TURNIP HOLE, N.C. — My new quarterly assignment here at the Almanak is to stop by Rodney Devine’s place out on Old Plank Road. Around these parts he’s recognized as the authority when it comes to forecasting the weather. Yesterday morning I drove out to his farm. I found him out behind the house rooting through his shed. He was having a few choice words with the junk that had accumulated, so I leaned against a fence post and listened.

It wasn’t long before he emerged with his “tools.” After saying our hellos, we headed for his pasture. His tools consisted of a rod and reel in one hand and a kite in the other. I couldn’t help but notice that the kite’s tail was made from what looked to be hair from a horse’s tail. When I asked Rodney if such was the case, he looked at me as if my brain were made of mincemeat and responded with his usual aplomb. “You work at the paper, right? Now, if I give up my secrets to the likes of you, then who’d be buyin’ my dang weather vanes, T-shirts and such down at the farm market?”

Rodney proceeded to tie the fishing line to the kite. He grabbed the pole and handed me the kite. We turned to the south and ran directly into the wind. Once the kite was airborne, Rodney set the drag and, like fishermen everywhere, let the fishing line dangle across his forefinger. He closed his eyes and started talking. “Next month will start out slightly cooler than normal. Then towards the middle of the month we’ll be in for a real scorcher. I mean hotter than the sun’s anvil.”

When his eyelids and forefinger began twitching, I thought he was going to start speaking in tongues. I hesitated and asked, “It’s all in the finger, isn’t it?”

His eyes popped open. “Now, Greg,” he said. “You know better than to ask that question. I will tell you this much—you gotta use a twelve-pound test line.”

He closed his eyes again and continued. “Gardens will be in real trouble if folks don’t water ’em regular, but greens will grow like wildfire if they do.”

Rodney grew silent. He kicked off his left boot, stepped directly into a warm, moist cowpie, reeled the kite in about ten turns, and continued. “We won’t see any real rain till the middle of July, and when it comes, it’s going to come in spades. Toward the end of the month, things will get back on an even keel, and temperatures will stay slightly below normal until fall rolls around.”

Rodney opened his eyes, reeled in the kite, and handed me the pole. I grabbed his boot, and we walked back to the shed. As I attempted to find a place for the pole, Rodney said, “Just throw it on the pile. I got no plans to use it anytime soon.”

“Won’t we be needing it again in the fall?” I inquired.

“Nope,” said Rodney.

A look of confusion must have crossed my face, so he continued. “You see, every season’s got it’s own particular technique and tools, and I never know what Mother Nature will require until the last minute.”

I simply smiled and thought I can’t wait.


WITT’S END, N.C. — The first casualty in the one-hundred forty year history of Witt’s End Brewery occurred yesterday at 3 p.m. According to owner Witt Armbruster IV, Frank Lenore was taste-testing a batch of beer when he fell into the vat and drowned.

Witt was obviously distraught when he contacted the Almanak to report the news. He had just left Lacy Lenore who, when told of her husband’s passing, was inconsolable. “There really is nothing you can say,” said Witt.

As Witt was leaving, Mrs. Lenore grabbed him by the sleeve and asked, “Was there any pain?” He responded, “I don’t believe so since he crawled out three times to pee.”

Buncombe County coroner, Dr. Ralph Kitchen, after completing his autopsy, contacted McHenry”s Funeral Home. He informed them that the body would not require embalming. Furthermore, due to rigor mortis, it is doubtful whether the mortician’s will be able to wipe the smile off Frank’s face.

The family is asking any donations in the name of Franklin J. Lenore be sent to Bunkum County Master Brewers Association.


ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Downtown Asheville has been up in arms of late. Several recent articles here in the Almanak have reported that someone has been leaving bogus parking tickets on numerous vehicles. The police got wind of it when several folks showed up at city hall to pay the $100 fine. Mayor Theodore J. Cleverly was quoted in last month’s paper as saying, “I don’t know if this is someone’s idea of a practical joke or what, but when this story broke, it made the national newswire. That’s not good for our tourist industry.”

With the International Drag Queen Bingo Tournament and the Go Topless Parade coming up, the mayor wants resolution ASAP. He has given the chief of police, Bucko Blankenship, the authority to form a S.M.A.T. team (Special Meter Maid Assault Tactics). A manhunt is underway.

Lifelong Asheville resident, Gladys Shifflet, says she received the shock of her life the other day when she strolled past the Flat Iron. “A small crowd had gathered to watch that statue guy when this woman dressed like Rambo appeared from out of nowhere. She had an Uzi drawn and was sneaking up behind him. She pressed the barrel of the gun into his back and yelled, ‘Freeze!’ Everyone started laughing. I laughed too until I realized that the Rambo woman was the same meter maid who had given me a ticket a few months earlier over on Lexington Avenue. When she began to frisk him, I was glad the statue guy had the good sense to stay in character. The crowd started to fill the street when a squad car pulled up. Then several officers arrived from the station house across the street. Before they could disperse the crowd, the meter maid had arrested the man for the parking-ticket caper. When she cuffed him and started reading him his rights, laughter erupted. Even the police joined in.”

