The Buckeye Tree

This was written by my mother when she worked for the local newspaper.  It always makes me laugh when I read it, and I hope it gives you a giggle. (By the way, the article is bylined and all rights belong to her. I thought I’d throw that in, what with the problem I’ve had with odd websites lifting pictures.)

I haven’t seen a buckeye tree in years and years, but I remember very well where one used to be.

Mr. Bob Kinney lived down on North Lafayette Street when we were children, and he had a buckeye tree right in his front yard.  In the fall, we would watch that tree like little hawks until the spongy husks split open and released the beautiful, shiny buckeyes.  We would pick them up as fast as we could and haul them home in our bulging pockets, as charmed with them as if they had been gold.  Other than being pretty, they were supposed to bring you good luck, and we were willing to believe that even though we realized later that they didn’t do much for the man who owned the tree.

I vaguely remember Mr. Kinney as an old man sitting on his front porch, and we would always speak to him as we went by.  He never seemed to mind that we were so crazy about his buckeyes, and for that we were grateful to him.  I remember that we knew for several days that he was “in a bad fix,” because we were told not to play in his yard and not to be rowdy when we were anywhere near his house.  And finally the time came when we were told not to play in that part of the neighborhood at all, because Mr. Kinney had died, and his funeral would be the next day.

Back then, most funerals were held in people’s homes, as was Mr. Kinney’s.  The house was old, but not even the adults paid much attention to that, and as children, we paid no attention because we thought all the houses and almost all the people in town were old.  We all grew up with old, so it was no big deal.  We were sorry that Mr. Kinney got sick and died, but since the best, and only, thing we could do for anybody was to go play somewhere else, we did.  We should have hung around.

Mr. Kinney drew a number of people to his departing, and his open casket was put on some kind of very substantial stand in one of the front rooms.  Rev. James, the Presbyterian minister, preached the funeral, and a quartet, one of whom was “Miss” Will Allen Rose, sang a hymn or two during the service.  Everything went according to plan until right at the end.

Just as Brother James said the final prayer and the quartet was singing the last song, the old, rotten floor joists under the casket could bear the extra weight no longer, and with a crack, they lapsed.  Very suddenly, Mr. Kinney just took off.  He followed the floor, feet first, wherever it was going, and when he finally stopped with a great thud, he and his casket were partially in the hole and partially in the house, and since his new position was more vertical than horizontal, he seemed to sort of stand up in his casket and lean sideways at as slightly irregular angle.  As the center of attention, he had no rival.

Years later, “Miss” Will Allen told me that Brother James told her that as he stood there with his head bowed and his eyes closed and felt the jolt and heard the crash, as the grand old hymn was being sung so sweetly in the background, he became mildly alarmed.  But when he opened his eyes and saw Mr. Kinney whiz by and assume an almost upright position, he thought surely the next sound he would hear would be that of the last trump, and he began to shake in his shoes.  Fortunately, that note never sounded, and the singers sang on to the end of the song.  They had sung through bugs and burning baptismal curtains without missing a note, and on key they finished what they had come to do.

Following the Ahh-men, those in charge pulled Mr. Kinney back into the parlor, got him to lie back down, and moved him, very carefully, to the hearse and then on to the cemetery.

The old house stayed there for some time, and I don’t remember when it was torn down and taken away, and the buckeye tree went with it.  Neither departure, I’m told, was nearly as spectacular as Mr. Kinney’s.

(For another laugh from my mother click here.)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. JLI
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 08:24:07

    It sounds like something straight out of Dennis the Menace!


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