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Musin’s and Thinkin’s

Did I ever tell you about the time I traded places with my sophisticated city cousin? We’ll call him Snobbingham Cummerbund IV, because that was his actual name. Ol’ Snobby and I got to arguing about who had it better—him with his wonderful penthouse and social whirl, or me, hanging out with the possums and going to the bathroom in a ceramic jar. There was only one way to find out: spend a week in each other’s shoes!

Of course, I was unfamiliar with the idea of “shoes.” I wish you could have seen me on my first day in the big city, tromping around in my overalls with my enormous bare feet slapping the pavement, my long, black beard filled with friendly creatures as excited as I was to see the fabled sights, such as parking meters and buildings.

I wandered into a place where they were putting on one of these here operas you hear tell about—Alban Berg’s controversial, unfinished masterwork, Lulu.

I have to tell you, the menfolk sure were treating that Lulu mean. I know she wasn’t exactly behaving in a ladylike manner, but that is no excuse for taking ungentlemanly liberties. Why, back in Hog Blossom, you’d be run out of town on a rail for such. So I went outside and found something that looked like a rail and came back in and started chasing people around with it.

Lulu herself came and bailed me out of jail. With tears in her beautiful violet eyes, she told me she had never witnessed such a pure and passionate response to art.

“I knew you were a nice girl at heart, Lulu,” I said.

Then she tried to tell me she was just an opera singer playacting at being Lulu. I let on that I believed her, but I knew she was just ashamed for her past and trying to make a new beginning in this hard old world. I asked her how she’d feel about giving up all this opera foolishness to spend some time sweeping out the chicken coop and boiling her own homemade lye soap as my wedded wife. She said OK.

When we got back to Hog Blossom, the whole town showed up at the train station to celebrate, even my other wife. But as I looked around, I couldn’t help but notice that Snobbingham was nowhere to be seen.

I feared that he was embarrassed about how my plainspoken country ways had paid off so well in his bustling home, but thankfully that was not the case. No, it turned out that just ten minutes after his arrival, he had been kicked in the face by a mule who was startled by the reflection coming off his monocle.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Still lying in the field,” said Uncle Sykes. “That old mule is taking real good care of him. Treats him like her own baby!”

I had Snobbingham moved to my cabin and asked Lulu to dig up some of the weeds growing under the front porch and brew them into a tea.

“Is that a country remedy?” she asked.

“How am I supposed to know?” I snapped. “I’m not a doctor!” It was our first quarrel. Later that night we chuckled about it over a dinner of old corncobs.

When Snobbingham finally came to, he was delighted to discover that the mule’s kick had embedded the monocle directly and permanently into his eye socket.

“By Jove! This has been a profitable trip indeed,” he exclaimed. “Just think of all the time I’m going to save dressing for the opera! I must admit, dear cousin, country life certainly has its advantages. Here’s that five hundred thousand dollars to settle our bet.”

I thanked him kindly and he went on his way. I cashed the check and used the paper money to stuff our mattress. It sure was a lot more comfortable than our old one, which had been filled with busted Coca-Cola bottles. I guess the city has a few good points after all!

Upon his return, Snobbingham was kicked in the face by a mule during a production of the rarely staged Copland opera The Tender Land, and later perished of his injuries. He was twenty-three.

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