Sugar Creek Shenanigans Chapters 3&4

Welcome back, it’s time for another episode of “I need a distraction from OBAW/OBAM! In today’s episode of the show, not much is going to happen but we’re gonna talk about it anyway.

We left off with the Sugar Creek gang heading off to visit Old Man Paddler, who is probably not going to paddle them. To get to his house, they walk through the woods, then go through a cave which leads into his basement, then knock on the trap door.

As they are walking through the woods, Little Jim tells Tom to be ready to go to church extra early the next morning, because of choir practice.

[Pg 19]Little Tom answered Little Jim by saying, “O de koke,” which is the same as saying, “Okey doke,” which means “O.K.” which is what most anybody says when he means “All right,” meaning Tom Till would be ready early, and that when Little Jim’s folks came driving up to their front gate tomorrow, Little Tom, with his best clothes on, would come running out of their dilapidated old unpainted house, carrying his New Testament, which Old Man Paddler had bought for him…. Then they’d all swish away together to Sunday School.

I’m sure we all know what “okey doke” means. You could have put the  period right there to end the sentence instead of going on to tell us what it all means.

A New Testament? Old Man Paddler couldn’t spring for the rest of the Bible? Were Bibles that expensive back in 1947?

I don’t know what the …. is doing there in the last sentence. I didn’t put it there, and it irks me that Project Gutenberg may have left something out.

Then I heard Little Jim ask something else which showed what a grand little guy he was. “S’pose maybe your mother would like to go with us, too?”

Yes. Grand is the word for this. If the kid’s mother doesn’t wish to go to church, it’s probably best not to mention it.

“My mother would like to go with us,” Tom said to Little Jim, “but she doesn’t have any clothes that’re good enough.” And knowing the reason why was because her husband drank up nearly all the money he made in the Sugar Creek beer taverns, and also drank whiskey which he bought in the liquor store—knowing that, I felt my teeth gritting hard and I took a fierce swing with the stick I was carrying, at a little maple tree beside me…. I socked that tree so fierce with my stick, that my hands stung so bad they were almost numb; the stick broke in the middle and one end of it flew ahead to where Circus and Dragonfly were and nearly hit them.

Wow. Um, ok. Is divorce a hard thing to get under these circumstances in 1947? Because I would’ve divorced my husband a long ass time ago if he was like this.

Also, it is really unfortunate that one has to feel the need for nice clothes to go to church. I think one should be able to go to church in whatever clothes one is wearing, so long as they are deemed acceptable for leaving the house. Strangely, this is one of the areas Ellen White agrees with me. She thinks it’s a right shame that a woman like Tom’s mom would feel she needed to miss out on church due to not having nice enough clothes.

Bill also has a rather strong reaction to hearing this I get that he feels angry on account of his friend’s mother, but this just seems like a stronger reaction than normal “anger on account of my friend.” Bill is angry enough over this to hit a poor, innocent tree hard enough to break the stick. That seems more like a reaction Little Tom should be having.

Note also that I am having a hard time keeping all these characters straight. They are so alike that I keep calling Tom “Jim,” and who are Dragonfly and Poetry again and which one of them is this a picture of?






“What on earth!” Circus yelled back to me, and I stood looking at the broken end of the rest of the stick in my hand, then turned like a flash and whirled around and threw it as hard as I could straight toward another tree about twenty feet away. That broken stick hit the tree right in the center of its trunk, with a loud whack.

I didn’t answer them in words at all. I was so mad at Tom’s pop and at beer and whiskey and stuff.

If I were Tom, I would be more scared of Bill’s reaction than anything.

They reach the cave, then the trap door in the old man’s basement, and knock. He doesn’t respond, and they can hear voices, so two boys put their ears to the floor. They’re worried, because they know the old man has been robbed before, but, relieved, they find out that he is just praying.

I knew what the kind man was doing all right, ’cause I’d seen and heard him do it many a time in our little white church, and also I’d seen him doing it once down on his knees behind the old sycamore tree all by himself…. When I heard him mention my name, I gulped, and some crazy tears got into my eyes and into my voice…. I had to swallow to keep from choking out a word that would have let the gang know I was about to cry…. Like a flash I thought of something and I whirled around and grabbed Little Tom Till and shoved his ear down to the crack in the door and put my own ear just above his so I could hear too, and this is what the old man was saying up there in the cabin, “And also bless the new member of the gang, Tom Till, whose father is an infidel and spends his money on liquor and gambling…. Oh God, how can John Till expect his boys to keep from turning out to be criminals…. Bless his boy, Bob, whose life has been so bent and twisted by his father…. And bless the boys’ poor mother, who hasn’t had a chance in life…. Lord, you know she’d go to church and be a Christian if John would let her…. And please….”

