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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
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A happy Black ‘Thursday’
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

By MORRIS STEPHENSON -

Just as soon as I finish writing this column, I'm going to flip through the yellow pages and find the number for a "head shrink" after I suffered a two-hour "brain-dead" period Thanksgiving night.

In fact, I can't even believe I'm writing about this, but I couldn't let the opportunity pass.

The first symptom occurred Thanksgiving morning before I decided to rake and later burn what turned out to be a huge pile of leaves. I wasn't paying much attention to what was going on around me, although I was in the kitchen with wife Hazel and Victor.

Wife Hazel said something I thought I understood, but I had some second thoughts. Sometimes, I intentionally do this. To be on the safe side, I asked her to repeat what she'd just said. When she did, it turned out to be exactly the same statement she'd made a minute earlier.

"I'd like to go Black Friday shopping at 8 o'clock tonight," she repeated. "That'll be okay," I answered, figuring she would either forget about it or didn't have such a trip in mind to begin with. Actually, I thought she was playing mind games with me, interested only in my answer to her statement.

Within minutes, I was in the yard raking the leaves into large piles. No breeze was blowing and it was the perfect temperature under a warming sun. Thanksgiving dinner has been, for many years, hosted and prepared to a great extent by wife Hazel's youngest daughter, Peggy. She's married to Roger Brown, son of Paul, one of the famed "Dancing Browns" of years ago.

Of course, everyone brings in one or two more dishes, and it takes a couple of those 8-foot tables to hold all the vittles, plus a couple of smaller tables for deserts and drinks. Of course, there's more food than twice the number of people in attendance could eat in two sittings.

Wife Hazel was in the house getting ready to go to Peggy's in Glade Hill. She was targeting her arrival time at 10 a.m., but it got delayed until 11. By the time she was ready, I had loaded all the goodies in her car, and all the leaves were in a big pile ready for burning.

The leaf-burning was perfect. No smoke followed me around as the wind was not even moving the decorative flag on the carport. And any ashes I saw floating into the air were white. But just in case, I hosed down the vehicles closest to the fire. The chore didn't take nearly as long as expected.

Needless to day, I was ready for a hot shower and a change of clothes. Wife Hazel left and I showered. Then I had to take some time to play with Mr. Vic and his favorite toy, a loud, soft rubber squeeze toy giraffe.

I finally arrived at the Brown's home and had to search for a place to park the "Green Machine." Being rather small in size, I found a tiny opening between vehicles and wiggled the car into place.

Just about everyone was there or arrived shortly thereafter. Of course, all the women folks were preparing the tables with food. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out there was way too much food for the number of people, especially considering there were five youngsters. Wife Hazel's teenage grandsons, Brandon and Blake, eat as much as probably two healthy adults.

I won't get into a blow-by-blow description of what all I ate, but I loaded a fresh plate with four deserts, including banana pudding, chocolate eclairs, Oreo cookies fixed up special in a pan, along with some kind of pumpkin cake but close to a pudding description with lots of whipped cream and other ingredients.

On the way back home to Ferrum and while enjoying the Redskins whip up on the Cowboys, I mentioned shopping again. "Yes, I'd still like to go at 8," Hazel replied. I'm not relating what I was thinking of that answer. After watching her carefully go through two flyers that were stuffed into the Wednesday's News-Post, I knew I was in for a long night.

So after the 'Skins held off the 'Boys, we departed for the store.

As I made the big right turn off Route 40 East, I couldn't believe my eyes! I'd covered Black Friday openings for 13 years for the N-P. Never, ever had I seen the parking lot so full. Vehicles even filled the closed auto store parking lot!

When we finally found a parking spot, I asked Hazel, "What did you come here to get?"

"Oh, nothing. After 17 years of working at the retail giant, I just wanted to see what it was like when I didn't have to work," she answered. I cringed at the answer. At least we wouldn't be standing in long lines or walking through the store from corner to corner, looking for a certain special.

What it turned out to be was a homecoming, of sorts, for wife Hazel. She saw many of the associates she worked with over the years. There were lots of hugs and brief exchanges of the latest news from each one she saw.

On occasion, we would stand as she talked, dodging buggies filled with flat screen TVs and operated by shoppers who weren't tall enough to see over or around the huge, thin boxes. I have to admit I did some talking of my own, seeing folks I hadn't seen in a long time and catching up on their news.

