Jasper Meets the Chestnut Valley Gang


In an earlier era, before television, computers, and many of the other entertainment devices available to today’s youth, young people had to seek out and find their own summer fun. Being the sons of poor coal miners filled with youthful exuberance, they sought out and found their own entertainment often with serious and oftentimes humorous consequences. rg3th

After Mill Creek Mine closed, the boys of the Chestnut Valley gang decided to “explore” the mine.

While I sat on the kitchen door sill waiting for Wizzer to show up, I watched Mom as she baked apple pies. I had awakened in the still time between dark and dawn. My first thought was; today is Saturday and the gang is going to the mine. With that, I jumped out of bed in a flash, ran to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, swept a wash cloth past my face because moms always know when you haven’t washed, got dressed, then I zipped down the stairs three or four at a time and popped into the kitchen. Wait for Wizzer was the though that echoed in my head. Wizzer had promised me that he would be at the house early on this morning so that we could meet the rest of our gang and get an early start on our trip to the mine. Yet, I had long since fidgeted my way through breakfast and still Wizzer hadn’t showed up. I sat, scrooching around trying not to look as if anything was about to happen. I worried that something had happened. I wished Wizzer would hurry up and get here. I felt awfully fidgety. v9slot

“Squirt, are you feeling all right?” Mom asked. I must have looked fidgety as well.

“Aw, Mom, I’m OK. Its jist too warm to do much of anything. I finished cuttin’ the grass this mornin’ n’ I even chased Duffy’s chickens out of the garden. They was peckin’ holes in them tomatas that’re comin’ along real nice on the plants,” I answered her with half a mind. Something else entirely occupied my mind at this particular time. I was jittery. What if Dad decided to put me to work at some chores? Would I miss the raid we had set for today at Mill Creek Mine? Had Wizzer’s folks set him to some chores so that he wouldn’t be able to get away and meet me? joker8899z

“Squirt, your sitting there like that is bothering me. It isn’t like you to cut the grass and do those garden chores without being told,” Mom said. “Now you are sitting there daydreaming! In Heavens name, what is bothering you? Maybe you better go outside and sit down in the shade for a while.”

“Aw, Mom, I’m OK I told ya. Wizzer is comin’ down to meet me in a little while. Then we’re gonna go up in the woods on the hill fer a while. It’s cool in the woods. I’m feelin’ Ok. Honest, I am.”
“As long as you are going with Donnie, I guess it will be Ok.” Mom said. 123maxx
Just then Wizzer gave a tap to the screen door, saw me sitting there on the sill between the kitchen and the pantry and walked into the pantry. I knew then that I was saved. Mom never did and never could say no to Wizzer.

“Hi, Mrs. Murphy. How ya doin’, Squirt? Are ya ready to go?” Wizzer asked.

“Well hello, Donnie. How are you today?” Mom asked. “You boys be careful up there on the hill in the woods, and Squirt, you be sure you are home in time for supper.” We didn’t give Mom a chance to get another word in edgewise or any other wise. We lit out of the pantry, leaped down the steps in two jumps and ran down through the yard.

“Don’t run boys, it’s too hot for that!” We could hear Mom hollering after us as we ran down through the yard and onto the path toward the duck pond. Our pressing concern now was that we would be on time for the meeting with the rest of the gang. We didn’t want to miss any part of the plans that we had made for the job at Mill Creek Mine. Today was the day that we had all waited for, and we weren’t going to miss any of the action that we had planned, not if we could help it. ruay88

“Hi Fellahs. How are youns doin? I bet youns didn’t even see me till I stepped in front of youns did ya?” Little Eyetie stepped onto the path in front of us. He had been hiding behind a big Beechnut tree that stood along the path to the mine while he waited for us. He slipped out onto the path in front of us so slick that he surprised Wizzer and me both. Neither of us had seen him until he stood there grinning at the two of us. Eyetie would make a good scout for the gang if he kept practicing the way he was doing now. Eyetie’s coal colored eyes glistened as he laughed this message to us, “If things go right, we’re gonna have some fun today n’ that’s fer sure. The other guys are on up ahead on the path to our hideout waitin’ fer us. I hung back to see if youns was comin’. Come on. Let’s ketch up. We don’t want to miss any of the fun.” thetechboy

