Summer afternoons shelling peas with my stepfather Richard was a time for both work and storytelling. His tales rooted deep in the South added a sympathetic rhythm to the endless flow of purple hulls.
Richard was born in 1902. He was 74 years old when Momma married him. I was fascinated by this old “farmer” 24 years my Momma’s senior. Richard, who had long given up his chickens, still kept a large vegetable garden and a few fruit trees. He was an expert pea-sheller, fruit canner and storyteller.
This one of his fables.
There was an old farmer who worked his fields every day – even on the Lord’s Day when he should’ve been restin’ and readin’ the Good Book. Before the sun grew too hot, the old farmer with his faithful little dog trottin’ by his side would hitch up Joe the mule. Shoutin’ “Git up! Git up! Git up Joe and lets go a-plowin’!” and the three of them – the farmer, his little dog and old Joe – would be off to work another long day in the fields. Day after day, year after year the farmer demanded “Git up! Git up! Git up Joe and lets go a-plowin’!” Yes even on the Lord’s Day. But early one Sunday morn when the farmer shouted “Git up! Git up! Git up Joe and lets go a-plowin’!” Joe slowly turned to the farmer and said:
“Every day you shout ‘Git up! Git up! Git up Joe and lets go a-plowin’!’ Even an old mule needs to rest sometime!”
Well on hearing the animal speak his mind, the farmer reeled backwards and fell to the ground! Shakin’ up from the shock, the farmer mumbled to himself “Well in all my born days I never knew a mule could talk.”
To which his faithful little dog replied “Me neither!”