by Judith Allen
The story of a horse-tradin' mystery and how Our Millie follows the clues.
|Our Millie used to say that there are some things in life that are mysteries and no matter how hard you try or how much time passes you never really know what was goin' on r why, but maybe it is best to let some people keep their secrets.
In which we meet Uncle Fuzzy, explore a horse-tradin' mystery and learn a little about gettin' along in life.
Uncle Fuzzy got in his old beat-up Chevy truck and passed Our Millies' house every Saturday morning at about 6 o'clock. She'd hear the crunch of the tires on the gravel and look out the windw to see Uncle Fuzzy sittin' up high in the driver's seat with his hat pushed back on his head, drinkin' coffee from a thermos and lookin' like he was ready for good day. It didn't matter if it was rainy and cold or the sun was lookin' like it was goin' to give the holler a bright, hot day, the truck belched black smoke, spit gravel on all sides and took Uncle Fuzzy wherever he was wantin' to go.
Sometimes he stopped and picked up Pa or Grandpa. They looked real happy to be headin' out too, but most times he went alone.
Our Millie was usually in the most exciting part of a dream and just when she was goin' to find out what happened next there would be that noise and commostion on the road. She didn't like it much. But most of all she was just curious as to where he was goin' and why he was gone all day and didn't round in to the house 'til just a supper time. Aunt Nelle was a great cook and she could see why Uncle Fuzzy
didn't want to miss none of that, but where was he all day? And why did he go there, wherever it was?
Our Millie had just been learnin' about solvin' mysteries and gatherin' clies from readin' Nancy Drew stories at the library in town, so she decided this would be a good case to crack, as they said in the books, and she set about makin' a plan to get to the bottom of it.
She decided she could ask Big Mil and Grandma first. They just looked at her and didn't really give her much of an answer. Grandma said she guessed he was jsut just goin' horse tradin' and Big Mil said she should find something better to do than to spy on people. That didn't help in her investigation at all and they didn't seem to be impressed when she said she was doin' this so she could be like Nancy Drew and havd a detective agency and get written about in books.
Our Millie really liked Uncle Fuzzy. He drove the school bus, and the Sunday School bus and was always nice to her. He waited for her when she was runnin' late and even watched to make sure she got home alright when her road was flooded in the Springtime and she thought she would get swept away in the current and taken out to the river and drowned. Not like MIz Niecy who would pull away even if she saw you comin' and really didn't care if she delivered you to a watery grave when you got off her bus. He was the nicest driver around and an old friend of Grandpa's. So, one day when she was gettin' on the bus and the other kids weren't very close yet she just asked him where he went. He never did have much to say, but this time it was just a few words she could hardly catch. "Goin' horse tradin'." Then he motioned her to get in her seat 'cause she was holdin' up the bus loadin'.
She wondered all the way home just what he meant. She always saw him in the Chevy truck, and never saw a horse, either comin' or goin'. He didn't even have a horse. He had an old mule for plowin' and a couple of goats, a cow for milkin' , but Our Millie could never remember seein' a horse of any kind on Uncle Fuzzy's place.
Pa wasn't any help either. The next time they were fishin' she asked him. He laughed for a minute and then patted her on the head and said there were more important things to think aobut, like gettin' a mess of fish of supper, so she shouldn't worry about it. He would be alright. She hadn't really been worried, and hadn't thought that Uncle Fuzzy might not be alright. Maybe he was in danger and had to hide someplace every Saturday 'caude the bad guys had that day off from whatever bad they were doin' and could come lookin' for him. Maybe she should talk to the sheriff. But she got so caught up in baitin' her hook and castin' her line and feelin' the sunshine on her face and seein' the flashes of silver in the creek as the sunfish went swishin' around that she forgot about it all. Later that day she was relieved to see Uncle Fuzzy comin' home alive and whistlin' in his truck. It was good to know the bad guys hadn't got him.
Grandpa wasn't any better either when she talked to him. he said he had know Uncle Fuzzy most of his life, goin' back to when he was called Leonard and had a head of hair that looked like peach fuzz and got his the name Fuzzy, even though he was bald now. Grandpa said that a man had to do what a man had to do, and it is best to leave well enough alone. He gave her a jaw-breaker and sodme money to get a pop at the store and told her to skedaddle.
Now she was really confused. So Our Millie decided she would just ask Aunt Nelle about it. She fodund Aunt Nelle sittin' in a recliner in her backyard surrounded by her cats and a couple of new puppies that Miss Bonnie the basset had presented them with. She was drinkin' sweet tea and offered Our Millie some. She always felt so grown up when Aunt Nelle gave her tea and cookies she had baked fresh, and had her sit at the little garden table and chat. There was usually a pie coolin' on the windowsill and some smells waftin' from the kitchen, aromas, they called them in bookd, that made her mouth water. She could stay there all day and maybe get invited for supper.
