Gordie Reaps the Whirlwind

Gordie Reaps the Whirlwind

By Elton Camp

(This is a continuation of the series about life in the rural South during the early 20th Century.  This specific episode follows “Equal Rights for Women,” so it would make more sense if you find and read that one first.)

            On the way home, Leamon walked along with Gordie’s son. “What’s your paw doing at school today?” 

            “He aims t’ git th’ teacher fired,” the boy reported with a conspiratorial tone. “He sez he knows jest how t’ do hit.” 

            Leamon liked the teacher. She had opened new ideas for him, even lending him some of her books and working with him after school. He discussed the injustice with John, a pal of his who lived on the Brock Place, about a mile from his home.

              “Something needs to be done about Gordie,” he urged. “You like Miss Gunnels too. Want to help me pay him back?”

            “I’d like t’, but I don’t see much we kin do. Th’ word o’ th’ trustees a’ways stands.”

            “We can’t stop him from running her off, but we can throw a scare into him,” Leamon responded. “I have a plan.”

            The two boys searched in John’s barn until they found an empty syrup bucket. Leamon worked the handle loose from the sides and discarded it. He wiped out a thick layer of dust.

            “This’ll do fine. See if you can get a piece of string and some beeswax.”

            While John was hunting the items, Leamon picked up a small nail and drove it through the center of the bottom of the syrup bucket.

            “Heer they ez,” John said. He handed the two items to his fellow schemer. “Whut y’u gwine t’ do wif ‘em?”

            “I’m making a dumb bull.”

            Leamon inserted the string through the hole in the bottom of the syrup bucket, tied it to the nail, coated it with the beeswax and gave a tentative pull. The device emitted a horrible sound like a moan.

            Around midnight, the two boys slipped out of bed and worked their way into position about fifty yards behind Gordie’s house.

            “This ought to be a good place,” Leamon whispered. Gordie was superstitious and poorly informed even in country matters. A man like him was easily frightened.

            Leamon pulled his hand slowly down the length of the string. The dumb bull produced a low moan. He made the next pull harder. The sound was louder. By stopping and starting and varying the speed of the pull, he was able to create a frightening series of sounds.

            “Look. They’s ’wake,” John whispered.

            The dim glow of a kerosene lamp from one of the windows showed that the ruse was working. Gordie opened the back door and stepped out onto the porch.

            “Whut’s thet thar sound? Hit goes like a wild anim’l o’ sum kind.”

            Leamon handed the device to John, who added his own variations to the voice of the dumb bull. Both boys struggled to stifle laughter.

            “Ma’be y’u better go down thar ’n’ check, Gordie,” his wife drawled as she joined him on the back porch.

            “I ain’t goin’ nowhars nigh sich a thang. Hit mought be a panther or even the dev’l hisself.

            At school the next day, they learned that Gordie had closed and nailed the shutters all around his house. That afternoon, Leamon overheard him talking to a group of men at Simps’ Store.

            “Hit wuz horribl’ ez cud b.’ His voice quivered with fear. “I tho’ght shore we uns wuz don’ fer. Hit squall’d and wail’d ’n’ com’ rat up t’ th’ hous’ en scratch’d ’n’ tore agin’ th’ walls. I though’ shore et wuz gonna force ’n’ one o’ th’ winders. We could a been kilt.”

            Leamon smiled with satisfaction. The plot had worked better than he’d dared hope. He’d never tell about it and hoped that John wouldn’t. The situation wasn’t changed for the teacher, but Gordie didn’t go completely unpunished for his treachery.

            Miss Gunnels married a week after leaving the school. She and her husband moved to Birmingham. Few in the community knew or cared what became of her.


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Revenge against an ignorant, superstitious, vicious man.
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