Ambre, Andy's daughter, asked in a prior blog post if her Grandpa told Andy and me stories at bedtime. I think it's time to pass some of those stories along.
"All of you down to the bathroom," Mom would order us three boys who shared the same bedroom. Andy was the youngest, I was the oldest with Allen between us. As soon as we were ready, we jumped into bed and waited for Dad to appear. Our room had been added to the back of the house and contained three beds in a row: mine by the door, Andy's in the middle, and Allen's at the far end. Dad perched on my bed to tell his stories.
When Dad was a boy, one of his heroes was a real live cowboy who often passed through Blanding by the name of Andy Delany. According to Dad, Andy Delany was the toughest, smartest, and wisest cowboy in all of the Southwestern United States and
. Not surprisingly, Dad named one of his own
boys Andy. Mexico
Andy Delany stories always had a moral -- a nugget of cowboy wisdom -- at least as Dad told them, and I knew these were things I needed to remember. One of my favorite stories had two nuggets.
AND THE MINER’S POT
OF PORK AND BEANS
Andy was a cowboy for nine months out of the year, but cowboys often had to find other work during the dead of winter. . . and prospecting and mining were glamorous at the time.
One winter, Andy teamed up with Old Frank, a cranky hermit who knew a lot about minerals and the local geological formations.
Old Frank's miner’s cabin up in the high mountains was first class – it was weather proof, had two rooms, and a stone fireplace for heat and cooking.
This particular winter, Andy brought a fan of his, Young Bill, who wasn’t that smart, but was strong as an ox and a hard worker.
Each day they mined for gold at a claim several miles higher up in the mountains from the cabin. It was late winter and they hadn’t been into town for supplies for many weeks. Out of matches and about out of food, they would start a fire each day from the coals left over from the prior day's fire and hunt deer when they weren’t mining. The side of pork they'd brought with them from their last trip to town was mostly a pile of bones.
Earlier in the week Andy had taken the pork leftovers with the last of their pinto beans and stewed up a big pot of pork & beans, which was their dinner each night. They kept the big pot hanging in the fireplace to keep the mice out of it while they were gone to the mine during the day. This kept the mice out, but the pot didn’t get cold like it would have if they had kept it outside.
The strain of hard winter was wearing on them all. "I swear, one day I'm gonna kill Ol' Frank," Young Bill would mutter several times a day as he ploughed through some dirty job Old Frank had left for him.
Andy would clap him on the back, saying, "Not today, my friend. Just wait, he ain't going to be on top forever."
One day, they left early in the morning and stayed until late at night working their mine with little to eat. "I'll be dying soon, if I don't get some grub inside me," Young Bill muttered as they slogged down the mountain to the cabin.
Inside, the cabin was so cold Andy and Young Bill went right to work in the shadowy dark, coaxing a new fire from the coals in the fireplace. As usual Old Frank let them do the work. Dropping his gear in the middle of the dirt floor, he carried the big pot over to the wood table, grabbed a big wooden spoon and started wolfing down the pork & beans.
Young Bill snarled, "Old Frank's gonna eat everything that's left! Don't you try to stop me this time! He's got it coming."
Andy laid a hand on his shoulder. "Wait a minute."
As Andy pulled him back to the flickering start of a fire, Young Bill said, “I’m gonna kill that selfish old buzzard. We do all the work around here while he does nothin' but eat up all the food.”
Now Andy knew something about selfishness (Old Frank’s problem) and he also knew something about an over blown ego (Young Bill’s problem). Andy said, “The selfish will eat the bitter fruits of their own selfishness all by themselves, unless there is some proud fool around eating too!”
This brought Young Bill up short. What was Andy talking about? Was there something here that was escaping him? About this time the fire in the fireplace was big enough that Andy could light a small stick, and carry it over to light an oil lamp.
Andy trimmed the lamp and the cabin filled with light. Suddenly Old Frank started gagging and bolted for the still open door. Outside Old Frank seemed to be throwing up his own guts.
Andy and Young Bill walked over and peered into the pot. The whole mess of beans was moving. It was alive – alive with maggots!
Staring bug-eyed at the heaving mess of beans, Young Bill finally turned and smiled at Andy. “I think I’ll let Old Frank eat these fruits all by himself!”
At this point, all three of us boys were also bug-eyed and ready for Dad's moral.