Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Full Circle: The Continuing Adventures of Spooner.....

Want to know what happens next? The adventure continues in a familiar place. See you there.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


(Or is it?)

Spooner turned the handle and opened the door. As it swung open he stepped in, the stale and nauseating air almost overpowering. A woman stood before him. She was crying.

"Hello Agnes.", Spooner said. "I half expected you to be here."

"I'm sorry it had to be like this.", Spooner's former love cried out as a large man stepped out from the shadows.

"Hello son."

"So you figured it out?", Deaf Jim posed.

"I did. I still haven't processed it yet. I sure could use a good sit."

"Have some tea Spooner.", Agnes said as she placed a chipped china cup into Spooner's trembling hands. "It'll calm your nerves."

Spooner sat and sipped the lukewarm Earl Grey, tasting something acrid and thoroughly unpalatable as the last drops passed his dry lips.

"You knew it would come to this." Deaf Jim roared. "You knew the minute you abandoned me to live in that mine. You could have come for me. You could have saved me from this life."

"I'm sorry son. I wish I could take it all back."

Agnes noticed a subtle loss of upper body tone and shrieked in suprise as Spooner's cup crashed to the ground sending a number of roaches scurrying between some rotten planks of wood. He slumped to one side.

"Forgive me Spooner, forgive me."

"It's not up to me Agnes. It never was. I know that now." Spooner fell to the ground lifeless and Agnes rushed to embrace him. She heard the door slam and an engine start. She made it to the window just in time to see a bulky shape astride a motorcycle she recognized from her past disappearing in the distance. She wept in the silence of the abandoned bed and breakfast, alone with the choices she had made.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Coal City Connection Part 6: Emergence.....

Coal City Bugler Archive: October 4th, 1976

Coal City, Illinois (Coal City Bugler)--After the collapse of the coal mines just outside of Coal City seven days ago, even the most optimistic members of the rescue operation were beginning to lose hope. As of yesterday morning no survivors had been found. This changed however when at roughly 9AM the muffled cries of an as of yet unidentified boy were heard by some members of the Coal City Fire Brigade #313.

Efforts were concentrated over where the cries were heard and after two hours of digging the young man was pulled into the light of day. Covered in dust and making only shallow breathing efforts, the boy was quickly transported to nearby Sisters of Fortitude Episcopal Hospital for the Ill where he is currently in serious but stable condition.

Who is this mystery child? Our efforts have turned up no information at this time. The powers that be at Coal City Coal have issued a statement which claims no knowledge of the child's identity and denies ever hiring minors to work the mines. The child has so far not been allowed to be seen by the press but there are rumors that the boy is deaf coming from inside the hospital.

Local authorities are asking anyone having information on the boy's identity to please contact the Coal City Sheriff's Office.

Pid Pidwell

Copyright 1976 The Coal City Bugler. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Coal City Connection Part 5: Reverberations Part 3: A Tale of Two Turnips Part 2: The Diamond in the Rough.....

Spooner hated being uncertain of what the future held, but more than anything he hated being toyed with. A man doesn't rise to the ranks of Mayor of a town like Belvidere, Nebraska by allowing others to call the shots. But now, as Spooner sped towards Coal City, he felt helpless. It was almost as if he was watching the events unfold before him with no ability to alter the outcome.

He had been to Coal City once before on business and had befriended a girl who would become his lover for a brief moment in time. He had allowed the memories of her to slip from his mind over the years he spent with Agnes but he had been unable to find the strength to discard the one tangible reminder of that Summer back in 1960. Over time it had become his good luck charm and the true origin of his ownership of the coal encrusted diamond came to dwell in a deep and long forgotten recess. When it mysteriously went missing a few years back he felt a sense of regret but not a feeling of great loss. However, the path to that long hidden memory had been revealed by its mysterious reappearance on the shore of Goose Lake, and along with the recognition came a powerful sadness.

As the lights of Coal City lit up the evening sky, Spooner drifted elsewhere. The painfully brief letter that had accompanied the rough diamond that day over forty years ago was sent to his old address instead of to the house which he then shared with his new wife Agnes. But it quickly found its intended audience. The one sentence it contained spoke immense volumes to his soul. "You have a son. Love, Anne.". He made out the faint scent of despair and sweat as he stuffed the letter into his back pocket and brushed the coal dust off of his hands.