“Nope! Eyetie, that was a right slick piece of scoutin’ that ya done. We never even saw ya till ya stepped onta the path, did we Squirt? Don’t you worry though, Eyetie. This party that we got planned ain’t gonna start without us. Youns would be short a couple of guys to do the job right, n’ besides, the mine still has to be scouted out again n’ all,” Wizzer answered Eyetie. Little Eyetie was new to the ways of our gang but he would soon learn not to worry about some things. The guys in our gang wouldn’t start prospecting at the mine without us being there unless they knew for sure that we wasn’t going to show up. We talked about our plans for the day then while we walked through the woods toward our hideout. When we were close enough for the gang to hear our signal, Wizzer let go with it, two blasts. Tweet! Tweet! Two short whistles to let the rest of the guys know that we were friends, then after checking the surrounding woods to be sure that we hadn’t been followed, we slipped into our hideout. The rest of the gang was all there except for Mole who was still grounded for fighting with his sister.

Wizzer and Little Eyetie went down to the big Oak to check over the mine while the rest of us waited just below our hideout for their signal that all was clear. Ten or fifteen minutes passed. Tweet! Tweet! Their signal that the mine was deserted came floating up the hillside to us. Tweet! Tweet! We heard the signal again. That second signal told us all that Wizzer and Eyetie were impatient to get started on this job. Smasher grinned at the rest of us and said, “We better git goin fellahs er them two are liable to start the job without us.” Smokey, Joker and me joined Smasher and we started down through the woods toward the big Oak to meet Wizzer and Eyetie.

“It looks like the coast is clear. We didn’t see nothin’ movin’ at all,” Wizzer told us when we snuck down to them.

“Let’s go then. What’re we waitin’ for?” It was Smasher as usual. He was in a hurry to get about the business at hand. We snuck up to the mine cars that sat on the sidetrack. Nobody had moved them since Smasher had given us his grand tour during our last visit to the mine. That was a good sign as far as we were concerned. If things didn’t pan out here, we could always take a nice, cool, refreshing, ride down to the tipple and do some exploring there. Somebody else besides Smasher would have to do the driving though. We had fired him from the conductor’s union after the wild ride that he had given us on our last ride down to the tipple. Some of us still dug blackberry thorns from our hides as a result of that trip.

“Boys, we should set one of these cars up fer a quick getaway jist in case somethin’ goes wrong,” I said. “Ain’t nobody in the world could ketch us if we was to have a getaway car sittin’ here, ready n’ waitin’.”

“That’s a good idea Squirt. Let’s do it,” Smokey answered me. In a matter of minutes, we had uncoupled the first car from the other five that was parked there, set scotch blocks under the wheels, and set the hand brake. Wizzer went down to the jump switch and made sure that it was still thrown over to the main track rails. Now, if we did have to make a quick getaway, all we would have to do would be to kick out the scotch blocks, jump into the car, release the brake, and we would be on our way away from any trouble that we might encounter. Things were definitely looking up. While we were busy getting the car ready for a quick getaway, Little Eyetie wandered away from us and crawled through the corral fence.

“Hey fellahs, there’s some kind of a pony er somethin’ in here,” he laughed and lifted his foot for us to see. Something was in that corral and whatever it was; it had left its droppings on the ground in the corral. Eyetie had stepped in it and that sure wasn’t maple syrup that clung to his shoe. “Aw, geez! Now I need somethin’ to clean this here shit off of my shoe.” He scraped his sneaker against the side of the machine shop, and then wiped his foot in some scrubby grass that grew there, shrugged, grinned at us, turned the corner of the machine shop and disappeared from our sight. But not for long.

 


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