Gladys took a deep breath and continued. “That’s when I saw Sergeant Baxter working his way through the crowd. He approached the ‘act’ and whispered something to each of them. Smiling from ear to ear, he led them to the squad car but not before grabbing the tip tub that was overflowing. The applause was deafening as people littered the street with bills and coins. The other officers gathered up the tips and put them in the trunk. The squad car tweaked its siren and drove away to a lengthy ovation.”

No charges were filed. As a matter of fact, reports of the event going viral on YouTube (In the first forty-eight hours, there were over three hundred thousand hits and twenty-seven thousand thumbs-up.) have led Mayor Cleverly into calling off the manhunt and dismantling the S.M.A.T team. The meter maid has been permanently reassigned to the Flat Iron area and is to remain “in costume.” At the city’s expense, the mayor has purchased a new five-gallon bucket to replace the statue man’s one-gallon tip tub. Everyone seems happy, especially the tourists.


DRY RIDGE, N.C. — Hard as it may be to believe, Hank Williams, undisputed king of country music, squeezed all of his genius into a few short, turbulent years. He died at age twenty-nine of his own genius, never finding what he craved most—“to be regular folk playing for regular folk.” Few outside the confines of Bunkum County knew the whereabouts of Hank on Christmas Day 1952. Conrad Slocum, longtime resident of Bunkum County, does know, and he sat me down one Christmas Eve and told the tale.

Toward the end, Hank had tired of all the glitz, the money, the road, and most of all, the legend. On Christmas Eve 1952, he found a poor soul on the down-and-out and paid a thousand dollars for his jalopy and threadbare overalls. They switched clothes, and Hank hit the road. He drove aimlessly through the night, sober for the first time in many a month. Tired, broke, and hungry, he wound up in Dry Ridge around daybreak.

Though drink and despair had left Hank a mere scarecrow of himself, Sheriff Hec Rainey recognized the “stranger.” Though gone many years now, Hec Rainey is still held in high regard in these parts. The sheriff inquired as to the stranger’s predicament. He had sensed the torment and decided to give the gift Hank wanted most. The sheriff ended up inviting Hank to a little down-home Christmas—Bunkum style. The town agreed.

Here in Bunkum County there’s an age-old tradition that each year the local folk gather and have Christmas dinner as one. Thinking his masquerade a success, Hank gratefully joined in. When dinner ended, the musicians tuned up, and a bona fide country Christmas
boiled over.

Noticing Hank’s itchy fingers, Conrad offered him his guitar and then followed along on jug. Hank, thin as a rail, in dire need of a shave, confused in life, and unwittingly near his own demise, stole the show. One solid hour saw Hank Williams singing songs that were obviously vintage Hank—yet had never been heard before.

True to their word, the people of Bunkum County never let Hank know they knew. Polite applause, mingled with misty eyes, embraced his every song. When the party finally broke up, he spent the night on Conrad’s couch. Early next morning, Hank took his leave. The two shook hands, and as Hank reluctantly pulled away, Conrad smiled and said, “Thanks, Hank.” Six days later, on January 1, 1953, Hank Williams lay dead.


Conrad always records the Christmas show’s music, and 1952 was no exception. He got up from his chair and went to the attic, returning with an old reel-to-reel tape machine. At his kitchen table, we listened to the bittersweet history of a man’s all-too-short life.

The two songs I most remember were “Down Home for the Holidays,” a song I suspect he wrote sitting there at Christmas dinner, and a poignant ballad called, “I Wish I Was Half the Man I Used to Be.” The picture of two teary-eyed men sitting in a nondescript, candlelit kitchen as the tape flapped on to infinity haunts my every Christmas Eve. There in the wastebasket, we burned the tape and laid Hank’s ghost to rest.


Larry Penkava, columnist for the Asheboro, North Carolina Courier-Tribune, reports that a team of Bigfoot investigators dropped by his office recently to announce their arrival and intentions.

“A team that calls itself Searching for Bigfoot, Incorporated, was here last weekend in an attempt to bait the legendary Sasquatch out of hiding in the Uwharrie National Forest,” stated Mr. Penkava.

“I learned that a crew swept clean an area of forest, set up a video camera in a tree trunk, and dangled a jar of peanut butter with twine from a tree, high enough to be out of reach of deer and raccoons. So far, no results have been reported.”

Folks around here are still laughing at the hapless team. Everyone in Bunkum County knows that if you want to lure the Piss-gah skunk ape, peanut butter alone just won’t do. We usually go to the forest and set a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on some rickety picnic table. Over the years, Bunkumites have tried everything from muscadine grape jelly to wild strawberry jam and have settled on marmalade. It works every time!


Dear Readers,

Now that several months have passed, I suppose it’s time to let the raccoon out of the bag. If you recall, last fall there was a Friday evening where the Women’s Club and The Felix Walker Chapter of the Moonshining, Hog-Calling, Possum-Eating Brotherhood of America had separate potluck gatherings. For the ladies I prepared my usual Crock-Pot of beef stew. The boys love my Crock-Pot raccoon, so I cooked them up a batch.