Later that day in April of 1961, he found himself holding a match to the letter. He watched as it turned to ash and drifted into the blue Nebraska sky. It carried with it a part of him, an important part. His heart. He swore to never speak of it to Agnes or anyone else, and he wept knowing that he would never know his own son.

Back in the present once again, Spooner couldn't help but notice how Coal City seemed unfamiliar to him. It had changed much in the waning years of the coal boom that had led to its rise as a bustling center of commerce during his youth. The city, like Spooner, was in disrepair. Spooner made his way to the small bed and breakfast where he had once lay all day in bed with a beautiful girl. It was his only link to her but he knew the odds were slim that the establishment was still owned by her family, or even still open. The building still stood but the paint was peeling and the grounds were overgrown. He climbed the rotting wooden steps and turned the handle.

Spooner Jenkins

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Coal City Connection Part 4: Reverberations Part 2: A Tale of Two Turnips.....

Many people have probably heard of the phenomenon known as Near Death Experiences, or NDE's. Countless thousands of individuals have experienced the classic white light and the comforting voices of loved ones come to escort their recently seperated soul to whatever lies beyond this world. At 3pm, a few hours after stopping at a ramshackle turnip stand to urinate, Spooner Jenkins awoke on the banks of Goose Lake, roughly 5 miles outside of Coal City, with the rhythmic crashing of water against the side of his bruised and swollen head. And he realized that he had just become one of them.

He had never believed in such occurences until that day, as they are as of yet unexplained by Chiropractic scientists. But he had no doubt now. Only his NDE didn't involve any bright lights or spiritual guides to the afterlife. He sat there, still trembling from the vision that had been visited upon him. His leather riding pants, surely ruined by the hours of lying in the cold water, were beginning to tighten up. He realized that if he didn't get moving soon he would have to cut them off with his whittling knife.

He paused another moment, lost in his memories. Spooner hadn't whittled for what seemed like forever. Which is how long he felt he had been out on the road. How could he have given up on something that had given him so much happiness over the years, he wondered. Whittling is a tradition that has long been a vital part of being a Jenkins. Jenkin's archives going back to the early settlers of Nebraska reveal as much.

(Spooner's Great-Great-Great Grandfather Jebediah Jenkins Jr., a whittler long thought by Jenkins historians to have invented the hobby while recuperating from a bout of Possum Fever. He is also credited as the first person to begin a sentence with the phrase "Well, I reckon....." as well as having invented the term "hootenanny", which although it has evolved to mean an informal social gathering the original defintion, too vulgar to describe, is quite different.)

Like wood shavings tumbling playfully towards the ground, his thoughts tumbled from memory to memory. He was amazed to realize how many happy times in his life had been associated with whittling. Spooner could always count on a few silent hours of whittling to undo the accumulating damage that the stress of running a bustling town like Belvidere had wrought and Agnes even came to enjoy working the wood a few hours a week.

(Agnes, resting against a hand whittled Indian that She and Spooner had worked together on for several years. This picture was taken just hours before Spooner lost her in a poker bet. When he won her back 3 weeks later, and from an entirely different man, she had begun parting her hair differently but was otherwise unchanged. He assumed she wasn't upset with him at the time and would continue to do so for the duration of the marriage. "Who loses with a straight flush???", he was known to exclaim after a few too many visits to the nog barrel on a cold winter night. To this day he claims that the old turnip farmer who beat him had cheated.)

And then a look of realization appeared on Spooners weathered fact. He remembered something, something important. He had met the old turnip farmer, the one that had brained him and left him for dead in the shallows of Goose Lake, before this day. He was the old coot who cheated him out of three weeks with his wife back in the early 1980's, around the time that Webster mania was sweeping the nation on the capable shoulders of that precocious and loveable Emmanuel Lewis. With renewed vigor, Spooner lept to his feet. He had to find him but first he had to find his hog. "Mam and George would have know what to do!", he cried out.

He took a moment to get his bearings, scanning the horizon for anyone who could help but found only birds and assorted insects. Neither would do him much good. A path began just up the bank and Spooner felt certain that the other end would emerge near the turnip stand. Half buried in the mud near where he was left, he found two turnips, neither of which could have been his attackers weapon of choice because no bruising or dried blood was present on them. Underneath was a letter which read "Choose one to find your path."