After they had settled in a bit and had some tea, and seconds on the cookies, and talked about the weather and the new folds movin' in up the road, and petted the cats and tried to think of names for the puppies, Our Millie decided to approach the subject by aking Aunt Nelle what she thought of horses and if she and Uncle Fuzzy had ever had one. That seemed alright 'cause the answer was no, they had nver had a horse. Uncle Fuzzy liked the old mule and goats jsut fine, but wasn't too crazy about horse, and she had been thrown off one when she was a little girl and never wanted to go near one again. Our Millie thought this was very curious and set about framin' her next question.
Our Millie very casually arranged her glass of tea and the last of her cookies on the table and folded and unfolded her napkin about a couple of times and said that she had heard that someone had told someone else and it got back to Billy Bug, and then to her, that Uncle Fuzzy had been seen at a horse tradin' show at the fairgrounds a few times.
Aunt Nelle looked at her and smiled, and then laughed out loud. She sat there awhile and said, "Child, what do you really want to know?" Our Millie didn't like bein' called child when she was havin' sweet tead and cookes and carryin' on an adult conversation. It took her down a bit and made her feel mad and sad at the same time. So she just came right out and asked where does Uncle Fuzzy go every Saturday and why does he stay all day?
Aunt Nelle said that of course, if Uncle Fuzzy said he was goin' horse tradin' then he was. He didn't have to be doin' the tradin' you know. She poured some more sweet tea and went ahead tryin' to name the puppies, but she looked like she was goin' to start laughin' again any minute, so Our Millie just decided to go home and think about it some.
It looked like the only way Our Millie was goin' to solve the mystery was to go with Uncle Fuzzy. Since he would never let her ride along and she had no idea where he was goin' anyway she decided to get to his house before he left and hide in the back to the truck. He had so many things in there that he would never notice her, She got Billy Bug to cover for her at home and sort of let Big Mil know that she would like to spend some time with Pearlie Gates and help her plant some flowers. She couldn't decide it that was a lie or not, since she did expect to help her sometime, but it was all for the caude of solvin' the mystery and maybe savin' Uncle Fuzzy's life from bad guys.
So, one morning she found herself under some feed sacks in the back of the old Chevy bumpin' down the road toward town. She didn't know that he was goin' to take Bonnie the basset along 'cause she hadn't seen her in the truck before. But Bonnie seemed to think Our Millie was one of her puppies and tried to lick her face and hands all the way to town. She couldn't really say anything or move around much to get wawy so by the time Uncle Fuzzy stopped the truck and she moved lower in the corner and Bonnie jumped out, she was covered with dog lick and not feelin' very happy.
She had to go on with her mission though and watched as Uncle Fuzzy and Bonnie made their way to an old house on the corner of Front Street and Main, go up the steps and open the door without even knockin'.
She waited for awhile and saw a lot of other men go in too, including Dr. Mayes and the lawyer with the new office around the corner. She was surprised to see Grandpa get out of his truck and stroll up the sidewalk just as easy as could be.
As she got closer she could hear some voices comin' from the back and she sneaked around the corner of the house. She could see through a half open window if she was very careful. There was a whole table of men, drinkin' beer and eatin' fried pork sandwiches and playin' poker. They were laughin' and havin' a high old time and Uncle Fuzzy look the happiest of all. Bonnie was under the table lickin' up wahtever was dropped. Our Millie thought about her lickin' her dace and was glad she hadn't smelled like pork chops.
After awhile Grandpa decided to leave. He hadn't had any good hands and he always said he only allowed himself to lose so much, so he could get to play again another time and Grandma wouldn't kill him. Our Millie was gettin' awful bore and hot so she stepped in beside Grandpa as he came by. He didn't really seem too surprised to see her, and Billy Bug had told him what was goin' on. He had really come to town so she could have a ride home.
Grandpa said they used to meet at Uncle Fuzzy's house but Aunt Nelle had gotten too fancy and said if he didn't take them card-playin' no goods someplace else she would take off and go back to Charleston where people had some class. Our Millie decided to not have sweet tea with Aunt Nelle again and to keep Uncle Fuzzy's secret to herself.
She asked Grandpa to drop her off at Pearlie Gates' house on the way home and maybe she could convince her to plant some flowers so she hadn't really led to Big Mil.