I am a member of the Women’s Club, so I dropped off the raccoon stew off on my way to our dinner. It wasn’t until I removed the lid on the beef stew that I realized I’d made a mistake. Left with little choice, I went ahead and served the ladies the Crock-Pot raccoon. It was a hit, and I had several requests for the recipe.


Sloe Hoehandle stopped by the house on Saturday to return the empty crock. He said the boys were already looking for an excuse to have another event so they could enjoy more of my raccoon stew. I’m certain I could serve them dog food, and no one would take notice.


For those ladies who requested recipes, here is the one for what you actually ate.


1/4 c. honey
1 c. chicken broth
3 tbsp. vinegar
3 tbsp. cream sherry
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic salt


Clean raccoon, quarter, and remove fat. Put pieces into a Crock-Pot . Mix all other ingredients, and pour over meat pieces and stir. Cover and cook six to eight hours. Remove grease and eat.



DRY RIDGE, N.C. —Banjo player Dan Slugg was recently researching the history of the banjo, as he often does, and ran into this quote by Mark Twain.

When you want genuine music—music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth’s pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose—when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!  “Enthusiastic Eloquence,” San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, 23 June 1865 [Originally published in Early Tales & Sketches, Volume 2, 1864-1865]


Dan soon realized the quote would make for a great song.


“Yep,” he said. “I barely had time to set down the piece of cornbread I was eatin’ and grab a pencil and my banjo. I’ve got to write ’em down pretty quick these days since my mind ain’t what it used to be, along with most of the rest of me. The wife says I’ve started to prattle on a bit much. You know, telling the same old stories and such, but the boys in the band don’t seem to notice. Then again, they’re all at least as old as I am and maybe we’re all…”

Dan played the song last Friday night over at The Barking Spider Tavern’s old-time jam session. He calls it “Give Me the Banjo.”


Give me the banjo. Give me the banjo.
Give me the banjo, the banjo on my knee.
Smash the piana. Play Old Susanna.
Give me the banjo on my knee.

Like strychnine whiskey she’s always with me.
I keep the banjo, the banjo on my knee.
It keeps pollutin’ my constitution.
Give me the banjo on my knee.

When I play “Pop Goes the Weasel” I break out with the measles
But I don’t get feeble with the banjo on my knee.
When I get contagious, we’ll all get outrageous.
Give me the banjo on my knee.


When he finished singing the third verse, Dan cajoled the folks there into joining him in singing the first verse over again. Everyone agreed that Dan had written himself a dandy.


DRY RIDGE, N.C. — Bunkum County’s local chapter of the Felix Walker Moonshining, Hog-Calling, Possum-Eating Council of America has recently elected a new member to their Bunkum County Shed of Fame. Club bylaws state that whenever Silas Peckinpaugh buys a round at the bar, all members present must screen and vote on a new Shed member. The fact that only six members have been elected in the past twenty-five years tells you something about Silas’s spending habits. His frugality also guarantees an automatic cap on the number of Shed members. This eases concerns over possible Shed expansion, which would distract members from more pressing club “activities.”

Silas and three other members were sitting at the bar watching a rerun of All in the Family. (Four is a quorum when you have Silas to consider.) When the show took a commercial break, Silas ordered a round of drinks. All eyes were on his right hand as he reached into his wallet like a man trying to remove bait from a bear trap. Everyone smiled and politely turned their heads as he reluctantly extracted a war-torn ten-dollar bill.

Levi Newton stood and said, “I move we vote on electing Archie Bunker into our hallowed Shed of Fame.”

Now hold your horses, Levi,” said Buddy Harnett. “He don’t meet the criterium.”

He was an American citizen in good standing, wasn’t he?” said Levi.

Well, yeah,” said Buddy, “but what about the Bunkum? Ain’t the other criterion that his nonsense has to make sense?”

Levi nodded as Buddy continued. “He was a dang bigot who had no sense of humor at all. All them racial stirs and epattacks didn’t never make no sense. He always sounded like an ignoranus to me.”

The commercials ended, and everyone’s attention returned to the TV. It wasn’t long before Archie unleashed one of his famous Bunkerisms: “Women doctors are only good for your women’s problems, like your groinecology there.”

Everyone except Buddy erupted in laughter. He sat there with a look of confusion on his face. The others were about to try to explain the unexplainable when they were rescued by Archie. “Edith, don’t you think you oughta take one of them pills the doctor gave you for your hot flushes?”

When the laughter subsided, the boys noticed that Buddy’s expression had gone from confusion to consternation. Levi decided to alleviate his angst with a few Bunkerisms of his own.

He put his arm around Buddy and said, “Buddy, old buddy, Archie’s not your typical commodian. It’s all in his speech patter. He don’t need regular jokes when he can drop one of his malaplops. Come to think of it, your sense of humor and his are downright similac.”

Buddy smiled at the “compliment,” so the boys went about conducting their vote. Archie was elected four votes to none.

I was gonna abstrain,” said Buddy. “But it looks like Archie’s not such a bad guy after all.”

The Shed of Fame is open to the public on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Archie’s chair will be on display.