"How cryptic.", he muttered to myself. "

Do I pick one and take it with me? Do I eat it? What would stop me from just taking or eating both?.", he continued.

Again he looked around for anyone who might be watching, perhaps from afar with the aid of binoculars, but he seemed to be alone. Then Spooner noticed that both vegetables were lighter than would have been expected despite their remarkably large size. He realized that they were hollow just as both tops seperated and slid to the earth revealing hollowed out centers. The turnip on his right contained a key and a ribbon of paper which had an address written on it and its counterpart contained a single piece of coal.

(What you talkin 'bout Spooner?)

He made his choice and followed the path back to the turnip stand to find only an empty patch of grass and gravel. His hog sat right where he left it, the engine still idling. Spooner searched desparately for signs that anyone other than himself had been there but could find nothing. Either he hallucinated the entire event or was somehow the victim of an intricate and well executed conspiracy. The small lump of coal in his pocket and the large goose egg on the side of his throbbing head told Spooner that he wasn't crazy. Someone was behind this. The question was who. And why. Also how.

As he pulled away the shiny surface of the key to a safety deposit box glimmered in the sun as it sat on the shore of Goose Lake. It would eventually be covered by sediment and would remain buried for many thousands of years, its purpose known only to one individual. The contents of the safety deposit box would eventually expire due to lack of food and water, having been unable to fulfill their duty. Months later they would be discovered by an easily startled bank clerk who would faint right there in the vault. They would never be traced to anyone and would become part of the fascinating lore of the world of banking to be told at Christmas parties and corporate meetings until the end of days.

Spooner Jenkins

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Coal City Connection Part 3: Reverberations......

(Sweet Illinois turnips. Great by themselves or with soup!)

Lost in thought, I made my way steadily to Coal City as the growing pressure in my lower abdomen passed annoying and approached unbearable. While navigating the unpaved back roads between Highway 80 and my destination, I was forced into stopping at a small Turnip stand just a few miles out to take a leak. Barely able to stand up straight I spotted a cleared path into the brush and headed for it without even shutting down my hog.

Tipping my hat to the elderly gent who was hocking some plump Nebraska Red Devils, and making a note to pick a few up on the way back, I left the roadside and entered the woods. As I relieved myself I couldn't help but think how familiar this area was. I must have been thinking out loud because a loud voice boomed from over shoulder.

"Yup, ya been here before youngin.", the turnip peddler from up the trail said. "Now don't ya worry son, I'm not trying to sneak a peak at your business down there. Just finish up what yur doin' and we'll talk a spell."

I completed my task and returned to the turnip stand with the man, who now seemed downright ancient. My first impression of the farmer was that he was perhaps only a decade or so older than me but at this point I would have believed it if he said he played hopscotch with W. Edward Denning.

"I'm 106 years old if that's why yur scratchin yur head. Now park yurself on that stool and tell me why ya come this way again?"

"Again?", I croaked.

"Yep. That's what I said. You may not remember it but you came this way once before and sat on that very stool. I read the turnips for ya and you made your choice. Was it the right one fur ya? Come to hear what else the turnips have to say to ya?"

"I don't know wh...", I began to exclaim as a large and bulbous taproot, the kind found on turnips grown for livestock feed, slammed into the side of my head. Things went dark.

Spooner Jenkins

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Coal City Connection Part 2: Sixteen Tons And What Do You Get?.....

Above even the din of the striking pickaxes and rumbling carts overloaded with coal, the high pitched wail of a newborn child could be heard with clarity by the miners. He was born in secret and would be kept hidden from the harsh coal bosses that doled out vouchers for scrip instead of cold hard cash. They would have taken the baby away with little remorse and the determined mother had been through too much to lose her child now.

Swaddled in oil stained rags and scraps of old shirts, the child continued to cry. His first breaths taking in the soot filled air of the mine. His mother, with the help of some of the other miners, had fashioned a makeshift domicile in one of the long abandoned shafts. She lay there, holding the child in her arms as her tears joined his. She laughed at the absurdity of it all.

