Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

The following is the third installment in a seven part series entitled My Hometown, the chronicles of the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa.   A town of humble souls originally called Casey’s Woodpile in the mid 1800s.   …And then sometime after that they burnt the woodpile to keep warm and changed the name to Muscatine.

Not exactly like an Episode of Lost, you won’t necessarily need to start from the beginning to understand what is going on, and as you will find this set of stories may suffer from a chronological disorder anyway.  But if you prefer, you can start with My Hometown Part I – The Man and His Clam.  For that,  

Click here

Now that you have read about the frolicking German clam hunter who ushered in the Great American Clam Rush, you can continue in the series by perusing My Hometown Part II – They Found What in a Ketchup Bottle? For that,

Click here

I was surprised as well when I first learned about Wilber Surfurlong’s amazing use of his time as the Heinz Ketchup night watchmen.    

BACKDROP:

The childhood home of the proprietor of The Small Ball Report’s sits one block from the Muscatine Slough, a gentle, calm, and watery bog teeming with blue gills, crappies, and bullheads.   Among it’s other creatures, the Slough was also at one time home to the most frightening flock of water fowl you could ever imagine, a chicken-duck crossbreed that small kids with bags of Wonder bread crumbs would run from. 

If two of these birds had showed up at the platform to Noah’s Ark, the gray bearded cruise director would have probably said “ARK’S FULL” and sent them on their way.    …Or maybe, Noah is the one to blame, as he may have given the Ark Key Card to a male duck that couldn’t make it 40 days and nights without getting a piece of Strange, and the only strange feathery tail available was the slutty chicken in the next paddock.   I could not confirm or deny that account the last time I read the book of Genesis. 

Only this chicken ducks mom could love it.  Not sure if mom was the chicken or the duck.  Picture borrowed from http://www.kadavy.net/blog/

Only this chicken ducks mom could love it. Not sure if mom was the chicken or the duck. Picture borrowed from http://www.kadavy.net/blog/

It was at the Slough’s banks in 1982 that I first encountered the chicken duck.   I was fishing by myself and had no more than set my hook, when I saw a few of these scary fouls give chase towards me.    I dropped my pole in fear and ran away, but after only a few short steps, I tripped on an oddly shaped mound and fell to the ground.   Writhing in pain, I felt a sharp oblong object, protruding from the morning dew.

The sting of my fall apparently caused me to forget about the attacking chicken-ducks.   EDITOR’S NOTE:  Later research of Musser Public Library town newspaper microfiche revealed that there was no documented chicken-duck attacks on boys fishing in the 1980s so perhaps inserting the word SISSY in one of the previous sentences would have also been applicable.    

What I did discover, however, was that the sharp object that I had unearthed from the ground was in fact an Indian arrowhead.  Excited by this find, I took the arrowhead to the front porch of my Sloughtown neighbor, who happened to be my Grandpa.  It was there that he told me about one of the more amazing stories in the history of my Hometown. 

Check Out Those Melons

In the year 1815 among the first white settlers of the upper Mississippi River was a man named Colonel George Davenport. An Englishman by birth, the discharged US Army veteran was asked to lead a group of men in keelboats up the river from St. Louis to establish a supply post for the 8th Infantry.   Not to skip ahead, but Davenport ultimately succeeded at this task and the town he settled on the Mississippi would be named in his honor. 

Fun & Hilarity on the Keelboat

Fun & Hilarity on the Keelboat

Davenport, Iowa is one of the Quad Cities, a grouping of four connected cities twenty-five miles up-river from Muscatine.  The Quad Cities (QCA) are so famous today that people living within a radius stretching as far away as Central Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and the Rockford-Aurora-Joliet, Illinois corridor can on average name two of the other three cities that make up the QCA.   If it helps, a clue: toward the end of his life, Colonel Davenport was known to play Texas Hold-Em with his buddies Sergeant Major Moline (Illinois), Lance Corporal Bettendorf (Iowa), and Captain Rock Island (Illinois).  

