The First Car Seen In Anderson Valley

by Bruce Patterson, May 19, 2010

Laying eyes for the first time on the Olsen boys, you’d never guess they were brothers, much less twins. They were un-identical twins, obviously, in the way that raccoons and skunks, having identical body parts, are un-identical. Ollie, who was older than Hedrick by a hair, was long, lean and shambling. When Ollie was walking at you his overalls looked like they were hanging on a clothesline in a lazy breeze. Roan col­ored with an extra long neck with a protruding Adam’s apple with a scraggly head of hair topped with a cowlick shaped like a lopsided rooster’s comb, Ollie was bashful around the womenfolk and the town fel­lahs as well, them not being above ribbing him over his appearance and all.

But Ollie weren’t near as dumb as he looked and was, in fact, the thinker of the pair. Where Hedrick was high-strung and flighty, his mind leaping from thought to thought like it was hopping rocks in a creek, Ollie didn’t do anything without first having himself a little head scratch, his spindly index finger probing the depths of his cowlick and wiggling as if scattering fleas. If the twins were out hunting and they came upon fresh bear tracks, instantly Hedrick had a hunch about where the bear was heading and knew how they could best get there first. Whereas, after eyeballing the tracks and estimating the bear’s size and how long ago it’d passed, taking into account the direction of the wind, the lay of the land and angle of the sun, Ollie would be wondering if bagging the bear would be to their benefit and, if so, if now was the time to try.

Hedrick looked so unlike his brother that you’d bet a day’s wage they came from different countries. Like you take a genuine mutt bitch hound in heat and let her get around and pretty quick she’ll likely reward you with a big litter of bald-bellied puppies painted like Easter eggs. If they was puppies then the pale, spindly, wobbly one pointing the wrong way would be Ollie, and the fat furry one plopped down in the mid­dle of things and suckling for all he was worth would be Hedrick.

If you were to set a hornet’s nest atop a tree stump with four stout crooked limbs for arms and legs, you’d get a fair notion of Hedrick’s physique. Roll a pickle barrel down a hillside and you’d get the same idea. Ollie was nicknamed String Bean and, while he pre­ferred his real name, he didn’t mind none if you called him String Bean to his face. But folks called Hedrick Stump only when he wasn’t around. Whether he was jumping to conclusions or taking umbrage, Hedrick didn’t waste any time and folks appreciated that aspect of his personality. It was only natural that a jumpy fellah like him would come with a short fuse.

Unless you’d seen Hedrick as a baby, you’d never believe a boy could be born so bull-legged. It was as if, anticipating their futures, his legs bowed up to get themselves prepared for all the weight they’d have to be lugging. Hedrick was so bull-legged that, riding his skinny old mare to town, he wouldn’t use his stirrups. He’d just hook his ankles under her belly and kick her that-a-way. You combine Hedrick’s bulled legs, squat statue with his tangled fleece of curly black wool run­ning riot atop his head and face before ducking down under his collar, and it made sense that he, too, would be bashful around the womenfolk and the town fellahs to boot.

So folks properly supposed the twin’s physical pecu­liarities helped explain why they’d never married but stayed together all alone up in there in the moun­tains, herding, gardening, hunting and fishing. They didn’t come to church, they took no part in town affairs, didn’t keep up with current events or care a lick about politics and what all, and folks didn’t fault them none. While you couldn’t exactly call the twins hermits, everybody knew they were sure enough pert-near.

There was another odd thing about the twins worth mentioning. Plainly put, Hedrick was a crack shot while Ollie couldn’t hit anything he aimed at. Ollie was so bad with a gun that, if ever for some reason he pulled out his pistol and started shooting at you, you’d pray to Jesus he was aiming at you. Even though Ollie had been toting around his grandpa’s antique Kentucky shotgun ever since he was old enough to shoot it with without getting himself knocked down backwards, you could hang a dead tur­key on a barn wall, put Ollie and his shotgun at 20 paces, load him with double-ought buckshot, have him let loose with both barrels at that turkey and damned if he wouldn’t miss it. If you was to pluck the feathers off that bird and carefully inspect its skin from one end to the other, you’d see he’d missed it fair and clean. And that was quite some feat seeing how, if Ollie just swung and fired, why he’d blow that turkey’s head off nine times out of ten. The very same fellah who’d take a full five seconds to decide how much molasses to pour on his morning stack of flap­jacks could, when he was out in the brush and a grouse exploded into flight, swing and knock that grouse out the sky. It was the damnedest thing and the trait that made him most remarkable.

So one morning the Olsen twins were out hunting pheasants with their shotguns. They’d had no luck but, along toward quitting time, they caught sight of a big old covey of potbellied quail. Figuring quail were good enough, they followed the covey down a draw to the grassy valley floor where they hoped to catch up and get off good shots. They broke out of the red­woods and stepped onto the two-track wagon trail that ran straight along the edge of the big meadow sunk a little ways down below. Northward the trail disappeared into the woods and southward about a hundred yards away it disappeared down into a gully. And coming up out of that gully they heard a god-awful racket like they’d never heard before and, stretching their necks and widening their eyes, they saw a big shiny metal box thing up on wagon wheels stampeding at them like there was a monster even bigger chasing after it. Inside the thing was a fellah wearing a black coat, a white shirt and a derby hat, and he was frantically waving his arm at them as if warning them to run for their lives.

Struck with terror, the twins jumped off the trail and pinned their backs behind redwood trees, their up and down shotguns pressed tight to their front sides. Well the horrible contraption whipped past them and, the instant it did, they ran back onto the trail. Hedrick shouldered his shotgun aiming at the thing and Ollie stood sideways with is shotgun resting and his head turned away. Hedrick let loose with both barrels and, a half-second later, Ollie did likewise.

Well that metal thing violently zigged left, then it zagged right, then it zigged again, left the trail and rolled sideways down the embankment and landed upside down in the grass, its wagon wheels spinning in the air. The fellah inside slowly crawled out and, without even taking a gander at them, he jumped up and ran away like his feet was on fire.

“What in tarnation was that?” Hedrick asked.

“Damned if I know,” Ollie answered. “But it sure let loose of that poor fellah it had a hold of.” ¥¥

(Books, stories and snapshots at www.4mules.com.)

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