The baby was raised in the coal mines, rarely seeing the sun or breathing fresh air. All he knew were the branching shafts and passageways underground. He was taught to read and write and he grew up strong. His mother longed for him to be able to leave the mines but she was afraid of the world that had treated her so poorly. At night while she slept in the bunkhouse near the mine entrance, when she could sleep, she dreamed of a better life for her and her child. And she wondered about the mysterious young man she had only known for a short time one Summer.

The child was a blessing for the miners. He knew the mine backwards, forwards, and blindfolded. He could smell the coal and lead the miners to prime locations. He also developed a knack for sensing when trouble was near, more than once saving the lives of a party of miners before a cave in or a gas leak. He seemed to thrive in a harsh environment that broke many a grown man's spirit.

As he approached manhood, he began to question his mother about his father and how he came to live in the mines. Long ago he could have left for there was no longer any danger of him being stolen away by his mother's employers, but she was afraid to let him go. She filled his ears with lies about the world so that he would stay. And he did stay because he loved her with all his heart. He stayed long after she died. When the mine collapsed upon him and the miners it was as if he never existed.

Spooner Jenkins

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Coal City Connection Part I.....

(Stim Carlton ruled Belvidere behind the scenes and with an iron fist.)

I have many times written that I spent my entire life until very recently living in Belvidere, Nebraska. It isn't entirely true. While I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life in Belvidere, I did spend part of one Summer in Coal City, a bustling miner town just south of Goose Lake where it is believed that Lou Diamond Phillips once stopped to urinate. This story has never been corroborated by Diamond or his publicist.

It was 1960, I was 27, and I hadn't yet found my purpose in life. The war was long over and life in Belvidere had returned to normal. I worked part time for Stim Carlton at his feed store and spent the rest of my time loafing or chasing Agnes around town. We would be married that Winter but didn't know it at the time.

Old Stim still called the shots around town back then. Even the mayor ran things by him. It was Stim that first called for a perimeter fence to be put up in the southwest quadrant when the Turkey Death Brigades were few in number and more of a nuisance than a danger. My how things have changed. So I listened when Stim asked me to go to Coal City to pick up a very important package for him.

"Why can't you just have it sent here Stim?"

"Why can't you mind your own business Spoon Man."

He was the only person to ever give me a nickname. I guess Spooner sounds enough like one to suffice for most people. I didn't like it but I also didn't have any choice. Nobody talked back to Stim Carlton twice.

"Now you got to pick it up in two days from a guy named Pid Powell. He hangs out at a place called Goose Lake Cafe. Get it and lay low for a few weeks, then come back."

"A few weeks? Where will I stay? I don't got much money. And what about Agnes?"

"Don't you worry bout that Spoon Man. Here."

Stim handed me a brown paper sack full of cash.

"Don't count it here! Consider that your payment in full. But if you don't make good on this job you'll be giving it all back plus interest!"

I knew exactly what he meant. Many folks around town had paid Stim back with interest before. You usually knew them from the bruises. It was hard to imagine a man this hard also spent so much time volunteering at the Shady Acres Correctional Facility for Wayward Teens.

It would take two days easy to make it to Coal City leaving precious little time to prepare and say goodbye to Agnes. So I didn't. I threw some things in a bag and tied it down to the back of my brand new Ducati Elite. I hit the road with the noon sun above and the laughter of the children far off in the distance. I remember that I was still thinking of children as I passed the city limits.

(Spoon Man.)

Spooner Jenkins

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Kellogg By Any Other Name.....

(Maynard Dunn, a rose amongst the thorns of my life on the road.)

With the exception of Deaf Jim, I've never met anyone or anything conceived on railroad tracks that I didn't take a shine to. The beautiful town of Kellogg, a bustling station town built back in 1865 along a section of the Trans-Iowan Railroad, was no different. A nice break sure was a welcome treat after the sordid affairs which took place in Adair just two weeks past.

Being on the road during the holidays has been a burden. I miss my friends back in Belvidere something fierce. My stop in Kellogg was the first time in many weeks that I haven't had to fight back a craving for some of Ronda's $3 Dollar Meatloaf. Hell I'd have paid $30 Dollars for a slice if you had asked me last week. Now you couldn't pay me to eat the stuff. Not with my memories of Kellog on my mind and the crumbs of the fine meal I shared with a new friend still stuck in various places in my beard.