The QCA, as the nation’s 86th largest television market, has served as a launch pad for news media darling Paula Sands whose Paula Sands Finds-Another-Dog-a-Home-On-TV-Just-Like-She-Did-Yesterday Live show has been a long running hit.  Her daily inspired, insightful interviews with Humane Society workers about which mutt will land in the home of an elderly Geneseo widow is a cutting edge staple.

But enough about her, this story is about Davenport’s keelboat trip up the river in 1815.   Keelboats were an engineering marvel for their time.  They were about 10 feet wide, 60 feet in length, and were propelled by a dozen oarsmen with 12 foot long sticks, poor dental hygiene and heightened levels of body odor.   In the shallow hulls of the keelboats were crates of food, munitions and supplies, and various furry animal pelts and coon hats that were a hit with Davenport’s Indian patrons.          

That summer, among the fifty or so men traveling with Davenport, were two other recent discharges of Andrew Jackson’s Battle of New Orleans army, Charles Surfurlong and Benjamin “Shaggy” Van Slice.  They were both fortunate to be in the rear keelboat farthest from Davenport’s famous “Watch out for that F%(&%#  Log” tirades.

One could imagine a keelboat trip being a splendid time if you had about three Coors Light Party Balls, ice, and you were floating down the river throwing a Frisbee at your Whamo catching Lab.  But up river, not only was the travel slow and arduous – at best they could travel 10 miles a day – it was also froth with danger.   And, Colonel Davenport’s men had some very close calls from some flying Indian arrows from the river bluffs.

It was five days since the last arrow onslaught near what is now Burlington, Iowa, but the men had finally started to settle and feel safe as they prepared their nightly meal on that September night in 1815.   Earlier that day, Charles and Shaggy and the other men in the rear keelboat were thrilled to enter what was now a very slow moving channel of water, a diversion from the broader, bigger Mississippi.  

It just so happened that the channel that Davenport and his men were now navigating through was in fact the Muscatine Slough.   In that day, the Slough was not a stand-alone body of water, but rather a channel of alternate water flow from the main portion of the mighty Mississippi.   And in the middle, between the Mississippi and the Slough, was a sandy piece of land known now as the Muscatine Island.   It was a mile up from the start of the Slough channel that Davenport and his men made camp, and the Islands of the Mississippi were always their preferred camp spots because of the protection from the harmful natives.  

Early in the morning at first light, Charles and Shaggy, feeling the safety of the island felt compelled to explore beyond the sandy dune levies.   They hiked on foot up the sandy beach, through the initial outcroppings of brush, grass, and trees and looked out into the distance and saw pockets of vegetation, more dunes and watery sand pits.  

They walked a few hundred yards further through a marsh of trees, stumps and other plant life, and as the vegetation got thicker, eerily in a world with few previous footsteps, they found what appeared to be a walking trail.   Only a few more steps up this trail they both were startled to hear a foreign sound, the voice of apparent laughter of a Native American.    They immediately ducked fearing this was an approach to an Indian village and that they would most likely be vastly outnumbered, with each carrying only a hunter’s knife.

To one side of the trail, Shaggy dived into the marsh, to the other side Charles. 

Shaggy was first to speak, “Charlie man was that what I think it was?”

“Shaggy, it’s Indians let’s run, let’s get out of here” Charles responded.

“Hold on, let’s wait it out,” Shaggy replied.

“Not for anything else,” Shaggy Van Slice continued.  “But, we need to get over that dune and report back to Davenport on who is living on this Island.”

Reluctantly Charles Surfurlong rose and started to creep low to the ground.   “Get behind me and let’s go slow up to the top of that dune,” he said.

Shaggy Van Slice and Charles Surfurlong, veterans of many Indian skirmishes were two toughened men and they unsheathed their daggers to be ready for what might come next.    At that moment, they were able to hear more clearly the voices on the other side of the dune and although it was foreign in its dialect, it was also soft, feminine, and inviting, almost melodic.    They couldn’t yet catch a glimpse of the Indians, but it was apparent that instead of just casual talking and laughter, what they could hear were at least two female Indians in song.   And as they got closer the soft dance of a running stream was now in harmony with their choruses.

As they finally crested the dune, they bent over under a shrub and prepared themselves to see a large camp of war crazed Indians.  What they instead found were two beautiful, angelic native women indeed in song as they appeared to be dancing and bathing together in the slow moving stream.        