That was as far as I got to listen right that minute cause I heard somebody choke and gulp and all of a sudden Little Tom Till was sniffling like he had tears in his eyes and in his voice, and then that little guy who was the grandest little guy who ever had a drunkard for a father, started to sob out-loud like he was heart-broken, and couldn’t help himself.



Er, what? You felt like crying when the Old Man prayed for you, so you shoved your little friend’s ear to the door so he could cry too? And then you act surprised when he does? I am very confused.

Who prays like this, out loud? It’s odd, but I’ll give it a pass. The old man thinks he’s alone, so he’s free to pray out loud if he so chooses.

As far as John letting his wife be a Christian? Wtf, old man. Even with 1940s sexism, it was agreed that one could be a Christian regardless of whether or not one’s husband allowed it. Going to church may be another story, but one could love the Lord regardless.

This feels a little odd, too. When I prayed for people, I never said things like, “bless Brutus, who’s father is a worthless drunk.” I’d say things like, “be with Brutus. His father is giving him a hard time about church. And be also with Brutus’ father….”

It just feels weird to me that, in praying for him, all the old man could think of to say was that Tom’s father is a drunk.

Everyone asks Tom what’s wrong, Tom says he wants to go home. The gang says they’ll all go with him. Tom tries to go home alone, but they won’t let him, and anyway here comes Old Man Paddler.  How annoying. If Tom wants to be alone right now he should be able to. I don’t like these boys much.

Well, it would have been impolite to run away now, and so I whispered to Tom, “Me and Little Jim are the only ones who heard him praying and—and we—we like you anyway.” I gave Tom a kinda fierce half a hug around his shoulder,

Not helping, Bill. That’s not the point.

This next paragraph is weird. I know it’s meant to show us the strong friendship Bill and Tom have, but, umm…..

All of a sudden, I got the strangest warm feeling inside of me, and I felt so good, something just bubbled up in my heart…. It was the queerest feeling, and made me feel good all over, ’cause right that second one of Little Tom’s arms reached out and gave me a very awkward half a hug real quick, like he was very bashful or something, but like he was saying, “You’re my best friend, Bill…. I’d lick the stuffin’s out of the biggest bum in the world for you, in fact I’d do anything.”


The first sentence of that paragraph is just weird. Close friendships are hard to describe,and if you try too hard, you end up writing sentences that make it seem like Bill is literally falling in love with Tom.

As to the last sentence, this is an example of how words in a language can change over time. I do not think it means what my 21st century brain thinks it means.

But his arm didn’t stay more’n just time enough for him to let it fall to his side again, but I knew he liked me a lot and it was a wonderful feeling.

Nope. This boy doesn’t sound gay at all.

The chapter ends with them scurrying up out of the basement and into Old Man Paddler’s home “a jiffy later.” The next chapter begins with “It didn’t take more than several jiffies for us to be inside that cabin.”

I’ve heard the phrase “in a jiffy” before, but I’ve never seen the word “Jiffy” thrown around as much as it is in this book.

Old Man Paddler makes them sassafras tea, which I’ve never heard of but seems to be a big deal for these boys. Bill notices that Old Man Paddler’s Bible is open to the Sunday school lesson. He goes on for a paragraph about how his parents are firm believers in studying the lesson early in the week, so that thoughts about it can pop into their heads when they’re otherwise supposed to be doing something else.

I was really bad about this sort of thing. I never studied the Sabbath School lesson. Like, ever. It was boring, and frankly, I preferred to just read the Bible myself. In any case, I got enough bible class at school, why did I want homework from church?

Bill looks out the window and decides they’d better get a move on if Poetry wants to take a picture of the snowman. First, though, the old man asks for them to get him some water from the spring.

Little Jim goes with him, and notices that there’s a lot of snow on the roof of the woodshed, and wonders why there is no snow on the roof of the old man’s house.

Because the old man’s house is warmer than the woodshed, perhaps? I don’t know, it seems an odd thing to go on for a whole paragraph about.

