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Open Features: Lonnie and I - Man's Best Friend

William Burkholder brings us a brilliantly funny story about what happened when two young men went to bury old man Pike who had been kept in the well shed for some months because the ground was frozen too hard for a grave to be dug.

Bill's tale will leave you longing for more "Lonnie and I'' stories - and the good news is that he promises there will be more.

Do read Bill's poetry in Open Writing http://www.openwriting.com/archives/north_american_dreaming/

One spring, Lonnie and I went ta work for the undertaker Pardee. He was the buryin man over in Calhoun, just a pole cat's jump outside a Otisville. It was gettin on ta spring and he wanted me and Lonnie ta go down ta the well shed at the cemetery, and git old man Pike ready ta bury. Ya see, Pike died in mid January and the ground was frozen solid, Pardee decided to wait until the ground thawed so's he could bury him.

We stepped out of the undertaker's office, and headed down ta the cemetery.

Old Pardee said there id be shovels and picks in the well shed along with old man Pike.

"Dig that hole deep boys, I don't want the critters getting to im, his missus id have a fit if pieces of em went missin."

"Yessir" I said and then Lonnie piped up. "When we gonna eat?"

I poked Lonnie in the ribs with ma elbow,

"Hush now Lonnie, we'll eat after the buryin."

Lonnie looked at me and nodded, fiddling with the fork in the top pocket of his T- shirt.

We made it down ta the well shed and I unlocked the door. I stepped in, and was near frightened ta death. There was old man Pike, deader an a runned over porcupine, Sittin straight up in his pine box, Arms stretched out like he was trying ta grab me!

I got so afeared that I screamed like a ribbon-in-the hair school girl. I thought old man Pike had come back from the dead, just waiting for someone ta come along and let him outta that there well shed.

Me and Lonnie was so scared, we fell over backwards out the door and landed in a pile.

"Lonnie, did ya see that, Old man Pike's a zombie?

Lonnie stood up and brushed the dust off his hog washers and went ta the door.
He took a peek inside at old man Pike who was still settin upright. Lonnie turned around and smiled.

"Old man Pike's still frozen, the frost must a made em like dat. Drew em up tighter an a shoelace, like on a pair of them fancy tennis game shoes!"

I picked ma self up and peeked in over Lonnie's shoulder.

"You sure he aint some sort of zombie or somthin like at? I seen a movie onced about them zombies, they'd like ta eat folk's brains and intestines. I had ta leave the picture house, bout scared me ta death watchin it!"

Now Lonnie twern't much on words and the like, bein friends and such, he usually left the talking up ta me. But that day, I guess he decided to speak some.

"You dad burn fool, if'n somebodys dead, and they been dead for nigh on four months, how in the hell do you think theys gonna come back from the dead. Your just sceered a old Pike."

"Well you wasn't ready ta go in there and give im a hug neitherm" I said.

"Let's just get on with it Lonnie, get in the shed and grab them shovels and what not!"

Lonnie grabbed the picks and shovels and we went over ta the buryin site. Now old man Pike bein the miserly curmudgeon that he was, didn't believe in spending his hard earned money for a hole n the ground. He wasn't gonna pay fer a fancy grave up on the hill. Pardee said it was like tryin to squeeze lemon juice from a rock just ta git fifteen dollars for the hole he was gonna be buried in.

That ground was so damned hard, I thought we was about to break off the end of the picks. It was like burrowin inta cement! Lonnie and I picked and scraped at the dirt with the shovels, each time getting just a little bit deeper. The sun was startin to reach its noon peak and it started to git a might hot.

"Lonnie, I said, why don't ya grab that there pail and get us some water from the well yonder?"

He nodded and pick it up and commenced to the well. Lonnie got to the well and went ta put the pail on the hook. I don't know what he did, but he musta missed that dern hook, and that bucket fell down the well shoot.

"Dang Lonnie, that there's the only bucket we got fer water. That's a three dollar pail and Pardee'l have our hides if we lose it! He'll end up dockin us on the pay side!

Git on down there and grab the there pail, I'll keep digging here."

Just about that time, old man Pike's favorite coon hound, Rufus come a runnin down the hill, bayin and barkin, some folks say that dog never left the cemetery onced they'd brought Pike down from the church in January.

Pike loved that dog, you'd always seem im on the front porch with the big ol dog in the old mans lap. Pike id be lovin on im, pettin im, and talking in his ear like. They was inseperateable.

Rufus went ta sniffin around the well shed. He musta knowed that Pike was in there.

"Rufus, git outta there!" I didn't want em jumpin up on the frozen corpse and snappin somthin off! That dog took one look at me and ran back up the hill.

Just then I saw Lonnie, takin the rope from the well spool and feedin it out.

"Lonnie what in the hell you doin now?"

"I gotta git down in the well somehow, I am gonna tie off this end in the well shed and shimmy down ta get the pail on the other!"

"Fine Lonnie, I raised my eyebrows at im, that always told im I was peeved at what he was doin. In case ya'll didn't know it, Lonnie was never the sharpest crayon in the box. But he was ma friend and I put up with em fer better or worse I guess. Just get the dang pail. I am so dry I could whistle a sand storm."

Well, Lonnie went inta that there well shed, lookin for a place ta tie off that rope.
He looked and looked and couldn't find anything that he could tie to ta get im a straight shot out the door.