“Let’s try to get closer,” Shaggy was heard to have said as it appeared that there were no other Indians around.

They didn’t yet have a clear angle and picture of what the Indian women were doing, as there was still much plant life between them.   It was also unknown as to what state of dress these women were in, but from what could be seen, they were both endowed with a dark and succulent skin, glowing and glamouring, much different than the girls that they had seen in the saloons of Memphis, Louisville or Baton Rouge.     

As they got to a vantage point that would give them a full view of the women’s activities, Charles and Shaggy were startled by the beautiful canvass that unfolded before them.  It did appear that these two women were in a state of undress.   With her back to the peeping Davenports, one of the women cupped a handful of water and both Charles and Shaggy were captivated to see every trickle dance off the naked back of this mysterious goddess.

“Look at that…this is, this is, this is …amazing.  Maybe the keelboat can go on without us,” Charles whispered.

Not great boots for walking in sand

Not great boots for walking in sand

The other Indian lady, more beautiful than the next appeared to bend down and then she raised up, and it was at that point that Shaggy could stand it no longer and was heard to yell out.

“Check Out Those Melons!” He screamed.   

“Oh my, what a beautiful set of melons!” Charles yelled out soon after.   

It was at that moment that Charles and Shaggy had seen for themselves a pair of the most voluptuous, tantalizing and tasty looking…Watermelons.    

Remarkably, the men of that time although clearly entranced by mysterious naked women bathing, they also were equally captivated by fresh fruit.   …And on that morning they had stumbled upon the most fertile and revered piece of fresh fruit farmland in the territories of the young nation.  

Muscatine, Iowa and more specifically the Muscatine Island with its sandy, inviting soil would become the Watermelon capital of the world.      Delicious green Melons with its succulent pink fruit and the light brown with orange fruit Cantaloupe Melon would be planted for the next 200 years after the keelboat men’s discovery.  Not a coincidence, the Cantaloupe is also known in some circles as the Musk-Melon in honor of my hometown.  

And while the men on Davenport’s keelboat didn’t make a love connection that morning in 1815, they did pave the way for eventual relations with the residents of that island, the Mascouten Indians.   And it was for the Mascoutens that the town would eventually be named.   …Or something like that. 

Check back later for My Hometown Part IV – Donny Clamwood aka Clammers – A Miller’s Hill Wipeout.

For more half truthes and outright lies, visit www.smallballreport.com

weinermobile 1Detroit, MI.   Washington, D.C.   General Motors announced today that despite months of secret off-road testing, the new Chevy Hot-Dog-With-Ketchup-On-A-Bun will not come to market in time for the 2010 new car release.  A report in Automotive News has suggested that the embattled car maker remains hopeful that it can address safety concerns and have the bun encapsulated wiener car ready for 2011.

This announcement follows a series of recent highway accidents where hot chick college sorority girls on school break have crashed the Chevy Hot-Dog-With-Ketchup-On-A-Bun into medians, snow banks, and random Racine, Wisconsin townhomes.  Oscar Mayer LLC, the principal test driving contractor for the Chevy Hot-Dog-With-Ketchup-On-A-Bun said that no human error was involved in the recent accidents.  

GM’s own safety engineers have blamed the handling problem on the car’s inability to self navigate while young Kappa Kappa Gammas are applying make-up and simultaneously downloading Katy Perry’s Waking up in Vegas on the new iPhone 3Gs that Daddy just sent her via DHL. 

This is not good news to some who have counted on the Chevy Hot-Dog-With-Ketchup-On-A-Bun and its advanced fueling technology to revive the downtrodden company.   At its core, the Chevy ‘Dog is an engineering marvel.   Instead of regular gasoline, the vehicle runs on the barely edible discards of a meat plant factory.   Or, if it’s easier to comprehend, it runs on the ingredients that you would otherwise find in a package of hot dogs that you would find at your neighborhood Kroger/Albertsons/Safeway/Publix/Fry’s/Jewel/Food Lion/Cub Foods/Hy-Vee.   …Damn.  In that sentence I inadvertently snubbed all my Schnucks loyalist readers.

wienermobileBut anyway, it may have seemed like yet another setback for our economy but GM CEO Barack Obama softened the announcement when he read from his teleprompter this afternoon:

“The Chevy Hot-Dog-With-Ketchup-On-A-Bun is still the hybrid we have been waiting for,” he said.  “Sure, the critics can say, ‘Not This Time’.  But, they will say ‘Not This Time’ at their own peril, because the Chevy Hot-Dog-With-Ketchup-On-A-Bun is the car that we all can believe in.”

