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Where I’m From
by Jim Allen

“Booger” Finds a Bride

Harold "Booger" Pencroft was one of our community’s most eligible, if not desirable, bachelors. He had moved to our neck of the woods back in the ’70s from two counties over when his brother married a local girl he’d met at a multi-congregational mega-revival.

Her father owned a fair-sized farm not far south of where I’m from and needed someone to manage it while he prepared for his eventual retirement. Booger was a good bit younger than his brother and had come along after graduating from high school to act as his brother’s straw boss.

Over the next three decades, the two bought or leased enough land to become respected farmers in their own right – growing cotton, rice, soybeans and catfish. They also custom harvested, managed a poplar plantation on the river for an out-of-state conglomerate and kept a commercial herd of cattle that they sold from time to time for seed or fertilizer money or when they needed a new piece of equipment.

They had a few employees but were ‘hands-on’ managers who worked just as hard as any of their hired help and kept longer hours than any of them.

Though he was well liked, fitting in wasn’t Booger’s strong point. Being poor as a youngster had given him a self-esteem problem … having a nickname like "Booger" couldn’t have helped much either.

When asked about why he hadn’t married, Booger half-seriously joked that he might be able to take enough time to run to the courthouse to get hitched, but he just couldn’t see piddling away time leaving the farm for any of that courting business.

A tractor might tear up or one of the cows might get out. Anything could happen.

Booger had also read somewhere that about half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. He wasn’t a gambling man and didn’t like those odds. He had a whole list of other reasons for staying single.

Out of necessity, he had learned to cook better than most people he knew. Fact is, except for the time he fried some chicken livers without a shirt on, he couldn’t remember having a negative experience in the kitchen. He also knew how to wash clothes and clean house.

Getting married also cost money. One of the few breaks he had ever gotten in life as a young man was when his brother took him, one of eight other siblings, to work with him on the farm. Other than that, he was a self-made man who knew what it meant to be without.

He liked to call himself "fiscally conservative" but, other than tithing to his church, Booger was just plain cheap. He had stopped physically growing in his mid-twenties and still wore to church his thirty-year-old polyester pants, balloon sleeved shirts and leisure suit jackets that had held up from that era.

He had cut his own hair since he was a teenager though he never really got the hang of it. He kept only his bedroom and a bathroom heated during the winter, in the dilapidated tenant house he lived in near his brother’s place, with an old Waterloo step stove stoked with wood he collected from the poplar plantation.

He heated his bath water and cooked on the same stove. He had a Chevrolet pickup that had over 400,000 miles on it and he was bound and determined to see it go over a million. This penny-pinching came from a man who, by some accounts, could buy and sell most anybody in the county.

The only social life Booger had was when he went to night church on Sunday and Wednesday’s prayer meetings. The ladies there had ‘fixed’ him up a few times but he usually canceled the dates because of work. When he did go out with someone, he didn’t get around to asking, or got turned down for, a follow-up Dutch treat meeting at the Dairy Dream.

One harvest moon night in the late ’90s, his brother invited every Sunday school class member of the church to a pasture of theirs for a bonfire in a veiled attempt to find Booger a honey. Everything went along fine until sometime after the marshmallow roast.

Booger snuck behind the herd to answer nature’s call on an electric fence. Nobody was seriously injured by the ensuing stampede but Booger messed up any chance of getting a date from that gathering. He didn’t show his face at the church house for several weeks.

Then, around Labor Day a couple of years ago, he was on the farm’s D-9, clearing some cut-over woods next to the church where an educational building was planned. Booger sang when he was on loud machinery and doing the Lord’s work made him that much happier.

He was really belting it out as he approached the last locust and bramble thicket to be pushed onto the burn pile…the thicket with a hornet’s nest the shape and size of a 30-gallon axle grease drum. Booger was giving the song all he had with his head reared back, eyes squinted near shut and mouth wide opened in the last line of "How Great Thou Art" when the first wasp nailed him on his right jaw.

A few more seconds and several more pops to the head had him bailing from his diesel behemoth and running to the protection of the black smoke of the burning tractor tire he had used to start his fire. The lumbering dozer took out a large section of the church cemetery chain link fence but miraculously missed any tombstones before finally spinning in its tracks, rocking back and forth and side to side against a giant sycamore tree.

Out of the corner of his eye, Booger saw through the smoke a figure running toward the D-9; that figure then, with a single bound, boarded it from the rear and choked the engine. The next thing he knew, Ellen Bosch, who worked at the parts house and was in the Christmas cotillion choir with him, was whipping away the few remaining wasps with her cap while reaching for Booger’s arm to help him toward her truck.

The heat, smoke inhalation and sickness from the stings had him slightly hallucinating and Ms. Bosch, as he had always addressed her, looked just like an angel.

She had by some quirk of fate, been there for him in his time of need but, most of all she had saved his expensive piece of machinery first! Booger was immediately smitten.

During the next few months, he hung out at the parts house more than he ever had before finally getting up the nerve to call on Ellen at her mother’s house. She saw no reason to waste money on a place of her own since her momma had so much room. It was a match made in heaven; and after a year of cost effective dates, Booger and Ellen tied the knot. They live with Ellen’s momma.

Disclaimer: The story you just read is based on reality. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Any likeness any character in this story has to you, your family or anybody you know or have known is completely coincidental.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006