Kerosene lamps, old organs, coffee mills and wagon wheels are only a few of the things that can be found at THE BARN. THE BARN is my daddy's furniture and cattle sale establishment where we sell, buy or trade just about anything one can imagine. Although this is primarily a family operated business, there is one outside person who works for us. As long as I remember THE BARN I will remember this person. He is about five feet five inches tall, has stooped shoulders, dark shaggy eyebrows and a face full of deep wrinkles. His name is Scott Peterson Bell. Although Scott doesn't exactly know how old he is, we imagine that he is in his late seventies. Scott can't do much manual labor because of his crooked, paralyzed left hand. He claims that he injured it with an axe while chopping timber for The Alabama State Highway Department. Scott's bushy, gray hair flops down over his wrinkled forehead in the summer, but is usually held back in place by a faded, red baseball cap during the cold winter months. Also, when it is cold he wears two pairs of green Army socks, a pair of infantry boots, two pairs of tattered wool pants and an old, ragged leather jacket. Naturally, beneath all this garb is a snug, warm pair of "longhandles".
Scott's favorite pastime is talking. I'll always remember how he slumps in his rickety old chair, props his enormous feet on the edge of the black, potbellied coal heater and talks to everyone who comes into the office. When he talks he always half closes his eyes, cocks his head back and speaks in a loud, bellowing tone. One never knows what new word Scott may say next. During the 1956 presidential election he informed us one day that "Eisenhouse" was going to be the next president. One Saturday, while working at the store, I overheard Scott say to one of our customers, "Did you know that "Cramp" Waldrop broke up a shicky still at Brushy Pond last night?" I nearly laughed aloud when I heard the way he pronounced our county sheriff's name, which is really Crant. Although he is slightly disabled himself, Scott realized that many others have problems because he says that he really does pity the "caphandied" people. One night when Daddy came home from work he told us that that day he heard Scott ask one of our insurance men if he had one of those new Thundermugs...naturally, he meant a Thunderbird car. I suppose Scott just hears a word, adds it to his vocabulary and then uses it when he speaks, disregarding how odd or strange it sounds to others. Scott's language is contagious. One day when Daddy was loading a stove on the truck he asked my brother to hand him a "strop" to tie the stove securely. My brother laughed and replied, "I'll hand you a strap, Scott is the only one who uses a strop!"
Although Scott's strange appearance and odd language make him rather unpopular with the ladies, he continuously talks about "Gettin' him a woman". One day he ambled up to Daddy and said, "Mr. Fred, would you please write me out an ad to put in the paper so I can get a wife?" Daddy wrote the ad just as Scott wished and the next week we read these words in The Cullman Tribune:
I am interested in meeting a woman between the age of twenty-three and forty. I am a dependable, honest, hard working man. I am a Christian and have
been superintendent of a Baptist Sunday School Department.
Scott got several replies to the ad. One letter was from a Mrs. Jackson who wrote that she had been a widow for two years. Since her husband left her with a sixty acre farm to care for she needed a good, hardworking man like Mr. Bell to help with the work. She asked Scott to visit her at her farm the following Sunday afternoon. Scott was thrilled with the letter, so when Sunday came he put on his good suit and tie and excitedly rushed to visit with Mrs. Jackson. Our family could hardly wait until Monday morning to see Scott and hear all about his date. However, with head and shoulders drooping low, he sadly informed us that his date has been a real "flop". He said, " That woman has sixty acres of land...all grown up in weeds and her farmhouse is a one room shack! All we did was sit on the front porch and eat apples out of a bushel basket."
Several times pranksters wrote letters to Scott, telling him to meet them at a certain place for a date. The poor, gullible, old fellow would eagerly dress up and rush to such places as the bus depot, post office, or courthouse to meet his future bride. Sadly, following endless hours of waiting, he would trudge back to THE BARN . The closest Scott has ever come to getting a wife was the day he accompanied one of his prospects to Stiefelmeyer's Department Store to purchase a wedding gown. Just prior to entering the dressing room the woman began laughing and announced to the poor, dejected, old man that she was merely playing a joke on him. She reported to Scott that she had no intention of marrying him since she already had a husband and four children to care for at home!
Scott amuses us each day with his unique actions and ideas. Before we began selling furniture we had a cattle sale at THE BARN each Saturday. One dreary, rainy, Saturday afternoon just as we were preparing to close for the day, an agitated, rain soaked young man dashed breathlessly into THE BARN. As rain dripped off the brim of his saturated felt hat and stood in puddles on the worn plant floor he said to Scott. "Oh, Mr. Bell, please come quickly and help me get my calf into the cattle trailer. I can't get her to move out of the street!" Scott eased out of his comfortable seat by the warm, cozy fire reached deep into his tattered jacket pocket and withdrew a glistening, sharp, three inch safely pin. The duo then exited THE BARN, trudged across the soggy barnyard and came to a halt when they reached the shivering, mud spattered, white calf. With one powerful, swift motion Scott plunged the sharp safety pin into the hindquarters of the startled calf. Instantly, the calf leapt forward into the cattle trailer. After thanking Scott for his assistance the delighted, though soggy, young man eased his precious cargo carefully along the rutted, slippery roadway. One day my brother asked Scott to run an errand for him. Since poor, old Scott doesn't have too much common sense he didn't realize that it would be impossible for him to bring Freddie a bucket of steam. However, he innocently grasped the five gallon bucket by the handle and tottered off down the street to fulfill my brother's request. Freddie had told him that there were two places where he might be able to get the steam. King Pharr Canning Plant was Scott's first stop, but all he received there were numerous sniggers from the workers. The second destination was Adam's Service Station. Once again Scott was unsuccessful, so he had to amble back to THE BARN and admit to Freddie that he had failed in his attempt to secure a bucket of steam. Scott has one very unusual idea concerning the U.S. Government. He says that the United States is getting so big that there should be two capitols, one on each side of the Mississippi River. I'll always remember what Scott said the day Mother fried a skillet of fresh okra for him. She proudly delivered the steaming, odorous okra to Scott at THE BARN. Instead of thanking her for her kind deed, Scott suddenly threw back his gnarled shoulders, stood surprisingly erect and loudly bellowed to Mother," Miss Ruth, I'll eat anything a hog will eat and a hog WON'T eat okra!" I'll never know where Scott got the idea that hogs won't eat okra, or many of his other ideas for that matter; but now, whenever okra is served at our house, we all snigger as we recall Scott's firm pronouncement.
Someday, when Scott passes away, THE BARN will be a very different place for all of us. We will miss the unique character who has brought so many smiles and joys into our lives. We will miss seeing his stooped shoulders and hearing his loud, bellowing voice. We will all have a host of memories of this human being who has brought so much into our lives.
Written by: Jane-Ann Heitmueller