Except for old man Pike, There he was with his arms all froze up and stretched out. The perfect spot Lonnie thought that he could tie off to. Now Lonnie only weighed about a hundred and forty five pounds soakin wet, and old man Pike was a big man, so I could see Lonnie thinking that Pike could hold up to Lonnie's weight shimmyin down that well.

He went over and tied a loop around Pike's left arm right at the elbow, and started payin that rope out back towards the well. When Lonnie got ta the well, I guess he figured he'd give a good test yank before he started climbin down.

Lonnie took that rope with both hands and yanked for all he was worth. I heard this snap, and that rope went slack, and outta that well shed come a flyin old man Pike's left arm like it was shot from some sort a crazy arm cannon.

Lonnie never knew what hit im; Pike's arm clocked Lonnie right betwixt the eyes and knocked him over the rail and right into that well. I just stood there fer a second, shocked I guess. I couldn't cipher out what happened right away. Then it come ta me. That dad burn Lonnie had tied his self off to a dead man, a frozen dead man at that! I guess between him being frozen and the warmer weather, Old man Pike had half thawed, and just enough for a piece to break off! That is if somebody tied off to im and planned on goin down a well shoot!

Just about that time, here comes Rufus again, barkin and howlin, he'd seen his master's hand, that hand that had petted im and fed im. Before I knew it Rufus had a hold of that arm and was commencin back up the hill.

'Rufus. Ruu-fuss!" I screamed git back here with Pikes arm. But Rufus was long gone, all I saw was the end of that well rope disapearin up over the hill.

Bout that time Lonnie come crawlin up outta the well. I turned and saw em soakin wet with a big ol goose egg in the middle of his forehead.

"Lonnie, we need ta go find Rufus, he done run off with Pike's arm!"

Lonnie looked at me, still dazed, "I know where he's goin, he's headin back home! We can cut through the trees yonder and meet em at the front door."

So there we was, runnin after Rufus, chasin a dead man's snapped off arm tryin to cut im off before he could git home and show old man Pike's missus what he done brought home.

We come outta the woods in ta Pike's soybean field, and saw Rufus running up the driveway and on ta the porch, I didn't see the truck any where about, so Pike's widow must a been in town. We crossed the field, and went up the drive, and sure enough, there was Rufus with Pikes arm, he was a rubbin on it. I guess he was tryin ta git it ta pet him or somthin. That poor old Hound looked so sad ta me and Lonnie. I guess it s not only folks that mourn the loss of a loved one.

Me and Lonnie stepped up on the porch and I was finally able to coax Pike's arm outta old Rufus's mouth, the sleeve of Pike's torn suit jacket arm was all slobbery from Rufus lickin on it. That dog looked up at me with the saddest eyes I'd ever done seen. This dog loved that old man. And with those eyes he was askin, where'd he go?

I passed Pike's arm behind me to Lonnie, and told em to head back to the cemetery.

And I just sat there pettin Rufus, He climbed up in my lap, just like he used ta do with Pike, I petted im and whispered in his ear, "good boy Rufus, good boy."

I looked down the driveway and across the field ta see Lonnie disapearin inta the tree line back towards the cemetery. I saw Pike's old pickup truck turning in as well. It was the Widow Pike comin back from town.

She got outta the truck and said, "What are you doin here boy, and where'd you find that hound? I aint seen him for nigh on four months now."

"Afternoon Miss Pike, we found Rufus down at the cemetery and I uh, thought I'd bring im home to ya. Mr. Pardee has me and Lonnie doin the grave digging today, for the, well, for your mister ma'am."

The widow Pike looked on me with an approvin eye and thanked me for doin the diggin, and Lonnie as well.

"How'd he look boy? That damned Pardee was too cheap ta hire a back hoe tractor to dig im a proper grave, but I'm beholdin to you and Lonnie for doin the proper thing. Tell me, the critters didn't git to im did they, A man needs to be buried with all his parts don't ya know?"

I choked a bit and told the widow that yes, all his parts were still there; but I didn't tell her they were a little detached and soggy, but they was still there alright.

'Well ma'am I said, I need ta be gittin back to Lonnie and well you know, Do ya think ya could tie Rufus up fer a spell, just until the buryin's over? I think that there hounds been down in the cemetery all this time lookin fer mister Pike."

She bent over and grabbed Rufus by the collar.

"This crazy old hound and that crazy old man of mine were a pair weren't they?
They was inseperateable!"

She smiled and went inta the house with Rufus.

By the time I made it back to the cemetery, Lonnie was pattin down the last shovel full of dirt on old man Pike's grave.

I sat down, leanin against the well shed wall, and Lonnie brought me over a drink of water. Somehow he must a got the pail outta that well.

"So I see ya didn't need ta tie off ta anything to get that pail back Lonnie."

Lonnie looked at me with a strange look in his eye.

"I don't know he said, when I got back here, that bucket was settin up on that there well wall, full ta the brim with cold water. I didn't go down there and git it."

Got me ta thinking, maybe it was old man Pike thankin us fer buryin him, thankin me fer bein kind ta Rufus, and thankin us fer getting his arm back so's he could be buried proper like with all his parts.

Lonnie tapped me on the shoulder.

"When we gonna eat?"


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