Kellogg's town slogan is "A Great Place to Live", and it is an accurate one. Just ask any of the town's more than 600 full time citizens and they'll tell you. Just don't ask Maynard Dunn, the town historian and curator of the Kellogg Historical Museum, unless you have a few hours of time to kill. I did and I enjoyed every minute of it but not just because he shares the name of my recently departed brother. Maynard, not my brother but Mr. Dunn, a former member of the now defunct Iowa Wild Roses, a law enforcement team similar to the Texas Rangers and named for the state flower, was gracious enough to treat me to a meal at Smacky's Shoppe and Grille. This was the Kellogg equivelant to Ronda's but didn't serve meatloaf.

Instead the menu featured a variety of ways to prepare Eastern Goldfinch, the official state bird. The diner was made entirely of Oak which, as you probably have already figured, is the official state tree. I had Goldfinch soup with Canary Crackers and a side of Fried Finch Fritters(the house specialty) with Golden Finch Sauce for dippin'. I believe the sauce was mayonnaise based but can't be certain. Agnes always knew these things. Maynard ordered off menu having baked chicken. Our waitress, looking rather perturbed, stormed off muttering something about the chicken not being anybody's official state bird. I was tempted to remind her that the Blue Hen Chicken is the state bird of Deleware however chose not to as to avoid having her spit in my soup.

The Iowa Wild Roses was an effective albeit short lived band of lawmen that shut down train robberies and late season turnip picking for over a month before being disbanded primarily due to infighting over the name. Some felt that it didn't serve as a true representation of their fighting spirit and grim determination to put a stop to the lawlessness that plagued the Iowa of the early 20th century. Others felt that it was cute. They were hung and set up on posts to warn others. Maynard thought it was ambrosial which was acceptable because although definition number one in the dictionary available at the time was "especially delicious or fragrant", definition number two was "worthy of the gods; divine". He was merely shot in the leg and left for dead in the wilderness.

Maynard was pleasant company and ate his heaping portion of poultry as if he had not had food in days. It was refreshing to see a man well into his second century of life relish his meal in such a way. I only hope that when I am that age, God willing of course, I will be able to eat baked chicken with a knife and fork as opposed to a straw. He seemed to enjoy the bones most of all, knawing on them until he could extract the flaversome marrow with his nimble tongue. His tongue was fascinating and almost hypnotic as it darted in and about his gaping face hole, catching rivulets of gravy with uncanny almost preternatural accuracy.

Some say the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. I think they are wrong but it is still an amazing piece of machinery. And one that would be difficult to live without. As I sat there imagining life without a tongue, and the speech related sequelae, my thoughts wandered to Deaf Jim. Why does he haunt my dreams so? I don't care about Agnes. I've moved on. Then why? And then I remembered something. Something vital. And I knew where my next stop would be.

Spooner Jenkins

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Truth or Adair.....

(Yorg the Uncertain, Attorney of Adair, Iowa and Eater of Totino's Microwave Pizzas.)

My journey through eastern Nebraska and over the state line into Iowa was uneventful. My first stop in the Buckeye State was a small town known by the name of Adair. Adair is a town famous for being one of the last known remaining North American Viking settlements. Sadly Vikings of today do not resemble the blonde haired barrel chested men of yore that sailed the oceans battling sea serpents and who, it is widely believed by some experts, were the first to discover the land that would come to be called America.

Modern Vikings sport Bluetoother wireless headsets and instant message their buddies about meeting up at the local mead hall for a drink and maybe some pillaging afterwards. Pillaging still rates highly as a Viking hobby, along with disembowling, skirmishing, and Monopoly. Unfortunately the Vikings of Adair have grown fearful of interferences of the outside world and upon hearing the righteous rumble of my hog, condemned me to imprisonment for the confinement and personal use of a demon.

I was provided a defense attorney, seen pictured above, who provided less than ideal representation throughout the month long trial. It was decided that although no evidence of a demonic presence was found on my person or motorcycle, I should still be imprisoned in a suitable dungeon and/or La Quinta for up to one month's time in order to observe me for any signs of allegiance to Loki the God of Mischief.

I was set free just this morning in time to see the parade and dog show on Yorg's high def television.

Spooner Jenkins