Once upon a time (original start isn’t it?) lived a man-child by the name Dugan Earl. Dungan stood well over 6 foot 4 inches and weighed over 250 pounds of solid muscle toned by years of working the rails on the L&N Railroad and supplying firewood for the town in Kentucky in which he was born and raised.
Dugan had hands the size of watermelons and a mane of hair flowing down to his shoulders. His forearms and massive legs ripped apart the rivets of his Levi overalls/coveralls that he always wore. The only aspect of Dugan that was “minimized” was his IQ. Dugan was a wonderful man that never spoke, or thought of, his lack of education as anything but a reason to ask questions and watch every mannerism that the respondent said sometimes several times as Dugan loved to learn new words and tales from home and abroad.
Besides Dugan’s imposing physical presence those who knew him couldn’t help but focus in on the never relenting smile that showcased his “kinda crooked dentures” which were the result of an errant horseshoe that shattered his teeth to the roots – fractured the upper part of his jaw – bloodied his coveralls but Dugan brushed off by downing his favorite beverage…sweet tea.
Now, Dugan had a heart of gold and had the strength capable of downing the tallest tree in the forest in a few strokes of his massive axe. Dugan knew every verse in the New Testimate and always took time to honor God though words and deeds. Dugan could be counted on to help the elderly and the first to welcome newcomers settling in or just passing by. Dugan loved a good joke and considered himself to be the best checker player in the County. The only thing Dugan ever feared was…no one. If ever there was a “gentle giant” Dugan Earl was it.
When Dugan wasn’t hard at work, or helping those in need, or jawing over a well worn checker board set Dugan could be found in his third generation rocking chair listening to the radio waving to anyone within view.
Dugan never said a curse word and loved to tell the same joke over and over and over. It went like this “what do you get when you combine an Elephant and a Rhino?”. Dugan would laugh out loud holding both hands to the front pockets of his overalls and regardless of the response he would yell out “EL – IF – I – KNOW”.
One heated summer eve word got out that Dugan hurt himself and soon friends, neighbors, and relatives were strolling in and out of Dugans home offering food and support and checking the bandages of his broken, but set by the local Doc, left leg. Being bedridden was something that Dugan wasn’t used too but was told he had to. Dugan respected the Doctor and did what he was told never complaining.
Now Dugan had a secret sweetheart named June who was selected to come and check on Dugan early in the morning, during her break for lunch in the afternoon, and just before the sun set. She soon got into the routine of small talk bracing her arm on the wooden chair beside Dugan’s nightstand gazing at the yellowed photo of Dugan’s beloved Mother who passed away decades ago of old age. Other than the photo on the nightstand was a large bowl of peanuts which Dugan consistently asked “want some?” as his massive arms reached for the bowl moving it closer. The response was always the same…”no thank you”.
As Dugan healed, and his stories repeated, and his questions answered Dugan began to take it personal when his offering to share his peanuts went unaccepted.
Finally, as the Doc came by to check the bone in Dugan’s leg Dugan got the “ok” to start walking on it for more than a few steps. Dugan sprang up from the bed and bypassed the Doc and hugged and lifted up this secret sweetheart saying “you are my good luck girl”. As Dugan gently lowered her down to the worn floorboards Dugan grabbed the bowl of peanuts and said “now, I’m not gonna take no for an answer so please have some of these peanuts”. Well, good cheer was in the air and that wide eyed grin was impossible to deny so she reached down into the large bowl – grabbed a hand full of those peanuts – and put them in her mouth and started to chew. She looked at Dugan and he was smiling ear to ear with peanut remnants caught between his dentures and his lower lip. It was a magical moment.
On this night time flew by and the combination of good stories, fresh sweet tea, and and handfuls of peanuts were gobbled up and finely chewed. Before she knew it the peanut bowl was almost empty causing Dugan to offer to get up and find some more.
Now, the night was getting late and she said “don’t bother” and checked to make sure Dugan had all he needed until she would return the next morning just to check in. She asked, as she always did, “is there anything you need?” and Dugans response was the same…”no mamn”. She said “now, Dugan we sat here and ate all your peanuts so tomorrow I am going to go by the store and get you a bunch and bring them with me in the morning” and Dugan responded by “make em chocolate”.
She said “make what chocolate?” and Dugan smiled and said “make em lots of chocolate covered peanuts” and she said “don’t you want the same peanuts like we just ate” and Dugan said the words she would never forget, and soon became a tale heard around Kentucky and throughout the entire South, of; “Those peanuts were chocolate covered peanuts because before I got my new dentures all I could do was suck the chocolate off the peanuts”.
No one knows how many boxes of chocolate covered peanuts it would have taken to fill that large bowl up. No one knows how long it would take to suck the chocolate off of those chocolate covered peanuts to fill up a bowl. What everyone could agree was the story, like Dugan Earl himself, was…unforgettable.
Jeff Schrembs – 2011 All Rights Reserved