This announcement calmed investors of GM.   …And then those same investors realized that GM has already been de-listed from the NYSE and has been replaced with the ticker MLTQQ, or Motors Liquidation Company (this is true, look it up).  Investors of those shares felt a pucker, and the then saw their share price fall to .459 cents, or about half the price of one package of Fun Dip.   But, at least the new Fun Dip now comes with two delicious dipping sticks.

Sensing an opening and adding additional insult to the domestic car market, the Honda Motor Company in a joint partnership with Smithfield Beef played the savvy and fast tracked to its dealers a new Honda Corn-Dog-On-A-Stick.   It’s a similar driving experience, but more reliable and without all the annoying recall postcards.

Meanwhile T. Boone Pickens, in an announcement from his windy Texas ranch, a ranch he calls New Mexico says that, “I counseled Barack about not going forward with that automobile, and instead focus on more mainstream fuels like natural gas.  It just goes to show that when you take somebody with very little experience and put them in such an important position, a lot can go wrong.    The next thing you know he will think that because he is the CEO of GM that he has the experience necessary to be President.”

350px-Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware

George Washington - He Did Many Great Things

Today is the 4th of July.    Happy Birthday America.    We celebrate our greatness and our stickiness as a nation.  We have survived for over 230 years.   We have bended under pressure, but never wilted.   And, for at least the last 100 years we have been the biggest bad ass country on the planet.   Only Rome’s lofty 3 to 4 century longevity streak stands in our way of breaking the all-time empire record.    

Rome faced barbarians, but none like we have faced.  They had great men, the Caesars Augustus and Marcus Aurelius come to mind, but not as great as the men and women of our storied past and present.

From the beginning, when our fathers from England told us to pay our taxes, we said we shall not, and as for this shipment of your tea we shall not drink it, but instead we shall dump it in the Boston Harbor.  And besides, you scoundrels, we prefer coffee anyway.   And not just any coffee, here is $5 I’d like a Carmel Macchiato.  Make it a Grande.       

We hired a great man but humble farmer from Virginia named George Washington to be the General of a ragged band of men that would expel those red-coated funny talking Brits from our new land.  A stately looking fellow he knew early in life that he had a mug made for a new currency.    

On Christmas night in the year 1776, Washington had to have thought, “This is a cold ass night.   What I wouldn‘t give to be spooning Martha right now.   I bet Adams and Franklin are putting another log in the fireplace.   Oh well, if I can just get across this river and sack the Brits, the $1 bill will be mine for all time.”   

He did and although the dollar bill is rarely used these days with the proliferation of the pick your favorite MLB team debit cards, it still can be found as currency at lemonade stands, small town general stores and in the G-strings of sleazy strippers. 

Besides Washington, there would be other great Americans, to name a few:

When the Brits came back for a rematch in 1812 and burnt our nation’s capital and presumably sniffed Dolly Madison’s underpants from her White House dresser drawers, there were many great men to rise up and fight back.   Among them was a man that gave up a perfectly good Mardi Gras celebration to turn back the Brits at the Battle of New Orleans.    That man was Andrew Jackson.  

When the Rebels among us tried to break us apart and take for themselves our rich fields of cotton and tobacco and eventual redneck race car circuit, a great leader said not so fast.   That man was Abraham Lincoln.      

When Japanese sneak attackers torpedoed our Pacific fleet at Pear Harbor, a man stood before us announcing that despite the Infamy of the attack, it shall not stand.   Women and flat footed men with poor eyesight took to our nations factories to build the weopons of war.   Meanwhile, young men of all backgrounds enlisted en masse to build a force strong enough to repel the Japs from their Pacific roosts.   A great American rallied our nation.   That man was Franklin D Roosevelt.   Harry S Truman would finish his work.