Then the boys all leave old Man Paddler’s house so Poetry can get his picture. Bill goes on for an entire long paragraph about how they would have gotten home if it was summer. Yawn. I don’t care.

This book is excellent medicine for insomnia. Literally nothing happens.

Bill and Poetry reach Poetry’s house, and his mother his waiting for him.

“Well, well,” Poetry’s mother said to us when we stopped beside their big maple tree, and I waited a jiffy for him to go in the house and get the camera, “where have you boys been? I’ve been phoning all over for you, Leslie”—meaning she had been phoning all over for Poetry, Leslie being the name which his parents used and which he had to use himself when he signed his name in school … but he would rather be called Poetry.


Yeah, I can’t say I’d blame him. I know Leslie is technically a gender neutral name, but it still sounds more like a girl’s name to me.

Poetry’s mom tells him that Mr. Black has been by. Poetry wants to know what Mr. Black wanted.

“He didn’t seem to want anything in particular. He was out exercising his horse. Such a beautiful big brown saddle horse!” Poetry’s mother said. “And such a very beautiful saddle. He looks very stunning in his brown leather jacket and riding boots.”

Wait, the horse is wearing a brown leather jacket and riding boots?

Poetry repeats the question “what did he want?” And again Poetry’s mom repeats her answer, and one wonders why he asked it twice if he knew the answer would be the same.

Mrs Poetry invites Bill and Poetry in for some pie, which they accept. Bill reminds Poetry that the sun will be shining on “Mr. Black,” and that he might melt if they don’t hurry. Mrs Poetry asks what Bill is talking about, and he says, “the sun is shining through the window on my blackberry pie.”

Just then, Mrs Poetry gets a call from Mrs Mansfield. Mrs Mansfield asks to borrow The Hoosier Schoolmaster, and Poetry’s mom says she’ll have him bring it over for her.

Poetry goes upstairs to get his camera.

Then Poetry’s mom called up to him and asked, “Find it, Leslie?” which of course he hadn’t and couldn’t, anyway, not upstairs, ’cause right that minute it was lying open on two sticks stuck into Mr. Black’s stomach at the bottom of Bumblebee hill. For some reason it didn’t seem as if we wanted to tell Mrs. Thompson where it was, but it looked like we were in for it.

Wait. They seriously left the book in the arms of a snowman?

Books are way easier for us to get ahold of in the 21st century, yet no 21st century person I know of would be that careless! They should have taken the book with them, jeez. What if it fell and landed in the snow?

Poetry grabs the camera, then runs out the door before his mom can notice that he doesn’t have the book.

But Poetry’s mother called to us from the back door and said, “Where are you going? Mrs. Mansfield doesn’t live in that direction.”

Poetry and I stopped and looked at each other.

All of a sudden we knew we were caught, so Poetry said to me, “What’ll we tell her?”

And remembering something my pop had taught me to do when I was caught in a trap, I said all of a sudden, quoting my pop, “Tell her the truth.”

Poetry scowled, “You tell her,” he said, which I did

I love how this book is shoehorning in a lesson about honesty. Not.

Anyway, Bill tells Mrs Poetry where the book is, and instead of scolding the boys for being so careless, she thanks them for telling her and goes to call Mrs. Mansfield to tell her that the book will be coming a little later than she had intended. Mrs. Poetry also tells the boys they might run into Mr. Black. Black had apparently asked where they were, and she told them.

Poetry and I both yelled back to her, saying, “You told him WHAT!” and without another word or waiting to hear what she said, we started like lightning as fast as we could go, straight for Sugar Creek and Bumblebee hill, wondering if by taking a short cut we could get there before Mr. Black did

I don’t get the urgency? I mean, what’s Mr. Black going to do if he finds the snowman? It’s not like they did it on school property or during school hours, and even if they had, would they really have been breaking any rules?

The chapter ends with Bill describing just how fast they are running. For once, this chapter ends on a cliff hanger where we kinda sorta have some tension. I’m actually kinda sorta impressed. This feels like a vast improvement in the book so far.

This book could have absolutely benefited from a decent editor, who probably would have cut out a lot of the paragraphs where Bill goes on and on about things that don’t really matter. The scene at Old Man Paddler’s house was kind of boring, and was clearly only there so he could tell us all about what a hopeless drunk Tom’s father is. Which I wish they’d just shown rather than told about. There could have been a scene where Bill walked in on Tom’s father drunkenly stumbling around. Or something, I dunno, this isn’t my job, it’s the author’s.







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