Some two hours later, just before 10, we headed out the door of the building with more shoppers coming in for the 10 o'clock sale items. We had a single bag containing three calendars and a "Hello Kitty" child's necklace with a grand total of about $20.

I haven't seen wife Hazel that happy in a long time, and I must admit, I felt pretty much the same way. 'Twas a good night for all, I guess you could say. It was the first time in a long while I could actually admit I had a pretty good night. And I didn't have to load bags of gifts into the trunk and back seat of the little Green Machine!

It was after 10 p.m. when we arrived at the house, much to the delight of Victor. But, of course, he's always excited when we return home, regardless of the hour. But Victor, like us, was ready to retire for the night shortly thereafter.

What goes around comes around - I picked up an interesting bit of information from long-time friend Rex Stephenson, who is retiring after 30-plus years with the Ferrum College drama department. And by the way, we are not brothers and didn't know each other until coming to good ole FC.

Rex directed the first play ever of the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre entitled "Too Free for Me." It is based on an actual event in 1851 when a female slave, named Indiana Choice, sued her master for her freedom. She was represented by Franklin County attorney Jubal Early, who won the case. Norborn Taliaferro was the presiding judge in the case.

"I've been promising people we'll perform the play again on the BRDT's 35 anniversary, but I'm not going to make it ," Rex said with a hint of sadness in his voice.

Rex said a former BRDT actor, who teaches at Marion High School, has directed his drama group to the state finals with "Too Free for Me." For theatre lovers with time on their hands, they can see the play one more time, at least, in their lives. MHS students will present the play at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3 in the Monticello High School auditorium, according to Rex. "I know most people won't be able or aren't interested in going all that way to see the play, but I thought the story was interesting," he said.

Mystery visitor - There's one of those great big ole totes sitting behind my house not far from the bird feeders. It's so big, it'll easily hold 50 pounds of black sunflower seed with room for a little more. How much more? I haven't a clue. Fifty pounds is all I can afford and can tote from the car to its holder.

I've had a mystery visitor at the tote for a couple of months now and haven't been able to come up with an ID of the uninvited guest.

No, I'm not missing any seed, and I haven't seen signs that my supply is decreasing. However, the heavy duty plastic continues to show signs that something has been trying to get into the food supply. So far, it's been unsuccessful. There's growing evidence all over the ground surrounding the tote.

Whatever is visiting the tote is chewing holes in the lid, especially at its four corners. Those are little bitty teeth doing the gnawing, judging from the marks. There's one corner that's come under attack on numerous occasions. That hole just keeps growing larger as time goes by.

My tote, like all others, has two snap locking devices at the handle ends. So Sherlock Holmes, aka me, figures a coon isn't involved because it would have long ago figured out how to remove the lid. Then the big fat creature would have climbed inside the tote and eaten so much at one sitting, it wouldn't be capable of climbing out.

I don't know for a fact, but I would assume a possum isn't smart enough to remove a lid. It would probably spend all night, or until Victor is released the next morning, getting from his place to the tote.

All the blame, based on the conclusion of my intense investigation, is that the culprit is one or more of the country/city squirrels who dine at the Stephenson Family Restaurant (for bushy-tailed creatures). But I can't find an eyewitness to take the stand and testify. Wife Hazel hasn't seen one trying to get to the major food supply.

That leaves only Victor, our Schnauzer. When he zooms out the storm door and blasts onto the carport, every squirrel at the ranch runs for its life. The dumb ones are learning they'd better climb the nearest tree. If they're in the trees, they'd better be higher than Mr. Vic can jump. The dog is fast and at full speed, he's only about half as tall as he actually is in real life. He's come so close to grabbing a squirrel by its tail, I'm thinking about giving odds that he'll catch one very soon.

Of course, I have no clue what would happen if he did manage to get lucky and grab one by his tail or hind quarters. I'm guessing the squirrel would turn and bite Mr. Vic a couple of times, which would break our lovable pet of his favorite sport.

Right now, I don't have any evidence, but maybe one day soon, I'll include a picture in the column of a squirrel inside the tote, flat on his back, legs spread apart and passed out cold from over-indulgence...like a drunk who broke into a bar after it had closed. Stay tuned.

 
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