When an odd looking Austrian named Adolph felt that he would be the great empire maker with his evil, hateful and sadistic ways, our leaders said not so fast.   A great general would hatch a creative plan with the help of our Canadian, French & British friends and surprise the Germans in the dark of night at a place called Normandy.   That man was Dwight D Eisenhower.   

Not just a nation of great white men, our nation found its voice and its path toward diversity and equality at the dreaming of a peaceful outspoken Southern Baptist Minister.  The challenges still many, but people of color would one day ascend to the Supreme Court, to the sidelines of NFL champions, and to the ultimate of office jobs, the one with Oval dimensions.  That man with the dream was Martin Luther King.

Men may have hogged the headlines for the first couple hundred years, but no longer.   Women have always been the heart and soul of our nation.   Women of all eras broke through and made their mark.   Women like Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross, and Susan B Anthony.   Women like Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Tubman.   Women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, and Sandra Day O’Connor.  And Women like Billie Jean King, Sally Ride, and Oprah Winfrey.  

Americans have always stood together.  Despite our vast differences, and minor political disputes.    We root for American heroes at the Olympics, the Ryder Cup, the Tour De France, and with a slightly less rabid voice and less face painting in the competitions of Nobel and Pulitzer.      When the American runs, swims and skates to victory it is like our own brother or sister is the victor.   We will even look the other way if there may be a rumor that our hero used a corked bat, or a helpful hormonal shot, or had a dirt bag friend club her rivals left knee cap.   Americans all, we root for their victory.

Joe Chestnut - Our Hot Dog Eating Hero with the formidable Kobayashi

Joe Chestnut - Our Hot Dog Eating Hero with the formidable Kobayashi

And so today on the corners of  Stillwell and Surf Avenues on New York’s Coney Island another Great American rises up to represent us.   Joey Chestnut defends his title at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.    Chestnut is a national treasure.    Last year his prowess was revealed as he conquered for the second straight year the foreign dragon, Japan’s eating legend Takeru Kobayashi by eating a record 64 hot dogs.   Kobayashi, the Tiger Woods of eating contests was presumed to be unbeatable.  But Chestnut undeterred, gorged his way to two straight titles.   

Not all of us can be great Presidents, Generals, Activists, Athletes or War Heros.   But to anyone that has ever ate a hot dog, whether it be gourmet or sloppy, with chili or with cheese, at a picnic or at the ballpark, Joey Chestnut should be in our rooting hearts today.    U-S-A!    U-S-A!

newspaper3THE SMALL BALL REPORT welcomes the former readers of Small Ball Saturday by Anthony Liebrandt. 

We approached Anthony Liebrandt three weeks ago with a buyout offer after his stunning newsbreak of a Scary Ice Cream Man on the loose terrorizing young children in his suburban Chicago neighborhood.   This was exactly the kind of news our readers had been clamoring for.    …And speaking of clamoring.   The fact that Anthony Liebrandt’s compelling lifestory began in a town infested by smelly, mollusky clams all but sealed the deal.   We knew we had to act quickly before the other big dot-coms beat us to it.    As it turned out operatives from the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report were both waiting in the lobby as we were consumating the transaction last evening.

There will be a minimal reduction in workforce as workers at Small Ball Saturday have agreed to be interviewed for the few open positions that are available at the THE SMALL BALL REPORT.   This is also corporate code for they should expect a pink slip as soon as we have been shown how they were doing the financials as we don’t want to run into a Sarbanes Oxley situation.    Some attrition is expected.   We hear that beat reporter Trash Toter will likely find a role outside the company (We can only hope). 

Thank you for finding your way over to smallballreport.com.

The following is part of a special commemorative series called My Hometown. Although not required reading, you may want to read, Part I – The Man and His Clam, first. For that, Click this link:

My Hometown Part I – The Man and His Clam

Thank you, by clicking that link you just gave me another web page hit which will be important to my sponsors, when I find some.

Our story picks up during the waning days of the Great American Clam Rush. By the mid 1920s Runway models in far off places like New York, Paris & Waterloo/Cedar Falls would soon be modeling clothes made with the new trendy plastic button, rendering the made from a clam Muscatine Pearl Button obsolete.

