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Can a piece of homemade cherry pie overcome a voodoo spell? You be the judge.
Before we started The Funny Times, Sue and I lived on a farm in southern Ohio, part of the baby boomers “back to the land” movement. The wet spring we first arrived it mostly felt like a “back to the mud” movement. A couple of friends, Robin and Laura, were staying with us and one morning we all woke up to find a horse grazing in the fenced and gated pasture outside our trailer. Robin was thrilled. He had always dreamed of having a horse, and now one had miraculously shown up on our doorstep. He went out to make friends with it.
The rest of us, not as prone to magical thinking, tried to figure out where the horse had come from. After walking the fence line, we confirmed that there were no holes or gaps that the horse could have come through, and the fence was much too high for it to jump over. Someone must have led the horse there and left it.
It was June, the end of the school year at the nearby college. Apparently, at the end of every semester many students who had kept pets during the year decided they no longer wanted the responsibility for them over the summer. Rather than taking them to the pound, where they might be euthanized, they would drive out to the end of our dirt road and drop off their unwanted dogs and cats, apparently hoping that the country folk would adopt them. Instead, what happened was that the dorm pets who managed to survive abandonment had gone feral. In particular we had been warned that there were a pack of wild dogs that roamed our neighborhood that was known to attack chickens, sheep, and other farm animals and had even threatened the vet who liked to take an early morning jog down our road. Still, we were pretty certain (except for Robin) that no student would have dumped off an unwanted horse.
After asking around we determined that the horse belonged to our neighbor, Edie. When we called to tell her the circumstances of finding her horse, she immediately blamed our next door neighbor Farmer McPhee for taking the horse. “That redneck is always trying to mess with me. He’d like nothing better than for me to pack up and leave. That’s never going to happen! You better watch out for that man. He’s a pervert!”
We had to admit that we were a little put off by how Farmer McPhee would purposely feed his small herd of beef cattle right next to our fence line, so that he could sit up on his old tractor gazing out across our farm with a pair of binoculars, apparently hoping to spot the new hippy ladies skinny dipping in the pond. But he had also been very helpful in giving us pointers about our land, which he had owned at one time, and of pulling us out of the spring mud when we’d gotten our car stuck. At that time, he had warned us about Edie.
“People say she’s a witch! She belongs to some kind of satanic church that meets up on Mt. Nebo. And you know those wild dogs that run around here killing sheep? She feeds them! Can you imagine that? We’ll be lucky if we don’t all get rabies!”
Being new to the neighborhood, we felt no desire to take sides in this feud. We still didn’t know for sure how Edie’s horse had come to be in our pasture, but Sue suggested we bake a couple of cherry pies to take to our neighbors as a peace offering. When we pulled up to Edie’s place a couple of good natured collies came to greet us. In her kitchen she began once again to rant about Farmer McPhee. “That crazy a-hole took a shot at my dogs last week when he was out hunting for squirrels, or whatever poor critter he likes to murder for fun.” Then she showed us a doll she had made. “Does this look like anyone you know?” she asked with a smile. We couldn’t help but see that the doll bore a strong resemblance to Farmer McPhee, and that it was riddled with long needles, like a pin cushion. “We’ll see who has the last laugh,” she said biting into a piece of cherry pie.
When we dropped off a pie to the McPhee’s place, the farmer wasn’t home, but Mrs.McPhee invited us in for iced tea. She said her husband had gone into town to see the doctor. “He woke up this morning complaining of shooting pains in his back and shoulder. I wish he wouldn’t work so hard. Now that he’s retired from his job in town he just does twice as many chores here on the farm. Maybe the doctor can convince him that he needs to slow down.”
I’m not sure if our neighbors were ever able to settle their feud, but at least after our pie diplomacy we never again had a mysterious animal appear in our field overnight, although Farmer McPhee’s cattle did occasionally break through our fence to help themselves to the greener grass on the other side. McPhee didn’t ever seem to mind the trouble it caused rounding them back up when this happened and enjoyed all the extra time he got to spend mending fences and keeping an eye on what his neighbors were up to.