see yourself in them. They’re a bit different than David’s, after all…there is no universal “normal,” each one is custom made. What matters is what we do with it.

Excerpt; Chapter 6 “It ain’t much but it’s home”

The next stop the bus makes is big David’s. He lives at the end of a long steep dirt road in a small timber house built by his Pa.

Locals know the hill as Owen’s ridge. His family has lived up there for generations. He shares that little house with a whole passel of brothers and sisters. I think there may be as many as ten of ’em but I cain’t swear to it. I reckon the whole bunch get along just fine.

No matter the weather, the yard is always full of bare footed kids of all ages. I don’t think a man could sling a dead cat without knocking over at least a couple of ’em. All of ’em laughing and yelling, running and fighting, screaming and crying. There’s an odd sense of joy in that house. Joy that’s seldom found in other households. Joy that with a bit of embarrassment I have to admit; I’m a great deal jealous of.

David’s ma sells some of the finest butter, buttermilk and bacon on the planet. That’s where ma gets most of our eggs. The ol’ boy’s dad’s pretty cool too. When he’s not in the hole chasing coal, he’s out there playing right along with his kids. Laughing and running, playing and screaming. It pains me a great deal to watch them, I cain’t help but wonder what my life would be like if my pa were still around. As I watch ’em I think about that a lot.

Excerpt: Chapter 28 “The worst lie I ever told.”

I was the first there. When David opened the door; puppies came rushing out; yappin’ and  jumping all over me.

They ain’t gonna bite friend; they’s just gittin’ to know ye is all. Come on in and make ye self at home. I walked through the door and into utter bedlam.

It was a big living room by any standard. A long well-worn couch sat in front of a large picture window. Clear plastic was stretched over the windows; sealing out the cold. Home-made curtains with pretty flowers hung gracefully; framing the glass like a picture frame.

Next to the couch sat a small simple table. The only thing on it was a large family bible. It was clear that it had been passed down through countless generations. The cover was tattered around the corners from use; while loose leaves of dog-eared paper covered with all manner of dates and notes poked from the sides. A faded and  frayed crimson ribbon was laced through the pages and served as a book-mark.

Standing with great prominence was the woodstove. A huge “Warm-Morning” sat on the brick hearth. A tall pile of split wood stacked neatly to each side. The entire house smelled of burnt hickory and oak; no wonder big David smelled the way he did. The smell of the wood combined with the intense heat of the stove soaked into my bones; making me sleepy and comfortable.

They was kids from floor to ceiling, all of em running and jumping, laughing and playing. It didn’t seem to faze his ma, not one bit. She came over, drying her hands on her floral apron before wrapping me in her arms with a big hug.

How ye doin’ young man? We’ve just finished supper, but I’ll heat ye up somethin’ if yer hungry.

No thanks ma’am, I eat before I left the house. Ma says it’s nobody else’s job to feed this bottomless pit but her. But if you don’t mind, I sure would like to call her and let her know I’m OK.

Phones right over there. Make ye self at home. David said his friends was comin’ by fer a visit. He’s sure been excited about it. Her comment made my conscience bother me a bit; causing the pangs in my belly to start up again.

I called ma to let her know I was there and found myself a seat on the couch (between two puppies). It was soft as a feather bed and I sank down into it as I sat. I just…sat there for a spell; enjoying the heat, the serenity, and the aroma of the wood while letting the worries just melt away.

I understood why David acted so. Even with all the noise and commotion I felt at ease; at home even. His ma had the same easy grin as he did, and the same easy nature. His brothers and sisters climbed on him like he was a set of monkey bars; and he seemed to love it as much as they did.

It seemed all too soon, but a knock came at the door; dragging me back to reality.

David stood up, looks like that’ll be the fellers. The dogs exploded though the door the second he opened it.

I heard a ruckus on the front porch. Good God we’re bein’ attacked by a pack of rabid lassies. Git down dogs I ain’t got no hot-dogs in my pockets.

Chuckie’s panicked voice was unmistakable. The two of em, Chucky and Stick tumbled into the living room in a pile; puppies nipping at their britches, and licking the boy’s faces.

Big David was grinning from ear to ear, even showing some teeth. Aw… They’s just gittin’ to know ye is all, ain’t no use in gittin’ ye drawers in a bunch.

I gotta have em in a bunch cried Stick, if I didn’t those hounds would pull em right off me.

Chucky was already standing in front of the stove, his backside turned to it while he rubbed his tail.

Ain’t nothin’ like a hot fire, my tail is soaked to the bone. Stick kept runnin’ me through mud holes the whole way here.

What? I didn’t do no such thing. Just cause you cain’t ride don’t mean you can blame everybody else.

I interrupted they’re little quarrel. That’s enough guys, yun’z gotta call yer folks so’s we can be on our way. We’re burnin’ daylight.

David looked worried. You sure you wanna do this friend? I mean, they ain’t no shame in not goin’. Heck, I’d wager ol’ Mark ain’t even gonna show up.

I’ve gone too far to back out now. Side’s, if he does show and we ain’t there, I’d get a poundin’ fer sure.

What ’che gonna tell my ma? He asked.

Oh… I ain’t thought of that. I got up and went to the kitchen.

David’s ma was sitting at the table; checking a pile of soup beans before she put em in water.

Excuse me Ma’am.

Stick forgot a couple things at his house; we’re gonna run down and git em if that’s OK with you. We’ll be back shortly.

OK she replied (with out looking up from those beans), but you boys be careful. Ya hear?

I could tell she weren’t used to being lied to. She never batted an eye at my excuse. As I turned and walked back to the guys; I felt all kinds of dirty and those pangs were back in my stomach.

Light was beginning to fade as we walked out on the front porch.

As always Thank You for choosing to spend just a little of your time with The Tin Cup Clan. I know there are a lot of other things you could be doing. A like or a share would be greatly appreciated, so go a head and make my day. Until next time…

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