As an aside, despite the lack of footnotes at the bottom of this report what you are about to read is a true story. I was known to skip my college journalism course, JO-181 How to Properly Attribute a Source. …Quite often, as it turned out.

BACKDROP
The 1920s had come to the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa. Industry was yet to meet the full brunt of its Depressional 1930s smackdown. Former Iowan Herbert Hoover was still just a lowly cabinet member in the Harding and Coolidge administrations. Only later would his Presidential body of work ruin for all time, the presidential aspirations of Iowans like Ray, Harkin and Vilsack. Perhaps also, those three losers suffered an allusion of grandeur that they felt they had actual name recognition with someone whose porch was not being pelted by Des Moines Register paperboys on slow moving banana seat bikes.

Prohibition was at play and had shut down my hometown’s two favorite watering holes, Casey’s Wooden Nickel Pile Saloon and the original Pete’s Original Tap. Not so secretly, there was one Speakeasy on Iowa Avenue between Second and Third Streets across from the future Stanley building. Today, locals know this place as Bootleggers, ironically not because of its Prohibition past, but more so because they ran out of names to call it after 18 previous owners and naming stints that included DC Arnolds, Mac’s on the Avenue, Ken Crabtree’s Sud Factory, Sgt Hammer’s Confiscated Spirits and my personal favorite Dr. Craig Paul’s Plus 21 Pub & Saturday Night Dance Emporium. 

The original Bootleggers of the 1920s offered more of the banjo and fiddle sound, and not so much of the jazz based flapper music that was commonplace in other spirited American locales. In fact the first known female to dance-step the Charleston in Muscatine did it to woo males into letting her cut in a 1930s soup line. …It worked by the way.

They Found What in a Ketchup Bottle?
In the mid 1920s JT Van Heck lived alone with his mother, the widow Mairebelle Van Heck. One morning he groggily proclaimed, “I will not set one more damned boot on that god forsaken Clamming Rig. Demaris can kiss my Ahrse!” Like most mornings in the summer of 1925, the widow Van Heck had just awakened her sleeping giant. Her baby boy, JT was all of 25, normally a gentle person by nature, on this morning he was particularly prickly, and angry at the world.

“I didn’t survive the Argonne taking machine-gun fire from the damn Huns to put up with this clam crap forever,” JT continued to complain to his mother.

JT was a veteran of the Great War, a Doughboy. After a troop raising assembly led by his high school principal, William Rettko, he signed up at the age of 17 in the year 1917. Before the year was out the second generation German immigrant would be fighting in the American First Army for General Pershing in France. A strange twist taking up arms against your parent’s homeland. Even more strange, a Hun himself, he had taken to name-calling other Huns. Perhaps that was an odd thing for the youngster to say to the Widow? Or maybe, it was an acceptable practice back in that day, just like today’s rap artists have the creative license to use the N word at will.

What had JT all hot and bothered? The day before his best friend Mattias Bartenhagen, a fellow worker for the Mitchell Demaris Pearl Button Company had just landed the job they had both interviewed for at the newly expanded HJ Heinz Ketchup factory. A third friend, Wilbur Surfurlong had worked for Heinz for the past 18 months and highly recommended they both try to get jobs at the plant.

Mattias had found a posting on Monster.com and with a fancy cover letter, resume, and several practice interviews he had outflanked JT for the job. While Mattias correctly answered in his interview when asked “What is your biggest weakness?” that he was sometimes too “detail oriented”, JT had mistakenly told the shift manager that his biggest weakness was, “Sometimes when I’m on the clam rig, I will forget which way the wind is blowing, and I will accidentally piss into the wind and soil my work pants!”

So it would be Mattias that would show up early for work that day, fill out HR forms and request business cards with his new title, Food QA Inspector. A fancy way of saying that he would start his career chucking rotten tomatoes in a horse drawn cart and hand tossing the good ones into a slow moving canal of bobbing tomatoes that meandered through a factory door where the voluptuous orange fruit would be crushed, squeezed, cooked, and slow dripped into a thick paste that would settle to the bottom of a Heinz ketchup bottle, a condiment to become a symbol for a nation. That same reddish thick sauce later to be found on Ray Kroc’s Big Mac and Dave Thomas’s Wendys Single, and when it is requested in fancy Parisian restaurants, it is a rather comical way for an American tourist to say screw you to their French waiter. In the Liebrandt house, one of the younger Liebrandts is nicknamed Ketchup Girl for her liberal and mutli-faceted food group usage of the red paste.

But the real reason that both Mattias and JT wanted the gig at Heinz was because of a discovery they had made the summer before. They had been out one night after closing down things at the Speakeasy, and it was a short walk back to their neighboring houses on Sycamore. Mostly in their nighttime stroll they just lamented how the Bill Killefer coached Cubs were destined to not win a pennant again this year, the fourteenth straight year.

But as JT claimed, “Aww shucks, at least this streak won’t last forever.”

To shorten their walk, they decided to cut a corner and walk through the open lot next to their friend, Wilbur Surfurlong’s house. Heavy with trees and brush, the open lot was a favorite hide-and-go-seek spot for chore-less neighboring school kids. Which is also the same thing as saying the lot was not used for hide-and-go-seek becasue no kid in the 1920s was without a day full of chores.

It was dark and with no street lights to find their way, JT tripped over a half buried crate.

“You are a sorry, clumsy Hun bastard, I thought you had recovered from your trench foot,” Mattias hazed JT.

“At least I fought, I didn’t pull a Cheney,” JT replied.

“Who’s Cheney?” Mattias might have said.

“Never mind, what is this thing that I just tripped on?” said JT.

They pried the lid off the crate and were surprised to find two dozen HJ Heinz ketchup bottles, filled and sealed, but with what?

“Who’s out there?” Their friend Wilbur Surfurlong was heard to yell out.

“It’s just us, Mattias and I,” JT responded back. “Just getting back from the Speakeasy.”

Wilbur approached his two former clam working buddies.

“Careful with those Ketchup bottles, you mongol-hun cross breeds!” the young Surfurlong chided his friends.

Wilbur was now the after hours security manager at Heinz, tonight was his night off. His work was a dull, boring, brainless kind of gig, but as JT and Mattias would soon learn he made the most of it.

His friends knew Wilbur was known to create different flavors of ketchup training himself on the plant equipment when he was alone at night in the plant. You couldn’t attend a church potluck, family picnic, or Great River Days party without Wilbur producing one of his personal ketchup creations.

And then it happened, one night Wilbur was mixing up a ketchupy witches brew of ingredients and playing around with different cooking temperatures. His concoction included the typical ketchup ingredients like corn, sugar, yeast and water, only he forgot to add that important ketchup staple, the tomato. Instead he mixed the yeast with the sugar in a quite accidental way that what turned out was one of the more delicious of spirts Wilbur had ever imbibed, a homemade moonshine with just a hint of tomato.. He did not know that using yeast to burn sugar created moonshine, and it turned out you couldn’t get all of the tomato residue out of the cooking vats.

Not sure what to do with his discovery, his mind started to race. He began filling Heinz Ketchup bottles with his special blend. Before his night had ended, he would put the bottles in cases in the back of his 1922 Model T Ford Truck. By the next month, Wilbur Surfurlong was producing 12 cases of tomato laced moonshine everynight. Soon his own house was filled to the rafters with the illegal nectar.

What Mattias and JT had stumbled upon on that summer night of 1924 was the beginnings of the Wilbur Surfurlong Moonshine business. Private parties and Speakeasies in ten adjacent counties would soon be drinking the special blend of moonshine served out of stolen Heinz Ketchup bottles.

Sadly for Wilbur Surfurlong, the demand for his special brew would end with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. This was not before he had amassed a larger personal fortune and before he had put in his employ his two best friends, Mattias and JT.

The Muscatine Police formed an Untouchables like division to root out illegal alcohol, but had no Elliot Ness like detective mind. They never did get close to finding the makers of the tomato tinted cocktail. They would never connect the dots back to Wilbur Surfurlong and the nighttime moonshine production at the Heinz plant.

….Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss My Hometown Part III – Check Out Those Melons!